There’s a term I learned from Adobe a few years ago - Demo-ware. Those are features and functions that make for a great demo at a convention but really have little practical application. Unfortunately a lot of production gear seems to be moving in that direction.
In my last course video on blocking, I talked about the difference between a center of gravity stabalizer like the Steadicam and a gimbal based stabilizer like the DJI Ronin. My conclusion is that a CoG stabalizer was a low tech simple solution where as the Gimbal stabalizer is a high tech solution. Low tech means fewer failure points. Well that didn’t jive with a lot of folks.
The internet may not be a great place for nuanced discussion but that’s not going to stop me from trying to inject a bit of gray into a black and white world. There are absolutely times when high tech is necessary to achieve the shot and does indeed make things easier… but you need to be honest about what that need really is.
Here is a motorized pan head by Movi which is controlled wirelessly by the guy wearing the glasses using only his head. The glasses are connected to a backpack and feed him the view from the camera. Now this is undeniably COOL SHIT!!! Show up to any gig with that and the client will talk about it for years to come. But is it necessary? Is it even something you really want? Do you really want to control the camera from you head movements?
Then there’s something like this Ultra-shot Hybrid designed by Lee Snijders now being sold by Glidecam Industries:
Now this is basically a Monopod with some handles, a counterweight, some gel padding and an offset camera plate… but it doubles as a monopod, a shoulder mount, a highhat and even a make shift center of gravity stabilizer. And it takes no batteries – there’s no moving parts to fix and it closes down into a small package. Want to take it on a plane – no worries and you won’t need to stow the LiPo batteries
Edelkrone’s StandPLUS is another one of those simple and elegant ideas:
The first thing I thought when I saw this device is how useful it would be for the theater shooter. It doesn’t have the stability of three legs like a full tripod but it would fit comfortably inbetween the seats during a live performance in a theater. This is simple, useful stuff, it may not be sexy but it fills a gap.
Instead what is getting the big news even before the show even started is high end tech like the Lytro Cinema Camera:
Capturing light fields at upwards of 455 gigabytes per second is simply impractical at ANY level. And for what really? So we can select focus later? So we can avoid rotoscoping? So we can change the angle slightly? Aren’t there easier and better ways to do the exact same thing without burning 455 gigs a second?
Let’s not confuse the idea of giving filmmakers “freedom” and delaying any and all decisions for later… Filmmaking is about making choices – make them! It’s not that I’m not glad Lytro is out there experimenting with this technology but all this needs to be balanced with practicality and an understanding of what really is needed in a workflow. Even though this stabalizer below is massive (banana for scale) it serves a real world purpose and function.
Just because it’s high tech doesn’t make it good. But it doesn’t make it bad either.
As a final sidenote, I might have to tip a Red Hat toward Glidecam for having custom labeled gummi bears at their booth. And they weren’t some crappy knockoff gummis but real juicy and soft gummis with a nice citrusy bite.