Custom-Engineered Robotic Software Controls Camera Movement and Focus at a Max of 105mph and 2500fps
How do you move a camera that's shooting at 2,500 frames per second? Very carefully. And also very quickly.
New York agency/production company hybrid Triptent said it has figured out how to do just that, developing a high-speed camera arm system expressly for high-speed cinematography, where precision of motion is critical. The programmable arm can move at up to 105mph (depending on camera weight), maintaining a subject in sharp focus at 2500fps, the company said, with the ability to move from minimum focus to infinity in 0.25 seconds.
Working in collaboration with inventor Fernando Kocking, the company says, it developed special software to control robotic arms from automation technology specialist Stäubli. "Most people who have a robotic arm are using the program that comes with the robotic arm," Triptent founder Joe Masi told StudioDaily. "We created our own software for it, so we are not limited to certain kinds of robotic moves. We're able to follow things quickly and easily, and our set-up time is also quick.
"It's very easy to composite things — as with any motion-control system — but being able to control the speed [of the camera] and focus is what makes it different," Masi said.
Infrared motion sensors are used to trigger the camera move as soon as a moving object comes into position, allowing the Robic to track a falling item, for instance. Two Robic arms can be used in tandem, with one moving the camera and the other moving an object, such as a prop or even a light. And the system offers precise focus control via infrared and/or by calculating focus based on the speed an object is moving and its distance from the lens.
The most compelling pitch for the system is the footage it has captured to date. The Robic demo reel looks like something out of a VFX house — a fire-breather seemingly engulfs the camera in flame; the camera tracks a tipped-over glass of red wine, keeping the tiny globs of airborne liquid in sharp focus as the goblet drops to the floor; and a woman stands in a nearly frozen snowfall, the 59th Street Bridge stretching out behind her as the camera arcs around her, bullet-time style.
Masi said Triptent has four of the arms, three of them full-sized (between 75 and 87 inches in length when fully extended), and one smaller one (47 inches) geared toward tabletop work. The largest arm works with a maximum camera weight of 75 lbs (34 kg), while the smallest is limited to just 4 lbs (2 kg), making it a good choice for props, products or other objects. The arms can be used independently, or can be programmed to synchronize with the movements of another Robic arm to perfectly track an object. As an option, the Robic team has also developed a method of controlling and recording camera motion using a game console controller as an input.
The biggest of the four Robic arms is compatible with Phantom HD, Flex and Flex 4K cameras, the Red Epic, Scarlet, Raven and Weapon, and the ARRI Alexa Mini. The heavier the load, the slower the arm moves — Triptent said it has clocked the arm moving a Phantom HD camera with an ARRI lens three feet in 0.25/sec.
Triptent has already used the Robic system on three productions, and has rented it out for the first time to an outside production company, according to Masi, who added that the eventual goal is to move one of the arms to Los Angeles. The Robic system is available as a service exclusively through Triptent.
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