Meet Michael Brewer and get the “secret recipe” to his custom rig

Michael Brewer is an award winning DP, Director, and Producer, as well as one of the instructors at the Canon Boot Camp. His diverse projects have taken him to over 30 countries. His work consists of narrative films, music videos, and commercials/PSAs which can be seen on PBS, the History Channel, 20/20, ABC Nightline and more. He has used a variety of film, HD Video and HDSLR cameras including Panasonic P-2, RED ONE, Canon 5D, Arriflex, and more. Michael brings indispensable knowledge and insight to every Canon Boot Camp.

michael brewer

Although Michael is an accomplished DP, he came to the Canon Boot Camp first as a student. Here is what he had to say about his experience:

“I took the Pro Level 1 class covering everything – from all the technical/aesthetic settings, picture styles, histograms, sound recording, HDSLR for green screen, demystifying the DSLR workflow and more. I shot my son’s music video the very next week.”

Here, Michael answers two of my most pressing questions:

1.     What do you like about the Canon Boot Camp?

One thing that I really like about the Canon Boot Camp is the incorporation of a short narrative screenplay that the students shoot as part of Pro Level 2. The shots are designed so that the Canon 5D is pushed to its limits in terms of dynamic range, mixed light situations, and shooting in low light – candle light, practicals, etc. We also put the students and cameras through their paces using various support rigs such as which add professional production value. It feels great watching everyone’s confidence grow, using the camera to the point where it’s almost second nature. There is time pressure and many of the other production challenges of real-life situations.

Like a seasoned director once told me, “make demands and people will grow.”

2.     What is your favorite HDSLR gear/equipment?

My favorite piece of HDSLR gear has to be my Red Rock Captain Stubing camera rig with follow focus. I cannibalized an older DVTec shoulder rig, using its’ waist belt and telescoping rod, giving the desired three points of contact for a more stable shot  (left handle, right handle, rod…and four points of contact if you are also using a Zacuto Z-finder). The spring-loaded telescoping rod acts as a shock absorber – whether just standing still or walking, sort of a poor man’s Steadicam. To me, this setup makes my camera feel more organic and  fluid.

I can also easily adjust the distance between the LCD viewfinder and my eyes for maximum clarity. I’m used to pulling my own focus, so the follow focus operation is second nature. You can adjust the left microhandle and hold it while using the same hand to operate the follow focus.  A matte box is easily attached to the base plate rods.I also keep a Manfrotto quick release plate attached to the cheese plate to get it on and off of the tripod quickly.

brewer rig

Michael used this rig in Namibia to shoot the short film African Cowboy. Click here to view the trailer.

Michael notes that, “The emerging Namibian filmmakers that I met had never actually seen or had the camera in their hands before. To my knowledge, that was the first time they were able to see the Canon 5D up close and personal. That was May 2011.” 

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