Motion control is one of the most fascinating topics of photography and filmmaking for me. It combines several of my favourite subjects. Photography, electronics, engineering and programming. Motion control allows us to create some amazing imagery that just wouldn’t be possible in any other way. It also allows us to do it over and over again consistently.
That’s what drew YouTube channel Media Division to motion control and The Marmalade production house to record their new video intro. Consistency and repeatability. Their goal was to create a composite clip, shot with a moving camera, blending four different speeds of footage from real-time to 25% speed seamlessly.
Because motion control is all done via some form of computer (whether that be an actual desktop or a teeny tiny microcontroller), and motion control devices contain a lot of electronics to keep track of where all its various bits currently are, you’re able to programme in camera moves and have it make those same moves over and over again. With some systems, you can even have it perform that same move over different time periods.
That was the goal for Media Division. They wanted to be able to combine footage at different speeds into a single composited clip but still have the motion in them all match up. It sounds simple enough, but it’s not quite as easy as it might first sound.
With a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 shooting at 96 frames per second, the same camera motion was recorded at 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x speeds with a subject running through the frame. The speed of the footage was then altered in post using Adobe After Effects, with motion blur applied to simulate the different frame rates required to match those speeds and the camera movement in order to get everything to line up perfectly.
Yes, I realise that possibly doesn’t make it any easier to understand, but essentially it means a single clip, with four copies of the same person running through the scene at different speeds. Have a watch of the video above and it’ll all become clear. Everything from planning to post-production is explained in very straightforward steps.
While the robot arm shown in the video is slightly out the budget of most of us here, they also demonstrate how we can achieve similar effects with gear we might already own – in this case, a Rhino Camera Gear motorised slider and head. In the video above, the slider is used to move the subject in front of the camera, rather than the camera itself, but the same principle also holds true for moving the camera as it does with the robot arm.
We’ve seen examples of this before, where the guys from Syrp attempted to emulate Steve Giralt’s work using Magic Carpet sliders and Genie Mini heads. Sure, you won’t quite have the freedom that you’d get with a $100K+ robot arm, but this is why they don’t cost $100K+.
It’s an awesome process that can produce some truly epic results, and when you see the kind of planning that went into Media Division’s new intro, it really lets you start to not only see the possibilities but the effort it can take to pull it off successfully.
And as you’ll see in the video, even the rather dangerous looking clip at the beginning isn’t quite what it appears to be!