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Microdolly Hollywood
Rotronics Systems
ABC Products


Fast Head turners and Dutch Roll

by Christina Fox  and David Fox

Vinten's fast, new Predator robotic head will do one-and-a-half turns in under a second, and reaches its maximum speed in less than a quarter of a second. "We've solved the problem of tracking fast moving objects on a tight zoom," claims Nick Kent, VP for marketing. "It's very fast and also very subtle," adds Ian Mizen, product manager. It can carry up to 34kg.

It can be controlled using the new Lynx controller, based on the new Vision 250E head. This translates the pan and/or tilt position into control signals for the Predator. As this is geared, a 10 degree manual movement could turn Predator by 40 degrees for speed, or it can be one-to-one (or more) for precise, slow control. "It is very responsive for action shots. It has been tested on drag strips, where cars passed it at 200 MPH," says Mizen. Predator can can also be positioned using a joystick. An RS422 connection allows the head to be up to 1.5km away, using repeaters.

Vinten has also introduced a very small robotic head, the HS-100P, for applications, such as parliamentary coverage, where being unobtrusive is important. It has a pan range of 300 degrees, tilts 190 degrees, costs about 6,000 Euros and carries up to 4kg. A single camera controller, the BCS-100 stores eight presets, while the BCS-400 controls four cameras and has up to 32 presets. Up to 32 cameras can be controlled via Vinten's AutoCam system.

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Microdolly Hollywood's new, low-cost, lightweight remote pan/tilt head is claimed to be unlike anything else on the market. The Power Head is clutch driven (similar to a motor scooter), with control either by very smooth push/pull motorbike-like cables, which are totally silent and can work underwater, or by using electronic motors. A rotating handlebar controls pan and tilt. Microdolly Power Head

Microdolly Power HeadMicrodolly Hollywood's president & CEO, Jerry Johnson, claims it is the first clutch-driven head, and the first which can be converted from cable to motorised (taking a minute or two to change from one block to the other). "It gives a much better feel than if it were used with a joystick, so it is easier to use for people who are not experienced. It makes it easier to hit a mark accurately. You almost always overshoot it with a joystick. That is because you have no feel of the camera at all with a joystick," he claims. "It is one of the reasons that things like Steadicams have been so popular, because they give such an organic feel."

The clutch makes it easy to alter the resistance. "It has the feeling that if I move, it moves. It has all the tactile feel that a pan and tilt head has," he says.

It is priced from about $2,500, which he claims is about $1,000 less than the least expensive robotic head available, but can carry more than twice the weight - up to about 20kg (45lbs). He believes it competes with bigger, expensive heads. It can handle a 2.3kg Sony PD150 camcorder with the same mechanism - taking seconds to readjust from it to an HDCAM or 35mm camera.

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The Pee-Pod 500  new remote headRotronics Systems has developed a two-axis gyro stabilised camera platform for marine or airborne use. The housing incorporates a CCD camera and a sensitive infrared imager for night time use, operates from 28v DC supplies, and is position controlled via a serial command link.

ABC Products' new, 4,000 Euros Merlin remote head is lightweight (5kg) and will carry a 7.5kg camera. Pan and tilt is controlled via a joystick. "It adapts to our whole range of cranes from the lightest and smallest to the largest," comments ABC's sales director, Kenneth Shore.

The Pee-Pod 500 (pictured right) is a new remote head that is "exceptionally powerful for its size. The gear box weighs under 2kg, but can carry 23kg of camera and lens," explains A & C managing director, Frank Fletcher. "It's very smooth and precise, weatherproof and very quiet." It costs £12,500.

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O'Connor Engineering has two new Dutch Heads, the 2060Z and the 2575Z. Both give the full +/- 90 degree roll. The smaller 2060Z ($5,000) counterbalances up to 24kg of camera with a 20cm centre of gravity through the full 90 degrees, while the 2575Z ($7,000) takes a 39kg camera through the same range.

Egripment RollAxis for 360 degree Dutch rolls The RollAxis is a new add-on section for 360 degree Dutch rolls, on the Egripment HotHead and HotShot, for cameras up to 15kg. "There are no wheels, just Teflon bearings," explains Martin Dreesbach, Egripment Deutschland. "The problem with wheels is that they get thinner and you eventually need new wheels. Teflon glides, so you get a much smoother movement even in different temperatures." The 24,500 Euros Roll Axis package comes with a joystick with thumb control and a variable speed control reverse switch and an electronic dampening system for smooth starts and stops. A zero position button enables the operator to automatically return the camera to the zero degree position.

But, if 45 degrees is enough, there is also the 9,500 Euros Rocker, for the Scanner Elite head.

Egripment's RU MKII remote camera head allows operators to reposition its pan and tilt positions and also to properly balance the weight on the head, while the cabling is disconnected and other power sources are removed. That is because it is a complete stand-alone unit, powered by its own built-in rechargeable battery pack. Because the pan and tilt speeds are variable, it is possible to change the position of the head very precisely.

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CamMate CamMate's new Dolly Cam is a three part system. "What is unique is that the drive and camera head can be placed on a digitally controlled track system, an overhead wire system or it can also be used on a tower," explains Ron Mitchell, CamMate's president and CEO.

All three systems cost $25,500, including 100m of track, 100m of cable and 5m of tower, on which to operate your remote head and driver.

CamMate also has a new 360 degree Dutch roll feature on its electronic head that has automatic centring. It costs $10,500.

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    Christina Fox and David Fox   April 2003