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Nino Film Blog | March 24, 2017

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Motion control test with DitoGear OmniSlider

Motion control test with DitoGear OmniSlider
Nino Leitner

I have recently received the DitoGear DriveCam slider [edit: it’s now called OmniSlider, but it’s basically the same with a few improvements – I’ll get the software upgrade, but it will make no difference for this blog post, that’s why I renamed it!], which can be used in all sorts of ways. Two of its main uses are of course making super-smooth realtime camera movements using the joystick, or doing moving timelapse shots, which have become very popular in the last year mainly after everyone watched in awe how Tom Lowe from Timescapes is cranking out one masterful timelapse film after another.
(If you want to get a DriveCam slider or another product from DitoGear.com, use discount code “TheNino5” to receive 5% off any order, an exclusive offer to my readers!)

These are of course the main reasons why I got this tool and I’ll show you a lot of stuff shot just like that in the future, but to that’s not where it ends.

Motion Control

Two days ago I met with my friend & director Arne Nostitz (check out his work here) and we had only little time to do a little DriveCam slider test. Our initial plan to do a little timelapse outside didn’t work out, so we came back to his flat and had only about 30 minutes left … we thought, why not do a little motion control shot, utilizing the DriveCam’s unique ability to pre-program movement?

You might have no idea what I’m talking about, so let me explain:

In film terms, motion control is something the visual effects industry relies heavily on nowadays. It’s needed for special effects of all kind when a moving camera is involved (that is, in fact, virtually every shot in a modern Hollywood blockbuster).

Shooting the motion control test

In essence, the camera movement needs to be repeatable 100%, because you record several instances of the same movement that are layered together in post production. For example, if you want to combine a green screen crane shot that was done in a studio with, say, a crane shot of a street scene, the movements of the cameras need to match exactly. This is achieved through a motion controlled crane that is operated automatically following pre-programmed movements.

The fact that you can use the remote controller to pre-program movements into the DriveCam slider is an amazing possibility that allows you to record and repeat the perfect camera movement for a shot over and over again. And that’s why it is also possible to do motion control shots.

The DriveCam controller - the two knobs allow you to adjust speed and dampening. Variations are possible even during motion (controlled with joystick)

So in the 30 minutes we had, we put the OmniSlider onto Arne’s piano, facing the room from one side. I recorded one very simple movement of the slider from one end to the other, then we played it back three times, always resetting it to the exact same starting point that I marked with a little piece of tape in the beginning.

Arne simply walked through the room in each shot, which makes it look like there are “three Arnes” after post production.

He combined the shots in post production using After Effects CS5, here is his description:

I first put all 4 layers (1 x blank, 3 x Arne) on top of each other and adjusted temporally. Then I played around with a difference key for a while, but didn’t manage to get a good result. Unfortunately, this key is only usable when the footage is really exact – but that is impossible  also simply because of the compression. In addition, there are the shadows that I cast and tiny changes in exposition.

So that didn’t work so well, that’s why I moved to masks – at first just very rough ellipses to cut out and look where there is overlapping. At these short moments where there were overlappings I tried the Roto Brush – the first time I used this unbelievable tool. It works similar to the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop: you roughly draw on the areas to be selected and keyed – then you define what the background is. Just like in Photoshop you can correct the mask while holding down the “ALT” key, then you work your way forward frame by frame. After Effects calculates a new mask every time, and it does that very well. In problematic areas, where there is too little contrast between foreground and background, corrections are necessary – but that works very well and it’s easy. That’s it, basically!

The mask can be enhanced through several effects settings (grow, feather etc.), for a fast preview that is perfectly fine.

All in all, the whole thing was done within an hour (with experimenting). I suspect the little errors can be corrected easily – but next time with more “content” :-)


You can try Adobe Creative Suite 5 including After Effects CS5 right here for free!


UPDATE January 23, 2011:


I’m going to receive the updated OmniSlider controller next week and will try to do a much more thorough review of the slider, including of course timelapses, as soon as possible. In the meantime, do check out “WINTER”, a video done by Patryk Kizny, one of the very talented people behind DitoGear™, using their sliders.

If you’re interested in getting an OmniSlider, don’t forget you can get 5% off using the discount code THENINO5 at www.DitoGear.com!

… and here is one of his older shorts, “AUTUMN” – featuring a lot of great HDR timelapses!

Comments

  1. Cool test of the DitoGear DriveCam, Nino. I’ve been playing with the Kessler Oracle controller myself. Great time for filmmakers. So much more affordable motion control gear than one could ever imagine.

  2. That was fun! Great to see you experiment with something else then motion controlled time lapses :)
    Arne’s feedback is also very good.

  3. hey there,

    great test. just wondering about noise level. how noisy do the gears get when it moves? is it as noisy as the oracle?

    • Yes it is unfortunately quite noisy … not sure you can record original sound with it at a reasonable distance!

  4. Franck

    Hi Nino,
    just wondering …is this thing could also do vertical (tilts) moves, just like the Oracle controller can do??
    Because it is said on the Omnislider specification page:”Horizontal & vertical operation”, but i don’t see anything that look like it is possible to do.
    Can you tell me, i don’t want to buy the wrong system.
    Thank you

    • Hi Franck,
      Yes, the system is capable of vertical moves, the motor is strong enough for taking a DSLR in a vertical movement – I haven’t tried it yet, but the DitoGear guys confirmed it to me. If you’re buying one, don’t forget you get 5% off using the discount code THENINO5.

      • Franck

        I won’t forget for sure. Do you have pictures of the
        Omnislider with the DSLR tilting? Because i don’t have the money
        for the Kessler, and i just don’t want to make a bad decision. If
        you had to do a pro-con list between the Kessler and the Dito, what
        would it be ? Thanks

      • By tilting, do you mean vertical movement on the slider or the movement of the video head in vertical position? DitoGear don’t offer such a remote head, for that you would need the Revolution Head from Kessler. If you mean just the vertical movement of the slider I can maybe shoot a short video demonstrating it.

    • This video has a very jib-like move at 4:50 http://www.vimeo.com/18849712 made with the Omnislider and (I guess) a manual tilt.

      • Thanks Sybren, yes this is definitely not a problem doing manually, I’ve done it too … just might need some attempts.

  5. Hello guys,
    Regarding the vertical operation – yes it is definitely possible. Check the previous film, “Autumn” that we shot to showcase the sliders. A lot of vertical shots is there as well as BTS shots.

    http://www.vimeo.com/15368982

  6. Amadeus

    Hi Nino, the only issue with noise…prevent me from buying
    the OminSlider at this time. Is there a way to dampening the noise
    afterwards? BTW if I order from Switzerland I’m constrained to pay
    the eu tax…I guess no! thanks

    • It’s rather hard to dampen, but I hear DitoGear will have a new version with a more quiet motor in the future. No idea when that might be though!

    • I think there’s no VAT tax as this is an export outside of EU.

  7. Thanks for this review. The only one I’ve been able to find on this product so far. It looks very good. For me the choice is between the Kessler system and the OmniSlider, its a difficult choice.

    Drive-Shot-Drive is a very compelling feature of the OmniSlider.

    Thanks again.

    • Thanks John. Will do a full review shortly! Including timelapse testing etc., I just received the updated controller firmware.

  8. Amadeus

    Hi Patryk,

    I see that you have a new product on your homepage..is PortaSlider a update or an alternative product of omnislider?

    I need a very low noise motor and in the most case a uniformly movement of camera, so is portaslider the right one for me?

    Thanks

    • Hi Amadeus, I wrote a blog post about the PortaSlider, I think you missed it: http://ninofilm.net/blog//2011/04/10/portaslider/

      • Amadeus

        thanks,
        but concerning motor noise I don’t see a answer or I missed something?

      • Yep you’re right, I’ll forward the question to Patryk.

    • Hey,

      The DitoGear™ PortaSlider is a new product. It is rather a bit more noisy comparing to the DitoGear™ OmniSlider. We’ll be introducing less noisy motors in the future, but still need some time for development.

      In case you have any questions just let me know.

      • Amadeus

        o.k. thanks!

  9. Hi Nino, I was just going to buy the Omnislider with your discount code but the there website says the voucher has expired, anychance of another code please?

    • Thanks for letting me know – don’t know what’s going on, I emailed them and wait to get a reply soon! Will let you know.

      • Jules

        I tried the same and also got the error message. Is there any update on this? And all in all do you still use this slider resp. do you prefer this one over the kessler sliders?

      • Please stay tuned. Still working on the review, it’s a good product. However I do not prefer them over the Kessler sliders, no.

  10. Amadeus

    Hi Nino,

    what’s the difference between Omnislider stepper and Omnislider?

  11. Amadeus

    Hi Nino, Ditogear has updated the homepage:

    http://ditogear.com/products/omnislider/servo-versus-stepper/

    • Kessler vs Ditogear:

      couple of questions:

      1. i take it these are really the only 2 options at this level of slider product?

      2. i know you can manually move the Kessler by hand – which is a great option!
      do you know if the Ditogear is also able to be manually moved or are you limited to motor control only?

      • There are other options, but they are either cheaper and don’t work as well (e.g. Glidetrack, in my experience, but haven’t tried the new one yet), or considerably more expensive. These are the two that I know and therefore can talk about. Cinevate also has a slider, but I didn’t have a chance to work with it yet.

        The answer to your second question is no, you can’t move the DitoGear Omnislider by hand, which is in my opinion its biggest problem. Motor control only.

      • thanks for confirming what i had suspected.

        do you have the names of the more expensive slider options you mention?

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