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Ian Menzies of Motion Control Cameras speaks to us about how his close association with our team here at Mark Roberts Motion Control has enabled them to be pioneers in the field of Motion Control filming.

Ian, a highly experienced motion control operator and in the business for the last 15 years, was the very first operator to use the FlairMotion Control software out in the field. “I first used the original version of Flair back in 1992 to operate a panther dolly in an experimental move of a ‘walking shoe’ for a cleaning product commercial.  Not an earth shattering effect but it worked well.”

The advent of Flair with its versatility and Motion Control Cameras (MC Cameras) experience was the start of many firsts in the motion control world.  From Encoding cranes on The Borrowers through to giving actors interaction with 3D creatures on Dinotopia and Harry Potter, Ian and his crew have pioneered many innovative special effects.

MC Cameras were the first company in the UK to own a Milo, taking delivery in 1995, their impressive list of motion control equipment now extends to :- a Cyclops Extreme, two Milos’, a Milo with their own Wotan Long Arm, two MRMC motion control Panther conversions, 2 Remote Heads (one 3 Axis, one geared), a High Speed mini Tracking system, a 6 DOF (six degrees of freedom) Motion Base (including track rotate and mimic) and 9 lengths of MRMC Precision Rail!

On the feature ‘The Borrowers’ a ground breaking technique by MC Cameras saw for the first time encoded Giraffe cranesCTC high speed dolliesLibra and Mega Heads, so that live action moves could be learned, converted, scaled and shot with motion control rigs using FlairsXYZ import facility.  The film starring John Goodman shot in 1997 was universally commended on the standard of the visual effects particularly how seamlessly the scaled shots worked.

While working on ‘Lost in Space’ Ian developed a Flair based system that allowed Libra and Mega Remote Head systems to have their moves learnt and played back under Flair’s control, giving these heads for the first time play back synchronised to the cameras shutter and MRMC’s renowned motion control repeatability.  In Ian’s pursuit to integrate motion control and live action he then went onto develop a similar system for the widely used Preston wireless remote focus, zoom and iris system which is now available from MRMC for any of our systems.

Also a first during the filming of ‘Lost in Space’ was the integration of motion control and timeslice using standard 35mm Nikon cameras.  The cameras were triggered by a device built by Ian to simulate about 2000fps to give some movement to the people suspended in space.  The timeslice was inserted in the middle of a motion control move.  Ian says “In our pursuit to give customers ‘what they want’ we have done some very strange things with motion control rigs.  For instance in the film ‘Below’ we were required to film a model submarine diving underwater and following it underwater to a depth of about 3ft.  This required getting a water proof sock to cover the whole Milo arm fitted with a scuba cam optical and air drying system as well as having to fit deflector plates to allow the arm to enter the water at almost 1.7m per sec.”
“In our armoury of additional equipment we have two pieces of equipment we are particularly proud of – the first being our carbon fibre Wotan long arm crane mounted to the strong standard Milo base.  Because of Flair’s various kinematics models we could build the arm how we wanted and place pivots where we needed and still take advantage of Flair’s wonderful target tracking facility.  The second is our Flair controlled 6 DOF Motion Base which was extensively used on DinotopiaHarry PotterElla EnchantedShackleton and most recently on Da Vinci Code.

MC Cameras were again the first to use the light weight compact Ulti-head on its feature film debut.  The new pan/tilt head was used to shoot crowd replication moves for Newton’s funeral procession in a scene from the
Da Vinci Code.

Designing to the needs of the customer MC Cameras were asked to provide a camera that could track about 8ft out off a 3ft ledge way up in the dome of the cathedral. The Ulti-head was ideally suited to this task as it allowed Ian to build a light weight self supporting precision rail system for the Ulti-head, and according to Ian  “having precise repeatable motion control without having to lug a huge amount of equipment up a LOT of stairs was great!”.

He also added “At MC Cameras we are grateful to MRMC for giving us products that have helped us to always achieve our goals.  We have a solid core of personnel who fully understand all our equipment in order to operate in an efficient and safe manner”.

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