At Untold, we routinely venture into the maker’s world to see if there are any tips, tricks or lessons to be learned. Arduinos are aplenty around the office and our Labs is stocked with parts for tinkering. Needless to say, we have a ton of respect for the vendors that are pushing the industry forward. Here is a roundup of some of the most impressive advancements in imaging, all born out of small garages and startups.
Focus Shifter: With the High-definition single-lens reflex camera (HDSLR) market exploding with affordable cinematic solutions, a huge need for follow-focus hardware comes with it. No doubt this market is over-saturated, a quick Google search results in hundreds of models using pulleys, gears and belts. But what I love about this focus aid is its simplicity and design. While its simple enough to snap onto any lens, its design is brilliant in it’s dedicated handle that mimics the look and feel of professional focus-pulling solutions.
Astro: A favorite up-and-coming device, the Astro is so much more than an intervalometer. It has a brilliantly compact design and sleek hard-button interface that makes it a beautiful piece of hardware that can fit into any bag. The magic of this device is that the motor and timer are built into the tripod plate, giving the camera the ability to do time lapses while rotating a full 360-degrees. The overwhelming successful Kickstarter project raised more than eight times its original goal, so production versions will be available very soon, and look for an iOS app to run the hardware in the near future.
Bublcam: Born from yet another Kickstarter project, the Bublcam boasts four individual cameras built into a spherical casing. The camera is able to seamlessly record and stream spherically stitched images. While it may not be a camera you would shoot with directly, the implications of the Bublcam are huge… think real-time reflection maps, virtual-reality hubs and ambient light sampling. Not to mention, it’ll be available at a fraction of the cost of a Spheron Spherocam, making it an excellent solution for small VFX boutiques and production houses.
Target Slider: While this piece of gear has less humble beginnings (Edelkrone is a fairly established brand in the DSLR world) the price, quality and features of this slider are astounding. Robotic and motion-control rigs are notoriously expensive, often costing in the 6- to 7- figure range. Edelkrone brings much of that functionality to shooters everywhere for less than a grand. The ingenious mounting plate doubles as a slider pivot, making the track twice as long as it initially appears. And better yet, hooking on power packs to the side of the dolly give it motorized support that can be programed on the fly. Perfect for repeatable motions and time-lapse, the Target Slider is an invaluable piece for travel gear.
M?VI M10: This is one of those gadgets that comes along very rarely and completely changes the game. Traditionally, cinematographers use Steadicams to get long moving shots, but they are heavy, expensive and require extensive training to operate. Then there is the M?VI M10, a gimbal style stabilizer that uses a series of motors and sensors to keep the camera at a perfect horizon line. I haven’t had the pleasure of using one yet, but hit the link to see it in action, and be sure to take a look at the new drone powered-flight lineup.
Axiom: While not on the market yet, Axiom may well be the coolest open-source projects ever. The idea is a modular camera system. Need a 4k sensor? Snap one on. Want a PL mount for those fancy cine-primes? Just bolt one on. The software has been crowdsourced, with developers around the world working to build a better camera. Check out the Apertus project and be sure to keep an eye out for the production version in the coming years.
Home-brew projects like these put the capabilities of big-budget Hollywood flicks into the hands of indie filmmakers and small studios, which is a great thing for a world that demands more and more original content. But perhaps even better, these products inspire us to push the art further, to try new things and to explore new methods. Let’s all raise our glass (lens glass… see what I did there?) to the makers, the creators, the pioneers, may 2014 bring many more new and exciting products.