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Commentary, Reviews

My Video Odyssey and 1st Gear Review – Jag35 Wired Electronic Follow Focus

My Video Odyssey:
My odyssey into the world of HD video and filmmaking started 18 months ago when I got my Canon 7D. I had a wedding to photograph and needed an upgrade from my Rebel XSi. Little did I know that a “tiny” feature called HD video would lead me down a strange, somewhat expensive, but thoroughly enjoyable path.

I wouldn’t bore you with all the details, but lets just say that branching off into video / filmmaking has allowed me to meet some wonderful, talented, generous, and truly Awesome people. All due in no small part to two life changing decisions. The first was to attend a Philip Bloom HDSLR meetup in Key West about a year ago, where I met Phillip, Eric Kessler, Jon Connor, Cristina Valdivieso, Tom Guilmette, and a host of other South Florida Filmmakers. The second was to follow these new friends on Twitter. In doing so I have met even more filmmakers of all levels, and some really gifted and innovative filmmaking gear gurus!

And so my journey continues 🙂

1st Gear Review:
It’s been about a month since I started using some Jag35 gear with my Kessler Crane KC8-Ultra Crane and Revolution Head.

Jag35 Rod System and wired Electronic Follow Focus about to be opened

For anyone not familiar with Jag35, here’s their profile from the 2011 NAB Expo: Jag35 is a company that specializes in affordable solutions for aspiring filmmakers. Starting out as 35mm adapter makers, they eventually evolved and embraced the new DSLR Revolution and started to design support solutions and accessories for these cameras, and continued to offer them at an affordable range.

I’m big into researching before I buy anything, especially when it comes to cars, cameras, computers, and anything related to them. There are a number companies that make rod systems for HDSLRs; Jag35, Letus, Redrock Micro, and Zacuto to name a few. So when I decided to get a basic rod system setup for my crane, I read reviews, compared prices, and looked at the cost/benefit… yes, I’m definitely not an impulse buyer 🙂

I also sent my questions out into the Twitterverse, and was happy to get a response from the Jag man himself, Jehu Garcia. I mentioned what I was interested in doing and he asked if I would also like to try their Wired Electronic Follow Focus kit (EFF) on the crane. I thought it was really cool of him to offer and agreed to do a blog post on my findings.

This is what I have found so far.

Jag35 gear is Rock Solid… how do I know this? A couple of days after I got the Jag35 gear, I had an unfortunate accident due to my own carelessness with the crane. The entire top of the crane, Revolution Head, Camera, Rod System and EFF came crashing down about 10 feet. Everything survived except my wonderful Tokina 11-16mm lens 😦 The Jag35 gear barely had a scratch!

Jag35 Bottom Rods w/ 12" Rods, DSLR Stand, Wired Electronic Follow Focus and Zip Tie Focus Gear

The wired EFF comes with the following (see photo below):  M1 EFF Controller, J1 EFF Motor (as of this blog post, Jag35 no longer sells the basic J1 motor, the new base motor is the J2A), HDMI Battery, Connector Cables – Jehu was also kind enough to provide me with a 12′ extension cable to use on the crane, but you can pick one up at any Radio Shack. The entire wired EFF kit retails for $344.99

Jag35 Wired Electronic Follow Focus Kit

The whole set up is easy to install onto the rod system, and I highly recommend getting the Zip Tie Focus Gears for your lenses. They work great and are only $15 each.

Jag35 Rod System and wired EFF on Kessler Crane Revolution Head and KC-8 Ultra

With the wired EFF hooked up on the crane, you can now pull focus! The ability to do this on a crane for a cost of less than $350 cannot be understated. Instead of leaving the lens on infinity, you can now focus on both foreground and background objects, and transition smoothly between the two. It is especially cool for car videos (see my little video at the end). I am still learning how the use the EFF and filmmaking in general, so I only have about two shots in the video where I used a background to foreground focus pull.

Using monitor to focus

Ofcourse, to focus well, a good monitor is also a MUST! I currently own a CPM Wireless LCD Monitor which works 50/50, interference can be a killer, but on my last outdoor shoot, it performed quite well. For the photo above we were using a rented Marshall monitor, which was really crisp and clean. Monitor maker smallHD is making ones for HDSLRs and reviews from fellow filmmakers seem to suggest that they are a hit.

Another shot with my typical crane and revolution head setup.

Using the wired EFF was not without some issues, the first would be solved by using a more powerful motor (as of this blog post, Jag35 no longer sells the basic J1 motor, the new base motor is the J2A). The J1 motor is fine on the Tokina 11-16 and Canon lens, even some L series, but Sigma lenses seem to have a lot stiffer focus rings, almost cine like and the J1 was just not up to the task. The 150° rotation is also sufficient for most Canon lenses, but you would definitely need the J3A motor with its approx. 230° rotation to use Zeiss ZE lens. The second issue was finding a good place to hold the HDMI battery pack, as it didn’t have a screw mount I found myself hand holding it or storing it in the crane’s weights, which proved to be a pretty decent, but still not optimal. Using an LP-E6 Battery Plate would help with this one. The final issue was to do with the controller, it doesn’t have a marker disc so it was hard to pinpoint exactly where I wanted to stop if I wanted to repeat a focus pull. The Wireless EFF controller looks like it has one, but I’m not too sure.

Another shot of the crane and gear

Even with the above issues, which are by no means deal breakers or things that don’t have solutions, I found Jag35’s wired EFF kit to be a very solid piece of gear, really easy to use, and it allowed me to get some diverse shots that I wouldn’t have gotten on the crane without using it. And for the price it is a real bargain!

On a final note. Jag35 has awesome customer service, and I’m not just saying that cause they lent me a piece of gear to tryout. When you email or tweet them, they respond and give really good advice. While they would like you to buy their gear, they are also not afraid to say that another rod system, like Zacuto may suit your needs better. At heart, they are also fellow filmmakers who have a passion for the craft and the ingenuity to create tools and gear that make things easier for filmmakers and frankly help make your films look great. Jag35 is one of the best examples of companies in the industry that are providing reasonably priced gear without skimping on quality and/or reliability. Kudos to everyone at Jag35 and special thanks to Jehu for letting me have some fun with a definitely innovative and helpful piece of gear.

BTS Photography provided by Gregory Romany
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About fuji27

Born & Raised in Trinidad | Living in Miami, FL | Working at Florida International University | Photographer, Aspiring Videographer, Computer Geek, Car Enthusiast (Gas Brain), Volleyball fanatic... Not necessarily in that order ;)

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