Mid-2012, I made various forum posts on a trip from the UK to the USA at some point either towards the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 to visit a number of sites used in the filming of The Evil Dead & Evil Dead II. Why did I want to go? for a number of reasons; to visit The Evil Dead's cabin site before it's built over and lost forever, to see the locations myself as a huge fan, and to film some really decent high quality camcorder footage at each location which I could add to this site, as up to now most fans have only been able to view a couple of the locations through low quality jerky youtube videos. For the same reason, I also wanted to make the trip in winter as that would best match the time of year the original film was shot, even though that presented the risk of snow, which would pretty much ruin the prospect of filming. So much money, preparation & planning went in to this, and here is an full & detailed write-up of the trip.
Brief Trip Overview
On Wednesday December 5, 2012 I flew out from London Heathrow Airport into Knoxville Airport in Tennessee arriving in the evening and going straight to a local hotel. Then the following day I took a hire car and drove out to former site of The Evil Dead cabin in Morristown around 60 miles away. I decided to break it up into two visits, I'd walk there first, check things out, collect a few souvenirs, then walk back to the car. Then I'd drive up and do the filming. That was because If I did get found by the owners while filming and asked to leave, all the items I'd taken earlier would be safe already in the car. Because I parked at a Gas station way down near the main road, I had to walk around two miles to get to the site. I really didn't know it would be as long a walk as that, it looked much shorter on Google Earth. First visit I took three big chimney rocks, some leaves, a bag of soil from the cellar and bag of soil round the chimney, a bag full of tin roof bits, some tree bark, some twigs, a few twisted vines, and put everything in my backpack and hiked back to the car which was very hard work! I finally got back, then drove up and parked just beyond the cabin entrance, which was out of site of all houses except for anyone driving directly past. I spent about an hour filming the walk down the path, around the cabin, different views up on the hillside, and never saw a soul. While the cabin is no longer there, there is still around half the chimney stack, as well as large sections of the roof and some foundations. I then drove the 30 miles to the Clinch River Road/Riverside Road location, used for the opening Oldsmobile driving shots, then another 20 miles to Old Highway 25E seen where Scott shouts at two waving fishermen, filming footage at each location, before heading to a local Morristown hotel for the evening.
On the Friday I headed back up to the cabin site to film further footage, before driving 30 miles down to the site of the destroyed bridge, some of the remains of which are still there. At around noon that day I finished up in Morristown and drove 260 miles over the Smokey Mountains arriving at the hotel in Wadesboro, North Carolina that evening.
On the Saturday in Wadesboro I toured various Evil Dead II filming locations including the The J. R. Faison Junior High School which was used to house the cabin & cellar interior sets and the crew & admin offices/workshops, the Bonsal Ballast Pits which was the location for the climactic medieval section of the movie and now looks very different, and most importantly the exterior Cabin set which still exists although in a very dilapidated state. It's worth adding that a visit to the cabin was only possible due to the fact that I had become friendly with the original owners of the site months beforehand, who in turn were friendly with the current owners of the site. While I won't mention their names here, I would just reiterate my thanks to them for making this trip so amazing! The cabin site isn't accessible from any public roads, it's not accessible at all actually, it's in the middle of a large privately owned section of working cattle farmland, and the whole site has an electric cattle fence around it. I was escorted from the entrance to the site by car, then driven back to the main road once I'd finished.
On Sunday I drove up to the Anson County Airport (which was re-named 'Fairview, TN' on screen), before driving to Charlotte Airport to return the hire car and catch the first of several long flights back home. Due to the fact I'd picked up around 30kg of souvenirs (and even though I took a large virtually-empty suitcase exactly for that propose) I still had to pay extra to get everything on the plane. That extra charge still worked out cheaper than mailing that same weight to myself in the UK via USPS. I arrived back in the UK on Monday December 10. Including; flights, car hire, hotels, spending money & food, the UK tube & taxi fares, and the extra baggage fee, the grand total for this trip was £1318.29.
I shot over 4 hours of HD video over the various locations, which has since been edited and can now be viewed across this page, on the respective The Evil Dead - Locations & Evil Dead II - Locations pages, as well as being available for sale as a single disc DVD or three disc DVD set on the Online Store page. Below you can view the complete thirteen section edited single-disc version of Evil Dead - A Location Odyssey, with intro & end credits all in 1080p quality via YouTube.
You can also watch all 3h 49m 56s of raw locations footage shot below in 480p, which is identical to the the three disc DVD set for sale on the Online Store page. As both the current & previous owners of the Evil Dead II Cabin Site did not wish to be identified or appear in any footage released to the public (for obvious reasons), 14m 16s of the total 4h 03m 38s locations video shot, was removed from the raw footage covering the Evil Dead II Cabin Site, Production House, Storage Barn, and The J. R. Faison Junior High School, along with blanking a couple of short portions of audio in the footage that's left too. Most of this is simply unrelated general conversation inadvertently captured by the camera while setting up and packing away at each location. Futher, a 28m 43s interview with the former cabin owner, his wife, his daughter & myself was shot, but more so they & I could have a personal copy. This will never be publicly released. The raw footage here and in the three disc DVD set is literally as complete as it can be without breaching their confidence. Further to this, as an external microphone was used to record all the audio, there may be some silent gaps either in-between the camera & microphone being switched on, or for quick shots when audio wasn't needed (such as filming from a busy main road).
Below, you can read a diary account edited from various emails sent during the time I was over there, with each individual area's footage next to the applicable text.
Thursday, December 6th - 05:47
It's 05:47 here, been wide awake since 4am as my body thinks it's 9am! Got through UK/US security & immigration fine, but it's been a very long trip. I arrived at London Heathrow Airport around 9am, leaving on the 12:05 flight to Philadelphia Airport arriving at 15:35 local time. Then waited around for a bit to get a connecting flight to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport departing at 17:30, arriving at 18:25, then waiting around some more for another connecting flight at 19:55 to Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport finally arriving at 21:30 local time. At least I'm here, and am presently in Knoxville Hilton. I actually had my first proper American burger & fries yesterday too. Will go and pick up the car just across the way as soon as it's light, then it's a 50 mile drive to the cabin.
Fries... In a cup no less... Classy!
A Bacon double cheeseburger, or what's left of it.
America appears to be like it is on TV... although instead of car chases and guns, there's lots of boring business people talking about company conferences with who cares who over who cares what. Far more mundane than I ever imagined! Had one cup of tea last night, and will have another one shortly (yes, I brought my own tea bags!). Only have enough little milk things to do two cups in total. Realized I must have left my CD/DVD wallet on the plane from England so I'll have to see where lost baggage is when I fly back through Philadelphia Airport. Nothing irreplaceable or important to my trip at least. Just a few games and some downloaded CSI episodes to watch, plus one of my backup portable hard drives. It's been too small to fit everything I need to on it for a while now and I was going to replace it anyway so if I don't get it back I'll not be too bothered. I still have my other little hard drive to use with my USB media player, the one I hook up to my TV with all my programs on. Presently watching Gamesmaster actually.
My room in the Knoxville Hilton
The view overlooking Knoxville Airport
Oh, and it appears you don't get breakfast as standard in with your room here, you have to order room service and pay for it. Will probably stop somewhere once I'm driving.
Thursday, December 6th - 17:01
Ok, so first day over and I'm back in the hotel. I got the hire car and managed to drive it ok, but I really have to stop driving on the wrong side of the road, done it three times now! While trying to find the cabin, I drove to the first gas station, and didn't realise (until I walked past it) that I should have parked at the second one about 1km further up. Anyway I walked on and walked straight past the turning I should have taken, then backtracked a bit and eventually found the cabin site after about a 2 mile hike! I really didn't know it would be as long a walk as that, looked shorter on google earth. Anyway I decided to break it up into two visits, I'd walk there, check things out, whip round collecting the bits I wanted, then walk back to the car. Then I'd drive up and do the filming. That was because If I did get found out while filming and asked to leave, all the stuff I'd taken earlier would be safe already in the car. Anyway there were no problems either visit. First time I found the cabin site, took three big chimney rocks, some leaves, a bag of soil from the cellar and bag of soil round the chimney, a bag full of tin roof bits, some tree bark, some twigs, a few twisted vines, and put everything in my backpack and hiked the 2 miles back to the car which was hard work I tell you, that was very heavy! Anyway got back to the car... finally, and drove up and parked just beyond the cabin entrance, which was out of site of all houses except for anyone driving directly past. Spent about 40mins filming continuously, the walk down the path, around the cabin, different views up on the hillside, and never saw a soul. I might go back again tomorrow to shoot more I'm not sure. I also roughly found the spot where the last shot of The Evil Dead started, looking at the ground, and got some leaves from there too! Am going to have a look at the footage on my hotel TV in a minute and will see if it could do with more footage.
It was strange walking down the The Evil Dead cabin path, it looks different in person to the point that it's almost hard to imagine it's the same place. It's much smaller than I thought. I was expecting to get found out at any moment but other than the odd car driving past I never saw anyone else, and there are only two houses that nearby, and neither can really see the actual cabin entrance on the road, so unless you park your car in view of either house (which probably happens a lot) or someone is walking or driving past on the road, you'd not be seen. Actually more than about 15 metres off the road down the path, and you'd have a hard job to be seen from the road either. it's quite secluded and overgrown. One thing I did want to do was try and re-create The Evil Dead last 'force' shot of the film, but there is a wire fence running straight through the property roughly across where the back wall of the cabin would have been so I couldn't have ran it in one shot, and wanted to minimize the amount of noise I was making, so didn't bother. The second time I was there I was sure I could hear someone walking about up on the hill not far away which was really distracting, but I carried on filming. Over there it's really warm, probably 10-15°C, much warmer than the UK. I took thermals, gloves, scarf and hat, and did most of my filming in a t-shirt and fleece. One other thing, I didn't expect this but all the locations are so far apart, 30-50 miles which is 30-60mins driving time. I had imagined they'd be closer. When I was driving into Morristown I did see a sign for a business with the name 'G. Gary Holt' on, but I didn't investigate any further.
Anyway after that I went to Clinch River Road, found it fine with the sat-nav and filmed some shots one the road, up on the hill, another 10mins or so. There's one shot in the movie where the car swerves round the cliff side, where you have the rocky wall on the right side of the screen, I found that, took a few loose rocks off the cliff face, a bag of gravel from the road and some more leaves.
Walking down the path from the road to the cabin
The cabin area; some roofing & the path leading in
The cabin area; what's left of the chimney stack
Clinch River Road; Lazy Mary logging truck accident area
Old Highway 25E; the Fishermen road where Rob & Sam stood
Then I drove on and found the fisherman road and filmed a bit there, got a local woman talking at me and I quickly left, didn't want to get bummed by the cast of deliverance! then came to the hotel. I did think about looking round for the Little Dutch Restaurant, but I never did in the end. To end the evening I ordered takeout, a huge bacon & chicken cheese pizza, with some sort of cheesy garlic bread affair. Needless to say this served not only as dinner, but also as breakfast and lunch, and the Americans wonder why they have a national obesity problem!?
The huge pizza & garlic bread takeaway shame
My haul of items collected so far, wrapped & ready to pack
Anyway now comes the problem. Basically I can take back two suitcases, one weighing 18kg and one 23kg. any more and I have to pay. The weight of everything I brought with me (which is probably 20kg inc suitcases) plus the stuff I've collected today took me just about up to that limit. It's the cellar rocks that are heavy, that and the other stuff are about 18kg (and I lugged that back from the cabin site!) Now I know I'll be collecting more Evil Dead II stuff, even if I don't collect anything else from The Evil Dead, so I'll be overweight. So I have three choices;
1) get rid of stuff till I’m underweight, which would mean basically chucking stuff in the bin.
2) pay the overweight bag fee, so the bag can be 23kg free, then $90 up to 32kg, and $175 up to 45kg, now that's expensive but there is some safety there as it's travelling with me.
3) package up the heaviest stuff and post it to myself from here. I would tend to go for this as the rocks are unlikely to get damaged, but if it gets lost in the post, then that's it gone forever.
I would tend towards taking out the three big cellar rocks and posting them, but if they get lost, then that's it. I could separate each one out into it's own package, send three out instead of one, which would mean less chance all three will get lost. Okay, so just checked, the three cellar rocks come to 13kg in total.
Friday, December 7th - 17:37
Did another 30mins or so of filming at the The Evil Dead cabin this morning, then drove on to The Evil Dead's destroyed bridge location, then a 5 hour drive across the Smokey Mountains on to Wadesboro, arriving at The Forever Inn B&B around 4pm (which unfortunately, wasn't quite as scenic as it sounded). On the way, the car's sav-nav wanted to take me across a bridge which was closed for re-surfacing, so as a detour it took me along a nerve racking twisting cliff top gravel road no wider than my car, then on though a national forest, until I came out on the main road at the other end. Luckily I didn't meet any oncoming traffic as there was literally no way for two cars to pass without reversing a few miles! Also, I drove past a cabin which was the spit of the The Evil Dead cabin, but it was red. I should have stopped and taken some footage but I didn't want to have to find a place to park as there wasn't anywhere obvious. Name Removed is coming over shortly to collect me then I go to dinner with their family.
The Evil Dead's destroyed bridge location
After a 5 hour drive, finally the Wadesboro town sign
Friday, December 7th - 21:55
just got back I had dinner with Names Removed, and two couple friends of theirs, at their wooden cabin they use for events and such, it was actually the cabin in which Steven Spielberg stayed in while shooting The Color Purple, and I sat at the table which Steven and Name Removed signed their deal! Tomorrow being picked up, going to the high school and ballast pits, then looking in the barn in which houses a few saved Evil Dead II bits, then on to the cabin.
My room at the The Forever Inn B&B in Wadesboro
The view across the street from my hotel room
Saturday, December 8th - 16:22
Going back out with Names Removed. They loaned me a few photos taken during Evil Dead II & The Color Purple which I've just scanned (I thought to bring my A4 USB scanner along with my laptop for exactly this reason). I've Checked and I'm about 18kg over the standard baggage allowance. Now for that USPS charges about $150+ to ship that in one box. It would work out even more if I split it over a number of boxes. The cheapest way will simply be to pay the $70 charge to take a second checked bag. That gives me another 23kg to play with and I'll have it right there with me, so far less likely to get lost. Saw the school, cabin, pits, etc, got footage and a suitcase full of bits from the Evil Dead II cabin.
The J. R. Faison Junior High School gym building
The Bonsal Ballast Pits, which now look very different
I did want to get some longer shots of the Evil Dead II cabin, but even though all the leaves were gone, the forest was still quite thick; trees, bushes, grass, etc. I mean even waking within 1m of the cabin walls round the perimeter, I was still having to push aside bushes and tree branches, so more than about 8 meters back you're having to fight you're way though dense undergrowth and it's hard to see what you're looking at. Walked in and out of the cabin a few times, despite my host's warning that it looked unsafe. They were right, on my way out I stood on a board with a nail in. Luckily I felt it touch my foot before it went into the skin, but could have been worse.
There was a lot of stuff missing from the cabin, I personally know of at least two others who have been there over the years, one took away a fair amount of stuff as he drove there (he has the front & back doors incidentally). There were two internal doors still there but there is a maximum size limit to what I could take on a plane, regardless of how much extra money I paid, I wouldn't have got either of those doors on. I could have taken one of the back door steps, but there was only one left and that was totally rotten and quite big. Really other than bits of wood, and a piece of the roof, there isn't much else there. The furniture and anything else worth anything would have been stripped out after the film wrapped.
The Evil Dead II cabin location, now quite dilapidated
The rear of the workshed, looking down towards the cabin
I did also go inside the Evil Dead II school gym, but not too far. It was full of stuff, got some shots though. The main bit of the school is now used for daycare, so couldn't go in there. Also the ballast pits are now totally flat, no hills or mounds of sand as in 1986. Bit pointless to film it but I did anyway.
After going to the cabin, I was taken to Names Removed storage barn. That's where everything he wanted to hold onto used by the production after they left, was stored. That wasn't much; the fairview sign, a bucket of hillside coal, the waterpump, and anything else you can see in the barn on the footage marked with yellow tape, which is mostly tools & machinery, oh and a bicycle seen in the cellar set as well.
Sunday, December 9th - 15:36
This morning I drove to Anson County Airport and did some filming there, then on to the Airport where I'm presently writing this. I will be back at 9:30am Monday UK time, will have to get a taxi back home too, too heavy to take everything on the tube. Rather than driving the hire car 5 hours back to where I got it in Knoxville, I opted to pay the surcharge and take my flight out from Charlotte Douglas International Airport only about 60 miles away from Wadesboro. I arrived for my flight about five hours early, departing at 17:55, arriving in Philadelphia Airport at 19:34 local time, with only one further connecting flight this time, departing at 21:10, and flying into London Heathrow Airport at 09:25 the next day.
Anson County Airport, just north of Wadesboro
The extra luggage weight actually came to $100, but that's everything. One thing I picked up in the cabin was a pair of door handle faceplates (you know, the flat piece of metal that screws to a door either side with the handle sticking out), I took a screwdriver with me and unscrewed them, unfortunately I had such a pile of stuff I left them behind, I literally walked back up the hill loaded with stuff! I was kicking myself this morning for those doorplates. Also the same door had top and bottom hinges, but I just couldn't get them off. I literally bent my screwdriver trying to unscrew the screws! So, other than misc bits of wood from various places around the cabin, things of note I got were, a left-to-right piece of centre window frame beading, a 3ft plank of wood off the side of the workshed wall, one of the logs which you can see sitting in the firewood pile out the back door, although they were all totally rotten, got the best one I could find, three bits of tree-styrofoam, and I think that's it apart from about 8 or so misc bits of wood like a section of an internal door, a piece of the wall, stuff like that. Still would have liked to have had those door plates, once I realized, I couldn't go back, visiting was a one shot deal.
My Hyundai Accent 4-door automatic, from Budget Car Hire
When I was returning the hire car, I had to stop at a gas station about a mile from the airport. there were about 10 people in the queue, all African-Amercican (including the person serving), and there was me... I think that was the wrong part of town to stop in, but there was no way I could have known. I also had a huge black woman asking me for $2 for food while I was pumping the petrol too, told her I'd just spent all I had, but I had no idea if that was where my life was about to end. Stabbed in the face by an angry fat crack whore! If that wasn't bad enough, you have to pay for fuel in advance over there, you pay money, pump fuel, then collect your change (to prevent drive-offs) so I had to queue twice! Couldn't wait to drive off as you can imagine!
So much I saw was tacky and stank of desperation, there was no class there, even the stores that were trying to look posh, just looked tacky. Most of Morristown and Wadesboro are poor areas, with rusted written off cars outside people's houses, and people walking past looking obviously poor. It's strange, I see that sort of thing and imagine a film set. For them they're just don't have the money for anything better. round the back of the Evil Dead II gym there was a lot of rubbish which I mentioned to someone, making some jokey comment about youths drinking round there, and they said (genuinely) the real problem was with people taking crystal meth! There was a house near The Evil Dead's cabin with crime scene tape round it which was completely burned out. I tell you, I have thought of moving to the US in the past, but really, I don't think I'd like it given what I've seen, although just to add that I never had any problems of that sort though.
Flying back to Blighty, and the prospect of a proper cup of tea!
Forced to watch hour after hour of TV shows and bad movies...
Monday, December 10th - 11:12
Finally back at home in the UK. I managed to fit everything there into one large suitcase, and a big rucksack/backpack, bloody heavy though! No problems with customs, well, both those bags went in checked baggage in the hold, and both were opened by the TSA (according to the leaflet in each bag) but they went onto the plane still fine. Each item was in a zip-lock bag which was then wrapped in cling film/food wrap, so they would have looked highly suspicious to anyone until they'd been checked. I also wasn't sure if I'd run into any obscure rules that prevented me importing something like soil or wood to prevent the spread of any plant disease or insects or something, but no issues. I had all my clothes & equipment in a carry on suitcase & a laptop bag. Coming back into the UK, I went through the nothing-to-declare corridor and the place was deserted, and I walked out the Airport and got a taxi home right outside. I have taken a photo of my treasure trove, I've added numbers next to items, and a list of what they are below;
The Evil Dead Items
Evil Dead II Items
14) The Cabin Site; pieces of the roof
15) The Cabin Site; pieces of Styrofoam from the tree
16) The Cabin Site; log from the firewood pile at back door
17) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
18) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
19) The Cabin Site; little section of window beading
20) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
21) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
22) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
23) The Cabin Site; a little section of the workshed wall
24) The Cabin Site; a large section of the workshed wall
25) The Cabin Site; a complete length of window beading
26) The Cabin Site; a piece of window frame
27) The Cabin Site; a piece of an interior door
28) The Cabin Site; a piece of an interior door
29) The Cabin Site; 3 pieces of wall
30) The Cabin Site; a misc piece of wood
1) The Cabin Site; twisted vines
2) The Cabin Site; leaves
3) The Cabin Site; pieces of the roof
4) The Cabin Site; an old glass bottle
5) The Cabin Site; sticks, twigs & leaves
6) The Cabin Site; 3 big & 1 small chimney stones
7) The Cabin Site; soil from the trapdoor hole
8) The Cabin Site; tree bark & leaves
9) The Cabin Site; soil from around the chimney
10) Clinch River/Riverside Road; stone chips from cliffside
11) Clinch River/Riverside Road; gravel from the road
12) Clinch River/Riverside Road; leaves
13) Old/Destroyed Bridge; concrete pieces from path
14) Old/Destroyed Bridge; concrete pieces from path
I'll be building a display case for everything, not sure exactly what I'll be doing yet, but I'm thinking some sort of 4 sided glass case such as would be seen in a museum. Maybe I can find an antique case on Ebay locally, but I think to get what I want, I'll need to do it myself.
THE EVIL DEAD & EVIL DEAD II LOCATIONS FOOTAGE DVD
You can order all the locations footage on DVD. The locations covered include The Evil Dead's Cabin site, Bluff Road Bridge, Clinch River Road/Riverside Road, & Old Highway 25E all around Morristown Tennessee, and Evil Dead II's Cabin, Production House, Bonsal Ballast Pits, J. R. Faison Junior High School, & Anson County Airport in North Carolina. Orders can be shipped worldwide via Airmail at one fixed rate, and the footage is available in two versions;
The single DVD version: 49 minutes edited from the raw footage, it's basically what's shown on this site with a few extra minutes. Playable from start to finish, with start & end credits, chapter stops and subtitle introductions.
Price Each £4.99/$7.99 + S&H
The three DVD disc set: Nearly four hours of raw footage as it was shot, playable from start to finish over three discs.
Price Each £9.99/$14.99 + S&H
Both the single & three disc versions
Price Each £12.99/$19.99 + S&H
All the DVDs are PAL(please make sure you can play this) widescreen Region '0' single layer DVD+R discs, and are supplied in paper slip-cases with printed disc artwork. You can order via the Paypal checkout button below, or send an email direct to
This footage was filmed personally in 16:9 1080i HD with a JVC GZHM445 PAL Camcorder, which was downscaled to SD 16:9 25p PAL and encoded to DVD. If any media production companies are interested in licensing this footage for use in their own DVDs, then please get in contact.
Please Note: As both the current & previous owners of the Evil Dead II Cabin Site did not wish to be identified or appear in any footage released to the public (for obvious reasons), 14m 16s of the total 4h 03m 38s of video which was shot, has been removed from the raw footage covering the Evil Dead II Cabin Site, Production House, Storage Barn, and The J. R. Faison Junior High School, along with blanking a couple of short portions of audio in the footage that's left too. Most of this is simply unrelated general conversation inadvertently captured by the camera while setting up and packing away at each location. The footage in the three disc DVD set still runs at 3h 49m 22s and is literally as complete as it can be without breaching their confidence.
The Display Case
A short time after returning to the UK in January 2013, and having just completed the Replica Clock Project, I used much the same materials & techniques to construct a display case for my haul of Evil Dead souvenirs. I had intended it to be glass on four sides, but once I began design work on it, I realised that glass on the front & back, and wood on either side & top and bottom would be so much easier to make. From the outside it was intended to look like a regular varnished glass case, but inside; the shelf was made from a rough sawn piece of stained wood, and the base had fake floorboards on it, so everything inside the case would stylistically fit together. Along with displaying the various items collected, I added in an oil lamp and chain/hooks just for dressing, along with an American style pull-cord lamp fitting to illuminate the whole display. I also bought 6 old style Kilner Jars in which to store some of the material.
The Camera Rig
Specifically for this trip, I designed and made a camera rig. I made this as I'd taken my recently purchased JVC GZ-HM445 1080I PAL HD camcorder on Holiday with me previously for some practice filming and found that because it was so small (about the size of a can of coke) it was hard to hold it in any fashion as to get steady static or panning shots without a tripod, which was rarely practical especially in a hilly forest, and would have meant setting it up for each shot, which would have been far more time consuming and I really wanted to make a decent job of filming the footage. Initially, the idea was also to incorporate a 35mm depth-of-field adapter (or DOF adapter) on the front as the JVC GZ-HM445 camera is not too far removed from a point and shoot affair, everything is automated. Manually changing settings such as the focus is perfectly possible, but not all that simple to do in the middle of a shot. A DOF adapter allows you to mount old-style manual SLR camera lenses on the front of your camcorder, which does a number of things; it greatly tightens up the depth of field allowing more stylistic composition of shots, and makes the focus & zoom totally manual, as moving a focus ring is far more intuative than pressing -/+ buttons on a camcorder.
The frosted spinning CD version of the DOF adapter, with a 50mm lens on the front
The vibrating ground glass version
I first opted for the cheapest avenue; the frosted spinning CD version which, while I got it working, I just found the quality wasn't there due to the limitations of how smoothly the disc could be frosted. Then I bit the bullet and took the next-least-expensive avenue; using a Canon Ee-a Focusing Screen held in a ground-glass holder with a pancake motor, mounted on three 0.5mm Carbon Fibre rods, all housed in a set of 35mm extension tubes. Again I got this working fine, and the video quality was excellent, roughly identical with and without the adaptor attached, but I wasn't happy even with this. There were two niggling little issues which I couldn't work out. One was dust. No matter how carefully or thorough I was, there was always at least one spec of dirt present on the screen. Turning up the vibration got rid of it to an extent, but being HD video you could still see it clearly rotating, especially against clear sky. The other issue involved some strange strobing effects with certain lighting conditions. This may have been down to the camera optics, but either way there was no getting rid of it. In the end I scrapped the DOF adapter idea and just built the camera frame on it's own, as I just couldn't take the risk of using something I wasn't 100% happy with. This was probably for the best, as with the tripod, this would have greatly slowed me down during filming.
So, I created a shoulder mounted frame for the camera, and I didn't really use the tripod at all during the trip. It worked really well, once I assembled it and put it on, I could just set the camera & microphone recording and walk from shot to shot and film as much material as I wanted, scrambling over rocks, through water, and just stop and film a shot with no set-up. I was far free-er and got far more footage than I would have got with a tripod. Everything was modular, so the shoulder mount bit and the camera frame itself came apart (actually the whole thing came to bits for packing). Creating a rig also allowed me to mount a separate Zoom H1 stereo microphone to the same rig (held in with elastic bands to prevent handling noise, and shown below with a furry dead-cat over it to lessen wind noise), and gave me a top handle to hold the camera like a briefcase, as well as an umbrella mount in case it rained, although it didn't.
This camera rig along with the little case of tools I needed to assemble it, and the spare/replacement nuts & bolts gave me more hassle with customs/security than anything else, as it was in hand luggage and got pulled out at every security screening. No problems once they'd worked out what it was though. Actually you'd be surprised what you can get on a plane in this day & age. I did some research before I left and you can take anything from firearms to machetes, the only things you're not allowed in the hold are materials which are either radioactive, poisonous, explosive or compressed (such as gas). Inside the plane you can still take things like hand tools such as screwdrivers and blunt scissors up to 6" long, which you could still happily kill someone with! Click any of the photos below to enlarge, or middle click for a new window.
The shoulder mounted camera rig, using a belt loop rather than a counterweight