If only for greater peace of mind and convenience, try these modifications with your Cobra Crane II.
The Cobra Crane can be up and operating in minutes right out of the box with the addition of sufficient counter-weigh to balance your camera. The enhancements I’m about to suggest do not necessarily reflect any shortcomings of the crane, but rather my own obsession with over-protecting my new PXW X200. As a precaution, review the weight guidelines for your tripod to avoid damage to your crane or camera.
I’ve provided photos and descriptions illustrating the suggested modifications. One that I felt was an absolute necessity was the addition of a set screw to anchor the camera mounting plate to the tripod head (see the photo). In early trials the plate had a tendency to suddenly lurch forward along with the entire unit and camera. The little locking lever on the plate was not strong enough to keep the plate in place with the camera elevated and pointing sharply downward. Another modification was to secure the camera to the camera bracket with a second screw where it mounts on the crane to prevent the camera from rotating. More on this below.
There’s also a short video shot on Christmas morning showing some typical crane shots. I couldn’t resist setting everything up in the living room and playing with it during editing breaks. After a 10 minute set-up the crane was operational. I found its performance surprisingly smooth once properly balanced. (The slider weight illustrated in a photo below helps with that). As an alternative to moving the crane from the weight end of the unit you might enjoy holding one of the crane rails nearer to the camera end and moving it from there.
The Libec zoom controller attached on the rail near the weight end of the crane provides record on/off as well as zoom control for combined crane and zoom movements. I use a 16′ extension purchased from Libec. Some nice-looking shots can be created by combining the crane and zoom effects.
I set up my Lilliput monitor on a free-standing mic stand that I can position wherever I need to without hitting it with the crane. I used the crane and monitor in this configuration very successfully in the commercial I filmed at Letterhead Factory in Carson, CA. which can be seen here.
I wanted to be perfectly confident that my camera was going to be secure on the crane, and the single screw holding the camera to the mounting bracket didn’t give me a sense of security. To strengthen the connection an additional hole can be drilled into the U-shaped bracket that the camera mounts to, and a 2nd screw inserted to fasten the camera to the bracket provided your camera will accept both screws.
Shaft locks were purchased from www.mcmaster.com to insure against slippage of one or more of the telescoping tripod legs under the weight of the crane and camera. They can be ordered to fit the diameter of any tripod leg. Because I use a dedicated Gitzo tripod to support the crane, I installed the locks at each leg extension junction and just leave them there. An allen wrench can be used to quickly change the position of the locks when the length of the legs needs to be adjusted for more or less elevation of the crane.
To stop the weights from wiggling around at the back end of the crane, try adding a plate with a small diameter center hole before screwing on the plastic locking nut to hold the weights in place. (photo)
Establish perfect balance with the crane parallel to the floor to obtain smooth movement, particularly at the start and end of crane motion. Slide a movable weight belt along the crane arm to fine tune the balance. (see photo)
Enjoy the very brief video below showing a few crane shots. If by chance you happen to be considering a new camera, I’ve found my PXW X200 a fine replacement for my aging PMW EX-1R offering a much cleaner image in very low light environments. The camera also offers wireless control of most functions with a phone app. It’s quite amazing. To view an example of the low light performance of the PXW X200 at a wedding reception, click here.
Feel free to contact me directly at 310 547-4702 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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