Remember Pixar’s "A Bug’s Life" from 1998? Shot from the perspective of bugs, it featured very cool animation. On January 24th, the new Disney+ Original Series from National Geographic, "A REAL BUG’S LIFE," brings this concept to life. The perspectives are amazing: the camera movement at that scale has to be precise, responsive, and incredibly fast to set up. But how was it done? Parts of it were shot by Robert Hollingworth, a long-time collaborator with eMotimo. Much of Robert’s photography for the series was captured using a precision, motion control gantry specifically designed for live-action macro cinematography, enabling fluid camera motion on a bug scale. It's an XY axis system with pan and tilt, all packed into one Peli case weighing less than 25 kg. What drives and controls Robert's gantry is eMotimo's once super-secret, super-portable 4-axis motion controller, the SA4. It's the same one used to position cameras for the opening fox scenes in "All Quiet on the Western Front." The SA4 is essentially like our Spectrum ST4, but instead of our pan/tilt mechanism, it has 4 motor outputs that Robert connected to his custom-made gantry. We housed it in a sleek machined aluminum enclosure with a bright OLED and, of course, controlled it via a gaming remote. This enabled run-and-gun setups on (and over!) the streets of New York, deep in jungles, and up the Himalayas. Chasing ants down the street, bees out of a nest, fox cubs through their den, spiders in the studio, or striking venomous snakes - the gantry and the SA4, and mostly Robert, pulled off the shots. When floating a probe lens 12-16 inches from your 8K cinema camera, any backlash in motor systems can cause issues with framing and live control. Using expensive zero-backlash systems with custom lead screws, or zero-backlash rotary axes designed to move silicon wafers, enabled Robert to match his requirements, perfectly suited for shooting fluid live macro.Besides getting the shot, Robert refined his rig for quick setup, global travel, and both studio and fieldwork. It performed well, enabling him to create mind-blowing live moves as well as pixel-perfect repeatability shots. Lots of superlatives here, but it functioned at the highest magnification and resolution demanded by the highest quality productions on this, ahem, Planet Earth.I am proud and humbled that eMotimo controllers helped with this production. This collaboration involved quite a bit of problem-solving and continuous little peeks behind the scenes. These images and stories will stand forever.Thank you, Robert! Robert has now built 3 of these portable moco cine robots; two powered by the SA4 controller and one that lives in his studio, running off Dragonframe. However, all are interchangeable, and the quickest and most portable setup solution is the SA4. You’ll have seen them used in: "All Quiet on the Western Front" (Netflix) "Tiny World" (Apple TV+) "A Real Bug's Life" (Disney+) "Super/Natural" (Nat Geo) "Postcard from Earth" (Sphere Vegas) "Frozen Planet II" (BBC) "Green Planet" (BBC) "Welcome to Earth" (Nat Geo) "Encounter" (Amazon Studios) We asked Robert which shot in "A Real Bug’s Life" should not be missed. His answer, in his own words, is below:There’s one shot especially that I’m very proud of. I was shooting a particular shot for DOP, Simon de Glanville and his ‘Big City’ episode. It was a layered composite shot which - without giving too much away - we took 3 days to shoot and the camera had to accomplish a repeat matched moved each time, for nearly 3 days, and each time hitting the same frames for each pass. I built my gantry in a different configuration for this and added in a further linear axis to create a miniature Technocrane - a technique I first tried and perfected in Tiny Worlds (Apple TV+). The SA4 controller was programmed with start and end frames, with 3 additional keyframes in-between to ensure focus marks and I’m delighted to say the rig kept it’s marks beautifully day after day. I can’t wait to see the result which I’m told is superb.I’m really delighted my macro gantry is proving so popular with my peers. I made it mainly for myself to improve the quality of my macro cinematography also to increase my efficiency and speed on set. They’ve proved very popular with my clients and peers and I’m touched they’re now regularly hired out to productions on their own.My collaboration with Brian is long-standing and it wouldn’t have been accomplished without his passion and energy. He creates technology that melts away the physical boundary between the camera and the creative vision: when I ‘fly’ the camera on the gantry now around the head of an ant, while it’s doing its thing, it’s done with no technical thought or worry, and simply with creative instinct. Brian deserves a lot of praise for his gift to our industry for all the products he’s created in the last 15 years; he’s enabled the significant visual gains our industry has built upon in the recent years, changing things more than, say, a few more pixels will on your sensor. Kind words indeed. I am flattered! eMotimo builds the brushes, and we appreciate Robert and all the artists and masters who push the boundaries and do something new. The series is out now, so go watch it! If you aren't a subscriber, you can check out the official trailer. While the original controller never made it to market, by popular demand, we did release one almost just like it found here on our store.
All Quiet on the Western Front
It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography! eMotimo controllers helped shoot Netflix's All Quiet on the Western Front.
eMotimo is releasing a stand-alone robotic controller called the SA2.6. This first generation equipment already helped with Oscar winner, All Quiet on the Western Front