3D Rigs Get Faster, Smaller, Lighter with HELIOS
COW Library : Stereoscopic 3D : Debra Kaufman : 3D Rigs Get Faster, Smaller, Lighter with HELIOS
Lighter, faster, smaller, more dynamic. That's HELIOS, a wireless, self-contained 3D stereo rig from 3D stereo camera pioneers Paradise FX. "It's a natural progression of all the 3D rigs I've been making since 1996," said Paradise VFX co-founder/CTO Max Penner. "And it's the evolution of camera equipment, period, whether it's 2D or 3D. We always want those features: better picture for less money."
Built from rigid lightweight magnesium and aluminium alloy, HELIOS weighs in at 18 pounds naked, 42 pounds in Steadicam mode, 47 pounds in handheld mode and 53 pounds in full studio mode. "It fits on a fluid head or Steadicam or on your shoulder, very quickly, without alterations," said Penner. "I think that makes it the lightest weight, most dynamic rig out there...at least for this week."
Max Penner and DP Brian Pearson on the set of "My Bloody Valentine 3D". Photo Credit: Michael Roberts
Because HELIOS is untethered, lightweight and self-contained, a Steadicam operator can move as freely as on a 2D shoot. The 3D rig is currently designed for use with RED EPIC cameras, with future support for ARRI Alexa M and Sony F3 cameras. The camera can be rented with a range of matched lens pairs, including ARRI Ultra Primes and Angenieux Compact Zooms.
"We're a systems house similar to Panavision," explained Penner. "We don't sell, we build out systems. HELIOS isn't just a rig but a rig with matched lenses, camera, motors. Everything in it is matched into a system that you can rent."
That's exactly how Paradise VFX offers its other 3D rigs, which include the Atlas System, the company's flagship rig in its PFX TRIDELTA Cameras. The Atlas System fits the RED ONE and EPIC, ARRI ALEXA and Phantom cameras and can fit onto all remote heads, cranes and any other configuration. The TRIDELTA Studio Rig was also used underwater, on Dolphin Tale 3D. The Maxi and the Triton are small rigs built for the Silicon Imaging 2K camera.
When Dolphin Tale 3D was being shot, HELIOS wasn't yet ready--nor was EPIC unveiled. "But there was a prototype," said Penner. "When the EPIC M's came out, we acquired them and started finalizing design around the HELIOS." HELIOS was soon in the field being tested, to make improvements in the production prototype before the final design was manufactured.
PFX TRIDELTA™ Studio Rig in action on DOLPHIN TALE 3D.
Other features of the camera include, using Preston G4 wireless controls, an interaxial range that can be adjusted from 0 to 2-inches and convergence from 10-inches to infinity. The rig measures 18.5-inches (H) x 18.5-inches (L) x 8.5-inches (W) with a mirror box width of 15 inches. The labor footprint, said Penner, "emulates 2D camera positions, resulting in faster set-ups for the director and significantly reducing the financial burden for producers."
HELIOS can also be utilized with Paradise FX's Mercury metadata capture system, which offloads files, timecodes, associated lens and 3D stereo information including interaxial and convergence metadata. Paradise VFX also provides an on-location Digital Lab for viewing dailies, archiving and post adjustment of 3D stereo footage.
Paradise FX began offering HELIOS to select cinematographers over the last two-and-a-half months. "We've gone out and tested it in a lot of different conditions to see if it was working well," he said. The results have been conclusive. "With HELIOS, Paradise FX has developed a system that gives me the ability to easily jump from Steadicam to crane to dolly with one rig," said cinematographer Sam McCurdy, BSC. "Its rigid, stable build has given me more freedom than ever when shooting 3D stereo."
The dlab. PFX tells us that, "The Digital Lab becomes a vital link in your digital footage pipeline when undertaking a modern 3D project."
Paradise FX's new theatre
Producer Charlotte Huggins had the opportunity to test out HELIOS on a recent project. "I was amazed at how easily it moved, wirelessly, and covered the scenes in very dynamic ways," she said. "It worked perfectly, seamlessly. It really was if I were shooting a 2D show with the HELIOS. We got all the shots my DP and team were hoping to get."
For use with Steadicam, operator Chris McGuire said that the HELIOS rig offers great handling "because of its dynamically self-balancing design and its ergonomics." "Everything is easily accessible and positioned properly for the operator," he said. "Weighing just 42 pounds, it's a complete 3D shooting rig that is physically tuneable to the endurance of the operator."
Penner reported that Paradise is assembling a group of six HELIOS rigs for its customers, which will complement its 14 Atlas rigs and four Silicon Imaging-based rigs. A couple of the rigs are already out this week, on a 3D commercial and a second 3D video project. Penner wants to get the word out that the HELIOS rigs are available now.
"We're one of the best kept secrets around," he said. As cinematographers share their experiences using the HELIOS, Paradise VFX's 3D stereo rigs aren't likely to be a secret for much longer.
Title graphic: PFX TRIDELTA™ Studio Rig in action on DOLPHIN TALE 3D.