…it’s a dolly shot that will roughly cover 25-35 metres and that will run in two parts in front of 30+ vehicles and trucks that represent an 80 year timeframe?! As part of a corporate video that celebrates the 80th birthday for the CMV Group we were facing a slight problem until I remembered that recently, after hiring a flash unit from Fenton Film Hire for some stills work, that I’d noticed a newly opened box sitting in the corner of Hugh’s Norwood office.
Its been just a little over a year since the MOVI by Freefly Systems was unveiled on a blog post by Vincent Laforet. Since then there seems to have been a scramble for everyone and their mechanically gifted dog to jump on the camera/gimbal bandwagon and there are now at least five other companies marketing miraculous mechanical solutions for smooth shots that rely on gimbal technology (Defy, The DJI Ronin, Varavon’s Birdycam, the gStabi, and the Allsteady).
Reading the plethora of opinions on the interwebs it seems however that the Freefly MOVI systems are still the easiest and most reliable systems to use (although clearly not the cheapest to purchase outright). At $5000 US for the smaller payload M5 its a significant outlay for a piece of equipment and one that thankfully Hugh at Fenton Film Hire took, as it became rather clear that this was the only way we were going to get this shot!
For a very reasonable $250 day rental we were able hire the M5 kit to set up the Movi with a MkIII and a 16-35. Hugh was very generous with his time showing me how to set and properly balance the camera in the cradle and gave me a good run-down on the operational side of things. As he said himself though once you have this setup properly your Mum could operate it with very satisfactory results!
The entire kit breaks down into a very easy to move custom Pelican case with all the tools you need and various bits in the right place. I did have a little more difficulty balancing the camera with the 16-35mm than with the 24-70mm, but the general rule of thought is to try to run these with fixed lenses as you’re then able to maintain the balance more easily, but because we needed some flexibility with the framing of the shot on the day I opted to run the two zoom lenses and re-balance as needed.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to use the other stabilizers on the market, I think one of the key reasons for using the MOVI system is the software that runs the rig. After downloading the software and using a bluetooth connection it’s very easy to wirelessly fine-tune the responsiveness/rigidity of the ‘Majestic Mode’ (the single operator mode for the rig). With normal stabilizer shots you might want some play and smoothness in the way the rig responds to to tilting or panning, but in this situation we needed the rig to almost be locked down. Trying to emulate a 35 metre dolly track and finely trained Dolly Grip pushing the camera slowly for that length of time (a 10-15 second shot) meant the camera needed to be locked in position as best as possible.
Using the software and step wise tuning the Pan/Roll axis and Tilt Stiffness it was fairly easy to get the camera locked and mostly level. The only trouble I had at this point was that because I had ratcheted up the stiffness of the system to such a level, the camera was tilting up ever so slightly. While this was a worry the night before, on the day of the shoot it turned out to be a bonus as we needed the slight tilt to leave enough room for the size of some of the Kenworth trucks in the framing of the shot.
On the day, once we had everything balanced and had Josh the director from The Kingdom practice his driving with perfect pacing down the line of vehicles in the Mercedes Transit, it was time for me on perch myself on a step inside the mighty Sprinter with the side door open holding the camera as well braced as I could.
So while it might be a somewhat counterintuitive tool for a the job, the MOVI performed brilliantly, the finished shot (a seamless edit of several close and wide runs that we did on the day) is absolutely smooth and faultless. I can’t recommend it and Fenton Film Hires services enough if you need this level of smooth motion in your production. Many thanks to Sarah at CMV, Josh from The Kingdom, D Tang, Bayley and Dani at RedBikini for getting us over the finish line.