Many of the best inventions have come from smart people with smart ideas. The eMotimo is no different and Brian Burling, it’s founder, is a pretty smart dude.
The eMotimo is a rather simple unit. Two motors, one for panning and one for tilt, each moving a small platform capable of mounting pretty much any camera. With the supplied remote, the two motors are easily engaged and the unit is a completely capable pan/tilt head capable of 360° of pan and tilt only limited by the weight and positioning of your camera.
If that is all that the unit could do, this would already be a very economically priced solution. However, that does not even begin to touch the capabilities of this unit. The unit allows for some incredible features.
Let’s talk about a few of the things that make the eMotimo so insanely cool.
One. Shutter control. Through a small jack connected to your camera the unit will trigger your shutter at fixed intervals. Based on just a couple of factors, the eMotimo tells you exactly how long the sequence will take, the number of exposures and allow the unit to stop and fire the shutter before resuming to the next location. All of the guesswork in time lapse is gone. Now, just hit a few buttons and everything is taken care of for you (other than the creativity). In other words, if I need 320 shots (in order to achieve the desired length of my time lapse) and I wish to move from point A to point B, the unit will determine the amount to move, and then just do it all for you.
Two. Movement. Tell the unit your starting point and your ending point and the unit will move there. The new firmware allows three point moves. Damn that’s awesome.
Think about it… this is a computer-controlled repeatable motion head for under thousand dollars. While it is not silent, it now takes the guesswork out of video. And yet this is just the tip of the expert. Continuing…
Three. Add a Motor. Through the auxiliary port you may add a third motor which is completely integrated into the settings of the unit. The eMotimo will control the starting and ending point of any additional motor as well (such as a motor on a slider). This will need to be a stepper motor rather than a servo motor, but these are cheap and the integration is automatic. Connect this to a dolly and you now have added a third axis of motion for your time lapses, and have a complete push/pull dolly for video and other motion work.
Fourth. DragonFrame. If that is not enough, all of this can be controlled via the DragonFrame software for stop motion or other creative purposes. Now you have a complete animation system.
Creativity is the Limit
The bottom line is that my own capabilities will never equal the potential that this unit offers. Spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for units with largely the same feature set could not be justified given not only the capabilities of this unit. Pro capabilities are endless: 360° pans inside of automobiles, repeatable moves for special-effects, stop motion, time lapse, motion graphics, film/video push-pulls and so much more now all at your fingertips. Pretty cool.
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For dolly moves and time lapse moves you’ll need a dolly. My choice was the Dynamic Perception Stage One Dolly, wonderfully made, capable of breaking down easily and highly affordable. Really what you need are the rails and the platform, and Dynamic Perception sells a collection of stepper motors which are perfect for both the DP and the eMotimo. eMotimo is also selling their own dolly at this point and is worth checking out.
If you do decide to pick up the Dynamic Perception, and you won’t go wrong if you do, my one regret is having purchased the DP controller for two reasons: the first is that it is very complicated to use in the second because the eMotimo interface is so completely simple and fast (and integrated), I allow the eMotimo to drive all three motors plus my camera; and it does so with panache.
Secondly, I strongly recommend Anker external batteries (you really really need these)! They’re fast charge, extremely economical and very long-lasting. They’re not only capable of driving the eMotimo/Camera and motors (with dolly tracking), but also charging your cell phone, tablet and possibly even your laptop computer.
My final tip is that I do tend to cover everything in gaffers’ tape (often white so I can see it) and industrial Velcro so that I have the ability to connect things anywhere I choose. I just stick my batteries, bubble level, CamRanger, etc. wherever I choose and I’m ready to work.
Lastly, you will need a tripod head for the dolly platform. I use a small Really Right Stuff head so that anything I have can connect to it (all my gear has Really Right Stuff plates attached).
The unit works as advertised. It is a little bit bulky but far from obtrusive. It is the product of technological advances that have made home built inventions completely capable of being conceived and borne by smart folks solving real problems.
Of course there may be a feature or two that are not included in something like this. The feature I could have used was a simple external trigger to commence a movement sequence. This would allow something like timecode or some other audio or visual trigger to ensure that my repeatable moves are perfectly sync with one another. With that said, my manual workarounds have achieved satisfactory level of success and lacking this feature would never cause somebody like me to regret not having spent and acquired units five, 10, 20 Times plus the cost of this particular unit.
One silly reminder is to remember to bring extra batteries for the remote (not the unit, the remote). While the unit is completely capable of running in any 12V, and I utilize multiple batteries as well as an adapter that I crafted to drive the unit, I have forgotten batteries for the remote on one occasion and in this off-the-path location, this ended up costing me the entire shoot.
So that’s it… Love the unit. If you’re looking for these capabilities, I believe that this is one of the best, most affordable and capable solutions created today.