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Brenton Lee

Wireless Focus Controls

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Hiya - long story short, I've been working with conventional follow focus units for a little while, mostly using the whip and crank and I'm thinking about investing in a wireless control unit.

 

I learnt to pull focus on an instructors Preston FIZ3 so obviously that set a pretty high bench mark.

 

I've been looking at units for a while now ... the Redrock Micro, DJI, some second hand Bartechs etc but they seem cheap and plastic or a little bit old and battered.

 

One affordable but seemingly higher-end option I've come across is this - the RT Motion 3.1.

 

http://www.rtmotion.com/lens-control-system

 

I can't find too much feedback about them online. Has anyone heard much about them?

Is there any other good options worth checking out?

Basically I want to buy a good, reliable and well engineered unit that won't outdate too quickly. I want to move to wireless to try and connect with the stabiliser / drone operators (obviously can't really do that twisting a whip).

 

I think the RT will suit my purposes. Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

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I've tried them all and the only one I will use, as a professional, is the Preston. There is nothing else that comes close.

 

G

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Oh, I whole heartedly agree.

 

But for arguments sake ..... what unit is the runner up?

 

the top 3 wireless focus units in use in north america have to be

1. preston ($30k ish...)

2. bartech ($10k ish...)

3. arri wcu-4 (and gaining ground...soon will probably overtake bartech. never really priced it out for myself)

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Since you've worked with the HU3 I'd recomend not going with the older Analog Bartech if you go the Bartech route. Go with the Digital Bartech, its a solid option when you can't get a preston and the Digital Receiver is tiny and quite helpful for Movi/Ronins.

 

For a single channel set up you can get everything you need for like $6k roughly. About $3k for the Hand Unit/Receiver and another $3k for a good motor and all the cables & marking discs. If you want a cheaper option to start with, you can get away with the Redrock Motor for like $700, so you can get up and running for like $4k or under.

 

I'd recomend getting your motor cables from Preston though, they seem to be the most reliable and sturdiest from what I've seen. Find someone to make all your power cables too, you'll save some money and the cables that come from Bartech aren't very good.

 

There's a ton of option out there, maybe some cheaper, but going with something with name recognition like Preston or Bartech will help you get the most money back on rentals from my experience.

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My favorite wireless follow focus is Arri's WCU-4, but to own one is extremely hard to afford. if you want to go with a reasonable priced wireless follow focus i'd go with HEDEN CARAT, it's an excellent single FF system. Also, Preston & RT motion are great i used them a couple of times.

Note: NEVER THINK OF REDROCK. Trust me, i suffered.

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It'd be useful to know what's so wrong with the Redrock!

 

In general it's easy to like the view that people should buy the best available equipment. However, while I'm not campaigning for any particular brand here, it's important to recognise that not every venue demands, or can afford, the high-end options that are being discussed here. I don't doubt that the issues of brand acceptability and rental income which we've heard about here apply in some circumstances, but that sort of situation generally only arises on the biggest feature films and television shows.

 

It's important to recognise that only a tiny proportion of the film and TV work that's done anywhere in the world is done at that level. Regardless of the prominence or desirability of work on the next Transformers, only a very small minority of people who make a living at this stuff do so in that sort of environment.

 

So, if the choice on a documentary, corporate video, short film or web series is Bartech or not, or even Redrock or not, there's little real choice to make. It may be less reliable, more difficult to use, or less precise - and that might have to be fine. Very, very, very few of us work on no-compromises shows.

 

P

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Ive pretty much only used redrock. Here were the problems I had from the two systems I used:

 

Set one:

It would never return to a mark, had to pull past the point and go back to it to hit it. Repair and updates never changed it.

Motors occasionaly had random issues.

Had random problems updating the firmware to 3.0 and 4.0 that I couldn't seem to diagnose. Still not sure what I did wrong even after contacting customer support which was annoying. I did follow the steps exactly as described in the manual.

 

Set two:

Auto calibrate would not work at all.

 

 

Overall it was okay considering the price but wasn't the most precise or consistent tool. It would be hard to go into a larger show and be confident in using a tool like that.

Smaller stuff it is obviously is fine for.

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I think in this instance it's important to go with the proper high-er end tools if you're going wireless. This isn't like the difference between say a LiteMat and a 1x1 Wescott LED, where one might be a little greener, or a Rokinon or a Cooke. Rather, in this instance, you're dealing with things either being in focus or not. It's a zero sum pretty much. So save up for the right kit. You can't risk being the reason a take is blown because the xyz controller didn't work.

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Thanks for your feedback everyone!

I'm honestly thinking it's either between a 2-channel digital bartech or a RT motion 3.1.

 

I can't imagine that in the next 3 -4 years I'll ever be working on a big feature or anything, so as long as the bar tech has good repeatability and reliability then I think i'll be fine.

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It would never return to a mark, had to pull past the point and go back to it to hit it. Repair and updates never changed it.

 

I'd like to hear more details about this, because that sounds like mechanical slop issues, which could just as easily be the lens itself.

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I'd like to hear more details about this, because that sounds like mechanical slop issues, which could just as easily be the lens itself.

 

 

That was originally what I thought as we were using Rokinon lenses with them but then the same thing happened on several Red zooms and well as a set of CP2's.

Admittedly I am no expert on optics and I did not do any in depth testing to diagnose the problem.

 

The second system I used (this one was rented, first system was from the production company I worked for) seem to hit marks just fine.

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the top 3 wireless focus units in use in north america have to be

1. preston ($30k ish...)

2. bartech ($10k ish...)

3. arri wcu-4 (and gaining ground...soon will probably overtake bartech. never really priced it out for myself)

 

Im not sure I agree with this I think bartech is the worst and only one motor the DJI and the RT motion are light years ahead of bartech.

Right now hands down the best wireless focus unit is the WCU-4 by a long shot . The WCU-4 has really over take preston. For one you don't need an MDR box with new alexas motors plug right into the body and you can daisy chain them. For cameras you can't plug the motors directly in to the body they have a new MDR box that is super small light weight. Also for the and control its all digital you can map so many lenses into it. On top of that you can control the whole camera not just start and stop, you can literally control all functions of the camera through the hand control on alexas. The motors are also so strong and small. Preston is good or was good but everything about it is bulky and old. Especially the motors.

 

By the way theres is nothing wrong with the REDrock its just in a different league, I think its better then a bar tech though.

 

IT all depends on how much money you want to spend , the WCU-4 with 3 motors is about $20k

 

By the way I am selling a red rock wireless focus if needed .

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Having worked on two Alexa features and a couple of commercials with the WCU-4, I have to say that it is the wireless follow focus that I like the most.

 

Not only because I don't have the extra weight on the camera (which after 12 hours of long hand-held takes starts to be an issue) but also because it makes the Alexa more balanced and less bulkier than with the MDR.

 

If I were a focus puller I would buy the WCU-4 straight away.

 

Have a good day.

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I've pretty much tried them all.

 

I think the best is the WCU4, has great integration with arri cameras.

 

Preston is great but a bit bulky on the camera side. Love the single channel controller.

 

Scorpio also nice but bulky.

 

Bartech don't like it. It is funcional and sturdy but that's all it is.

 

Same with Heden Carat, but a bit less sturdy.

 

RTmotion, I own one. Love it. It's light on camera side, sturdy, reliable, a week battery life, enough functions to adapt it to your style and feels great using it. I just miss being able to power the receiver and start/stop it on the same RS Alexa cable instead of two separate ones. Support is great too.

 

DJI is great for the price, but unreliable.

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Crazy amount of good feedback here. Thanks guys.

 

Really looking into the WCU more, considering hiring one out and spending a day on a personal project with it as it sounds intriguing.

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It is the best one under my point of view, end of the story.

 

Almost everybody in Ireland who doesn't own a Preston is working with the WCU-4

 

In Spain people are starting to buy them because they can control absolutely everything when they are linked to the Alexa, let alone the fact that there is no brain on the camera when you have an Alexa with the integrated brain.

 

Less hassle, everything works much better.

 

The handset is lighter than the Preston and that makes a difference at the end of the day :D

 

On one of the features we had a problem with the marks on the lenses not hitting the same marks on the WCU-4, in the last one and the other things I have shot we didn't have any problems at all.

 

Have a good day!

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It's very easy to talk about buying the very best gear when you're being paid appropriately. Most people won't be and that's where the rest of it comes in.

 

P

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That's the reason why focus pullers don't buy their own kits until they have saved the money for them and can afford the best one that they can afford at that time :).

 

Until then, follow focus kits are hired with the camera and focus pullers do what they can with what they have :)

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It's very easy to talk about buying the very best gear when you're being paid appropriately. Most people won't be and that's where the rest of it comes in.

 

P

 

well said.

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I have a Cmotion Cooporate. Never had a problem within the last 4 years that i own it.

Rock solid, robust, and it simply works.

Just upgraded to the Cvolution and I'll give a feedback soon.

 

Worked a few times with Arri WCU-4.

Overall it works fine and a plus feature is the possibility to control some Alexa's functions. But sometimes it loses communication with camera and also had some issues with losing motors recognition.

It doesn't have hardstops like my Cmotion and that bugs me a lot ;) and the Cmotion range is way much better that WCU-4

Rtmotion, only tried a couple of times but it seams also nice.

 

About camera control, I wonder why Cmotion, Preston or other brands don't have the possibility to have camera functions control like WCU-4? Does Arri keeps that locked just for them...? Probably...

Edited by Alexandre Valentim

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I've spoken to sales reps from both cMotion and Arri. Basically Arri likes having integration with other brands (the new cmotion can control motors through the internal LCS of arri cameras) but actual settings are currently locked to arri brand products. Something something reliability something assurances blah blah blah.

 

As far as I know, if arri let cmotion or preston, they would have those controls in their hand-units.

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is the best oneIt under my point of view, end of the story.

 

Almost everybody in Ireland who doesn't own a Preston is working with the WCU-4

 

In Spain people are starting to buy them because they can control absolutely everything when they are linked to the Alexa, let alone the fact that there is no brain on the camera when you have an Alexa with the integrated brain.

 

Less hassle, everything works much better.

 

 

 

Have a good day!

 

 

My only question would be what happens when you are not working with an Alexa? That's why I like the Preston. It works with all systems.

 

G

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