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Tripods and Camera SupportSACHTLER CAMCRANE

by Christina Fox  and  David Fox

Tripod Makers Learn Art Of Quick Deployment At IBC 2001

From camera heads to jib arms (such as the Sachtler's new CamCrane DV - pictured right), we've tracked down this year's best supporting cast....


MANFROTO 540ARTThere isn't a great deal you can do to improve a tripod that hasn't already been done. They are all stable, lightweight and come in a variety of sizes. However, Manfrotto has taken on a great innovation, the 540 A.R.T. (advanced release technology) tripod, invented by cameraman inventor Daniel Sherwin. No more backache bending down to adjust tripod legs. This tripod can be fully extended up to 152cm (min height 40cm) and locked in only a few seconds. When the tripod legs are together the locks are released and the tripod packs down to 73cm. The prototype tripod was shown on their stand at IBC 2000. But this year it is in full production. It is a two-stage, carbon fibre tripod available with a 100mm bowl and 75mm bolt-on bowl adapter. It has a mid level spreader which is the heart of the quick release system. Each leg can still be independently adjusted for uneven ground. The tripod will take up to 15kg so is aimed at the professional market.

This is a great tripod, which was nominated for a Creative and Technology award at IBC 2001. The only question is, when will Vinten and Sachtler, owned by Vitec (along with Manfrotto), start to offer the A.R.T. system.

Also new from Manfrotto is the 557B Pro Video monopod. Plus three new video camera plates, the 501PL and two longer versions for camcorders with long telephoto lens or heavy batteries which result in uneven weight distribution, the 501PLONG and 357PLONG. There are also two new Pro Video quick release adapter assemblies with sliding camera plate, the 357 and 577.

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miller sprinter with sprint locsMiller also has a range of fast deployment tripods, the Sprinter Tripods use its Sprint-Loks dual action leg clamps, which allow you to independently adjust both stages of the two-stage tripod with one hand. Packing up afterwards should also be quickened by Miller's transport clips. The Sprinter ENG series comes in carbon fibre or alloy tubing (single- or two-stage), with an adjustable mid-level spreader.

To go with the Sprinter there is the new Arrow HD and ENG/EFP pan and tilt heads. The Arrow heads have a four-position counterbalance which allows users to change lens or battery and maintain balance and seven pan and tilt drag settings (including zero drag). A new internal clutch provides linear pan and tilt drag for diagonal head moves.

Also new is Miller's DS60 Heavy Duty sport and film fluid head. It's four-position counterbalance allows users to alter the payload from 15 to 30kg without repositioning the camera plate.

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The latest in O'Connor Engineering's range of Ultimate Fluid Camera Heads is the Digital 50-200, which can counterbalance a 90kg film or video camera throughout its +/- 90 degree tilt range. It can output camera position data to a computer for matching graphics and special effects to camera moves. Which the Autocue subsidiary claims is an industry first.

It has infinitely adjustable counter-balance and fluid drag controls. All control readouts and level are luminous for reading in the dark. The head has it's own on-board quick change battery pack for remote location shooting or a 9 VDC plug-in power port for long shooting times in powered locations. Options include a remote digital display showing the control settings and camera location that can be Velcro mounted to the camera for quick reference. "This is the worlds most intelligent and capable fluid damped counterbalance camera head ever made," claims Joel Johnson, O'Connor's general manager.

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Vinten's new offering for IBC was the Spread-Loc, a fully adjustable mid-level spreader for a range of tripods, which can be controlled using either a single, central lock or by individually adjusting each arm length for variable spread. Usually cameramen have to keep a foot on a low-level spreader for stability on uneven ground. The geared mid-level spreader allows the tripod to be placed on the most uneven of surfaces and in tight spaces.

Heavy-handed users will be pleased that the spreader has several safety features. Without damaging the it, users can force fold the tripod even when the spreader arms are set at different lengths. Tripod legs won't collapse if they are accidentally hit because the spreader arm locks are bi-directional. Plus, should someone stand on the spreader arm it will dislocate to avoid damage. "We believe it is going to offer incredible advantages to cameramen working in all kinds of conditions," says Vinten product manager, Graham Ramsey.

Vinten also showed its new Vision 250 HD pan and tilt head for film and high definition cameras. Its infinitely adjustable camera balance system ensures the head will accurately balance through 180 degrees of tilt, even when the camera is loaded with matte box, batteries and full magazine of film.

VINTEN QUATTRO ZIts TF (Thin Film) calibrated drag system can be dialled in precisely, giving film makers consistent, repeatable results even in extreme temperatures. It also allows fast re-positioning even at the heaviest drag setting.

It also introduced a new adaptor for the Quattro pedestal, the QuattroZ, which allows users adjust its height remotely. It can easily be fitted to existing pedestals, although it slightly reduces the height they can reach, and can work with any AutoCam robotic head.

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Sachtler's new DV 15 fluid head fills the gap between its DV 12 and Video 18 heads. It carries up to 15kg, has a 90-degree tilt range, five step damping and counterbalance systems, and a self-illuminating Touch Bubble with pressure-sensitive illumination of between 20 to 45 seconds, enabling high speed levelling (this is also now standard on the DV 12). It fits a 100mm bowl. A telescopic pan bar and a second pan bar are options. It is also available as a complete tripod system in four different configurations. 

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Sachtler's small CamCrane DV for lightweight cameras can carry up to 5.5kg. It can be directly mounted on tripods with 75 mm or 100 mm bowls. Two disks, at the camera base and the camera's movement axis, enable users to maintain a parallel camera position throughout the lift. A lever arm allows the user to adjust the camera tilt during lifting and lowering, to position the camera above or below whatever is being filmed.

The CamCrane DV weighs 5.5kg without counterweights. It can be extended to 320cm, but folds up to 110cm for carrying. For heavier cameras, there is the CamCrane Plus, which carries up to 20kg. It weighs 14kg without counterweights, and has a lift height of more than four meters.

Libec JB 30 jib armLibec's new lightweight, portable jib arm, the JB-30 is available in three packages: a heavyweight studio/OB package of Jib arm, tripod and dolly, costing £2,400, which can take a load of 30kg at minimum extension or 20kg at maximum extension; a lightweight package for £1,649 which can take 20kg at max extension, or a £1,199 option including the arm, weights with case. The arm has a vertical range of 1725mm (865mm above and 860 below horizontal, at maximum extension).

Libec has also reduced the cost of its lightweight LS-35 tripod system for miniDV cameras, which can take a load up to 8kg, from £549 to £349.

Dutch manufacturer Cambo showed three new boom arms, the V10, V20 and V40. The compact entry-level V10 (695 Euros) is suitable for working in confined spaces. It has a full vertical range of 820mm (300mm above and 520mm below horizontal). The standard V20 arm (759 Euros) has a greater reach at 2,300mm (1,140mm above and 1,190mm below horizontal).

Cambo describes the V40 as a "premier" video boom (1,400 Euros). It has a twin section central arm with a 1,000mm extension arm (159 Euros) which gives it an extended vertical range of 3,330mm (1,800mm above and 1,800mm below horizontal).

The arms all mount into a standard 75mm or 100mm tripod bowl. Maximum load for each arm is 20kg, 18kg and 25kg respectively.

Cambo also launched a new motorised pan and tilt head, the PT90 (3,200 Euros excluding camera controls). It is designed for the V40 and can take a load of up to 5kg.

For a camera support with more muscle, ABC Products/Movie Tech has its Arco Dolly with hydraulic lift (50,000 Euros). Extremely manoeuvrable, it can switch from one steering mode to another mid move. "The heart of the dolly is made of cog wheels like a clock, to reduce maintenance. Plus, pre-tensioned chains, in the wheels, mean they won't stretch. So, no adjustment is necessary," says ABC's sales director, Kenneth Shore. Most Movie Tech accessories will fit the dolly.

Its lightweight dolly, the Willy Go, folds and is easily transported. It can be made into a variety of configurations, again with Movie Tech accessories. "It is suitable for shooting on the beach or anywhere where you can't take a heavy dolly," says Shore. It runs on straight or curved aluminium track and costs 5,000 Euros.

Movie Tech has a new remote head system the Da Vinci due in March, which it claims will be very user friendly, quick to set up, and robust but light.

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Egripment's glide track system can reach speeds of 40kph on track lengths of up to 125 metres (which Egripment is working to extend). It is particularly popular for sports, and the track can be horizontal, vertical or placed at any angle. The latest version features wireless control (of pan, tilt, zoom and focus).

Its MiniShot MkII remote controller is totally digital, so everything can be memorised or work from presets. It has a very simple control box. Up to five camera heads can be operated by one controller, but this should soon be expanded to make it virtually unlimited. It will also work with a mixture of different cameras and lenses while still being able to control zoom and focus, etc.

It also has a remote multi-camera control system (MultiCam) that was developed initially for Big Brother. The Windows or Mac software allows a single operator to control several cameras or could be used to enable viewers to control the cameras via the Internet or interactive TV.

Egripment's new Scanner Elite is a compact camera crane which only requires one cable to control all camera functions and carry signals, making it quick and simple to set up. It has a telescopic section to allow users to accurately change its height and reach without having to rebuild it. It has also introduced a new modular aluminium jib arm, the JanJib, which allows users to build ten different jib arms from three basic sections.

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A new, compact pan and tilt head designed for use in virtual studios has been launched by Radamec. The 436VR sensor head includes internal VR processing electronics previously only available as a separate unit. The software has also been improved and set up simplified. The head has two high resolution, self-referencing encoders which detect tiny movements in pan and tilt. These signals are combined with any zoom, focus and other axes data and transmitted to the studio VR system. The head can carry up to 50kg. There is also a manual version, the 436VRM.

The heads are integrated into Radamec's new virtual production system, Scenario XR. The Windows NT-based system is built on Cross Reality technology. It will be available early next year, from £35,000 with a VR head. The system can run as many channels as users want.

"The idea is to create a virtual production environment and keep simplicity," says Raymond Le Gue, founder and CEO of Cross Reality/XRTechnologies.

It has a touch screen interface with a physical fader set, which can control five sources. It also has real time reflection, which he claims no one else has, as well as refraction of images through virtual screens.

Radamec has also introduced a low-cost robotic, height-adjustable, camera column which can carry up to 100kg. The uniPED will work with any of its control systems and is small enough to fit through a narrow domestic doorway. It can rise from 76cm to 126cm (at 25mm per second) and costs £6,000. Its first buyer was New York news operation, NY1.

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If all this technology can't get that ultra-low shot the director demands, there is the Video Skate from Grip Control. Basically a skateboard with a 100mm bowl attached, its angled front wheels allow manoeuvrability during smooth tracking shots, although it is probably best used on a smooth surface. Grip Control marketing manager, Peter Nordstrom, recommends "the medium-to-soft wheels when the Video Skate is used on a board or table. For rough ground fit the standard skateboard wheels." For low shots, or a track along the table during a banquet scene, the 650 Euros Video Skate may get you the shot you need.

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Business is ballooning for Andy's Skycam. The Italian OB facility has built its own, unique unmanned balloon which is safe enough to fly over people. It has been used for concerts, special events and sports, and was shown for the first time at IBC, where it was being offered for rent (complete with a pilot and camera operator).

JAN 2002

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