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Master Series Top Stage Upgrade


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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:31 PM

As long as I've owned my Master Series sled, two things have stuck out at me as being sore spots.

Lack of modularity/self serviceability: Like most of us, I enjoy tinkering around inside my rig - adding, subtracting or repairing parts here and there. The Master Series sled was never designed to allow for someone to easily get inside and perform such tasks. Honestly, I never knew how easy it could be until one day, remembered clearly, I stopped by Alec J's place. He had a slight problem with his donkey box on his PRO/XCS/Jerry Hill rig. I watched aghast as, in under 60 seconds and with a single allen key, the donkey box was separated from the sled and sitting on his desk, easily displayed for servicing. Alec thought nothing of it until he saw the look on my face, and after a couple seconds of thought replied, "Oh yeah... you've got a Master rig." 90 seconds later, and I'm sure it was just to show off, he was holding his gimble in his hand spinning it like someone spins a basketball on their finger. We both stared at it hypnotically - him proud, me suicidal.

Top stage: Flex. Lots of it. For 90% of my operating this was not an issue. The remaining 10%, however, that involved either a long lens or any sort of a run, those bastard micro-vibrations would show up. It was just a matter of design of the old Master stage, unfortunately.

Combine those two sore spots together, and I was left with a bad top stage for which no remedy existed. A more modular rig with a part that just wasn't performing well, one could easily just order away for a replacement or an upgrade and swap it out themselves. In fact, my original top stage was the thumb screw/slide-in version which was just unacceptable, so I had to send the entire sled to LA to be upgraded to the better latch/drop-in version. Frustrating to spend all that money on shipping for just one small part. The stage was better, but still had more flex than I like. With no more upgrade options, really the only next step was to sell the entire sled and buy a new one - a prohibitively expensive option.

Last summer on the forum a great deal came along for a used Donkey Box III, and I snatched it up knowing it was the stage I eventually wanted, but not knowing what sled would go under it. I'd either find a way to mount it on mine, or keep it around for the day when I finally do upgrade the whole thing. Long story short, it's now mounted atop my Master rig. It works great. It has the rigidity we need. And the best part is it was done with the absolute minimal modification to the sled itself. What this means is when it does come time for me to upgrade, if I choose I can easily put the old stage back on, and sell it as a complete Master sled, keeping the DBox for my new rig.

I designed a junction box that would both house the connectors I need (same as my Master sled except for the size 2, 2pin LEMO on the back for isolated 12V which I've never ever needed), along with having a way to securely mate the DBox to the post. The only modification I had to do to the original sled was cut all the wires that run up the post. I reconnected them to the connectors in the new junction box. I bought cable mounted M & F LEMO connectors with the thought of adding them to the post wires, making for a simple attach/detach situation similar to the PRO and XCS posts currently, however, I didn't end up installing it for simplicity's sake. I also wanted to test everything out with as few variables in the equation as possible, and once it was actually working, I thought I'd just leave it alone. If I ever do have to open it back up, I'll likely then install the LEMO.

Attached File  box1.jpg   21.08KB   465 downloadsAttached File  box2.jpg   19.49KB   504 downloadsAttached File  box3.jpg   21.34KB   486 downloadsAttached File  box4.jpg   26.65KB   545 downloadsAttached File  box6.jpg   22KB   659 downloadsAttached File  box5.jpg   28.38KB   669 downloadsAttached File  box7.jpg   28.05KB   547 downloads


So 7 months and counting and all is running swimmingly. One small down side is with the new junction box, stage, and an XCS plate, the cameras typically sit higher than they used to, forcing me to fly a slightly longer sled than before. I plan to buy a few of the low profile PRO plates to solve this. You can see it's still un-anodized. Again, I just wanted to test it first, before finishing it, and once it was up and running, I was happy.

I thought I'd let my fellow Master Rig owners know that I do have 4 more of these boxes available (I had a run of 5 done). If anyone else is frustrated like I was and can get your hands on a Donkey Box, I'd happily help you upgrade. Just let me know.

Best to all,
Afton
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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 08:13 PM

Great job Afton!

Now, about that K-section...

haha
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#3 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 10:49 PM

Very cool indeed Afton. I still think that my Jerry Rig would have rounded out the base nicely, but alas that was not meant to be!

It is funny how we all get used the gear we own and forget how good we have it. When I think back at what I started with, I shake my head in disbelief.
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#4 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 12:56 AM

Well done Afton!!!

Like you it took me a while wrap my brain around modularity but once I saw a similar scenario as you did it was too obvious; one of the DUH moments.

Now that I've gone modular with an XCS, it's empowered me to dip into small repairs / modifications that I would have never attempted. Actually, Greg builds the XCS to your specs yet I can still swap out parts with another op or just send in the Lower Electronics Housing, Top Stage etc..

Another direct benefit is that those of us with the same or similar rigs can fill-in for each other, trade jobs and swap gear super easy. The standardization of connectors alone is worth it's weight in gold.

Congrats on taking control and initiative to make your rig exactly what you want!

Robert
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#5 Janice Arthur

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 10:24 AM

Afton;

You just made a more valueable rig for every Master Series owner!

Congrats.

(Touch the K section and you're left with a post.)

JA
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#6 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 12:42 PM

Great looking mod. I'm planning on doing a similar upgrade to my sled at some point although its not a masters. What do you want for one of your boxes? (will probably make my own but am curious).

I also have a number of parts on my sled that I keep meaning to anodize but since they work fine as is I never really get around to.

~Jess
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#7 Janice Arthur

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 03:03 PM

Jess;

You know what a portable annodizer is?


A Sharpie!

JA
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#8 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 04:03 PM

Haha. ive used that for "repairs" but im not sure about entire parts :-)
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#9 RonBaldwin

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 07:30 PM

I just use carc

Looks great Afton! Way to breath new life into your sled
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#10 RonBaldwin

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 12:17 PM

a question -- how much (if any) did the mod raise the camera? The extra post length needed might be a small issue considering the superior camera mounting of the db3 vs the tiffen top stage. Looks like the new j-box is 3/4 to 1" thick?

again, nice mod -- very old school to cut and hack...I love it!
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#11 Afton Grant

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 02:22 PM

Hey Ron. Yeah, as I mentioned, my only complaint is the cameras typically sit higher now. 1-1.5" higher. The box is 0.9" thick, thanks to the large size 2 Lemos on the back of the Master stages. The XCS plate is also thicker than my old Master plates. I thought hard about this when designing it. I figured I could essentially design myself a box with PRO compatible connectors. It would be about 1/4" shorter, which definitely would count for something. Downside to that is having to remake all my cables. I chose the compromise in height rather than in cables. Some low profile PRO plates will help that quite a bit.

Jess, I haven't really thought about specific prices. I made the extra ones because the price difference between making 1 and making 5 was minuscule. I basically thought I'd just share what I did. If there are other peeps that would like to do something similar, I'm happy to help and I'd encourage them to get in touch. It's safe to say that everybody's preferences, budget, needs, and abilities are all different, so I don't think I could come up with one blanket number. I'll sell the remainder as raw boxes, and you do whatever you wish with them. I'll wire them up with connectors and loose wires if someone wants. Or ship me your sled and a DBox and I'll do the whole thing.
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#12 James Baldanza SOC

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 03:10 PM

I don't have a Master Series Steadicam but I have to say this is pretty awesome.

-James
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#13 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 04:51 PM

Hey Ron. Yeah, as I mentioned, my only complaint is the cameras typically sit higher now. 1-1.5" higher. The box is 0.9" thick, thanks to the large size 2 Lemos on the back of the Master stages. The XCS plate is also thicker than my old Master plates. I thought hard about this when designing it. I figured I could essentially design myself a box with PRO compatible connectors. It would be about 1/4" shorter, which definitely would count for something. Downside to that is having to remake all my cables. I chose the compromise in height rather than in cables. Some low profile PRO plates will help that quite a bit.



OR you could "Think outside the box" and make the box thinner in the middle and have a dropdown for the connectors.... Like XCS did
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#14 Afton Grant

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 07:00 PM

OR you could "Think outside the box" and make the box thinner in the middle and have a dropdown for the connectors.... Like XCS did


Believe me, the attempt was made. The problem with that is the mating of the DBox with the Master post. The DBox has a 4 hole pattern, the post has a 6 hole pattern. I wanted to keep everything structurally un-modified to allow for future reassembly and/or swapping of equipment. The DBox screws needed something to anchor into that was separate from whatever was anchoring into the post all the while allowing for clearance for the wiring which must emerge from the top of the post since drilling into the sides was not an option. I have a feeling, now that this design has been done successfully, a better, lower profile design could come in the future.
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#15 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 09:00 PM

OR you could "Think outside the box" and make the box thinner in the middle and have a dropdown for the connectors.... Like XCS did


Believe me, the attempt was made. The problem with that is the mating of the DBox with the Master post. The DBox has a 4 hole pattern, the post has a 6 hole pattern. I wanted to keep everything structurally un-modified to allow for future reassembly and/or swapping of equipment. The DBox screws needed something to anchor into that was separate from whatever was anchoring into the post all the while allowing for clearance for the wiring which must emerge from the top of the post since drilling into the sides was not an option. I have a feeling, now that this design has been done successfully, a better, lower profile design could come in the future.



Looking at the photos of your post and the Dbox it would be VERY easy to do what I'm talking about
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