Camera Supports, Tech & Accessories
- With David Kirk
Contributing Editor David Kirk checks out some of the latest camera support equipment and accessories for getting the camera in the right place at the right time...
With UHD consumer TVs in sizes up to 85 inch diagonal becoming ever more affordable, the need for smooth and stable camera mounts has progressed from advisable to essential except where wobblycam is required as an effect. The following summary provides an overview of recent developments in camera support equipment from some of the leading vendors. It covers the field of cranes, drones, gimbals, heads, pedestals, remote camera control, tripods and virtual production.
Cartoni’s Lifto 25 motorised elevation column is designed for use with remotely controlled pan/tilt/zoom cameras. Priced at €2,995, it allows camera height to be adjusted remotely via wire or optional Bluetooth. A manual control with three position presets is included. Height range is 57cm to 238cm on the column’s rubber feet or 250cm on an optional dolly. The motorised column offers a two-stage 66cm stroke at 25kg capacity and can accommodate one or more PTZ cameras using a T-bar accessory. “The patented Cartoni SDS tripod structure ensures great Stability and torsional rigidity to the column and allows accurate movements, including shots with wide angle aperture,” says the company’s President, Elisabetta Cartoni. “The motor actuator is extremely quiet and operates with no vibration.” The Lifto 25 comes equipped with a built-in spreader and rubber feet, a quick release camera attachment for PTZ cameras plus a safety ring to secure the camera. It can be mounted on the Cartoni lightweight dolly for easy traveling on the studio floor. The Lifto 25 can be packed into an optional wheeled case.
DJI’s Inspire 3, introduced at the April 2023 NAB Show, is a full-frame 8K cinema drone. Hot-swappable dual batteries provide up to 28 minutes of flying time at speeds of up to 94 kilometres per hour horizontal, 8 metres per second ascent and 10 metres per second descent. The Inspire 3 is equipped with a full-frame Zenmuse X9-8K Air Gimbal camera supporting internal recording of up to 8K at 25 frames per second CinemaDNG video as well as 8K/75fps Apple ProRes RAW video. In S&Q mode, the X9-8K Air supports internal recording of up to full-frame 4K/120fps ProRes RAW video without cropping offers more creative editing options. The X9-8K Air supports dual native ISO. At full-frame 30fps and below, it offers EI 800/4000, supporting 24fps and 25fps. The X9-8K Air covers 14+ stops of dynamic range and can operate in HDR.
Easyrig has made upgrades to several of its camera support products. Stabil G3 backpack-worn camera stabiliser allows the user to lock the arm while wearing the rig instead of using a pin which can get stuck or lost. Stabil Light is now equipped with a hanger so can be attached to a cart or C-stand when not in use.
The company has also upgraded its EasyTilt spindles to fit 25mm and 30mm frames by removing and adding inserts.
Egripment has introduced an ARC Compensation hardware and software tool for its Xtreme T10 telescoping crane. "ARC Compensation adds functionality for automated moves including vertical straight lines, horizontal plane and pan compensation," says CEO Philippe Tresfon." This software module provides the precision needed to make perfect vertical straight lines or horizontal plane moves, or to define a square, all by the activation of just one button." Also recently introduced is the Egripment Slider, a tripod-mountable 1.2 metre track intended for cameras weighing up to 20 kilograms in upright or suspended configurations. The crossbars of the track can be attached to a 100mm or 150mm mounting bowl. The Slider fits into a Pelicase 1770 and weighs less than 26kg.
Innovativ specialises in producing collapsible cart workstations. These include lightweight compact travel carts and studio-based workstations capable of holding a wide variety of grip equipment, monitors, cinema and broadcast cameras. An example is the Voyager Evo X which packs into slim profile for transport in the back of a compact car or small SUV.
Freefly Systems’ Astro multicopter, pre-orderable from Dedotec, is claimed to offer stable flight, long flight times and centimetre precision. Its four motors put around 1500g in the air. The multicopter is designed for smaller cameras such as the Sony A7R4 which show the available power on the monitor of the remote control. Freefly guarantees at least 500 charging cycles per battery. The pack size of the Astro has also shrunk, which is why it can also be transported in a larger backpack.
Kessler Crane produces a wide range of camera support equipment including cranes and jibs, motion control systems, sliders and dollies, tripods and heads. Its CineShooter Macro is designed for use in ultra-close macro shots and heavy-lifting applications where fast moves and quiet environments are not needed. Based on the standard CineShooter, except for increased gear ratio and encoder resolution, it integrates with the Kessler motion control system.
Libec’s LX-ePed is an electric pedestal for PTZ cameras can be remotely operated with a wired controller. With the maximum payload of 10kg, it is available in floor-spreader type and dolly versions. Elevation range is 400mm and rise/fall speed can be adjusted between 14 and 40 seconds. The controller be powered from PoE or V-mount battery. A bubble level is embedded at the base of the head mounting platform for easy setup.
Miller's ArtX Fluid Head series allows a user to choose a sliding platform, pan handle and tripod attachment. The ArtX 3, ArtX 5 and ArtX 7 heads have a load capacity of 8, 10 and 14 kilograms respectively. All come with 15+0 positions of counterbalance. The ArtX 3 and ArtX 5 have 0+3 positions of pan and tilt drag, while ArtX 7 has 0+5. The ArtX is a flat base head which can be attached directly to a slider or similar device.
When attaching to a tripod there is a choice of 75mm, 100mm and/or 150mm claw ball. When a more rigid fixture is required, a Mitchell base adaptor can be used. The ArtX 7 has been equipped with a 30% heavier drag to accommodate heavier loads such as longer lenses. "ArtX delivers the ability to build a great set of tools which provides all the flexibility and versatility that may be desirable on different occasions," Miller MD Mark Clementson summarises.
Movie Tech has introduced an enhanced version of its Magnum Dolly. “A redesigned multifunction turnstile allows lower positions than the previous model and uses high-strength alloys plus increased material thickness, minimising deflection even under maximum load,” says CEO Felix Kastl.
“This extends the Magnum Dolly's range of applications and the longevity even under maximum load. Features include increased degrees of freedom for seat positions, enabling easy adjustment of seat height and distance to the dolly's center. The new turnstile has an improved brake which provides noticeably tighter closure. An ultra-stable seat arm extension can be used as a mini low rig when time doesn't permit a full setup.”
Movicom LLC and Aximmetry recently conducted a test of their mutual technologies. Movicom provided the cable camera system, delivering positional tracking data for the camera head as well as lens and focus information, via its CompassAR software. The positional data fed Aximmetry’s DE Virtual Studio, overlaying 3D virtual graphics elements to look like they were in the live video scene. “Our ambition is to make high-end virtual studio software technology accessible to all - small TV stations, Youtubers, and Vloggers included,” comments Aximmetry CTO Zoltan Motyan. "Our AR graphics were on the field in the blink of an eye and we were happy with the result. Many technical questions were explored, including graphics placement, positioning in 3D space and shadow placement. All worked as expected.”
“We are pleased to add Aximmetry to the long list of other graphics software that we currently support,” adds Moviecom CEO Victor Pakhomov. In addition to its Robycam cable-suspended camera systems, Movicom manufactures rail camera and robotic heads that provide positional information compatible with all major vendor AR graphics systems.
Ncam Technologies specialises in real-time augmented reality technology for the media and entertainment industries. Recent additions to its product range are the Mk2 camera bar, Mk2 server and Ncam Reality 2020 software. The new camera bar is based on Intel RealSense hardware and is small enough to use with a jib or drone, offering fully wireless tracking on a standard RF camera link. Other improvements introduced with the Mk2 include faster and more accurate setup and calibration, plus the ability to track non-natural features with no requirement to memorise marker patterns. "Many options on the market today use mechanical encoders to track pan and tilt only," says Ncam CEO Nic Hatch. "But this type of tech cannot track a camera that is moving around; it only works for stationary cameras. By contrast, Ncam Reality lets users track any camera, lens, or rig, regardless of whether they are inside or outside. The solution is made up of a small, lightweight sensor (the camera bar), a server device that runs the Ncam Reality software, and the software itself. The server device can be placed directly on the camera along with the sensor or, for a more lightweight setup, teams can use our connection box to connect to a generic server that is located elsewhere."
oARo's focus is on virtual production systems based on its EZtrack camera tracking hub. This comprises a small form-factor unit with a web-app interface. It is designed to perform live camera, object and talent tracking in real-time. Augmenting the system are the recently introduced EZprofile lens calibration toolset and Swan camera tracker. EZprofile software allows operators of virtual studio to calibrate their camera lenses regardless of type, from cine prime to large-size broadcast. The Swan camera tracker works with lighthouse base stations and is claimed to offer up to three times greater stability than other lighthouse-based trackers. “We have designed EZtrack as a tracking hub which can be adapted to any virtual production configuration and evolve with future tracking technologies”, says CTO Timothée de Goussencourt. "With its affordable entry-point and proven tracking performance, EZtrack contributes to the democratisation of virtual production,” adds CEO Aurélien Schmitter.
ProSup’s CaseCart comprises a hard case doubling as a production cart. It comes with four detachable 25cm diameter wheels which can be stored on the top shelf. Two of the wheels are capable of 360-degree rotation and have brakes. Two handles are provided for transportation. Pending developments include a top drawer, a mast for mounting monitors and camera plates, storage troughs, cable hooks and a corner plug compatible with 28mm pins and baby pins.
Ronford Baker's Heavy Duty Tripod is a four-tube telescopic design which has not changed much since it was first developed in the early 1970s. "One area of improvement we noticed was to strengthen the foot assembly and help prevent broken spikes and foot castings," comments MD Jeff Lawrence. "We have now increased the thread size of the smaller spike from ¼-inch Whitworth to ³/8-inch. All our Heavy Duty tripods, Tall, Short and Mini, are now supplied with this foot casting and spike."
Ross Video’s Furio+ can support full-sized cameras and teleprompters. It is a modular system available in a variety of configurations based on a choice of platforms, lifts and heads. “Furio+ with StableTrac technology combines the stability of a four-wheeled dolly with the traction of a three-wheeled system,” says Karen Walker, VP of Camera Motion Systems.
“By mounting the two-wheel sets on one side of the dolly, on a vertically pivoting arm, the new design ensures that all four corners stay in solid contact with the rails, especially in environments with uneven track surfaces. The drive wheel never loses traction, providing smoother, more accurate movement.”
Ross Spidercam modular robotic camera systems are suspended from a cable-driven web. “The new X Dolly inherits its adaptability from its predecessor and further improves on a variety of features to increase creative possibilities from live event coverage and TV shows to feature films,” Karen Walker adds. “Offering a higher payload capacity, more battery options and cleared for higher speeds, it can use a range of gimbals and broadcast cameras and reach a top speed of up to 6 metres per second. The smooth and responsive control system allows users to capture fast-moving actions with ease and precision.
Ross Vision[Ai]ry Facial Tracking (Ft) uses video analytics to detect, locate and track the position of faces within the video stream directly from a camera. These facial positions drive the pan, tilt and zoom axes of the robotic camera system to maintain the desired framing of the face or faces in the image. This eliminates the need for a camera operator to manually adjust the position of the subject in the image. New features include a multi-channel interface, enhanced tracking capabilities, multi-engine support and an auto-reselect feature. The multi-channel interface view offers a configurable grid for up to six channel previews, with each pane providing access to functions such as tracking mode and subject selection. Auto-Reselect allows users to continue searching in automatic subject selection mode after a subject is lost, with an option to set the time before declaring a subject lost.
Shape offers a range of camera equipment and accessories including support rigs and shoulder mount designs. Recent additions to its product range include a 75mm bowl fluid head three-stage video tripod, lightweight single filter tray 4 x 5.6 matte box and universal 24 inch video monitor hood.
stYpe offers a range of products including the RedSpy camera tracking system and the StypeKit bolt-on mechanical tracking kit for camera cranes. StypeKit allowed existing cranes to be retrofitted and transformed into virtual production cranes. This simplified setup procedures and enabled lens calibration procedures to be implemented. StypeLand software, called GreenKiller, includes its own chroma keyer and can generate reflections, hair, liquids, and depth-of-field effects. StypeLand XR enables the mapping of graphics onto LED panels for XR volumes and allows set extension.
Tiffen’s Steadicam Zephyr and Aerosleds feature a totally new version of the Volt stabiliser. Previously the Volt was applicable to the bigger rigs but Tiffen has designed these new sleds to have the Volt fully integrated. The existing Volt gives stabilisation to the roll and tilt axes whereas the new three-axis Volt adds control to the pan axis. Tiffen has also introduced a redesigned G70X-2 arm which features a tool-less steel flex free arm connector with adjustable kickback angle with a lighter kickback spring plus an interface for standard arm posts giving free rotation or solid lock-off of post. A lower profile upper arm link allows additional clearance and the lift and ride controls have been made easier to adjust.
Waterbird’s Multi Slider XL is a bendable rail and tracking system that enables fast conversion from linear to curved tracks. “MSXL is quick and easy setup and allows compact transportation, says Sales Representative Richard Villhaber. “The super-quiet servo-motor-driven carriage can be controlled by joystick, foot pedal, DMX or IP. The system is designed for use at events like concerts and sports, in production studios, for photogrammetry, face-scanning or rigging systems.”
Zhiyun’s Crane-M2S is a lightweight (549g) gimbal designed for use with mobile phones, action cams and mirrorless cameras. A built-in 0.66-inch display shows the camera and gimbal operating parameters. Operating modes include pan-follow, lock POV and vortex. The gimbal includes a 1,000 lumen fill light with five levels of adjustment and four colour filters. A USB-C port can supply 5 volts of power at up to 1 amp directly to a compatible attached camera.