Kessler 12 Foot Crane

I have been testing Kessler products in Northern Indiana and now in the mountains of New Hampshire.

For the first time, I have been using the V3 Kessler Crane. I joke around with Eric Kessler and say, “you guys make cranes too?”. Their first product was the crane and this established the company, but I became very attached to a recent product they created, the “CineSlider”.

Kessler 12 Foot Crane
Kessler 12 Foot Crane

The engineering on the Kessler products is excellent and you get plenty of gear for your money. A real jib with a motor head we use in broadcast television can set you back more than $30,000! You can get similar results using the Kessler Crane at only a fraction of that price.

I set up the 12 foot crane without any instruction. It is a heavy piece of equipment for one person to move around, but I made multiple trips to capture an epic sunset. It was very worth it and I am already planning another much longer hike up to a few waterfalls to shoot all day with the crane and Canon 5dmk2.

Kessler 12 Foot Crane

I used a Redrock Micro matte box with a Redrock circular polarising filter and a Tiffen .9 ND filter. The lens I used was the Canon “L” series 16-35mm f2.8. The lens was wide open and the focal length was about 20mm. I had to push past the vignetting of the matte box.

The Canon 5dmk2 was set to record 30 frames per second at 1080p and I had the ISO at 100. I did not have an external monitor so I had to look towards the end of the crane to see the tiny LCD on the camera. Not an ideal solution, but it worked as I was running out of time.

I needed more counter balance weights than I expected. When you have a camera 12 feet swinging in the air, even a DSLR with a matte box needs at least 50 pounds to give you fingertip control. I had to improvise by using a few five pound sandbags!

I also did not use the metal wire lines that further stabilize the crane. I found the crane to have a slight bow under all the weight, but it was still very easy to control. Today, when I test the system further, I will use the stabilizing metal guy wires.

I shot a quick video blog about the crane, the canon 5dmk2 and the location. I was happy that yesterday was the longest day of the year because I did not get all the gear ready until about 8:30pm. Golden hour seemed longer than an hour on Summer Solstice!

Today, I will be testing out the Kessler “Revolution” motorized panning and tilting head at a beach on a lake in New Hampshire. The head will allow me to do pans and tilts while flying the camera on the jib. You can even use the Revolution head to shoot motorized timelapses with the super slow movement of the 500:1 motors!

Shot with Kessler Gear


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UPDATE 6/25/10: Second Flight with Kessler Crane with Revolution Head and using Guy Support Wires…

Kessler 12 Foot Crane

First of all sorry for this quick update, I am very tired and finally back home. The mis-spelled stuff and bad grammar can be fixed later! Typing very fast…I need a shower bad and must be up in a few hours to shoot with a Sony F800 on a reality show in Boston (5:30am call time).

Over the past few days, I spent some time with friends in New Hampshire testing out the Oracle controller and Revolution motorized pan and tilt head. We mounted the head to the end of the Kessler Crane. Dave, Ellen and Dylan were interested in the system and offered to help me set it up. It is much easier setting up the crane with help. Later in this blog update, I will show you some footage and pictures of me while I set up the K Pod and 12 Foot crane by myself.

Kessler 12 Foot Crane
Kessler 12 Foot Crane

The Revolution head can be mounted upside down or right side up. I choose right side up for this test using the Canon 5dmk2 and a 16-35mm f2.8 lens. I did not modify the end of the crane to accept the motor head upside down. I also used the guy wires for the first time and set them up without any instructions. The wires add much more stability to the long crane arm and with the weight of the Rev head and camera, they are very important. Thanks to Dave and Dylan for their help.

The video above is a sample of some of the shots we got using the crane with a motorized head. I simply moved the arm up while I pushed the joy stick down on the Oracle controller. It was tricky, but after some practice, I was able to get into a groove and keep Dave in the shot. I did not have a portable LCD screen, so I strained my eyes to see the LCD on the 5dmk2! The camera was recording sound and I left this motor noise in so that you understand that when using the head, you must gather sound separately and not off the camera’s built in mic.

Kessler 12 Foot Crane
Kessler 12 Foot Crane

The next day, I drove down the Kancamagus highway (RT 112) and shot with the Kessler Crane on the Swift River. The weather was unstable and I wanted to get the system set up as soon as possible to get a sweet booming shot of the river. Dave and Ellen showed up as I was striking the gear and helped me out as an electrical storm hit. Thanks to Ellen for snapping these pictures.

Kessler 12 Foot Crane
Kessler 12 Foot Crane

Shot with Kessler Gear

I had to drag all the gear through the cold water. I carried 75 pounds in bar bell weights to counter balance the crane. You could use rocks or sand in a duffel bag, but the weight swings around and can mess up the crane shot. It was a lot of work, especially for one person, but it is possible. I found that once set up, you must get what you can from that single location and then strike most of the crane to move it to the next location. I was trying very hard not to drop anything in the water, I did not have any space nuts and bolts! I also was fighting the weather and got nervous as I operated the 12 foot lightning rod in the storm.

It gets tricky, but the video blog below illustrates how important it is to take the time to get a great shot. Shooting with a crane is much more dynamic than just using a tripod, dolly or a slider! I decided not to mount the Revolution head and Oracle controller because of the wet weather. Plus, I just got these things and I did not want to deep six them in the river…. at least not yet!

Time for me to go to bed!