This is a follow up to my previous post from March 11th this year. Since then izmostudio has been using some of the motion control equipment that was featured in that equipment round up, and I have one exciting new piece of gear to talk about too. The eMotimoPT is new to us, and we tested it for this follow up review.
Our moco equipment testing is being done while we are working with cars in the studio, which is a mix of full motion video, time-lapse, and stop frame animations. The system we used for this is a five foot Kessler Cine Slider, Kessler Revolution Head, one Oracle Controller, and elektraDRIVE motors all around. We used this rig in just about every configuration possible.
Using a video slider upside down for fly over
The Cine Slider is really a solid piece of equipment with excellent build quality. During the production of the the izmostudio demo reel all the Kessler gear traveled very well among eight international airport connections, customs inspections, and as you can see in the production stills – some funky rigging.
The Cine Slider is much more than just a horizontal slider. With this one slider rig we can achieve push, pull, rise and pan shots. And while technically it’s a pan shot, we also make “aerial” views with the Cine Slider slung upside down and mounted high above the subject
The Cine Slider can be used manually to get clean moves in video, but this wouldn’t be a motion control review without motors driving the base plate. For our rig we are using the elektraDRIVE 200 Series Motor Pod with a 264:1 ratio. On the Kessler website there are five different motors to choose from. We use this 200 series for a best of both worlds scenario, with time lapse and video production.
Kessler Crane motion control setup for interior of car
The Kessler Revolution head provides the pan and tilt axis of motion. The Revolution head is precession machined and feels super solid and high quality. As a nice bonus, the Revolution head is also quite modular. We are working inside cars and tight spaces. Being able to remove pieces of the Revolution head to fit our needs is super advantageous. Taking the “L shape” vertical extension off removes the tilt function and then you have an excellent on axis rotating head. Add a Magic Arm or ball head and the possibilities expand. Using just the top tilt portion of the Revolution Head is also possible. Depending on the mounting orientation it becomes either a tilt, pan, or off axis rotating head.
The Oracle controller is needed to drive the motors and record your moves for both the elektraDRIVE on the Cine Slider and the Revolution head. The Oracle firmware upgrade (April 2011 – v2.06.8SL) allows for two axis movement. We worked with one Oracle, and found that having two controllers would be much better for multi axis moves. A single controller for video is okay with some practice finding the sweet spot on the joystick between the desired axis of movement. This system is quick and intuitive for full motion video. In Live Motion mode on the Oracle controller simply assign control to the joystick in the direction you want to move. For example, left/right for the slider and twist for the pan head movement. Record your move and your done. Unless you are like me and it takes a dozen passes to get it right.
Using this Kessler system for multi axis time lapse is more challenging. Although there are three program modes to record time lapse moves on the Oracle (Advanced, SmartLapse, and Simple) it takes time and experimentation to get a super clean dual axis move recorded.
On our setup the motor speed on the Cine Slider is not matched to the motor speed on the Revolution Head. The result in time lapse moves is that the head moves faster than the slider. There are three solutions to this issue.
One. Use the Oracle advanced mode to program cycles and intervals for each axis of movement and compensate for this speed difference. The orientation of the slider and the weight load also has to be factored into motor speed. I gave this method my best car photographer effort several times, and never got it right.
Two. In the SmartLapse mode hold the Oracle controller (very) steady at a consistent speed for both axis of movement. If you are able to hold your hand in the same exact place for several minutes this will work. It’s about ten minutes on a full 5ft. slide move at 209. The best way to get this accurate is to watch the per axis speed readout on the Oracle controller. Watching the head itself will get you inaccurate speeds on the pan/tilt. The slider is easy as its full throttle left or right, with actual speed limited by the “max Speed” knob. The head takes a few practice runs to find the right speed for a precise end frame. Any fluctuation will show in the final movie.
Note: Do this before you shoot, while not under time pressure, and record the program. Eric Kessler has a quick tutorial on multi axis setup here.
Three. Buy another Oracle controller. For multi axis time lapse moves, having a second controller is the sure fire way of getting accuracy and efficient results. Tobias Straka from Swiss Film Makers presents a great tutorial on the double Oracle setup.
Overall the Kessler system is a great rig. My wish list for a motion control system priced at $5000 is pixel perfect repeatable start/stop programing, recording time lapse moves in real time and then setting the desired playback time and interval. This wish could be coming true very soon. At NAB 2011 Kessler demonstrated a new software keyframe driven motion control system with five axis of movement, which is due out in July this year.
eMotimoPT is a new two axis pan/tilt motion control head. I tested the Emotimo a few weeks ago outside the studio. There are two features that make the eMotimoPT a stellar piece of motion control equipment.
One is the quick easy setup. Record a multi axis move in real time. Then tell eMotimo how long to play back this move, and your done. Then go do something else. Seriously it is that easy. The first day I took this head out for a spin – see kite time lapse – I was setup and exposing frames in seven minutes, after a quick read of the instructions the night before. Even if I forgot something the LCD readout on the side of eMotimo features an easy step by step setup for time lapse:
- Move to start position
- Go to end position
- Set ramp up frames (header)
- Total number of frames
- Exposure time, which is actually resting time for SMS (shoot-move-shoot)
- Number of post frames (footer)
The second stellar feature about the eMotimo pan/tilt moco head is that it will repeat a move with pixel perfect accuracy. The test I did is the San Francisco Bay time lapse sample with storm clouds. Both of these are twenty minute sequences, with ten minutes in between.
At the end of the sample video is both videos on two separate layers in After Effects, with the layers set to subtract. Notice how stationary objects like buildings and the Golden Gate Bridge are perfectly aligned. Why does this matter? Green screen keying, compositing multiple lighting passes, and multiple exposure values for sky/foreground are all achievable with this level of repeatable motion control accuracy.
Maybe this should be the first advantage of the eMotimoPT. It only costs $500 dollars. The price point and build quality of the eMotimoPT is aimed at the middle market, but it acts and works like a top level professional piece of equipment.
Coming soon on the third edition of our motion control and time lapse equipment review is the very popular dolly rig made by Dynamic Perception. The back order on these is about eight weeks and our tester just arrived. We are also keen on giving the CamBlock a test drive real soon, hint. Stay tuned and let us know how your moco setup is working.