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Motion Control Photography

Even with the evolution of 2D and 3D motion tracking techniques, there are still some things that are best done with Motion Controlled photography. And some things can only be done with Motion Controlled photography. Live action split-screens are one good example. Certain kinds of contemporary automotive photography is another. Choreographed miniature and stop motion photography both rely completely on Motion Control.

 I have been supervising all types of motion control photography for over ten years and am intimately familiar with the two major types of photographic motion control sytems on the market; Lynx Robotics and Kuper Controls..

From traditional Cel Animation stand programming to live action-real time capture ? playback, including sophisticated, multi-axis, miniature programming and photography, I have a thorough understanding of what it takes to program and photograph moving images using computer based camera controls.

In addition to knowing the software and electronics, I have used most of the major booms systems that can be found at many of the major effects houses in Southern California; places such as Digital Domain,, Sony Pictures Imageworks,, Image G, The Chandler Group and Motion Control Rental Services. Each of the systems at these companies are different and each has their own unique pros andcons. Whether it's stepper driven, non-real time photography or hi-performance real time DC servo systems you need, I can tell you which is the right system for your project.

In addition to the above software/hardware knowledge base, I also maintain one of the most extensive lists of motion control programmers/operators, assistants and FX Directors of Photography in the business. I have great working relationships with all of them and can put together the right team in a very short period of time.

Image #1: From the Motion Picture "Batman Forever" - The opportunity to shoot this sequence was one of the main reasons I took on the Batman Forever project. 1/24th scale miniatures of the Batcave and tunnels were built and staged by Grant McCune Designs. To add an extra challenge, the Batwing miniature was built at 1/12th scale.....which means that we had to scale our foreground (Batwing) to our background (tunnel) camera move. That's always fun. Motion Controlled camera systems were employed for all the right reasons and many, many, many film passes were made. Film Elements like Tunnel beauty, neon light, spot light and tunnel matte passes, Batwing beauty, multiple matte, practical light and engine flame passes. Brilliant compositing by CIS..

Image #2: From the Motion Picture "Gone in 60 Seconds" - Smashing cars with a wrecking ball is one of my favourite pastimes....and being PAID to do it makes it especially fun.....For this shot, the Special Effects team rigged an endless loop cabling system which synchronized the wrecking ball to the intended target, the blue and white Jeep Cherokee. Having captured the impact  with a repeatable motion controlled camera head, we then replayed the move with the Mustang racing through frame at top speed. This allowed us to place the Mustang just inches in front of the Jeep, barely being missed by the wrecking ball.

Image #3:From the Motion Picture "Face/Off"- A tricky little shot, this one was achieved by shooting with a........motion controlled camera system. One pass was photographed with the boat being blown out of the water with air cannons. We then ran the same motion controlled camera move with the stunt guys being ratcheted on a huge crane-mounted sling . The guys were keyed, rotoscoped and rotoscoped some more. Not really evident in this still were large holes in the bottom of the boat, caused by the air cannons. These holes were partially obscured by water spray. And they had to be removed. Ouch! But the hardest part of this shot was tracking 3D renderings of the stars faces onto the stunt guys heads (it's hard to tell on this JPEG file, but blown up to a 70' screen, you can see it.....). Amazing composites by VIFX (since folded into Rhythm and Hues).

Image #4:From the TV Pilot "The Messenger" - Crowd replication using Motion Control is a popular item.....although not usually on a freeway. This shot, which takes place in the future, was accomplished using a motion controlled pan/tilt/focu/zoom system, a large outdoor blue screen and a superb matte painting (by Kevin Mack). Excellent Pin Registered Film transfers and composites by CIS.

Image #5:From the Nike TV Commercial "Maybe, Maybe Not" - I had an excellent (though dusty) time working on this spot for Nike. Thirty-four composites in a 60 second commercial! All of them adding some peril to the Live Action photography. Most of them were straight split screens, others used Green Screen and a few, like the shot shown above, employed Real-Time Motion Control, Green Screen and Split Screen techniques. Pin Registered Transfers by POP (since folded into Riot). Truly exquisite composites by Sight Effects/Digital Lab.


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