How I Built My Camera System: Duy Linh Tu
It can be very beneficial to utilize a camera support system when shooting video with a DSLR; however, it can be challenging to figure out what equipment to buy, and how elaborate of a rig you need. We spoke to Duy Linh Tu about the compact rig that he uses for shooting documentaries with his Canon 5D Mark III, how his rig has gotten smaller as it has evolved, and his approach of recording audio directly into the camera.
Does your role as a Professor and the Director of Digital Media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism give you access to a lot of gear, and if so, how did this influence your rig?
Besides being a professor and director of digital media, I'm also a full-time DP. So I'm always checking out gear. I have lots of options, and I use different cameras for different applications.
As your rig evolved, were there any elements that have been omitted?
My rig has gotten smaller and smaller with each iteration. At the beginning of the DSLR revolution, many people (me included) were building these behemoth set ups: rails, follow-focuses, matte boxes, counterweights, external power, and on and on. All this made the camera bigger and heavier, essentially eliminating the advantages of using DSLR's—compact size and light weight. I no longer use follow-focuses or matte boxes, and because I've stripped the rig down, I've had to use fewer rails and counterweights.
Do you ever bring extra gear to do shoulder-mount or tracking shots, or is it all just handheld and tripod?
How long of a take can your comfortably shoot handheld with your rig?
For the most part, I always use my rig on a monopod that is tied to me with a strap (some shooters will drive the monopod into a belt loop or pant pocket). I've shot hours using this set up, with very little fatigue.
Do you use any filters on your 24-105mm lens?
I always use filters, but mainly to protect the lens. I use Tiffen filters.
Do you ever utilize an external audio recorder, and if so, do you hear a noticeable improvement in the final product?
Do you always wear headphones when you’re shooting?
Always. Getting good sound is more important than getting good visuals. And if I'm alone, I have to monitor the audio.
Shooting a documentary with an HDSLR rig isn’t for everyone. What traditional video camera features do you miss the most when you’re running and gunning with your HDSLR?
My rig pretty much made my 5D Mark III a video camera. I have XLR inputs, a viewfinder, audio meters, etc. So, I don't really miss any features. That said, a traditional video camera has the advantage of being one piece, and requires little set up.
Are students more likely to choose an HDSLR for documentary work these days over a more traditional camcorder, such as the Panasonic AG-HMC40?
It really depends. I think many favor HDSLR's not just for the great video quality. At the end of the day, it's still an amazing stills camera. You don't get amazing stills from a video camera, unless you're talking 4K. So, HDSLR's really give students two cameras in one.
When you choose not to shoot with your HDSLR rig, what are your other favorite cameras that you use?