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Michael Nelson

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  • Occupation
    Steadicam Operator
  • Location
    Los Angeles, CA

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  1. You're not a party pooper, but comparing this controller to the Preston isn't really the name of the game here. The Axis is a competitor for the Bartech and other simple, single channel systems. It's meant to be a rugged, bullet proof, ease to use system with basic functionality. You mentioned that you rely on sophistication and simplicity and I think that the Axis is extremely simple because it was designed to be. Down the road they may decide to release a more complex user programmable unit with more customization options but as far as the Axis1 goes, it's incredibly simple and easy to use. Definitely try out an Axis sometime if you get a chance and compare it to your Bartech and you'll see how great of a system it is. Heck! If you're on a shoot in CA, rent mine sometime and get a feel for it!
  2. For the past few weeks I’ve been enjoying my newly received Axis 1 single channel wireless focus system from Hocus Products. I talked with Peter Hoare at good length at the 2013 Stabilizer Expo and was in the market for a remote focus. After testing out a few different units currently on the market, I decided to scratch my original plans of getting a trusted and loved Digital Bartech and give the Axis 1 a shot.Three weeks later, I’m glad I did! Most of the Axis 1‘s stats can be found on their website but just a few quick notes: The hand unit is slightly larger than the widely used Bartech with a notably larger focus knob and the Axis 1 receiver is roughly 30% larger than the bartech receiver. Both the hand unit and the receiver feel well constructed, durable and seem like if they were dropped, they’d survive and wouldn’t break into a bunch of pieces. The Axis unit is designed to integrate into existing kits easily. It’s a digital system and will work with any digital motors, 7 pin lemo motor cables and 2 pin power cables (same as bartech). The motor is also constructed very solidly and seems like the toughest piece of equipment in the package. In all I paid just under $7,200 for the who package. The entire kit was ordered from Hot Rod Cameras in Hollywood and I ended up with the Hand unit, receiver, motor, all the different gears for the motor, six conical marking rings, 15 and 19mm iris rod adapters for the motor, 2x motor cables, 2x P-tap power cables, 2x Arri run/stop, 2x Epic run/stop cables, 2x antennas and the case with cut foam. The Pros The feel of the hand unit as you turn the focus knob is great. It’s got good resistance to be precise but not feel overly tight. The Bartech has a very light, almost resistance free feel compared to the Axis. The buttons on the transmitter and receiver and solid, won’t be accidentally pushed and only have one function each; there’s no “push and hold” extra features within the system. It’s very “what you see is what you get” which makes for fast setup and fast changes while working. From calibration to manually setting lens stops, the minimal buttons allow you fly through any set up and get to work fast. Having a calibration button on the transmitter and receiver that you can actually push (unlike the tiny recessed button on the digital Bartech that you have to get at with a pen) is very convenient. The simplicity and ease of use is wonderful! The motor that Hocus has put together is fast and absolutely silent. Also, when I say that this motor is silent.... I mean COMPLETELY SILENT, even when doing very fast racks. As far as the torque goes, it’s adjusted automatically just before the motor finds the limits of the lens during initial calibration. I haven’t had the motor on notably stiff lenses so I can’t make comment yet about the motor’s heavy duty torque capabilities. I'm a little nervous not having the articulating motor cable port like on the M-One but so far I haven't missed it. The hand unit runs on Canon style LP-E6 rechargeable batteries. They aren’t supplied by Hocus so I picked up a Wasabi two battery and charger bundle on Amazon for $28 and found that I can get three full days on one battery. The indicator light on the front and the top warns when the battery is getting low. Also, if the hand unit is left untouched for five or ten minutes, it will automatically go into sleep mode to conserve power. It’s also nice that there is a read out on the top of the hand unit that tells you information like channel, battery level, and signal strength to and from the receiver. The rosette on the back of the hand unit makes me excited to see a three channel upgrade/ addition whenever Hocus gets around to developing it. Ergo hand grips, TV logic monitors, and a host of other things are just waiting to be screwed into here! The interchangeable focus marking rings are much better than the Bartech’s annoyingly flimsy focus strips. They quickly and securely pop on and off and feel very durable. You can get them in cylindrical and conical, I chose six conical and love them. All of the cables I ordered from Hocus (P-tap power, Arri and Red run stop) are all made very well and function without issue. Finally, Peter at Hocus has been very accessible and open for comments and questions from myself in a very direct manner. He’s been very quick to respond to emails and questions and the reps at Hot Rod Cameras (the US dealer of the Axis) have been the same! The Negatives Not sure if this is quite a negative, gut the hand unit is notably heavier than a Bartech. It’s heavier because it’s well built and robust, but an AC that used it a few days ago told me that he kept wanting to set it down a lot just because of the added weight. After the day he said his hand was tired and a little achy. It’s definitely not as heavy as a Preston FIZ. I think this could be combatted with altering and improving the ergonomics of the hand unit itself. One thing that I really like about the ergonomics of the Bartech hand units are the channels along the long sides of the hand unit. I find that they are the perfect place to rest my palm in and wrap my fingers around the transmitter and get a good grip on it. The Axis is built inside a rectangular housing and lacks these channels to firmly grip the transmitter which makes it not quite as comfortable as the Bartech for long term operating. I imagine some kind of ergo hand grip that screws into the rosette in the back of the hand unit would make holding it more comfortable. Also, one thing that I think Hocus is lacking for the Axis is a firm iris rod mounting bracket or a 1/4” 20 thread somewhere on it so it can be firmly mounted to a camera. Velcro works fine at the moment because the receiver is fairly light weight, but I am the type of person who wants all accessories firmly screwed down and locked into place. I’m told by Peter that a bracket is in the works. All in all, when I arrive on set I feel proud to break open the Axis 1 case and show it off to anyone who will listen to me! As both a focus puller and a steadicam op, I love using it and showing others how to use it. I recommend it hand over fist over the Bartech and would definitely recommend anyone in the market or looking to upgrade. I can’t wait to see what all comes out of Hocus next! There are a couple more pictures of the system on my website here: Axis 1
  3. Easy rigs can be a back saver for sure. Its all in the application of the tool, there's definitely a time a place for it. If I need to hold a shot slightly lower than my height, instead of bending my knees to get lower, I spread my legs and lock them out. That way my quads don't burn out during the shot. I also have a Hip Shot and that shoot reality from. http://www.hipshot.tv/
  4. I should have said in the original post that this is for a reality show with me in the front seat shooting a contributor as they drive from point A to B. The camera for this particular shoot is the F800. For smaller, prosumer cameras I'd just sit in the seat, turn the LCD around, and place the camera up on the dash. Not so easy with an ENG camera. If the choice is to "Put my big boy pants on" (sit backwards in a seat while driving and assume the risk of death in a car accident) or ask around to find a safe way to do things, I'll take the latter. I'm in this industry, and even moreso, this life, for the long haul. No dumb unnecessary risks need be taken...
  5. What are some techniques to get a shot of the driver of a vehicle, while driving, from the front passenger seat? In the past, I have seen camera operators sitting in the front seat, camera on their shoulder, facing backwards. It's a great 3/4 shot and avoids anything too profile-y, but it's not safe by any means. No seatbelt, back against the passenger airbag, I hate to even think about what would happen if there was a collision of sorts while shooting. So, what are suggestions for achieving such a shot and keeping everyone safe?
  6. At the end of a day I like to stretch out my back with some of these: http://adjustm.com/clients/4292/images/Upper_Back.jpg Additionally, sitting in a butterfly position and bringing my head toward my feet helps a lot too. Also, when you shoot, make sure you have good body position and that you're not torquing your body in a bad/ preventable way. don't lift or raise your shoulder while shooting, that'll bind you up really quick. I use a shoulder pad to help me when I shoot for long periods of time.
  7. A shoot that I am on wants to follow a group of paraplegics on their first time skiing. I am an avid skier and have shot photo and video with prosumer cameras (ex3 and z7u) on the slopes before but this time it is with a HDX900. I have been told 1-2 other shooters will be there, not on skis and audio will be wireless. I am familiar with the camera, very comfortable on skis forward, backward and sideways and the beginners will be staying on beginner "green" runs. Just trying to filter out any obstacles I may not be considering here to anticipate them and prevent/ work around them before getting in any kind of jam. Thanks!
  8. I figured a 35mm kelly wheel would be close for 35mm adapters but I wanted to ask to make sure how much difference in DoF there would be between an adapter and the real thing. Would a safe thing to do is figure you have slightly less/ more DoF than you really do? What about something like the 5D2 with a full frame sensor and something like the 7D or Red One with the APS-C sized sensors? I know APS-C is around 35mm but I don't think it's exact. Is it worth getting a Kelly wheel? I used one in school when we shot on the Arri ST and LT and it was so nice to have. However, I haven't touched film since, but i would like the tool again.
  9. I work on a lot of shoots with a Pro 35 adapter or a Letus with various lenses. I would really like to know my DoF for these different setups and am looking for a resource to do so. Do they make kelly wheels for various pro Cameras? HPX 500? Varicam? Red? What about those 35mm adapters? Thanks
  10. For those of you with a Hilti 4, 40 or 42 how often to you find using it over tape? I can see for long distances it would be used a lot but what about the 10-30 ft range? What about within 10 ft? I've been thinking about purchasing one lately but wanted to get your opinions on using it and how using a Hilti is received on set by others (does it make you look lazy? efficient? something else?)
  11. I work on mostl HD projects I have a Lindcraft Jumbo 1st AC pouch. Inside I carry a flashlight, lens brush, sharpie, pen, vis-a-vis, small note pad for writing lists for things I have to remember longer than 4 seconds, rocket blower, 100' tape measure, a book of lens tissue, multitool, and a stubby flathead screwdriver. I also carry a 25' fat max in it's own carrier. I have a fairly hefty padded belt for everything with caribeaners hanging from it so I can quickly attached sandbag t-markers, or a small water bottle using one of these: http://climbinggearinc.com/bottle-cat-p-4142.html I bring my small ditty bag with me on the camera cart that holds other frequently used items as well. It can get a little bulky when fully loaded but it's nice because the belt is comfy and easy to take off with everything loaded on it.
  12. I do some work that involved shooting at TV monitors (LCD or Plasma) who have images placed in them in post. A common solution has been gaff in the corners of the screen to use as tracking points or, at times, cutting green paper out to fill the screen and then have it keyed out later. In an idea world I see a device that generates nothing but a green screen. It would be a big as a computer thumb drive, run off a battery, have a HDMI, s-video, or composite RCA, to plug right into the TV. Does this exist? Another solution would be to have a DVD with an hour of Green burned to it and it could be played through the TV.
  13. Thanks for the advise, Greg! it's great to hear from people like you on this board! I practice the "estimate first, then measure" technique regularly. I hope to get to the point where I can accurately pull focus on a fast lens.
  14. A studio I work with (Studio A) books me for small shoots lasting a few hours and want to pay by the hour (lower than my average rate). The problem is that when I work for them for only a few hours: 1. I can't book a full day shoot with someone else to make better money 2. No other studio I work with hires hourly so it's impossible for me to fill in around those few hours I work for Studio A. What action should I take? 1. Charge Studio A a half day rate for these small, 2 hour blocks of shooting? 2. Charge them an "out the door fee" added onto their hourly rate. 3. Work out a new, hourly rate with them. 4. Something else?
  15. Dave, I think that calls for a steadicam... and Woah, it just so happens that I'm a steadicam operator! How lucky is that? I do have more flattering pictures of you I posted up on my facebook from our most recent shoot.
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