Camera movement is naturally a major component of moving picture. As a creative like you, I am always interested in how movement of the camera will help drive story, add drama or inform an audience. Some movements are real time and immediate, like when I am using my Movi or Zacuto Recoil. Other cameras like DitoGear help with real time and movement that takes place over a long period of time.
DitoGear have many innovative products. Essentially they revolve around the slide, pan and tilt, rotation and the movement of barrel of the lens to control, focus, zoom and iris. All of these key movements can be programmed, saved and played either over a relatively short time duration of say 30 seconds, right through to over many hours. You can also control these attributes in real time using various controllers. The application for DitoGear would typically be motion control to assist with the creation of time-lapse, stop motion or consistently repeatable camera moves.
DitoGear is essentially a modular system. The more you invest, the more you will be able to control. For some a simple slide will be enough. Others want more. I quite like this type of incremental purchasing. I am often looking for platforms that I can build on as my needs evolve. This keeps the barrier to entry low, at the same time allowing you to scale up to 7 axis controlled with one single system via an app.
But let’s get back to the basics; there are a couple of controllers you can get. The first one being the trio, a simple 3 axis joystick (up, down, left right & twist c or cc) with a speed and dampening dial for each axis, allowing only real time moves.
Above: 3-Axis Real Time Controller
The second option, with many more possibilities is the Omni Controller. It allows real time operation, time-lapse, stop motion, motion recording and playback, but also analog via a built in joystick.
The last, but most advanced and our favourite way to control the DitoGear equipment is the Evolution interface. It consists of a box looking very much like a wifi router. On the front of the unit you can find a removable wifi antenna and usb port for firmware updates. On the back of it there are 6 ethernet ports. The Evolution interface is powered via ethernet, which means that each axis requires only one cable for powering and communication. Just in case you lose or damage a cable you can find cheap replacement cables in pretty much any electronic store, awesome!
Cabling the process of connecting the whole system is quite straight forward. You run one cable from the Evolution interface to a small breakout box, to which you connect a power cable and another ethernet cable that runs straight to the axis that you want to control. One exception being the OmniHead requires two cables from the Evolution Interface into the breakout box, but still only one from the breakout box to the OmniHead. One tip we did find, is that the system does not automatically recognise what axis you are connecting to it, so we recommend colour coding the cables and ports on the system, it will greatly reduce future setup and calibration time. Definitely a tip to remember.
To operate the wifi app you will need an android tablet, as basically a larger tablet makes it easier to plot key frames. We were lucky to find a beta version on the iTunes app store that was reasonably stable. (The iTunes app disappeared recently from the store). Once connected, each axis will show up in the app as a different colour. There are a couple of steps required such as telling the app what you are controlling. Then a calibration is needed so that the software understands the length of the slide and the range of movement.
Welcome to the limitless world of motion control!!!
Most of the app is pretty self-explanatory. There are no limits to the number of key frames that you can use per axis. There are two ways of programming the move; first you place the key frames on the timeline. This method revolves quite a lot of guess work and isn’t particularly accurate, but there is a trick. In the app settings, find the option Follow Timehead. Now every time you program something on the timeline and move the play head, the system will immediately move to the corresponding position, allowing you to visualise and adjust individual key frames.
The 5 axis evolution system ships with 2 batteries 7Ah and 14Ah. The big one will easily last a full day.
Our initial setup was great for travel. It’s light and packs down. It can also be extended joining different lengths together. The downside is that it’s really for horizontal slides only. It’s also designed for time-lapse and stop motion but not ideal for real time camera control.
Hence we decided to make an additional purchase of the Omni slider. It has a higher payload and is more flexible. Though it is harder to transport because you can’t reduce the length by collapsing it down.
Above: Ditogear OMNISLIDER
The kit we used:
- Evolution Interface
- 2m Tarantula Go/ 1.5m Omni Slider
- Omni Head
- 2x Lens drive motors
DitoGear are based in Poland. The upside to this was that purchasing with the help of CVP was easy because support question were answered in our time zone. Also the items we purchased that were not held in CVP’s stock were usually received in only a few of days, from door to door. I’m often fearful of needing a part urgently and having to wait days for a shipment from the US. If in doubt their engineering and design team is available for a consultation over Skype and they will answer every question you might throw their direction. They will give you a reasonable explanation, solution or workaround so that you will not face any holdups on your production.
How do I feel about the DitoGear?
It’s definitely a piece of kit that adds serious capabilities to a production. I love the modular method of upgrading and purchasing. The DitoGear website doesn’t really explain the differences between the Omni Slider and the Tarantula Go. This is NOT a quick piece of equipment to deploy or is it a replacement for a quick setup like the Kessler 2nd Shooter. This is closer to a Kessler CineDrive system. Though the possibilities with this platform and the accuracy at this price point is extremely attractive.