Until recently, ultra high speed image capture had long been a relatively obscure area of cinematography. Shooting high frame rates burned a lot of film, and was reserved primarily for specialists working in scientific applications, or fast food and candy commercials. However, with the growth of digital cinematography, higher and higher frame rate capture is within the grasp of many more filmmakers.  The common RED Epic Dragon does 300fps in 2K mode, and with dedicated high frame rate cameras like the Phantom Flex (2500fps at 1080p) growing in popularity, or the recently announced Cronos 1.4 (1050fps in 720p) being priced at only $2500, high frame rate is definitely having a moment. But high frame rate imagery isn't just about the camera. You also need light sources capable of continuous, flicker free operation at high light volumes for that small exposure time. You need scenes that benefit from being captured in slow motion. And you need tools to move the camera fast enough that the move matters.

For the Robic, the speed limit is 105 mph, nearly twice the typical North American auto speed limit of 55mph. 

To help enable that movement, the hybrid advertising agency/production company Triptent has introduced the new Robic motion control system. This system is designed specifically with high frame rate image capture in mind. If you are shooting at 2400fps, and playing back at 24fps, you are dealing with a literally 100 to 1 relationship between capture time and playback time. For example, a moment that lasts one second on set will last 100 seconds in post. Or, conversely, if your slow motion shot is only supposed to be 10 seconds long, it will capture action that takes only one tenth of a second on set.

This poses a particular challenge for motion control, because you generally need to move the camera some distance relative to an object to "feel" the camera move. This is commonly achieved by dollying past something, or circling around someone. If your intended shot is one tenth of a second long, however, you'll need to get the camera moving pretty fast to feel that move in one tenth of a second, even if you are shooting at a somewhat more reasonable 480fps instead of the absolutely bonkers 2400fps.

Robic on the baseball diamond.Robic slows down a pitch.Credit: Robic

For the Robic, the speed limit is 105 mph, nearly twice the typical North American auto speed limit of 55mph. That's pretty fast to be moving a camera through space, and will be affected by what sort of camera you've rigged to the end of the arm, and how many accessories you've attached. For instance, A RED Epic with a heavy Master Prime lens won't be able to be thrown around as fast as a Scarlett with a small Compact Prime lens, but Robic states that the Phantom HD, with an ARRI prime lens, should be able to move around three feet in a quarter of a second. Which is pretty fast. 

The Robic also comes with its own high torque focus motor for pulling focus on that lens, capable of a full focus rotation from minimum to infinity in the same quarter of a second, though I would check with your rental house for compatibility. With a modern lens housing you should be fine, but I would be worried about how a high torque focus motor would work with a vintage lens housing without testing first. In addition to focus control, the rig is capable of triggering outside devices with .001 accuracy for control of items like air pistons, solenoids, and the other tools of great Burger Drop.  The Robic is available in a four-arm set, with two arms dedicated to camera control while the other arms are assigned to controlling objects to be photographs. The camera control arms can even be assigned to follow the motion of the object control arm for operating on complex setups.

The matters of lighting and staging something interesting in a quarter of a second is up to you, but the Robic should be able to help you capture it. Robic is available primarily as a rental tool. For more information, including a great reel, check out the Robic site.

Tech Specs:

  • Compatible cameras: Phantom HD / FLEX / FLEX 4K for High Speed, Red EPIC / SCARLET / RAVEN / WEAPON, Arri ALEXA MINI
  • 45 minute setup time
  • 20 kg nominal camera load, 34 kg max camera load
  • 12 ft side to side move length
  • 9 ft maximum camera height, 4 ft extension available
  • 16 trigger outputs
  • 700 lbs weight
  • 150 lb power supply weight
  • 3x208V power required