Travel Essentials – iDC UBoat Commander (for DSLR Video Photogs)

While I am just starting to embrace shooting video as a photographer, something that translated very clearly from still shooting to video shooting was the need for functional tools. While researching the equipment I needed to transition into shooting DSLR-Video I looked at more than a dozen shooting rigs that provided a multi-functional stable platform. Once I determined what the best DSRL video platforms for shooting were, there was one final hurdle…and an important hurdle… the kit needed to quickly and easily break down and be able to be packed into my bag taking up minimal space.

After a few months of research leading up to my leap into digital there was only one clear choice as a viable shooting platform for a traveling photographer … Bruce Dorn’s iDC UBoat Commander.

The iDC UBoat Commander comes in a number of set ups, ranging from UBoat I through UBoat III, however the kit is modular, allowing users to add pieces as needed, or shed pieces as needed.

What attracted me to the UBoat Commander was the simplicity of its design. The rig is designed for user functionality, quick set up; quick tear down and you can pack it inside nearly any bag or pouch you may be using.

What makes using the UBoat Commander more effective for shooting DSLR video than simply holding the camera in your hand? The entire design focuses on increased stability, which is important when shooting video.

The size and weight of the rig make the platform evenly weighted on each side creating a more stable platform. The handgrip posts on either side of the camera body allow users to ‘steer’ the camera into its shooting angles and create a triangulated point of contact with the user and camera for stability.  The top of the UBoat rig comes fitted with a removable weighted cold-shoe and horizontal hand-grip post that creates a forward facing counter-weight, just like the rest of the design, the counter-weight is designed for stability. The horizontal handgrip post, that is attached to the counter-weight,  is fantastic for low-slung shots and rapid ‘run & gun shooting’ especially with wide angle lenses with minimal ‘bounce’ to the camera.

The ‘Swiss Cheese’ design of the iDC UBoat Commander’s plates allows users to modify their rig as needed, such as adding an external mic, light, compact screen, etc. For my UBoat Commander I opted for a single additional removable cold shoe on the top for a Rode VideoMic shot gun mic to allow for enhanced audio possibilities.

The iDC UBoat Commander comes with allen screws or thumb screws, with the exception of the camera mount, which is secured by an allen key or a Quick Release plate.

With the thumbscrew set up I can have my entire UBoat Commander assembled in under a minute. Breaking the UBoat Commander down takes about 45 seconds.   This ease of set up is fantastic for quick set up and tear down when working on location, traveling or switching from still to video shooting while documenting a news story or a wedding. (especially with the quick-release, which I do not currently have, but now wish I had opted for)

Need a psuedo ‘steadicam‘ type setup? The UBoat Commander offers a compact shoulder stock accessory piece. This piece allows for the shoulder stock to be placed against your shoulder or over your shoulder depending on your shooting needs. I have found the shoulder stock option to be great when steadying a longer lens or moving quickly with an ultra-wide angle lens

The one draw back to the iDC UBoat Commander is there is no place for a carry-strap.  To get around the minor design glitch I have attached two Bison “Bottle Bandit” bottle holders to one of the handgrip posts. The Bottle Bandit fits perfectly over the handgrip post with no slippage (I gaffers taped my two Bottle Bandits together). For my strap I have chosen the strap portion of the PacSafe Carry Safe 100, the same strap I use on my cameras.

As a long time still photographer I have found one unintended benefit to using the UBoat Commander … it forces me to stop thinking like a still photographer which has decreased the learning curve switching from still to video shooting.

Below are eight photos of my iDC UBoat Commander kit with my Canon EOS 5D Mk II kit. The photos show the rig by its self, with my camera attached, broken down and packed into the small flat front pocket of my Mountainsmith Tour waist pack

For more info, visit iDCs website.

Happy Flying!

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