Author: Justin Majeczky
A few weeks back, I went along with my filmmaker friends Peyton Peltier and Nick Sorrentino to help shoot product shots of chairs made for gaming casinos. I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to get the spectrum ST4 and the Dana Dolly out to help spice these shots up.
Requirements: The client wanted tight shots of all the details so as to not totally reveal what you are seeing on screen. This video was intended to play at trade shows as well as become embedded on their website. Deliverable was a 60 second cut in 4K.
Approach: We had lots of options with loose requirements. Doing these shots locked off or with some manual motion with was possible. But what if you want that next level polished look that you would see in an apple ad? I am talking slide, pan tilt, AND focus control - all with perfect repeatability and coordinated, fluid organic motion. This is where the right motion control can make the mundane look very sexy. This is where difficult or impossible shots get easy with the right gear.
Let me start by saying Peyton has never used the ST4 before. I was excited to get the remote in his hands and let him start playing. After just a few minutes of explaining how the rig is controlled and how to navigate the menus, he was off and running.
That’s the number one thing people love about this system - you can set up and start shooting faster than anything else out there. This is because there are fewer things to plug in and less wire management.
Two Wires. 4 axis of motion. 15lbs of camera support.
Less time fumbling with gear = more time spent shooting. By the end Payton kept commenting how ridiculously easy the spectrum was to use, and also how much fun he was having using it.
Let’s have a look at how the morning went with an approximate timeline:
10:30 AM - 10:50 AM: setup - 10 Minute DD setup, 5 minute lens gear attachment, 5 min spectrum / camera mount. **If you aren't mounting focus gears, or you are in a rush, it's not hard to be fully setup
10:50 AM - 11:00 AM: - TRAINING - Showed basic controls and how to move each axis. Showed live control. Showed programming a simple 2 point keyframed shot. The light bulb in his head turned on and the ideas started spinning. He loves the fact that focus can be precisely controlled.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM - Peyton is hammering shot after shot. His enthusiasm grows with each successful shot. The client is thoroughly impressed by the rig and the results it’s producing. “This is exactly what I was looking for” she said over and over.
12:00 PM - 12:30 PM - Introduce Peyton to multi-keyframe options in the menu. The grin gets bigger.
12:30 PM - 1:00 PM - We strap on the Canon 100mm macro and begin playing with the spectrum ST4's GoTo frames. The speed at which you can use this feature to gather so many interesting shots so quickly really hits home with Peyton. The lightbulb goes off once again.
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM - I step back and let Peyton finish out the shoot. He uses a combination of live drive, multi keyframe programmed shots and GoTo frames. We shot two different chairs, 25 + shots of each chair, plus education time in under 4 hours.
2:00 PM - Wrap.
This is business. Let's talk business.
These are not the rates Peyton and Nick charged. Honestly, I don’t know what was charged. I put in rates I would charge for doing a similar shoot locally here in Reno.
Day rate : $1000 / day cam op
Camera / lens rental : $500.00 / day (I own but charge the client)
eMotimo / Dana dolly rental fee : $300 / day (I own but charge the client)
Rented the studio - ½ day rental - $250
Editing : $125 / hr @ 5 hours (simple 1:00 edit) = $625
Total cost of shoot to the client = $2675.00
Net after studio expenses = $2425.00
Cost of the eMotimo spectrum + Dana Dolly = ~$5000.00
The pay off of unit is about 2 shoots. That’s incredible! If you are doing any kind of product shooting, this is the best bang for your buck unit you can get. Let’s not forget the other things the spectrum can also do. VFX, timelapse, interviews and the list goes on. When we weigh all these features the ROI proposition becomes extremely interesting. When a tool give you the confidence to try new things or get a difficult shot, you will use it more and more.
Compare the spectrum to a 15k rig from one of our closest competitors. It takes 6 shoots to pay it off. While this isn’t a terrible ROI if you were able to do it with the same efficiency, you can't. You spend more time setting up, updating firmware, plugging in a mass of wires and hubs. When set up, getting moves isn't as fast or intuitive. This adds up and impacts how much you shoot and the quantity of usable shots. If you are able to command top rates, for just a few shots that you can spend all day on, good for you and maybe you don't mind looking busy plugging in wires and poking around on a touchscreen. For the rest of us, when a tool burns you with long setup time, a difficult interface, and imperfect results, it will sit in the garage, depreciating while it's resale value drops.
We got in and out in a short amount of time which kept the shoot profitable. The end the client was happy and impressed. The cinematographer was smiling ear to ear with excitement. He was bursting at the seams with other ideas and places he could use the unit.
What’s not to like?
Here's the gear that was used.
8ft of speed rail