SUPPORT, START, STOP, FOCUS - Quite Sympla really
When Manfrotto asked me to test drive the Sympla rig I was delighted but also had mixed feelings, as I had flash backs of the old days for VIVIDA. I Googled it and became decidedly more interested.
In the past we used a DSLR shoulder rig only to eventually retire the units and the investment into a box in a cupboard. The issue was that when we used the rig for long periods of time, fatigue would set in and create wobbly shots. Have you tried using a shoulder rig for an entire 1 hour ceremony? Don’t do it! If I am honest, when I bought my original units I didn’t appreciate that you really must decide when to use a shoulder rig system. The decision should be made on the basis of (a) creative reasoning and (b) feasibility; taking into consideration time to setup and physical ability to use it.
Fast forward two years. The Manfrotto branded boxes arrived. Five to be precise. If I had bought this, I would be feeling quite smug about value for money! I opened the boxes to find a number of components. I felt much like I did when I unboxed the BBQ the week earlier. I felt almost overwhelmed by the task of assembly. However, just like I had focussed my mind on the smell and taste of the food at the end, with this I focused my mind on the shots I would be able to create. The first build took me 9 minutes, including a stupid mistake that involved a restart on the build and me excitedly playing with the components. The wrong turn wouldn’t happen again. Also, it is unlikely that I would fully dismantle Sympla after use. The following setups took between 1 and 2 minutes depending on my configuration and who used it last!
I have projects coming where the Sympla in it’s default configuration with the mattebox and weights, is going to be just spot on. Though the ‘out of the box’ configuration isn't what we would use on most of our projects. However I had what we needed to build my own version. A slightly smaller, lighter model.
I personally liked the Manfrotto provided electronic follow focus on the Sympla even though I wasn’t expecting too. Our team was more familiar with a manual mechanical follow focus, where you would use rotation to pull focus, instead of using buttons. However, many would associate this electronic follow focus/ controller with tripods and jibs. Like controlling a remote head mounted to a jib it takes practice! I even flipped the controller upside down for my personal configuration. However, if you have your own follow focus then you are able to mount it to the Sympla using the standard width rods. The great thing about Manfrotto’s electronic follow focus is that it can be positioned on the handle and operated whilst you are holding the rig steady.
The key with a shoulder rig is to know when to use it! For VIVIDA, dancing scenes among others were ideal. The movement and motion of our subjects could be easily translated into camera movement with the Sympla.
This rig is really about enabling you as a single operator to be fully in control. Support, start, stop and focus your camera. Quite simple really.
Simeon & Team VIVIDA