Do you know you how low-cost Motion Control can be?
Many people do not realise that getting a simple motion control system need not be expensive. In fact, with pricing for an Ulti-Head package starting at £34,900, it costs less than many remote pan and tilt heads which have no motion contol capabilities.
This lightweight Remote / Motion-Control head features a pan/tilt arm and carbon-Fibre adjustable tubes to accommodate a wide range of cameras. The UltiHead is precisely machined and fitted with the highest standards of industrial grade electronic components providing accurate and repeatable positioning of the camera. The UltiHead is quick and easy to set up, putting you in control – in minutes.
Ulti Head being put through it's Paces
The Ulti-Head was recently put through its paces at Arri Media Grip, UK, in an application known as “point-tracking”. This feature allows the user to tell the Ulti-Head where the object of interest is and the head will then automatically keep pointed at the object while the operator freely moves the encoded crane or Technocrane around it.
A recent Disney Picture starring Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett featured several shots created with a couple of Milo motion control systems, supplied and operated by Motion Control Cameras, UK. The Life Aquatic is Wes Anderson’s (The Royal Tannenbaums, Rushmore) latest creation. The film which was shot in Italy in the Mediterranean, features Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) as an internationally acclaimed oceanographer who sets sail on an expedition to track down the elusive and possibly non-existent Jaguar Shark. Various complications on the way include kidnappings, pirates and bankruptcy make this a wild comedy adventure. To achieve his vision Wes called on well-known Visual Effects DoP Eric Swenson (Constantine, X-Men II, Blade) to create a feast for the senses.
On Set Screen Shot
Director Wes’s approach to any shot is to try as much as possible to see it happen in front of the camera, so using motion control, the underwater submarine was shot in a fantastical underwater world that Steve travels in his yellow submarine. ‘Motion Control Cameras’ used the two large Milo motion control rigs, their own and a loaner from Lumiq Studios – one for the camera and one as a model mover carrying the 30inch sub model on the head. The camera rig required the use of their Wotan 30ft arm in order to push across the landscape.
MILO moving the 30 inch Sub
Swenson then used multiple exposures to create what they termed “a smashed together” in-camera composition so that Anderson could get an idea of what the final shot would look like on set. The crew shooting the miniature submarine spent two weeks shooting around 19 different passes per shot, working on a huge motion-control set which was 60ft. wide with a 3ft. long submarine miniature. Tracking out from the sub as it dives into a gorge then tracking in as it comes to rest, motion control operator Ben Goldschmied triggered both rigs from an event controller. “Knowing what to expect of Lumiq’s Milo was an advantage, both rigs linked easily even running passes at different camera speeds, some as low as 0.062 fps. I knew that the delays in both Mark Roberts’ systems would be the same, and by using a dummy camera in the sub’s Milo, that their prerolls would also be the same regardless of the camera speed” says Ben. “And having full control of the curves in the Flair programming software immediately gave the sub’s movement a real underwater feeling.” “At one stage during the shoot, Wes came on set (an unusual event as he was filming in the Med every day) and we showed him a move as the sub is nudged by this huge shark. He commented that he felt the move needed to be 20% larger for the initial impact. I was able to affect this change in a matter of seconds and get approval of the move before he left the stage!”
Shooting the sub required MoCo passes with the sub’s lights turned on as well as off because the sub’s lighting interacts with the ground it lands on. As the sub reached the ocean floor, these lights reflected off an underwater river made of a Mylar-type material, giving an eye-catching look. Then multiple passes were shot to create different types of ripples going across the river at different speeds. Then enhancement passes to make the river more obvious. They also created a matte for the sub itself that allowed them to isolate the miniature and do corrections on it later. Several passes were required to get the right look on the underwater 4ft. to 8ft large-scale miniature volcanoes.
The smoke – created in a cloud tank – would be added later, but the crew had to capture “a volcano glow pass” on-set. They backlit the volcanoes to give them more shape. Once these clean passes were accomplished, they turned on smoke to create a sense of underwater volume and lots of it. A smoke pass was needed for every one of the passes except for the ones with the sub’s lights turned on. Because smoke adds volume to the lights but not a sense of the particulate matter in ocean water, several passes were shot against black using silver and gold glitter in water. Those would be used in post to track particulate matter into the light beams coming from the sub.
Then began the month-long compositing process of weaving these elements together by tracking the submarine using RealViz’s MatchMover software to make this world believable. Swenson stated “Pretty much what you see on film was what was in front of the camera. We put Milo through hoops to get what we wanted and it did a great job. It performed well and produced everything that was required of it with all passes repeating precisely”
Many of you may have seen the new Mark Roberts Motion Control Ulti-head being exhibited at various shows. It’s an extremely accurate pan/tilt head specifically designed for motion control and runs from Flair software.
When the Ulti-head is mounted on an encoded Technocrane it can perform a feature called ‘point tracking’. Once you have selected a target and have informed the system, the camera will always keep pointing and focused on the target whilst you move the Technocrane manually. You can track, rotate, lift, & extend with complete freedom of movement.
There is going to be demonstrations to illustrate the uses of the Flair software in this setup at Arri Media Grip (Uxbridge, London) on Tuesday 12th April to small groups on the hour. Refreshments provided. Please email Sophie Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment or Justin Pentecost at email@example.com.
We are also particularly interested in hearing any views from post production and TV technicians regarding the use of this feature which can save lots of time and effort on live action shoots or live broadcasts. A typical example would be a music concert. You simply tell the system where the musician is on stage and you can then move the crane around manually while the musician is kept in perfect shot and focus, with minor adjustments possible with handwheels or joysticks if you want to.
Pittburgh Crew L to R: Ryan Da Silva, Craig Perrin & Jerry with WF Whites Milo
There are currently three MRMC Milo cranes based in the Eastern half of North America. Two of these are in Canada and the other is based in Atlanta, Georgia. While this large region is fertile ground for creative visual effects in feature films, broadcast television and music videos, recent economic and political events have created a ‘moving target’ in terms of where the bulk of production is likely to occur. The US dollar is weaker at present, and ‘tax credits’ for film production vary, and are regularly reviewed, in the States and Provinces of the USA and Canada.
This creates a challenge for the Milo operation at WF Whites in Toronto, Canada. With seven years of successful shooting behind it, and a dedicated operating team, it continues to serve local production demand, and boasts an impressive reel including work on ‘Chicago’ and ‘I Robot’, and a large number of ‘high end’ commercials and music videos. The team in Toronto have also worked in various other locations including Florida, Vancouver, and one long distance trip to New Zealand.
The Gothic Vaulted 'commons room'
The team working under motion control cameraman Jerry Andrews believe they have to look further afield at present for work which in previous years has come directly to Toronto. They believe they have developed a highly efficient approach to location work, and can service a wide area of the Eastern USA and Canada, by road. The Milo system and all accessories travels in a purpose-designed trailer, and can offload the Milo with up to 54 feet of precision track directly into any studio or location with road or track access. The Toronto Milo boasts a ‘lifting frame’ system which allows the Milo to be moved quickly, with its track attached if necessary, around studio floors, streets, sidewalks, and other open ground.
At the Cathedral of Learning
A four-day, five-location shoot in 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennysylvania epitomises the efficiency and adaptability of their operation, and they hope that the details released here will help to stimulate further interest from potential US clients.
Pittsburgh-based New Perspective Media (www.new-perspective.com ) contacted the Toronto Milo team when they decided to pitch a VFX concept for the 2004 Institutional Campaign of Pittsburgh University. This involved shooting multi-layered scenes in five different locations within the Pitt U. campus; three interiors and two exteriors, in four days of production. Producer Bill Medica and director Tom Schneider were reassured by the detailed pre-production discussions, setting achievable targets and resolving a number of VFX issues before the arrival of the team. The spot was shot in HD format using a Panasonic Varicam.
The trip from Toronto to Pittsburgh, via Detroit, was an easy one day journey of under 400 miles. The Toronto crew were able to take the Milo system deep into the main halls of Pitt U, utilising beautiful shooting spaces in one of the smaller liberal arts rooms, a computing lab and also the gothic vaulted ‘commons room’. They negotiated glass doors, wood panelled stone flagged corridors and flights of stone steps, with smooth efficiency and without damage to either the unique interior or to the Milo crane system.
The second day of production involved a morning shoot in the commons room, and an afternoon shoot on an exterior scene below the University’s famous ‘Cathedral of Learning’ tower. This was a mix of live action with an actor and time-lapse background plates.The trip from Toronto to Pittsburgh, via Detroit, was an easy one day journey of under 400 miles. The Toronto crew were able to take the Milo system deep into the main halls of Pitt U, utilising beautiful shooting spaces in one of the smaller liberal arts rooms, a computing lab and also the gothic vaulted ‘commons room’. They negotiated glass doors, wood panelled stone flagged corridors and flights of stone steps, with smooth efficiency and without damage to either the unique interior or to the Milo crane system.
The final day of four involved a second exterior location, and a long arcing move created easily on straight track, filmed on a residential street. All shoot days were completed on the original schedule, and all the required elements for the composite scenes were delivered without compromise.
Cameraman Jerry Andrews feels that this was a very successful and cost effective venture for all concerned, and that there should be many similar opportunities to travel further afield to service a broadening production base across the Eastern half of North America.
Jerry with the 'Milette' conversion (Pan/Tilt/Roll/Track).
Jerry Andrews has been the Toronto Milo operator since 1998, and his extensive experience includes recent work on Chicago, I Robot, and UK productions Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He operates on a freelance basis and is also a film lighting cameraman and visual effects supervisor.
Mark Roberts Motion Control is nearing completion of its new Bolex 16mm camera video assist. The colour video assist allows the camera, which is very popular with 16mm animation companies as well as other applications, to be used without having to look through the viewfinder or more importantly to be used with popular video disk recorders to see reviews and previews of shots being taken by the film camera. The video assist is bright enough to be used in fairly low light levels or small apertures setting it far above other video systems. It is fully integrated into the camera so no alignment or setup is required every time it needs to be used. Additionally it can be easily switched from using the video assist or looking through the viewfinder so the viewfinder remains totally useable. If you would like further details on this important development please let us know firstname.lastname@example.org