A few months ago, I took a job as a shooter for a documentary about an annual 25 hour endurance race at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA. Part of my responsibility for the shoot was to provide slow motion coverage as well as motion control time-lapse. A week before the shoot, I was at a local waterfall shooting some motion control time-lapses after a heavy rainfall on a two axis rig. I took a fall on some slippery rocks and lost my motion control device down the waterfall. I was super bummed and worried about not finding a replacement setup in time. Fortunately, after only a few minutes of online research, I found an even more dynamic looking setup that would give me 3 axis movements, the Emotimo TB3. Realizing Emotimo was local to the Bay Area, I simply gave them a call and set up an appointment to pick one up in person a few days later. The only concern I still had was that I didn't have a slider that would be compatible with the Emotimo. Brian, the founder of Emotimo, was nice enough to let me borrow a prototype slider that they had been working on in collaboration with Rhino Sliders.
After Brian ran me through the Rhino Slider TB3 workflow, I was a little overwhelmed. It seemed much more complicated than my previous 2 axis slider time-lapse rig. There was lots of stuff to keep track of. The battery isn't built in (nor is there a place to store the battery), there is one cord for the linear movement, one for the pan/tilt, a wireless Wii remote, and you have to make sure all the cords are long enough to accommodate your move. Getting the belt tight on the Rhino slider was also incredibly non-intuitive (reverse screw threading?!). Despite these seemingly negative attributes, I quickly saw the immense potential for capturing shots that I'd previously been unequipped for. I now had the tools to essentially "keyframe" camera moves over 4 feet through 3 axes.
My main camera for the shoot being a Sony FS700, I had some stabilization concerns about driving it on the TB3. DSLR photo time lapses were out of the question due to the client's post production budgetary constraints and the time sensitive nature of the project. After one simple test moving the camera 4 feet, over two minutes, with a 30 degree pan I realized the TB3 powered Rhino Slider drove my FS700 and Cannon 24-70 ii (about 6 pounds) smooth as butter on a 27:1 motor. I was sold.
I showed up to the "Survive the 25" event ready to start stacking B-roll. As expected, the Rhino Slider TB3 was a dream come true for grabbing premeditated time-lapses of inevitable events like a sunset or a pit stop. Where it really surprised me, was when it came to grabbing time sensitive shots of live action going on in the race. In the middle of the night, I was running a stock time-lapse when I got a call on the radio that one of the main contenders, Team Wolf, was having to pull their car off the track into their tent for a significant repair. I quickly unplugged the Emotimo battery, threw it in the TB3 bag, and was able to literally run over to the Team Wolf tent 300 yards away with my FS700 and Emotimo still mounted to the slider. Arriving a few minutes before the car did, I had more than enough time hook up the battery, set my exposure, program movement parameters, and level the slider with its easily adjustable feet. Wanting to capture the repair in its entirety, I asked a guy on the crew how long he thought it would take. He said just a few minutes so I set the move duration to 4 minutes to be on the safe side. Less than 10 minutes after I got the call that the car was coming in, I had a proper 3 axis motion control time-lapse video. Preferring DSLR's for most time-lapse situations, the Sony FS700 was perfect for this scenario in combination with the Rhino Slider and TB3. Being able to shoot at 1 fps and drag the shutter thanks to the built in ND filters, it is a great option for achieving quick, high end, b-roll for time sensitive documentary work where there isn't a budget for time-lapse processing in post.
After being initially overwhelmed by the Rhino Slider TB3 rig, I found that it's actually a relatively simple, efficient tool. After the belt is tightened and the Emotimo and camera are mounted, it's simply a matter hooking up the battery, powering up the remote, and setting the parameters for your move. I should add that setting your movement points using the wireless Wii remote is ridiculously fun and immediately makes you feel like a camera operator from the future. It's also important to add that the final version of the Rhino Slider has had it's belt tightening mechanism redesigned so that it's intuitive and easy to get right the first try. I only have a handful of examples that I can share from the "Survive the 25" project but the rest of them can be seen on NBC sports when it airs in mid April.
Check out our featured video on Emotimo's web site