Developing a product to simplify your camera rig
I'm developing a product that I first made for my own use. I got tired of camera rigs that got so elaborate that the camera became unmanageable (Teradek, Bartech, camera hop, battery plate, etc.), so I sat down to try to solve this problem. My solution involves a small box that attaches to the back of your camera rig and plugs in to numerous inputs and outputs on the camera and evf, including video outputs, audio/video inputs, power inputs, etc. The box is then connected to a bag (I use a small sound bag designed for a Sound Devices 633) full of numerous camera accessories, including a battery, Teradek, camera hop, etc.) I am looking for people who may be interested in discussing a solution of this kind, or have feedback on the subject. Please respond here or PM me if you would like to know more.
Umbilicals, be they power, or signal, always eventually come up against situations where they get in the way. All the gak hanging off the camera and plate evolved to -cut- the umbilicals and free the operator from connecting to the camera. BluTooth and other radio-based wireless tech enhanced this trend. Your solution might be great for certain situations, and not for others. Can you find enough customers that like hard-wiring again?
Mark, you make a good point. There are certainly situations in which an un-tethered system, no matter how ungainly, is the best way. A few considerations make this solution desirable, as you say, in some situations:
1. Recent years have brought very lightweight cameras. My go to is an Fs5 with a Fujinon MK 18-55. This setup is so light that with an umbilical of this kind, it becomes a featherweight kit, despite having a lot of functionality. This can lead to a lot of cost and time savings due to smaller sliders, jibs, gimbals, etc. Also, having that on the shoulder without all the rigging is a dream. The system would be able to be hot-plugged. So handing the cam off to an ac or dropping it on the cart would be a simple matter of unplugging it.
2. Pre-rigging. I have worked on numerous sets in which a handful of people spent an hour or so of well paid time in a costly hotel conference room rigging up several highly involved cameras, and then again at the end of the day to tear down. With a setup like this. The accessories, where all of the complexity lives, could live, pre-rigged in a small bag. Transporting during the shooting day also becomes much easier because a camera without all the gak can be easily tossed into a porta-brace.
3. Camera switching. One "AC Bag" could be used on a shoot that contains multiple camera options, or secondary cameras simply for convenience. Instead of moving the camera from one rigging situation to another, you could just grab another camera and easily transfer all the connected accessories from one to another via a single cable change.
Whether I could find enough customers? That is the big question. Would you buy/rent one?
Probably not, TBH. Though these things are highly situational. When every job you do is "bespoke", you rent the gear appropriate to that task.
Is the assignment fashion runway stuff? Or sports? Or concerts? Or news? Or documentary? Public affairs? Or theatrical film? Every one of those jobs has different demands. No one rig serves them all, equally well.
My experience is mostly in ENG work these days. A lot of shooters in the news biz I see, use DeJero , Live Vu or similar back packs to livecast their shots back to base in real time. They are not that happy having to tie the camera down to a backpack (nobody "wears" them.) They're awkward to wear while hand-held shooting off the shoulder, so they tend to be dropped at the foot of a tripod, with an SDI extension cable, and now your camera is tethered. I have NEVER witnessed an ENG shooter actually wearing the backpack while shooting... ever. So far. There are a million little moments when a shooter might need to bend down or step away from the camera and/or tripod for just a second or two - and an umbilical to his or her body makes that a problem. If you see something potentially interesting developing away from the tripod, or a fun/a artsy cut-away opportunity, wanna unhook and go get it, you have to weigh the risk of leaving the expensive backpack unattended, or dragging it along... you may tend to not bother trying to find that unique shot, and sticking to the tripod, just because it's less hassle... it's just not ideal.
My current rig for work uses a Terradek Bond that's small and clips on between the Anton Baur battery pack and the camera's battery plate. It adds negligible weight and affects the balance just a little, offset by the LED mini light near the lens... but at least there's no cable to hang up on anything or trip me. I can go anywhere with the P2 camera and the Bond on the back, in seconds. Particularly when running wireless audio. And that's damn handy sometimes.
Terradek doesn't make those anymore, to my regret; they've gone to a backpack solution that promises higher transmit power, less needed bandwidth, and better hot-swap-ability. To me, it's one more separate damn thing to haul around, when I could leave the old unit on the camera and forget about it, leaving me just two things to carry: the camera, and the sticks.
I get it that you're talking something smaller than a backpack, more like a fanny pack or audio guy's mixer bag... ...or the bandoliers of lead-acid or NiCad batteries I used to haul, looking like Chewbacca, in the 80's... But IMO, to make something space-efficient for a bag that size, you're already miniaturizing enough stuff that it may as well still hang off the camera or plate, skipping the umbilical.
And heavy fanny packs tend to pull one's pants down. I know. Between a fanny or belly pack, and a bandolier, I'd take the bandolier. A bandolier also puts a potential connect point right at the shoulder; shorter, and away from places that can snag.
Maybe a better invention would be an evolved camera plate that had break-away magnetic quick-connect/disconnects to the camera's inputs and outputs, so you can stash a larger battery and storage drive and audio mixer on the pan head/plate. There are already camera grips that combine some or all these features...
Or a sophisticated, clamp-on cage that would manage all the battery/mixer/backup drive gak on a monopod, leaving the smaller camera free to attach or detach with a break-away connection... Zacuto's probably made one already and I just didn't notice it yet...
Good luck on your idea. Do consider the bandolier, though. More ergonomic weight distribution, and easier sizing.