For IBC this year Vinten, the venerable tripod and camera platform manufacturer, has released a teaser video of their upcoming remote control head. The Vinten Vantage is clearly intended as a remote pan and tilt head for studio productions, and it comes with limitations that work well in that world. For instance, the pan range is only 355°, which is fine in a studio setting but could potentially be very frustrating in a field production situation. Additionally, the upper camera weight limit is only 4.5kg, or about 10lbs, perfect for a lightweight ENG camera, but a bit tight for an Alexa.
However, there's a long tradition in independent cinema of adapting tools that were never intended to be used for cinema into cinema tools (remember the 5D Mark II, for instance), and there are some enticing features here that will definitely have applications for filmmakers of all stripes. The head is controlled through a touch screen unit called the HDVRC, which is capable of pre-programmed moves, and also capable of controlling multiple head units. This is clearly designed for a multicam studio environment; think about pre-programming a camera rigged up high to do a wide pan and tilt from the studio audience over to the stage of a talk show and you'll have a good idea what this was intended for. As such, it doesn't qualify as motion control, since the moves aren't likely to be precise.
HDVRC controller for Vinten VantageCredit: Vinten
Motion control rigs are expensive to buy, build or rent not just because of the mechanics of moving cameras around, but also the precision with which they do it. They use optical encoders to record exceptionally precise data to enable composites to be done seamlessly, either between multiple takes of a shot or between something captured in camera and in post. This camera comes close to motion control since you can pre-program moves, but isn't likely to make it in terms of accuracy.
However, it's 2016 and there are a ton of tools for tracking the 3D moves of a camera in post. Boujou, Mocha, the free VooDoo, or PFTrack which was used extensively on Cloverfield, a hand held movie with a tremendous number of composites. Combine solid camera tracking with a programable camera head, and even if the moves aren't perfectly precise, you should be able to combine stabilization, tracking, and repeated moves to create some pretty darn cool shots with this thing. For instance, a classic example of motion control is compositing together two shots with the same actor playing different parts (such as Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap). It's relatively easy to do with a locked off camera (you could even do it in premiere or FCP7 without even going to a compositing app), but if you want to move the camera—very, very hard. This is why motion control was invented in the first place, but traditionally it's been priced out of most indie type budgets. Some kludging together of the Vantage on set and post manipulation could get you pretty close to the same result for much less cost.
While indie features don't tend to have the budget or time in post to get crazy with these kinds of tools, there are a lot of creative options in the music video, short and commercial space that this head could open up. And if your indie script calls for Parent Trap-style hijinks where one actors plays multiple parts, and you want to not be stuck with an entirely locked-off camera the whole time, this head could offer a low-budget work around to avoid a full MoCo setup.
The Vantage Remote Head will be available this fall. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it should be reasonable considering its weight limitations.
- 4.5kg weight limit
- 355° pan, +/- 90° tilt
- 0.02 up to 60 deg/s speed range
- Pre-programmable moves
- HDVRC touch screen controller