Motorized camera robots seem to be one of the most luxurious pieces of gear one could hope to operate on set these days. In essence, such a tool can add a ton of production value to your shots by performing pre-programmed camera movements with a level of precision unattainable with a 100% human-based camera setup. These machines have already been used in a wide range of high-end productions as I’m sure the number will continue to grow exponentially down the road.
Recently, acclaimed tech-guru Marques Brownlee of MKBHD had a chance to visit Motorized Precision’s headquarters in Portland and get some firsthand impressions of the KIRA Robotic Camera Arm in action.
It turns out that the nine-foot, fully metal robotic camera arm is a highly demanded motorized camera system in the film and television industry lately, especially when it comes to big-budget commercials, music videos, and full-feature films with complex visual effects that require precise camera movement.
In a nutshell, KIRA has several fully articulating axes (roll, pan, tilt, yaw) and can travel at up to 9 feet per second in any direction, all with a generous maximum payload of 40 pounds – perfect for use with heavier-than-usual camera bodies and/or lenses. The arm also contains focus, zoom, and iris gears for remote adjustments.
All in all, the device has two methods of operation. Firstly, it can be manipulated using a standard XBOX controller. Not only was the latter chosen due to its flexibility via Microsoft’s own software customization features, but it also has enough buttons and controls to manipulate all of the KIRA’s axes.
Secondly, and most preferably, the system can be tuned up through a desktop-based proprietary platform called MP Studio, developed by Motorized Precision themselves. In the software, you’re able to alter the position of the robotic arm and create keyframes to animate the camera moves as if you’re modifying a 3D Object inside of After Effects. Of course, since you’re dealing with 3D space in real life, a lot of planning, preparation, and testing is required before hitting the record button.
On top of that, using a RED camera with the KIRA Camera Robot comes with some particular advantages. MP Software provides a live preview of the captured video feed, in addition to having access to the camera’s settings right within the software. This allows users to change parameters such as resolution, frame rate, ISO, white balance and more. Of course, you can also use the software with the RED MONSTRO 8K VV to remotely trigger its recording function.
Needless to say, the types of shots that can be achieved with the KIRA are pretty impressive. With the craftsmanship behind the camera robotic arm’s hardware, coupled with the intuitive interface of the MP Studio software, creative professionals can pull off shots that would be impossible to perform otherwise. This includes movements that orbit a product in close proximity to complex move combinations that manipulate the roll, tilt, and pan of the camera simultaneously.
In addition, human reaction response time is completely taken out of the equation, as the pre-programming process of the camera moves allows you to precisely dial in the speed of each movement. This functionality enables users to go from a slow push-in to a product to a rapid rotation to the back of an object, all within a single take.
Considering that the company is called Motorized Precision, their KIRA Camera Robot Arm seems to be a real testament to the brand. While most of us could hardly imagine renting, let alone buying a robotic arm for a project, it’s incredible to see what technology is available in the higher-end spectrum of the contemporary filmmaking equipment.