Normally I don’t do equipment reviews on my blog. I’m not that good at gear talk, so I leave that to the pros. This piece of video production equipment is so useful and exciting I have to share.
The eMotimo Spectrum is the most versatile piece of video production equipment I own. Being a commercial video producer requires being nimble, quick, and the ability to produce a variety of visual styles efficiently. The new Spectrum ST4 delivers consistent high quality robotic motion control movement in a small form factor, with a higher than expected weight load capacity.
Full Motion Video
The predecessor to the Spectrum ST4 is the eMotimo TB3. It was mainly designed for polished timelapse camera movement. The TB3 made motion control timelapse production amazingly easy, but I needed to use it for full motion video too. Changing to higher speed motors did the job, but wasn’t completely controllable and fluid.
Moving a heavy camera, lens, monitor, and battery through space and time at precise frame angles with speed ramping and dampening is what I wanted without a five figure Hollywood capital expense.
I think the team at eMotimo heard this loud and clear. The “4” in ST4 indicates 4-axis, meaning it now drives four channels of controllable movement with pixel perfect repeatability. Effortless pan, tilt, dolly, and focus/zoom (coming soon) motion all in one controller with the simple setup menu style programming eMotimo is known for.
I’ve had the ST4 since July this year and found a few surprise uses I didn’t expect. Compared to a standard video fluid head I’m able to get a diagonal move (pan/tilt combined) in a few minutes. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not built to move a handle at a consistent speed. A fluid tripod head takes me too long with several takes to get one clip with fluid motion and the compositional framing needed. Then there’s time in post deciding which clip is good enough. This is even worse with long lenses, where any variation in movement speed is exaggerated.
The ST4 has this unique target mode that is easy to set and very accurate.
1. Set up the exact end frame composition
2. Enter the time to get there (Awesome when there’s accurate storyboard)
3. Set ramp as a percent of run time
4. Change the composition freely anywhere in the scene and press go
Boom! Now that’s a fluid head with brains. The target mode works in several preprogramed variations of speed and dampening. Now even with heavier camera/lens weights up to twelve pounds (5.4k) fluid head moves are unvarying and quick to achieve. Editors will love the fewer clips to sort through too.
The wireless responsive joystick controllers are accurate and ergonomic that using the ST4 live modes is an option too. Flipping the ST4 and putting on the end of a boom or jib as a hot head is another good use. There are so many possibilities!
These are few sample clips from recent commercial video projects using the new live mode and target position.
Timelapse with Motion Control
The timelapse production performance of the TB3 continues with added improvements in the ST4. Despite the bright orange color of the original TB3, and the consistent delays by airport security inquiries, the TB3 was a true game changer in three-axis timelapse motion control back in 2010.
The TB3 was smaller, weighed less, and cost substantially less at $950. These efficiencies were the result of designing the tilt motor and gears on the outside of the unit. I’m not an engineer, or a product designer, so I guess those values (size, weight, cost) made sense.
The major drawback though was stability. The way the camera attached on top made the center of gravity unstable. Wobbly footage to fix in post is no fun. Especially when rendering thousands of 50MB camera raw frames together for timelapse sequences.
The Spectrum ST4 changes all that. The L shape centers the cameras mass close to the rotation points. It’s completely solid, while only weighing 4.5lbs (2.04k). Attaching the camera (top) and dolly/tripod (bottom) is stable with standard ArcaSwiss locking quick release hardware. There’s absolutely no wobble. With the variety of ArcaSwiss solutions available, there are not any limits to rigging the ST4 for timelapse and video production.
I use the Spectrum on stage one and stage zero sliders from Dynamic Perception. Mounting the ST4 was easy and I didn’t have to buy any more parts. The biggest difference is the swift set up of a timelapse sequence. Even with added timelapse control features the eMotimo step by step menu style is a breeze. The jog speeds for running sliders end to end has increased significantly too so setting up long slider moves is faster. If you’ve ever been under pressure on set or in the freezing cold at dawn you’ll appreciate this.
Full Spectrum Video Production
The tables below show how I use the eMotimo ST4 as a full spectrum piece of video production equipment. It’s rare that one capital expense has so many uses. That’s good business. The other pice of any production hardware decision is the customer service experience. The eMotimo team is the real deal and they are committed to this industry. Even when I push the equipment into uses it is not intended for like 360 video and spherical panorama the eMotimo team is open to helping solve problems.