Kessler Motion Controlled Timelapse System

ETHICS STATEMENT: I was given this system to test. I have used it on jobs and do not want to give it back. I hope Eric Kessler lets me keep this system or will sell it to me as used…haha! That being said, I feel it important to be honest and tell my readers this before you tackle the blog and watch the video. Eric is a friend of mine and after meeting him for the first time at NAB 2010 in Las Vegas, I respect him a lot for running a good business and making great products. I am very excited about this motion controlled system because it works very well and fills a gap in my production tool kit. I am a Kessler Affiliate, so if you decide to purchase this equipment, please click on the banners in the blog. I get a percentage of sales!

When I first started working with the Kessler CineSlider a few months ago (see full blog demo here), it changed the way I think about producing television. For the first time, a simple dolly move did not involve a large amount of hassle, people and time to set up. I am very impressed with the portability and durability of this Kessler product and the idea of using it runs through my head when chatting with a client about a project.

I have been working on an astro-time lapse project for the past six months. I have been using motorized telescope heads (removing the telescope) to move a camera very slow while time lapsing with ok success. The system was flawed and I had no idea what it would do. Sometimes it worked, and other times entire nights were wasted. I attempted to make a DIY motorized dolly but it kept breaking down. Just trying to get a camera to run down a dolly track during a time lapse very slow has been a big challenge for me. Until now…

Shot with Kessler Gear

Kessler Crane has developed (over the past two years) an excellent out-of-the-box solution for motorized time lapsing. A controller called “Oracle” and motor called “ElektraDRIVE” are sold to offer motion control to Kessler products. In addition to the CineSlider portable dolly system, Kessler also makes a motorized pan and tilt head called “Revolution”. You can also use the Oracle controller for motion controlled moves using this head. I have only used the CineSlider and the following blog will describe how it works.


Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

The CineSlider is a manual, belt driven slider that is about 36 inches long. It is light weight and portable. It is built well and has a metal frame that protects the inner rails which the carriage wheels ride on. This metal protects the rails so they do not get damaged. There is nothing worse than a bump in your dolly move!

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

You can install almost any type of mount to the dolly carriage using bolts, screws or clamps. I like using the Kesser Hi Hat with a Vinten Vision 10 AS head for stability when using large HD broadcast cameras. Kessler sells a fast and easy quick release plate (pictured above) that bolts right to the CineSlider. I use a Bogen Magic Arm when shooting with smaller cameras like DSLRs. The Bogen arm is fun to use and you can do almost anything with it.


Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

The Kessler CineSlider comes with the manual crank for moving your camera system down the track. I use this crank for dolly moves and sometimes I just use finger tips on the camera to smoothly preform the shot. The out riggers are an add-on accessory and I highly recommend them when using the CineSlider on the ground or other surface. They are easy to install, add stability and they balance the track very well with threaded adjustment on each leg. You can use the slider on a tripod, but for this blog I kept things ultra portable.

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

The belt has a friction control. This knob can be tightened and works quite well. This bit gets removed when you want to turn the manual CineSlider into an electronic motion controlled dolly system.

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit


I will go into great detail about how to change the CineSlider over to the ElektraDRIVE motor in the video at the bottom of this page. These pictures will show you how simple it is to do. The video will show you how fast you can make the modification. No problem doing it in the field because the change over requires zero tools!

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

It is important to add a bit of measuring tape to the side of the CineSlider for calibration and general understanding of travel distance. Kesser sells stick-on 4 foot tape, but I found a piece of aluminum with markings on it at Home Depot. It also helps to have units of measure on the slider when you program a dolly move into Oracle to be played back over and over. You must reset the carriage to the start point of the recorded move! I go over this in more depth in the video blog below.

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

The battery that runs the system is not too heavy. It charges in a few hours with a lighter a/c adapter. A red light turns green and charging stops when completed so you cannot over charge the battery. I ran three days of time lapses and did not have to charge the battery at all. I only just had to charge it because I left it plugged into the Oracle controller for a week on my switcher coffee table!

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit


Speaking of my ABC New York Grass Valley Production Switcher Coffee Table… I made it in college. The picture above shows you what it looks like underneath! Lots of wires for sure. I can even light up some of the buttons with a 9 volt battery! I spilled many-a-beer on this table in college! Ok, back to the blog…

Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit
Kessler Motion Controlled Kit

The Oracle controller is the heart of the system. It is loaded with programs and software to make your life easier! It is intuitive and simple. You just press the number 1,2 or 3 buttons to move through the menus and move the joystick to adjust values. This is not a do-it-yourself Home Depot/Radio Shack special. Serious thought, time and development has gone into this controller and it is basically a computer in a little black box. It even has a calibration program you can run to make sure the numbers on Oracle are accurate based on the weight of your camera, angle of the track and discrepancies in the motor. When you type into Oracle “30 inches of travel in 2.2 hours” using a heavy camera, it will do exactly that!

I am very impressed with this motion controlled system. The time lapses I have been capturing with the Canon 5dmk2 (taking a picture every 5 seconds) are amazing. I feel that the price is very fair for this system (yea, I know I did not pay for it). It has good build quality, a ton of accessories, loads of menu options for simple and advanced control. It is modular and upgradeable. You can get different geared motors like the ElektraDRIVE 200 series. Faster and quieter! Yes, there are cheaper options out there, but once you use them and get hooked on motion controlled timelapsing, you will find yourself ordering this system. Plus this stuff has a lifetime guarantee!


Please order through the banner below if you are interested:
Kessler Crane HDSLR Tools

I posted a preview blog a few days ago and I offered a Apple ProRes 422 file for download. Please feel free to copy it to your computer and see how smooth the Kessler gear operates.

Downloads

1080p Apple Pro Res 422 timelapse (.mov) using link below…

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Take a look at the video blog I hosted, shot and edited myself. This kit is very portable and precise. Let me know what you think and please feel free to post any questions at the bottom of this page.

UPDATE:

The bit I am using to mount the Manfrotto (Bogen) Magic Arm to the Kessler CineSlider is from the BH Video kit. The receiver stud can be removed off the little floor tripod that comes with the kit. This stud is not totally necessary since the built-in stud on the magic arm has a small 1/4 20 screw hole in the bottom. You can simply attach the magic arm directly to the CineSlider carriage.

you can find the magic arm kit (w/ floor tripod and receiver stud) here: Manfrotto 143 Kit