On a recent trip to San Francisco, photoSentinel CEO Andrew and I had the privilege of sharing coffee and chewing the fat with eMotimo‘s founder, Brian Burling. Between sipping single origin, organic lattes (eMotimo’s office is next to the hippest cafe in town), he let us play with his 3-axis motion control head, the eMotimo TB3. We were so impressed that we bought one before leaving the US and not much later decided to bring them in for everyone else to play with!
I thought it would be a good idea to outline what impressed us about the eMotimo TB3, so much that we decided to import them Down Under.
1. Programming is intuitive and easy
The TB3 is awesomely easy to use. It can sometimes seem like you need degrees in mathematics and computer science to program a motion control rig. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it kinda feels revolutionary when you experience the TB3 doing all the math for you. Using an intuitive Wii-style nunchuck, you simply set the start and end positions of your movement, how often to trigger your camera and how many photos you want (or how long your want to shoot for), and the Arduino brain inside the box will work out the speed and movement distances, even incorporating ramping and static time (for long exposure). It’s as close to plug-and-play as any motion equipment is going to get, and it means less prep time and less trying frantically to do math when trying to set up quickly before your lose your shot.
2. Great value for money
Motion rigs can be pretty pricey, which is fine if you’re being funded by a studio or independent philanthropist, but not great if you’re an enthusiast or running your own independent production company. For less than AU$1500 you can add two axis of motion to your time-lapses; add around AU$100 to get the auxiliary stepper motor to give you the third axis. The TB3 really is cheap (on price, not quality!) for all the great features it gives you.
3. Packed full of features
The TB3 comes with lots of great features that will increase your versatility as a photographer and, with ongoing (and free) firmware updates, they keep adding more. Here are some of the things you can do with the TB3:
- 2 point, 3 axis move
- 3 point, 3 axis move
- controlled panorama sequences
- repeat and reverse movements
- reverse setup (setting the end point before the start point means you don’t get the agonising wait as the unit returns to the start before you can click go)
- USB port and Dragonframe control to program more complex sequences
- Continuous motion mode for video and manual shoot-move-shoot mode for stop motion
4. It gives movement on three axis
So, what are axis and why should you care? Well, axis (technically the plural is ‘axes’, but that suggests you can use the TB3 to chop down a tree) are basically any plane or direction of movement you can control. The TB3 can three axis: pan, tilt and something else with its powered auxiliary port. Single axis products allow you to do do a panning shot or a tilting shot or a sliding shot. The TB3 allows you to smoothly coordinate all three at once, giving you tons of control on your movement. This is seriously powerful versatility.
5. Integration with existing sliders
eMotimo don’t make sliders, so you’re not limited to integration with only one kind of third axis. Currently, the TB3 integrates easily with sliders from Dynamic Perception (Stage Zero and Stage One) and Kessler Crane (CineSlider and Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly). Other commercial and homemade sliders might require a bit of hacking to attach the TB3 auxiliary motor, but the team at eMotimo plan to keep increasing the number of models the TB3 can integrate with.
6. Open source and hackable
If nothing else, time-lapse photographers are tech tinkerers – if our equipment won’t do what we want, we go all MacGyver with duck-tape, pantyhose and a rusty paper clip until we’ve beat it into submission. Thankfully, if there’s something that the eMotimo can’t yet do, the rig is hackable, both outside and inside (i.e. the programming). Powered by an Arduino MEGA 2560 micro-controller with open source software, the TB3 is “built to grow” and the team release free firmware upgrade regularly. eMotimo even links to hacks like this one by Eric Herman.
7. They’re nice guys and their support is great
If I remember correctly, we paid for Brian’s coffee in San Fran and not the other way around, so this is not cash-for-comment! eMotimo’s healthy cottage-industry approach and enviable focus on perfecting one great product mean they can offer great support. They make solid how-to videos, they’re quick to answer queries posted on the eMotimo forum and they respond to emails. And it’s not just us who think their customer service is great. They also generously support the industry by sponsoring a range of workshops, events and festivals and are well networked with other key technology providers in the industry.
8. Other Aussies like it
Before we decided to help bring the TB3 in, other Aussies were already using it to produce awesome footage. In particular, night sky photographer extraordinaire Phil Hart captured this awesome footage and wrote this sterling review of the TB3.
So, for these reasons and more, we’re helping to make the eMotimo TB3 available on this side of the Pacific. For more information on specs and pricing, head to our eMotimo TB3 page.