Our Cinevate Core was a long time coming, not that it’s inherently more expensive than comparable systems on the market (more on that later). It’s just that we like to take our time to research our investments in gear as much as possible, as well as the companies behind the products. That being said, I have yet to find a comprehensive 3rd party review of the ‘Core’ even though it’s been out since mid March 17th, 2010.
I’d like to start by giving an overview of the company behind the Core; as with most of our equipment we never actually get to try these products out until they’re shipped to our door. This may be a problem for some, but I believe it just takes a little more effort on the consumers side before you buy. This is also where researching the company comes in handy; if you know who you’re buying from it helps put your mind at ease and to know what to expect. As far as companies go, Cinevate is one of the most transparent companies I’ve come across. The CEO/President Dennis Wood regularly blogs about upcoming events, products and events they sponsor. Dennis also appears in their ‘Video University’ segments, in which he goes over top to bottom a specific product. They have a video of every single one of their products which gives you an idea of how they handle in use, different scenarios they were designed for. I encourage all companies to do this; it really gives the customer the best insight into the product. On a side note, they’re Canadian; located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and being from Winnipeg, Manitoba, we enjoy supporting another Canadian comapny.
After first unpacking the fully assembled (nice touch) Core, we first noticed how solid everything looked and felt. It’s true this thing is built like a tank! Nearly everything is made out of either machined aluminum or carbon fibre, leaving plastic only for the Durus follow focus marking ring and lens gears. Seeing how this rig was built using existing parts hand picked by Dave Clement (shown here) of Catchlight Video Solutions, I’ll cover each main piece separately.
Titan Matte Box
The Titan Matte box is one well engineered piece of kit. It is mounted on two vertical 15mm rods making it height adjustable which comes in handy especially when swapping to some of the bigger lenses that have tripod mounts (ie: Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L). Adding to that, the Titan has a slick swing away design held in place by very strong magnets. It also has the option to be of being screwed into place. Another nice touch is whilst not in use, the screw is stored on the back side of the magnets so you don’t lose track of it. The Titan has two 4 x 4 rotating filter trays to use with ND filters. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review we have no filters on hand to test, though the filter frames rotate smoothly and seem secure. Lens’ use felt ‘donuts’ to complete the seal at the back of the Titan. Personally, I would rather see the use of a universal dounut aka ‘nuns knickers’ in its place or at least having Cinevate sell it as an optional extra. It would allow for faster lens changes; a must in the event industry. On the top of the matte box support frame, there are 3 ‘cold’ hot shoes. These are extremely handy and allow for the mounting of a shotgun mic further foward without obstruction. At the same time, you can mount a separate sound recorder or wireless lav receiver as pictured. A problem we encountered was having the matte box come into frame with the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II at 16mm on a 5D Mark II; though to be honest, I can’t see any other matte box not having this same issue.
Durus Follow Focus
The Durus was one of the main driving reasons we picked up the Core; after watching Matthew Jeppsen of Fresh DV excellent video review, I knew this was the follow focus to get. Having used it on various jobs in different configurations, I have confirmed this. It’s zero lash is truly zero lash. The gear box is ultra smooth, the dry erase marking ring is excellent and the Core has the added benefit of coming with a speed crank. I also really, really like the fact that the Durus is a single rail mount design, it makes adjusting and moving it out of the way while swapping out lens extremely fast and easy. Using the ‘Kip’ toolless fasteners it allows you to make an absolutely rock solid connection extremely fast (a recurring theme of this system). There is also the option of picking up hard stops (a must for the ultrasonic Canon lenses) I’d highly recommend picking up a pair of them. The lens gear system Cinevate has devised is one of my favorite designs on the market. They take a while to setup initially, so buy enough gears for all your lenses to leave on at all times. The ultra thick gears allow for to use lens’ that barrels move upon zooming in or out without losing contact. I only wish Cinevate offered their own whips for sale, though the accessory port on the Durus is an industry standard size and accepts many (if not all) of the whips on the market.
We had the chance to test out the Core in various configurations in a few different situations. To say the least, this rig is versatile and durable. For a commercial shoot in a very tight location, I simply used the Durus mounted on the bottom rails for a small light configuration. While shooting for StillMotion’s latest short film contest we had the full setup mounted to a fluid head mounted on the Philip Bloom Signature edition Pocket Dolly (review on that here). Mind you, its currently winter in Manitoba, so conditions are similar to those of Hoth or Siberia; extremely cold with blowing snow. The Core preformed perfectly, the cold weather did not affect anything, everything stayed tight and solid. Another added bonus was everything ended up being easy to use with winter gloves. Seeing as how 6 months of the year we need them, it really adds to the usability.
As HDSLR’s have become extremely popular, there are many different systems available on the market. Other similar options that I’ll use for comparison include Zacuto’s $2615USD Cross Fire (no matte box included) or RedRockmicro’s $2412.50USD ‘Cinema bundle’. Please note I have not tested these other systems, I’m assuming given these manufactures reputations that everything works as advertised.
Zacuto’s Cross Fire is a hundred dollars less (as tested) than the Core, though it does not include a matte box it has a ‘Gunstock’ for added stability during hand held use. It also features aluminum iris rods instead of carbon fibre. The Cross Fire is more aimed towards the hand held market, it does have room on the front rods to mount a matte box up front. It’s a bit of hybrid system, while you can easily add a shoulder pad and counter weight to the Core or RedRockmicro’s ‘Cinema bundle‘.
RedRockmicro’s ‘Cinema bundle‘ is a more similar setup coming in a few hundred dollars less. The ‘Cinema bundle‘ includes a matte box, it also comes with the microFollowFocus V2. Unfortunately RedRockmicro won’t offer hard stops until their V3 follow focus is released. Though the Core is a little bit more than the ‘Cinema bundle’ I feel the extra cost is justified with the little things, such as the single rail mount on the Durus or the extra hot shoe mounts.
At $2569.20 the Cinevate Core is an investment. It offers future proofing with the Titan Matte box accepting 19mm rods out of the box and the Durus by swapping out the clamp. With tons of little handy features at every corner and an extremely high build quality, the Core is definitely worth the purchase!