Taking the TILTA Cage for a Whirl
Let’s say you just bought a great DSLR or mirrorless camera (congrats!). But you really want to add professional level sound. And in the past, you’ve had difficulty focusing off your camera’s back LCD (haven't we all?). That means buying an external mic and monitor (congrats—well, kinda!).
Here’s the problem: you can’t mount both on your camera at the same time. You have to pick between having better sound or a better picture...and that’s a choice you don’t want to make. So can your setup really have it all?
Yep, that’s where a cage comes in: a handy tool with multiple mounting points for you to attach as many accessories to your rig as your heart desires. Camera cages are made of metal, which will add weight to your setup, but they also offer additional protection for your camera. Plus, you can always mount your cage to a stabilizing device (monopod, tripod, gimbal, etc) instead of going handheld if you want to give your arms a break.
There are different types of cages out there, and we decided to take the TILTA’s cage for the Sony A7 series for a whirl out in the field to test it out—and not just in any field, mind you. We took the TILTA, cradling our beloved Sony A7S II and supporting our mic (Sony XLR-K1M) and monitor (SmallHD 502), to the beaches of Seaside, Oregon to film behind the scenes while The Delivery Men shot their short film Low Tide, for an upcoming Academy of Storytellers course (sign up here to be notified when 'On set with Joe Simon and The Delivery Men' launches).
Story & Heart cinematographer Omar Abushaikha used the cage and the Sony A7S II on a Manfrotto Monopod in all kinds of situations to really see if this cage could rise to any challenge. He darted up and down crowded boardwalks, scaled sandy dunes on the beach at 3 AM, hopped in vans to interview The Delivery Men’s crew, and even filmed in an arcade and a Tilt-a-Whirl left unchanged since the 1960’s. So what was the verdict?
Check out all of the ways you can use the TILTA Cage for the Sony A7S Series to help build out a durable rig:
1. Hit record without letting go of the handle
The best feature of this cage? There’s a built-in record button right on the grip, which is very easy to use (unlike the typical A7s II record button). Because I was filming behind the scenes and running around on places like the sandy shore, moving quickly was more important than ever. The ability to record, and stop recording, right on the handle was a key time-saving feature. For an extra $150 (what the handgrip costs to add to the TILTA cage system), it’s definitely worth it.
2. Accessorize like there’s no tomorrow
A cage allows you to add tools like mics and monitors onto your camera, which is great. The TILTA has an especially large amount available mounting points, which gives you the option to add on numerous accessories. I really like the freedom to build out my rig and get creative with where I want to mount add-ons.
3. Multiple mounting points
There’s a great rail mount on top of the TILTA cage in addition to its many holes. I attached my Small HD 502 Field Monitor to the top of the cage’s handle, which allowed me to view it right at eye level. On the sunny beach, I was able to shield my eyes with the Small HD’s sun hood to ensure I was capturing properly exposed and in focus images (both of which are tough to do relying solely on the A7S II LCD).
4. It comes with rails
This cage comes with a base plate and rails, which is a huge perk. Base plates allow you to attach rails to add a range of attachments. Common attachments are a follow focus (which can really help you nail your focus while filming), a matte box (which will allow you to use filters in front of your lens), or handles to turn the cage into a shoulder rig. The back ends of rails can be used for mounting external battery plates, monitors for directors to watch, or shoulder pads. Endless possibilities!
5. Your camera won’t go anywhere
Oftentimes, cages can feel loose. Since I was moving quickly, and in so many different environments to shoot BTS, I really wanted a secure cage. With the TILTA, I never had any wiggling or looseness, even when I was running around chasing The Delivery Men along the shore or in the arcade to get my shots.
6. Access batteries and SD cards with ease
You can change the batteries on your camera while it’s still in the TILTA cage. You can change the SD cards while the camera’s locked in, too, which is really helpful—these easy-access features really save time, especially when you’re trying to work smart on a tight production schedule to capture as much footage as you can.
7. Put your audio on auto
I hit a small obstacle when I discovered that my Sony XLR-K1M mic’s hot shoe didn’t align with the hot shoe on TILTA where I wanted to mount it; I used a spacer (provided with the Sony audio kit) to make it work...no problem! But the audio controls were now blocked by the cage’s handle that was holding my monitor. The solution? I slide the top handle as far to the other side of the mount as possible, and I put my audio settings on auto. This way I could somewhat access levels if I needed to go into manual mode, but I relied heavily on auto levels, which actually produced amazing, crisp sound. This strategy can really save time if you’re shooting behind the scenes, or just moving quickly, and can’t constantly adjust your audio levels. Even on the windy beach or when people were talking in low voices, the Sony XLR-K1M microphone system did a great job (which we’ll also be reviewing in an upcoming blog post).
8. Mount it on a monopod
Cages can add weight, it’s true, but they’re worth it for the countless options they give you to optimize your camera setup. How can you use that cage and save your arms, too? I placed the TILTA and my camera on a Manfrotto MVM500A Monopod—a secure setup that allowed me to film for long periods of time and navigate multiple environments, all while keeping the extra add-ons I wanted to capture great audio and images.
9. It looks pretty
As an added bonus to the TILTA’s technical features, the cage just looks great. The Brazilian Rosewood handle and the matte silver finish earn this cage some serious style points.
10. ...But it’s built like a tank.
The TILTA cage that we used costs $499 (because of the handle), which is a sizable amount of money—it’s a sixth of the price of the Sony A7S II! But that investment goes into safeguarding the camera itself, because this cage is a tank. It’s built well, and if you can spring for it, we think it’s a worthy addition to your kit—plus, it comes with a 2 year warranty.
Even when running around on the beach, the TILTA does a great job of securely holding a camera and the additional accessories that make for a great rig.
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