Last week I spent some time at Kessler Crane HQ in Plymouth Indiana experimenting with CineDrive. The Kessler CineDrive system is very powerful and easy to use, controlled by the kOS software on either an iPad or a laptop computer.
Kessler CineDrive is able to preform precise, repeatable real-time pan, tilt and dolly moves, or stepper-slow frame accurate movement in time lapses. The digital motors are very smooth and have built-in encoders that tell the computer exactly where they are at all times. This makes CineDrive a perfect solution for visual effects shots or whenever accuracy is vital within a shot …or a series of shots.
Jon Connor and I wanted to push the limits of CineDrive. We both realized early in testing that the motors in the system were very fast, especially when you set them to preform a move in one second.
Fastec Imaging sent us a brand new TS4 high speed camera to see how CineDrive would preform in the high speed world. The TS4 can shoot up to 720 frames per second, resulting in amazing slow motion. Jon and I had a lot of fun pairing up the TS4 with the CineDrive system in a warehouse space that we would soon destroy.
We threaded a C mount to Canon EOS adapter on the native TS4 C mount. We used a Canon 16-35mm lens on this adapter wide open at f2.8. Because of this cold mount, if we wanted to change aperture on the lens, we had to do so on a DSLR body. The TS4 does not talk to a lens.
Even with all the footcandles we tossed at the set, we had to run the lens wide open due to the high frame rates. This is where CineDrive and the focus pulling capabilities came in handy. We not only set key frames on the pan, tilt, or dolly move, but also set keyframes in the focus. (We could have even run the motor on the zoom, if we needed it).
When shooting high speed, usually your depth of field is very shallow. CineDrive let us keep exactly what we wanted in focus at all times, even though the camera move was just one second long!
To demonstrate how accurate and precise these fast movements can be, we shot both red and white wine being poured into a glass. The move was identical, nothing changed. We used the CineDrive 200:1 motor on a 3 foot CineSlider with a Parallax bar.
I directed action and Jon nailed the timing on the first red wine pour.
Next, We needed to reset the shot for the white wine pour. I had to pull the red wine out of the glass with a straw, without moving the glass, so we could do the next pass. This would have been much more pleasant had we spent a bit of money on some good wine. But, in our pre-shoot shopping spree at Walmart, we spend just $2.50 on each bottle. Both the red and the white Walmart wine were terrible.
Jon came up with the line, “You may have gone to film school to learn how to produce a film, but do you have any idea how to make a film about produce?” I read that bit of comedy on camera and it was all down hill from there!
Later, we moved to another part of the warehouse to shoot a longer Shuttle Pod CineDrive move. There was a rectangular cut out in the concrete floor and a few rolls of plastic laying on a wooden pallet. We lined the hole with the sheeting and looked for some water.
Jon and I found a sink in the back and a long garden hose. We started to fill the pool with water when Eric Kessler showed up. Eric thought it would be faster to fill the pool with a fire hose that was neatly coiled on a metal support column in the center of the warehouse. He grabbed it and told Jon to “open it full!”. Jon spun a old rusty steering-wheel valve and Eric nearly was thrown backwards from the force of the water pressure.
Things were good for about a minute. The hole was filling nicely and I was thinking about what to throw into the water that would look cool in high speed.
Then the alarm went off.
What we all did not know was that there was a pressure sensor on the water system in the building. When the fire hose is put into service, it triggers switch that sounds a horn. It also sends a message to the fire station. Fortunately for us, the sprinkler heads in the ceiling did not open up, just an audible alarm. Also, fortunately for Jon and I, it was Eric’s idea to use the fire hose!
I am going through a “vertical video” phase in my life right now, so bear with me. This video shows how Jon and I passed time time while Eric called the Fire Department.
After the fire station was called and the crisis was averted, we spent a long time coiling up the fire hose and got back to business… tossing produce in an asbestos-filled dream world.
Eric used a DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse gimbal and a GoPro 3+ to shoot some of the aerials of Jon and I battle-testing the gear. I give Eric credit for flying the DJI inside without GPS-aided control. I also give him credit for keeping his cool when he flew the thing straight into the water pit.
Here is some raw footage from the DJI. After playing with Eric’s quadrocopter, I bought my own! The Zenmuse gimbal is incredible.
*We do not have footage of the DJI water landing. Sorry!
We lit everything with three Arri T1 1k tungsten fixtures rented from our friends at lensrentals.com. These large filament lamps stay hot during the 60hz AC power fluctuation, so no flicker occurs. We also used a Litepanels bi-color 1×1 for fill purposes or in the background of the wine shots to show off the parallax movement.
Jon jumped at the chance to run around in the foul cocktail of rotten produce that festered in the warehouse sump. (My college creative writing classes paid off eh?)
Much like the kOS CineDrive software, the TS4 camera operating system is very easy to use. Arm the camera, toss a salad, post trigger it, view footage, set-ins and outs on buffer, save it to internal SSD as a raw Fastec .CAP file. Done.
Our workflow was simple too. We plugged a hard drive directly into the USB slot on the TS4 and converted all the saved .CAP files to .AVI files at 720p with a 30fps timebase. Jon took all the footage and brought it into Adobe Premiere CC. He did a grade on the TS4 clips using Adobe Photoshop CC by creating smart objects. He later edited the Canon 5dmk2 BTS blog video of me trying to explain what we were doing and mixed in some TS4 slo-mo to create “A Film About Produce”.
If you want to know more about the Fastec camera, check out this video I shot a few years ago. The first half is me showing how the camera functions and the second part is slow motion of butterflies.
If you want to rent this camera, contact my friends at Rule.com. It rents for about $625/day.
We also want to thank Matt Kearney at Fastec Imaging for setting us up with the TS4, our friends over at The Music Bed for some great music on the video blog and Joel Graves for his help gearing up.
Plus a big thanks to the folks who work at the warehouse for putting up with us. Most of the food was eaten and one of the graveyard-shift guys found the jug of milk in the fridge. He told Jon, “Dat jug of milk nearly got a mouth put on it las’ nigh'” then he followed up with… “there-r cookies on da fridge.”
And when you spend time in Indiana during the winter months, be sure to bring warm clothes and rent a car with 4-wheel drive. At least the radio stations are good.