Camera Anatomy -

1.  Camera Body

2.  Lens

4. Matte Box

5.  Rail Support System

7.  Camera Microphone

8. Video Monitor

6. Filter Tray

11.  Tripod

9. Shoulder Rig

10. Hand Grips

3. Follow Focus


"My three Ps:  passion, patience, perseverance.  You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker."


- Robert Wise

1.  Camera Body

A Camera Body is the heart of a digital cine camera package.  It records media to memory cards.  Most camera bodies can shoot in FULL HD (1080P) and some can now capture Ultra HD (4K) footage (and beyond).  They typically come with a viewfinder and/or LCD monitor.   DSLR bodies have the ability to shoot still images.  Other larger body types, cannot shoot stills, but often have more external manual controls and professional XLR audio inputs (DSLRs usually have 1/8" audio inputs).  Camera Bodies are generally powered by rechargeable batteries or an ac adapter.

2.  Lens

Most digital cine cameras do not come with a fixed lens (Fixed Lenses are typically a zoom lens that you can not change).  Instead, you have the ability to use multiple lenses that can be easily swapped out.  The advantage of this, is being able to collect a number of lenses that have different focal lengths and other unique characteristics.  Focal lengths range from wide angle to telephoto primes.  Zoom lenses, with multiple focal lengths, are also available, but usually require more light to work with than prime lenses.  Some specialty lenses include:  macro (able to take extreme close-ups) and fisheye (able to take ultra wide panoramic shots).  Interchangeable lenses give the Cinematographer more creative options.

3.  Follow Focus

Often in filmmaking, actors, subjects or the camera itself, do not stay stationary.  Because of this, lenses must change or rack focus in order to keep the subject sharp.  The Follow Focus allows the cinematographer or assistant to easily turn the focus wheel and keep the moving subject in focus.  Focus points can be placed on the inner white disk on the focus wheel, so as actors hit their marks (predetermined starting and stopping positions), the operator can easily turn from one point to the next (position 1 to position 2 for example).

4.  Matte Box

A Matte Box serves multiple purposes.  The first, is to shade the lens from unwanted light flares (usually from back lights or the sun).  The second purpose of the matte box is to hold easily changeable filters in front of the lens.  Like the follow focus, Matte Boxes are usually held in place on a rail support system.

5.  Rail/Rod Support System & Base Plate

A Base Plate connects your camera body to your tripod.  Two rails usually run through the base plate.  These rails allow the Matte Box and Follow Focus to connect securely to the camera rig.  This system usually comes with a quick release plate so that the camera can separate from the tripod easily.

6.  Filter Tray

The Matte Box provides a tray that can hold changeable filters in front of the lens.  Filters come in many varieties.  A Neutral Density (or ND Filter) cuts down the amount of light going into the lens (helpful for shooting in bright sunlight).  Polarizing Filters darken skies, manage reflections or suppress glare from surfaces like bodies of water.  Tiffen makes diffusing filters that are very flattering to human imperfections.  If you do not have a Matte Box, you can still purchase filters that are circular and screw directly onto a lens.

7.  Camera Microphone

A Camera Body sometimes comes with a built-in (internal) microphone, but they usually don't sound very good.  One easy way to improve audio quality, is to use an external shotgun microphone mounted to the top of the camera.  Some cameras have audio XLR inputs, while others have 1/8" inputs.  It is important to know which type your camera has before buying a camera microphone.  To get the best possible audio, a Boom Operator will often record additional sound, using a second shotgun mic on a boom pole.  This mic usually sounds the best because it is normally closer to the subject speaking.

8.  Video Monitor

Although cameras usually come with an internal viewfinder and/or LCD screen, they are generally small.  Therefore, most cinematographers will use an additional larger monitor mounted to the camera (or set up next to the camera).  These bigger monitors make focusing, judging exposure and looking at lighting critically, much easier.  Often, these monitors include tools like:  a waveform monitor, histogram, false color, focus peaking and zebras.  Some monitors even let you load LUTs from a memory card.  This makes shooting footage in LOG (which is normally very flat looking) a better experience.  LUTs allow you to see what the graded footage could look like in Post.  LOG was invented to capture a large tonal range in a video image (protecting highlights and shadows).  Monitors usually connect to your camera via HDMI or SDI (check your manual).

9.  Shoulder Rig

Cameras, especially the smaller DSLR type, are difficult to hand hold when a lot of gear is attached to it (like a monitor, matte box, follow focus and rail system).  A shoulder rig allows the cinematographer to better balance the camera by placing some of its weight on his or her shoulder.  This also allows for the cinematographer to hold the camera for much longer stretches of time.  Along with making the camera and accessories easier to hold, it also makes the camera more stable and less shaky, which benefits the quality of the footage.

10.  Hand Grips

Hand Grips, used in conjunction with the shoulder rig, also make the camera with accessories easier to hand hold.

11.  Tripod

A Tripod is one of the essential pieces of gear to support your camera package.  It consists of a head, legs and spreader.  Often, the legs have multiple levels or stages, which raise the height of the tripod as they are expanded.  The spreader keeps the 3 legs from slipping (providing stability).  The better tripod heads are called fluid heads.  These fluid heads allow for super smooth panning (horizontal movement) and tilting (vertical movement).  Drag controls can be adjusted to help slow down or speed up tripod moves.  Many come with a claw ball that allows the tripod to easily be balanced via a built in level bubble.  A good tripod will last for many years.  Make sure you purchase a tripod that can handle the weight of your camera and accessories.