A Look into Camera Accessories with Bright Tangerine
Recently I had the pleasure of heading over to Bright Tangerine HQ (BTHQ - who is for those who don’t know, a badass manufacturer of all things camera bling bling, matte boxes and follow focus’ that have us frothing at the mouth) and sitting down with Josh from Bright Tangerine and going head first into all things camera accessories over a cup of tea. I could easily spend all day in there like a fat kid in a sweet shop. Beautifully engineered anodised aluminium, titilating titanium and the sound of CNC machines whirring away. It’s so good that it’s almost impossible to leave without cradling a freshly made mattebox whispering ‘myyyy preciouussss’ under your breath.
After filling every one of my pockets and oraphis’ with as many camera accessories as I could, we sat down and began chatting about why camera accessories (AKS) are so important. To put this in perspective…. Imagine rocking up to a shoot and the camera turning up with just the body, batteries and the media…. for some more broadcast or doco focused cameras like the FS7 that might be ok but for cameras like Alexa Mini or RED cameras you would be in a bit of a pickle. Cameras are becoming more modular, and for good reason, we love modular because they’re smaller and lighter and they can be used in a variety of ways, on gimbals, remoteheads, handheld, steadicam, on drones, cars etc, they can be configured to your needs BUT that relies on one thing… Camera Accessories! or Chutney as some of us Brits call it. This includes but is not limited to: Camera Cages, Camera Plates, Top handles, 15 and 19mm bars, Hand grips, Matteboxes, Follow Focus’ and more! As AC’s, these AKS can be the difference between a good day or a bad day, Good AKS will save us time on set, make our lives easier and most importantly make the camera look real pretty.
Good and Cheap don’t always go together though unfortunately, S***llrig - Yer you know who… for example, manufacture some great simple camera accessories that somehow are so much cheaper than other manufacturers like Vocas and Bright Tangerine, so what’s the catch? Well, there’s a few. Possibly the most expensive part of making a good product is the R&D that happens behind it. Take the Titan Arm for example, there’s a reason you can’t over-tighten and break it unlike a Noga arm or a smallrig arm (If you’ve ever been inside a rental house and seen the draws of broken noga’s, you’ll know what I mean, as great as they are), lots of R&D went into designing the titan arm to be un-overtightenable - if thats a word, if not then it is now! When products are considerably cheaper than the rest of the market, they have usually skimped on the R&D side of things and i’ve noticed this with a few of the more complicated S***llrig products. For example, their VCT shoulder camera plate has an issue where the 15mm rod holders actually toe-in very slightly so when you put your 15mm rods in, they don’t actually go forwards in a straight line, they bend inwards and suddenly lens supports don’t fit! The other design inconsistency I noticed is the wedge being slightly too large for the tripod plate and as a result the camera plate wouldn’t fit the tripod plate. Unfortunately I noticed this on three separate VCT shoulder camera plates which is evidence of this lack of R&D and/or quality control instead of just one faulty item. The other critical aspect that makes or breaks (literally) a good camera accessory is the materials it’s made of. During my visit to BTHQ, I quickly learnt that there’s a huge variety (grades) of Aluminium, Titanium and various other materials used in the production of camera accessories. The purer a metal 2 is, the stronger it is and therefore more reliable it is but also more expensive it becomes. Many manufacturers spend a lot of time choosing the right grade of material for the product so it is high quality, reliable and fit for purpose but priced reasonably so that we may eventually be able to afford it…. unless your Arri in which case you’ll have to remortgage your house for that little cheese plate. On simpler products like threaded cubes, materials and R&D may not matter so much as its simple to design and quality control is less of an issue, right? Well more and more I find myself choosing the more expensive and better designed accessories where possible (If only money grew on trees!) like a 16x9 inc cinelock as opposed to the much cheaper alternative and thats because I now look at it like this… that little cinelock is holding your monitor, or teradek or follow focus which is worth thousands, so is it worth the risk of that getting damaged because your cheaper quick release lock broke for the sake of saving a bit of dosh now? Ok granted, camera equipment and accessories are far from cheap generally but I certainly am prepared to pay where possible and reasonable for that reliability and better designed product which will help you do your job better and make your life easier (although some manufacturers definitely are overpriced!)
So now let’s go balls deep into one particular product from Bright Tangerine that is an example of a very well designed bit of kit and opens up possibilities for cinematographers all whilst making our lives easier.
CUE ‘THE ONE TRAY’
The One-Tray is Bright Tangerines latest and greatest innovation that does a few neat things. Your first thought may be… Well hang on, its just a tray, what’s so exciting about that? Well this tray has a few freshly baked buttery flakey treats on it. For starters, It’s a two stage tray, it takes one 138mm filter and one 4x5.65 filter taking up two filter trays in an LMB mattebox or their own Misfit Kick. What’s neat about this is you can have a diopter up to +3/4 as well as a 4x5.65 filter without having to have a separate stage for the diopter which would otherwise make the mattebox bigger and heavier and more expensive because you’d have to buy a whole other stage which ain’t cheap. If you wanted to use a stronger diopter like a +2 you’d have to use the one tray without a 4x5.65 filter, but with the misfit kick, you can reveal a third stage and then pop another filter in front of the diopter, very clever!
The second really sweet feature is if you combine a 138mm circular polariser and a 4x5.65 polariser, suddenly you’ve got a variable ND that can be adjusted on the fly by the focus puller when paired with a motor on the ‘Clockwork Orange’ gear. This clever little mechanism is a masterpiece much like the film it takes its name from. The gear is spring-loaded and will press fit against the 138mm filter inserted. The clever part is that because manufacturers don’t always machine to the same standards, if the filter is slightly bigger or smaller than 138mm, then the mechanism adjusts to fit the filter.
It has a 0.8mm pitched gear as well as a rubberised ring meaning you can use a geared filter like in a rota-pola or a regular 138mm filter with or without a metal bezel. Because it’s a dinky little lightweight tray this is especially useful for gimbals, drones and steadicam keeping the camera lightweight whilst allowing the cinematographer to 4 keep consistent exposure without changing their stop. This is a great example of over-engineering if anything which bright tangerine have a reputation for, which is brilliant in my books! Hopefully this little blog is helpful the next time you go to buy some saucy AKS, let me know what AKS you use most and what you are prepared to pay a little bit more for and what you wouldn’t.
Thanks for following!
By Zach Levi-Rodgers