Podcast 239 : Manfrotto Video Fluid Heads with Really Right Stuff Plates

Podcast 239 : Manfrotto Video Fluid Heads with Really Right Stuff Plates

I recently figured out how to mount my cameras and lenses fitted with Really Right Stuff plates, to my Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head, and today share my secrets with you. The video below is really all you need to watch, but I also recorded an audio section for those that cannot get to the blog to watch the video.

I’d been waiting for a company to come out with a fluid head that uses a standard Arca-Swiss dovetail plate, like the ones Really Right Stuff make, so that we can just drop our DSLRs straight onto the fluid head. As of April 2010 though, I’m not aware of any companies that make these. There’s also the problem that most video fluid heads have no way to mount with the mounting plate sideways, the orientation of the plate when fitted to the camera body, as opposed to a lens tripod ring, and video heads also don’t usually have a way to flip the camera on its side, for portrait mode either.

Anyway, I gave it some thought, and bought an extra quick release clamp for the Manfrotto head, and with a couple of orders for some new brackets etc. from Really Right Stuff, I’m now pretty happy with how my lenses and cameras can be fitted to my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. If you have been trying to do this yourself, do watch the video.

To begin with, video heads have a quick release plate that is made to mount length-ways, along the bottom of the video camera. This means that the orientation is the same as that of lens plates when fitted to the bottom of a tripod ring, such as those that you see on the 70-200mm and longer lenses. This means that the only thing you have to overcome is the difference in format between the Arca-Swiss style plates, and the manufacturer’s plate on the video head.

When you use shorter lenses though, that don’t have the tripod rings, you will need to mount the camera directly to the tripod, with a plate fitted to the bottom of the camera. Because these run sideways across the width of the camera though, the camera would be facing sideways on the video head, unless you introduce something to rotate the camera 90 degrees, to make it face the front again.

This is where the 80mm LR clamp from Really Right Stuff comes in. The quick release plate on Manfrotto 519 fluid head comes with both a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw, and it just so happens that the B2 LLR II, or 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff also comes with a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw thread. So you simply screw both of the screws into the base of the 80mm clamp, and you have a new quick release clamp that slides into the top of the Manfrotto fluid head, and you can mount all of your lens plates from RRS directly into that. Brilliant!

But what about the body plates, when you aren’t using lenses with tripod rings? In preparation for this, when I bought my fluid head, I ordered an extra Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate, and a second 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff. This time, I just used the 3/8″ screw, and screwed that tightly into the center screw thread on the RRS 80mm clamp. There is probably a little more chance of the plate turning than when using two screws, but the screws have a groove for a coin, and could be easily retightened in the field, unless you were out and about with any money at all that is. The top of the Manfrotto quick release plate is rubberized too, so I doubt that it will turn easily if you tighten it up enough to begin with.

Now what you have is a second plate that you can use to mount your camera body plates directly too, and the camera will face forwards. How do you flip the camera sideways though, to go to portrait mode? This is where another ingenious invention from Really Right Stuff comes in. The L-Bracket. These are metal L shaped brackets, as you might imagine, and they fit to the bottom of your camera body, screwing into the tripod screw thread, and they extend along the base of the camera, and up the left side, and they have an Arca-Swiss standard plate on the bottom and the side. This means you can just release the quick release clamp with the lever, flip the camera itself up on its side, and you are now in portrait mode.

This means that I can now take out just my video tripod, and I don’t have to take a second tripod with a ball-head, or just the ball head and change the tripod head out in the field. Don’t get me wrong, for still, my Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball-head is still my favourite. This is an engineering work of art, and I have never used a ball-head that locks my camera into place as firmly as the BH-55. But, if I’m going to be walking far from the car, and there’s a chance that I’ll be shooting video, I’ll probably opt for the video tripod, which is a new 5 series Gitzo, and the Manfrotto 519 fluid head, and I’ll still now be able to mount my cameras and lenses directly to the 519 head, without taking my plates off, and mounting the Manfrotto quick release plates, and I can quickly go sideways, or vertical into portrait mode, and shoot my still as well.

In fact, there’s probably even a place for vertical video, as I hear that’s becoming more popular now for use in TV billboards, and the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets will make it very easy to do this too.

In case you missed it, I released my first short movie last week, shot with this new rig, and that was available on my blog and on Vimeo, and I’ll put links to those in the show notes for you to check out. It was really just a practice session, as I tried to get used to panning around with the new 519 head, but I quite liked the results, so have been proud to share that with folks over the last week.

I’ll also put links to some of the key pieces of gear into the show-notes too, but the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets and lens plates are specific to your camera or lenses, so you’ll need to search for the right one in their store at reallyrightstuff.com. If you already use RRS plates like I did, then hopefully this will be a relatively inexpensive way to get the best of both the video and still photography worlds.

UPDATE 2010/06/19:

Today I received notice from listener Wayne Smith, from Manitoba, Canada, letting me know that Kirk have released a clamp with a turning head that does exactly what I am doing with the Really Right Stuff quick release clamp and Manfrotto plate. This is great news, although I wish there was a quick release lever version.I’ll probably wait for that now that I’m set with my current gear, but this certainly is a better option.

Anyway, here’s a link, courtesy of Wayne, so take a look if you are interested.


Thanks for letting us know about this Wayne!

Podcast show-notes:

See the full sized video on Vimeo here: http://vimeo.com/11002725

Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head: http://bit.ly/mbp519fh

Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate: http://bit.ly/m501pl

Gitzo GT5541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs: http://bit.ly/bOvmcB

Mounting the 519 head on Gitzo legs requires a Gitzo GS5320V75 75mm Bowl Adapter: http://bit.ly/cVm2UO

Really Right Stuff 80mm Quick Release Clamp. Search for “B2 LLR II” at: http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/

Music: Studies In Ether, by Andrew Aversa – Recording Licensed from the UniqueTracks Production Music Library Inc.


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Podcast 238 : Meguro River Sakura (My First Short Movie!)

Podcast 238 : Meguro River Sakura (My First Short Movie!)

Here’s my first short movie “Meguro River Sakura” as this week’s Podcast episode, along with just a little bit of background information on the project.

The Podcast stream and iTunes will contain only the iPod/iPhone optimized version. You can view the full sized version below, or on YouTube. It’s High Definition video too, so if you select “Full Screen” or hit the full screen button, the video will expand to fill your screen. Turn up the sound too, then sit back and enjoy.

This first short movie started out as practice using my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. I didn’t want to just point my camera at any old subject and waft it around to get used to the tension etc. of the head, so I decided to give myself a project. As the cherry blossom (sakura) was in full bloom last weekend, I decided to shoot enough footage to make a story out of it.

I started from a distance, where you can see people gathered and looking, photographing something from a bridge. The next shot is a little closer, and we can see the traffic of the busy road between me and the people gathered on the bridge. Then I pan across to reveal the cherry blossom. The music starts, and we get another 7 minutes or so of imagery from the afternoon.

I ensured that I got wider shots, long lens shots. Shots of the various ways in which people enjoy the Sakura. I was very lucky too. People turned up on jet-bikes and in boats. There was a group of “salary men” having a hanami, or cherry blossom viewing party, and a lady in a kimono, among other things.

I imagined that I wanted to try to capture people leaving and going home as the ending, but as the afternoon progressed, I realized that if I held on for another few hours, I’d be able to shoot the red lanterns that would illuminate as it got dark, and a few shots of these from various angles could become my closing scene.

On the actual shooting, the Fluid Head took a bit of getting used to, and I was also pulling focus myself, without the aid of any additional equipment on the lens. I did use a Zacuto Z-Finder DSLR Optical Viewfinder to help me see the focus better on the LCD screen. This works great.

I shot about 22GB of video over six hours, and used up two fully charged 1D Mark IV batteries. I edited the video down to 8:29 minutes in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.

The resulting short movie may not be Star Wars, but I think it all came together pretty well for what was essentially my first bit of practice with video, other than shooting what I call “moving stills”, which are 15-30 second clips while I’m shooting stills, that I intend to embed in still photography slide-shows at some point. On my Hokkaido workshop this year though, one of the participants showed me how to pan with a large thick elastic band around the lens, and I realized just how much a little bit of movement of the camera helped to improve video footage. It was because of this that I decided I really needed to figure out how to fit my cameras and bodies fitted with Really Right Stuff lens plates to a fluid head, like the Manfrotto 519.

I was hoping that some company would come up with a good solution, like a fluid head with Arca-Swiss standard dove-tail plate compatibility, but these are still not available as of April 10, 2010, and there was no information on how to rig this available on the Web either. At least not that I could find. So, I finally spend the time to figure out what I needed to use the Manfrotto 519 fluid head with my Really Right Stuff lens plates, and it works a treat. I’m very happy with my new set up. I can now use all of my lenses and bodies fitted with RRS plates with the Manfrotto 519 now, with the help of a couple of additional parts. I’ll be following up with what you need to do this yourself in the coming week.

Podcast show-notes:

Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.


Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.