TESTIMONIALS: SEVEN JIB COMPACT XL

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Andrew Dean reviews the Seven Jib

Background

I have a truck filled with lighting and grip gear that I use for my own projects and also hire out with me as grip/gaffer. This means that I need the variety and flexibility to work with a wide variety of cameras and the shooting styles of various DPs, while at the same time I have a personal interest in having gear that works the way I personally want to work.

It comes down to a "bang for buck" equation, mixed with how much room I have in the truck and also the shots I personally want to achieve. A long arm jib/crane sounds sexy but its the rare exception that a really tall rise is what people want. It tends to be called for by account executives playing director rather than actual DPs.

So, for location setups or music videos or shots that need a tremendous amount of camera control, I have a ride-on crane. It takes the camera up to 11 or 12 feet along with the camera operator and even a focus puller too. Its a lot of counterweight and around 15 minutes setup time (with two grips), but gives the ultimate in off-ground camera control.

For versatility and locations up stairs, I bought an a*****jib. It has a 10 foot arm with a hydraulically controlled tilt and a wire-pan. Its an amazing piece of kit and works really well, but there are a few drawbacks. For one, its slow to set up. With two of us, i can get it less than 8 minutes, but there are a bunch of little fiddly bits that require care to organize when packing down, so packdown tends to take 10-15. Another issue is that it takes a bit of a learning curve to operate. Its not bad at all, but if i'm freelancing as grip, then the camera op is going to expect to control the camera. If they can't nail shots the first time they get frustrated with the jib. If i'm doing my own shoots all is good, but under time pressure on a shoot with a frustrated camera operator, i really needed a more traditional solution. The last issue is weight. The a******jib rocks for dslr and dv cameras, but can't handle more than a 15 pound rig. If i'm on a shoot with film, cinealta or red, forget it.

So that brought me to needing a third jib/crane. One that I could set up and tear down lighting fast, plop a ball head on the end and let the cam op go nuts. Shoots generally run behind and *any* delay setting up a jib often results in the jib shots being scrubbed.

With that gear and those options at hand, i set out to find the perfect short-arm jib.

Options

When it comes down to it, there are only a handful of fast, strong short jib arms.

my requirements: Very fast to set up. Minimal parts. Obvious setup/teardown process. as compact as possible.

p****jib. This one is built like a tank. I really wanted one just to be "industry standard", but the setup video on youtube blew my mind. Its extremely complicated and if I ever left a student to pack it down, i could guarantee something would go wrong.

k*****r: A lot of people rave about them, but I really wanted something beefier and faster.

V****jib: Very fast, very robust

Seven jib: Very fast, very robust.

I wish i could do a comparison between the v****e and Seven. I live in rural new zealand, so i had to pick one and cross my fingers. I honestly cannot remember what made my final decision. I think the Seven folds down smaller?

The Seven Jib

I'm extremely happy with the Seven. It ticks almost all the boxes.

Lightweight: My 71 year old mom brought it with her while on a visit. Even in its hard case, it came in under the baggage weight limit.

Fast: People are used to some crazy slow jibs. I keep winning on-site bets saying things like "i'll have the jib ready to go before you finish that static lock-down shot". The longest part of the setup is screwing the camera bowl to the jib. By myself, not rushing it takes about 90 seconds from opening the case to being ready for the camera. In a hurry, i've easily cut that in half. 45 seconds from cracking the case to threading the bowl. With a second grip I have no doubt we could get the jib from the case all the way to counterbalanced and rolling in under a minute. Normally you don't need to surge like that, but still. Its very fast. Threading the jib to the sticks and threading the support rod together are the only things that take any time at all.

Strength: I did a commando shoot with the red this last week. We were grabbing b-roll all around the city so fast build/pack was essential. At the same time, we were shooting the red, which weighs quite a bit. My jib-legs are super beefy (i think they are the 528xb manfrotto legs) and handled the load without flenching. I was a little bit worried about how the jib would take all the weight, but it didn't seem to flinch. Under the weight of the red, there was flex, but it didn't translate into bounce, just tension across the rig. I was concerned about the hinge that isn't locked down, but as designed, the weight of the camera pulls down on the hinge so its very solid. From a performance and safety issue, I had no issue with it.

I already have small 5kg weights for my a******jib (which cannot use larger weights or they get in the way of operation) so I asked Douglas (the Seven Jib dude.) to make me a custom extension bar that is also threaded. This allows me to use less weight and to physically get enough weights onto the threaded bar to counterbalance a heavier rig. He made up the part i wanted for an extra $100. The extension means I can counter a Red using only 30kg of small weights, or fly a lighter camera with even less. The extension works perfectly and the price was great. I use an extra barbell-spinlock on the jib to spinlock against the threaded extension, just in case it has any desire to unthread itself.

Size:
The Seven packs down ridiculously compact. The weight bar slides into the body and the nose folds back on itself. The whole rig packs into a shotgun carry case and still only uses about 75% of its length. I can easily toss the hard case in the back of my hatchback.

Price:
For what it is, I think its cheap. I paid around $1700 including domestic shipping and the hard case.

A student watched me build the jib on a shoot. We were short on time and I was in another room shooting so i asked him to begin tearing it down. I expected he'd at least get the weights put away, but when i came back out it was packed up perfectly. Just from watching the one build, he figured out how it should break down and pack into the case. This would NEVER happen with any other jib i've used. I could actually see dry-hiring this thing out.

Anyways, thats all that comes to mind right now. I'm pretty objective with my gear and am happy to be critical.

Cheers!
—Andrew



Louie C.K. interview

AVC: Could you talk a little about the final scene of the first season [a lovely, lingering circular shot of Manhattan at dawn as C.K. has breakfast with his daughters with a melancholy blues song as the soundtrack]?

LCK: Yeah, that was a big deal for me. To me, it's really important to keep earning this. I'm not sure I deserved it when I got it, so every episode, I have to really make sure this is okay I'm doing this. I really wanted to have a season finale that really felt like one. Lucky Louie had kind of a season finale and I remember thinking, "Fucking last one of these. I kind of want to remember what everyone looks like. I may have to tell people goodbye in this episode, I want it to be a really good ending." I knew what that shot was going to be from when I was sitting at the computer. I knew exactly. Sometimes it's like that. Sometimes you're on the set and you find stuff visually, but that was one that I just knew. We're going to be in this little thing and it's just how I wanted to find the dawn in the sky.

I knew that was going to be what it was supposed to be. And we had to really be careful about what time we were shooting. The sky was black on one side, and purple on the other, so that gave us about five takes before it just became dawn. We worked with this piece of equipment—I'm really into this shit, visually—we have this piece of equipment we call the 7-foot jib, it's like an arm that the camera goes on. It's very expensive and time-consuming to lay track to move the camera. To lay track so that you can have lateral movement, tracking shots. It really kills us to lay track. We burn hours and we also bother more neighbors and it's just not good. So we got this thing, the 7-foot jib, and it's on an arm, but it's like a compass, like you draw circles with. So when you move the camera, it's going from right to left but it's also going in a curve. It's going in a circle, so as you move past the subject you're also moving toward it, then you start moving away from it. And the whole show started to have a spiral feeling to it visually. So when you watch that shot, the camera starts on us, then it starts drifting away, then it starts drifting away at two axes, towards the left and also away, backing away. Then it corkscrews around and finds the buildings across the street, corkscrews around and then finds the sky. And it's actually like, 1 degree away from finding us again. If we had kept panning over we would have come back to us. That was a lot of meaning to me for a lot of dumb reasons.

I had Bob Seger's "Night Moves" in my head. I think I saw an after-school special about drunk driving when I was a kid, and they had somebody who was lying dead on the road and the camera drifted away and they started playing this Bob Seger-y song. Then the drums come in and the organ. I wanted to do something like that. I actually wrote that last song. I sat at my piano and wrote these lyrics about a shitty night. When my musicians, we put together, this sort of building, kind of emotional song, one of the guys in the band said he knew a vocalist, actually a British guy, had a very ragged voice, a really soulful voice. His name was James Maddock. And this guy came in, sang this for us. A lot went into that moment; that was a lot of work for just that one shot.