Capturing precise, dynamic action in high-speed with camera movement requires extensive levels of automation. Leaders in visual engineering, RiTE Media Group specialise in combining high-speed filmmaking with ground-breaking robotics, such as MRMC’s Bolt Cinebot, to create breathtaking visuals.
Collaborating with Director and Visual Engineer Steve Giralt, RiTE produced this beautiful short film – ‘Shoemaker’ – a visually arresting examination of the shoemaking process.
Steve Giralt commented “The Shoemaker is the story of the making of a leather shoe in a visually different way. A big part of my visual engineering storytelling process involves breaking down a thing or idea, examining its parts, and capturing the process of putting them back together. For Shoemaker, I examined the process of making a shoe and created a visual interpretation of that process through my eyes and the eye of the camera.“
RiTE also created a revealing behind the scenes video of the shoot, demonstrating the technical expertise and intricate, bespoke engineering solutions required to capture the amazingly detailed footage.
EXPLAINING THE HOW…
Colin Michael, a Visual Engineer at RiTE Media, explains in more detail how some of the shots were achieved here:
The approach is simple. It starts with understanding the shot we are after, breaking it down into its moving parts and working out the physics we need to control. The next step is to design a rig specifically tailored to the particular action to be automated for the shot.
When you’re shooting close up, macro high-speed action, it’s imperative that the camera motion control system and the actions of the subject are totally synchronised. This level of precision is made possible by MRMC’s Flair motion control system.
At RiTE we build our own specialised robots to work in tandem with our MRMC Bolt Cinebot, and the most satisfying part of building one of these bespoke shot-specific rigs is hooking it up to Flair and seeing it come to life. When I’m standing at the controls for the Bolt and our custom automation rigs, I often find myself thinking about how impossible it would be to pull this off by using human hands alone. Human reaction time cannot come close to the precision required to create these automated high-speed shots.
The pencil and Xacto blade shots required a horizontal motion across a surface as well as an additional axis to control pressure. We used a custom rig that I had initially built to pour and spin beverage bottles and added a regulated pneumatic cylinder to control the pen and knife pressure. The rig consists of a slider base driven by a 6-amp stepper motor, an MRMC model mover turntable mounted to that base, a custom 3D printed mount to house a mDrive 23 motor on the rotation platform, which finally drives a long rotating shaft. On the end of the long rotating shaft, we designed and printed a joint assembly that would hold the pencil or knife as well as the small actuator to control the pressure. This assembly was set up in Flair as three auxiliary axes, the actuator was triggered via Flair using MRMC’s trigger box.
THE HOLE PUNCH…
For the hole punch shot, we swapped the pencil & blade portion of the rig with a larger actuator fitted with the hole punch on the end. This allowed us to hover over the leather, punch a hole, move to the next point, punch another, and so on.
Being able to program the camera motion and the movement of the subject within the same interface was crucial to the success of these shots. This allowed us to spend more time focusing on other important details, such as lighting. Another slider was set up with a Hive 100c light mounted to the platform and we used a long actuator to send the light sliding across the background at very high speeds. This was also triggered using MRMC’s trigger box.
To create the hammer shot, we built a custom rig similar to a hold-down clamping actuator. We used Actobotics parts for the frame, a Festo actuator and a custom 3d printed clevis fitted with four shaft idler bearings for super smooth and repeatable hammer strikes.
For the sewing machine footage, we rigged a large Festo actuator to the same surface the machine was bolted down to. This was automated using Flair’s cyclic triggering mode which lets you repeat trigger on-off signals like a metronome, saving a lot of time by not having to manually input each command into a table with corresponding trigger commands. Overall, this project was a huge technical challenge but we’re all proud of the way it turned out!
Director: Steve Giralt | DP: Justin Dombrowski | Visual Engineer: Colin Michael Quinn | Producer: Jacob Kiesgen, Indiana Robbins | Edit: Nadine Mueller | Color: Dario Bigi | Sound Design: Paris Schulman, TJ Dumser, Drew Mullins | Musical Arrangement: Paris Schulman
We had the pleasure of supporting a fantastic new project to create the World’s First 24-hour Gigapixel panorama of the London skyline.
The contact lens provider, Lenstore, teamed up with VR & 360 production company Visualise, who, using the incredible Nikon D850 and our motion control robotic Ulti-head, captured the amazing timelapse from the top of Canary Wharf!
The technical aspects of this project were immense. Pinpoint accuracy was required to stitch the thousands of detailed photos together; without the absolute precision of the repeat passes, the images wouldn’t have seamlessly blended together – which is why the robotic Ulti-Head was ideal for the task!
Similarly, Nikon’s D850 was needed to ensure the highest degree of image sharpness, and its whopping 45.7 megapixels means that you can zoom into any part of the photo and pick up details nearly 5 miles away!
Each Panorama is made up of 260 individual photos and is 155 degrees wide (183,944 x 40,060 pixels) – which equates to the capturing of over 7 billion pixels per hour!
The results are incredible – the World’s First 24 Hour Gigalapse panorama!
The project was shot by Henry Stuart from Visualise, he had the following to say:
“Shooting gigapixel photos is hard – we have been shooting them for the Olympics, the World Cup, for events and places all around the globe. Each panorama is so large it needs specially built computers to process it. In this case we had to build a special server system and network all of the work stations in our studio to the content so that we could stitch five of the photos at a time. Lucky it was the winter as the heat generated was keeping our whole block warm.
So what makes this different is really its ambition – you would never think that this many gigapixels could be shot at this resolution in one day. On any other panoramic head you would not have the same alignment of pixels, they would all have some give or movement in one direction or another.
There was a team of two of us, taking shifts through the day/night. It was incredibly cold and windy. Each hour we made the trip to the corner of the roof, checked the light, adjusted our settings and set off the camera remotely. Then rushed back inside to warm up again. We were in a building control room, sandwiched between all their electrics and air conditioning controls.
To capture a photo like this you need a really capable camera – we used the Nikon D850. It has this beautiful big sensor and captures a huge range of light and dark (large dynamic range). This is so important when shooting panoramas where one part of the image is bright, such as towards the sun, and another is dark such as over the Thames. We shot everything on the camera’s ‘RAW’ setting, which keeps loads of extra information in the shots that you would usually lose.
The robotic head we used to take the images is from the world of film production, it’s technically a custom modified Mark Roberts Motion Control – Ulti-Head. This head was programmed to take the 260 photos of each photo to pixel precision, meaning each time the panorama is created, even 24 hrs later, the pixels have not moved and everything lines up.”
We had a fantastic time at the NAB Show this year – It was by far our busiest show to date! Teaming up with Nikon Inc., we had the opportunity to have a much larger stand and therefore demonstrate a wider range of robotic solutions. We also launched two new broadcast solutions – Polycam Chat and Polycam Player – automated tracking solutions for broadcast and stadium environments.
Out newest motion control rig, the Bolt Jr. also had its first showing at the NAB Show; both the Bolt and Bolt Jr., were on track, programmed to do one of the most incredible robotic synchronised dances we’ve ever done – watch the video below!
There was also a range of robotic heads, including the Robotic Pod and AFC-100. Additionally, we showed the Studiobot, a multi-axis robotic camera arm, integrated with BlackTrax automated tracking for in-studio applications.
Our dancing Bolt in the main Lobby also attracted large crowds, with nearly 1,500 people dancing and interacting with the high-speed arm and sharing their videos. Watch the highlights below!
Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) and The Visual Effects Company (VFX) are merging their Motion Control rental operations to become the world’s largest, one-stop MOCO shop.
The new look MRMC/VFX plans to offer a far greater selection of motion control rigs, from standard MOCO fronted by brand new, academy award winning Milos through to integrated model movers, turntables and moving platforms. No company has a broader range and more product available, complemented by some of the most skilled MOCO operators in the world.
In addition, the company is able to offer creative and technical Previsualisation in 3D so that, for clients for whom it is appropriate, the entire series of shoots can be pre-planned, pre-seen, edited and tweaked all prior to making the first camera shot.
Malcolm Wooldridge, Principal of VFX, says: “VFX has been a customer of Mark Roberts for 15 years. It makes total sense for us to combine our offerings to make Motion Control the “go to” choice in visual effects. Working together will enhance our techniques and skills to deliver an even better all-round service to our customers.”
Assaff Rawner, CEO of MRMC followed on with: “We are very excited about this merger. MRMC won an Academy Award with the Milo for “changing the way Hollywood works”. With the skills of VFX and MRMC’s ever improving equipment, we are looking forward to changing the way visual effects work in 2018 and beyond and extending these out to other industries as well.”
Billy Ziller, MRMC’s Manager of Rental Operations, said: “We are excited to begin this new chapter because we are relentlessly focused on the same goal – to deliver the best robotics solutions for our customers.”
The Visual Effects Company is a team of dedicated professionals, utilizing the most up to date Motion Control equipment and camera robotic systems as well as AR/VR real-time camera tracking equipment. The Company also provides a technical previsualization (pre-viz) service for all our Motion Control and High Speed Robots. It prides itself in offering an innovative approach to solving our clients project needs as well as a production service for those clients who require a convenient in-house solution.
The incredibly talented Virtuoso – The Virts team was captured in slow motion by the Bolt high-speed cinebot, by the equally brilliant Shooting Gallery Asia. The video demonstrates in slow motion the extreme skill of these talented Cardistry artists.
A note from The Virts about the project and the video “RISE”:
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from shuffling cards over the past 14 years, it’s that you only get better at Cardistry as you repeatedly push yourself beyond your limits. The by-product of that, of course, is dropping cards – again, and again, and again.
Today, after 14 years, we still drop our cards all the time. Sure, we now drop our cards less frequently; but no matter how much better we’ve gotten, bending to the floor and repeatedly picking cards up covered in dust (and hair) never gets any less frustrating.
Over the years, we’ve come to establish a bit of a love-hate relationship with failure. We still don’t like it, yet we’ve also come to recognize that if we’re not dropping our cards enough, we’re also not going to get any better at Cardistry. And in that sense, we’ve come to find failure rather beautiful.
RISE was birthed from a vision of ours to capture this intriguing beauty of failure. Envisioning a juxtaposition between clean forms and abstract swirls, we pictured cards being manipulated with impeccable technique – abruptly interrupted and exploding out of the very hands that shuffled them.
We imagined them rising from the ground; the cards fluttering through the air in slow motion, dancing like the leaves in the Fall… and returning to our hands – perhaps forming imperfectly at first, then progressing with each step taken, and finally, displayed in all their glory. Yet our stubbornness as Cardists doubling as filmmakers resulted in a few interesting restrictions that we imposed upon ourselves.
If this “Fall” vision were to be captured, it would have to be done with no CG. Everything had to be filmed in-camera and performed by ourselves with a real deck of cards. Next, there would be no use of green screen, compositing, or other camera trickery. The furthest we agreed upon was the reversal of several scenes – and only if they genuinely added to the story we wanted to tell.
And finally, the cards used could not be gimmicked in any way – no strings, magnets or anything of the sort. If what we envisioned could not be accomplished by our technique, then the idea was scrapped.
Thankfully, after months of planning, testing, and of course…failing, we finally had the opportunity to transform our vision into a reality.
Through the use of a Phantom high-speed camera mounted on a Bolt Cinebot (thank you Shooting Gallery Asia), and the help of a leaf blower or two… RISE was born. We truly hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it for you.
– The Virts
RISE feat. the FW17 Virtuoso deck
Cardistry performed by Virtuoso (The Virts):