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Support Your Local Camera

As digital moves toward higher resolution, slight movement is dramatically enhanced, and close-ups are ruined if there is the slightest shaking.

By Tom Inglesby

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Image quality improvements found in the various high-resolution digital formats—think UHD, 4K and 8K—demand higher stability of camera and lens. Any unintended movement is literally multiplied in the playback. Equipment companies have been working for years on enhancing their camera supports to compensate for this by employing the newest mechanical and digital technologies. When the camera is capable of defining every pore on the actor’s face, individual blades of grass in a field, or the pattern of a snowflake as it falls, the human element must be removed from the camera platform.

We spoke with Boots, managing director of Egripment USA, to find out how camera support companies are changing their approach to make cinematography more stable. Egripment is a supplier of camera cranes, dollies, remote heads, and tracking devices with main offices in the Netherlands and U.S. offices in Knoxville, Tenn. Egripment received a Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1983 for the design and development of the first modular crane system.

“Technology is important when you want to make the shot,” Boots admits. “It’s easy to build inexpensive support equipment that may get you the shot you want—if you work long and hard enough—but the best supports have to be smooth and easy to use. Ever since remote heads came on the market about 25 years ago, we have ensured that ours have always been far smoother and more precise than any others on the market—especially at the slowest speeds where smoothness is critical.”

We are seeing an increase in physically smaller cameras and compact equipment. “We have a full range of support systems—from very small jibs to 40-foot telescoping cranes—that we continually improve to keep up with the latest generation of productions,” says Boots. “Our main focus right now is to put more attention on the shorter-reach arms with lighter maximum loads, since that is the current direction in which camera and lens styles are heading. We’ve also seen an increase in demand for VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality] and we’ve developed full-scale encoded VR/AR systems.”

He adds, “We do not add internal stabilization to our remote heads because we have found that other than for very specific types of moving shots, it tends to be counter-productive. Almost all remote-head stabilization systems are larger and heavier than necessary because they are trying to stabilize the entire package, rather than just the lens. While this is becoming more possible as the newer digital lenses are moving into cinematography, we will soon see a total changeover to internal lens stabilization. It just makes far more sense to stabilize only the weight of the internal components of the lens, rather than the entire remote head, camera and lens.”

One of the first questions asked of any supplier to the industry is, “What’s coming that we should be aware of?” Information is critical to making decisions and you need to be ready for the newest products and enhancements. According to Boots, “The biggest thing for us right now is our new digital product offerings, which includes our VR/AR systems of cranes, jibs, remote heads, towers, tracking dollies and more. At NAB, we will introduce our new 205/D digital remote head, which can be used as a standard, standalone, manually operated remote head or fully integrated into our VR/AR systems. This smaller digital head can support many of the smaller digital cameras with the exact same precision as our 306/D and large analog heads.”

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April 9, 2015