LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

The SciTech Award Goes To...The Pictorvision Eclipse

COW Library : Cinematography : Debra Kaufman : The SciTech Award Goes To...The Pictorvision Eclipse
CreativeCOW presents The SciTech Award Goes To...The Pictorvision Eclipse -- Cinematography Feature


CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


On February 11, at the 84th Annual Academy Awards® for Technical Achievements, Michael Lewis, Greg Marsden, Raigo Alas and Michael Vellekoop will receive a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for the concept, design and implementation of the Pictorvision Eclipse, an electronically stabilized aerial camera platform.

"Pictorvision is a leader in the aerial cinematography equipment industry," says Pictorvision President Tom Hallman. "Recent films that have used the Eclipse for their aerial cinematography include Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I, Fast Five, The Hangover Part II, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Thor, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the upcoming Man on a Ledge."

Capturing footage from on high is fraught with difficulties, and the Pictorvision team that designed the Eclipse has been involved in aerial stabilization for cameras for 28 years. The Eclipse has been recognized by the Academy for its advanced steering, stability and pointing capabilities.


Pictorvision Eclipse
Pictorvision Long Line. Click on image to zoom.


Principal Engineer Mike Lewis expands on the ways that the Eclipse excels. "We adapted it to the air and put a fair bit of work into making it as user friendly as possible and as close as possible to the interfaces of past technologies," he says. "Now, with the Eclipse, the user community is getting used to the ability to move the aircraft aggressively and roll the camera. The Eclipse has all three axes of steering all the time."


Michael Vellekoop and Michael Lewis of Pictorvision with the Eclipse system
Michael Lewis and Michael Vellekoop of Pictorvision with the Eclipse system


"The key point is how quickly the Eclipse has grown to be used in a majority of feature film aerial work," adds Hallman. "The Eclipse is not just an upgrade of older technology but a brand new system based on a lot of military grade technology. We went through a list of suggestions that operators had and addressed each one. It's the whole system that makes it whiz bang."

The Eclipse is a fourth generation of development in aerial camera stabilization platforms, says Lewis, who briefly describes the history of the technology and the technology team involved. "Westinghouse Canada developed the technology in the 1960s," he says. "Patents were sold to the chief engineer (Knox Leavitt) who started the company Istec Ltd. and produced the "Wescam" system. This company underwent a management buy-out with Mark Chamberlain as the president and was renamed Wescam Inc. (Pictorvision spun off from Wescam in 2004.) While Raigo was involved in the original technology development at Westinghouse, Mike Vellekoop and I came along during the Istec days in the mid 1980s. Greg arrived in the mid 1990s for the start of the Gen-IV technology development."

He describes how the original stabilized camera platforms were based on mass-type gyros. "Mass gyros are based on the principle that the spin axis of a spinning mass will remain in a fixed direction in space unless acted upon by an external influence," he explains. "In those first generation stabilized camera platforms, it was a large spinning brass wheels to make the payload appear more massive than it is, which stabilized it. In those first generation systems, it's primarily the passive inertia of the system that tries to keep it still, with a control system built around that."


Pictorvision Eclipse 3D rig
Pictorvision Eclipse 3D rig. Click on image to zoom.


Through the 1980s, this first-generation platform was fine-tuned, getting better and better. By the end of the 1980s, second and then third generation systems began making their way into the market. "In the second generation, there are no massive spinning wheels," says Lewis. "Mechanical gyros sense the movements of the camera and applies torque to cancel out those unwanted motions." What Lewis calls the third generation was a tweak on the second "We discovered we could get higher performance if we used a different sort of motor," he says. "We were able to get very good control of the forces we applied on the payload."


The Eclipse. Taken November 5th, 2008 using a Nikon D40
The third generation of camera stabilization platforms was more complicated in that they stacked a limited travel, high performance inner gimbal on top of a lower performance, large travel outer gimbal with passive isolation in-between. The result had no steering limitations. In 1995, Wescam started developing a fourth generation system. "It was very similar to the third generation," says Lewis. "But instead of torquing each actuator through a set of bearing constraints, it torqued across the bearings constraints. This bypassed the constraint structure, the stiffness of which limited the performance."

Along the way, the system evolved from mechanical to fiber optic gyros, which made a big difference in performance. "Some mechanical systems have troubles," says Lewis. "If you disturb the platform -- say, by an aggressive move -- it becomes unstable. Then you have to wait five minutes until it leveled out in order to resume steering. With fiber optics gyros, the stability of the platform is tracked in software, so you can't lose track of it."

This has freed pilots to accomplish much more. "You could topple the passive gyros if you turned too quickly, but light doesn't tip over," says Hallman. "The pilots love it because they don't have to baby the helicopter. It frees them up to fly how they choose to."

Eclipse was released in the market in 2008, based on a system that had been developed for the ground-based stable head market in the entertainment industry in 2000. "The technology itself has been around for awhile," says Lewis. The Pictorvision Eclipse also incorporates the company's proprietary patented XR Motion Management technology that enables the most advanced steering, stability and pointing/tracking capabilities.

Tom Hallman
Pictorvision President Tom Hallman
"The newness in the Eclipse is taking that generation of stability and adapting it to an airborne system very similar in look and feel to former systems." Lewis explains that aerial cinematographers were accustomed to a configuration in which the right side of the system is the stabilization, with a tilt platform on the left where the camera is mounted. "This technology doesn't want to be configured that way," he says. "But we did a lot of work so it could be configured the way they were used to. The difficulty was in trying to come up with a configuration that the community could easily adapt to."

The fact that Pictorvision succeeded in doing so is proven by the long list of films the system is used on, and validated by the Academy's bestowal of a SciTech Award.

"We continue to work closely with top directors, DPs and leaders in the VFX community to make performance improvements and add features and capabilities to our five existing Eclipse systems," says Hallman. "It's the constant improvements we make -- such as adding new cameras and lenses and new accessories such as the rain spinner -- that keeps customers calling us first. And, of course, we're always looking at ways to apply the core XR Motion Management to other systems and to other industries beyond filmmaking."

Just as digital has forever changed camera technology, its impact is being felt in many different ways in Hollywood. The Pictorvision Eclipse is a great example of how -- by continuing to evolve with technology and customer input -- a platform can not only retain relevance but become an industry standard.







The Scientific and Engineering Award(R) (Academy Plaque) goes to Michael Lewis, Greg Marsden, Raigo Alas and Michael Vellekoop for the concept, design and implementation of the Pictorvision Eclipse, an electronically stabilized aerial camera platform.

This story on Pictorvision is one of a series on the winners of the Scientific and Engineering Awards.

The Scientific and Engineering Award® (Academy Plaque) goes to Michael Lewis, Greg Marsden, Raigo Alas and Michael Vellekoop for the concept, design and implementation of the Pictorvision Eclipse, an electronically stabilized aerial camera platform.



ACADEMY AWARDS® is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.



Related Articles / Tutorials:
Cinematography
All Eyes on IBC 2016 for Cameras and Lenses Galore

All Eyes on IBC 2016 for Cameras and Lenses Galore

What’s that you say? An IBC that’s not only relevant, but downright exhilarating? This used to not be news, of course. However, in recent years, IBC has too often become simply an opportunity for European audiences to see products already announced at NAB. In 2016, however, the focus swings sharply to Amsterdam, especially when it comes to cameras and lenses. IBC 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic trade shows for cinematographers, broadcasters, and videographers in years. Join Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a speedy overview of some of the highlights.

Feature
Tim Wilson
Cinematography
Depth of Field: Gregg Toland, Citizen Kane and Beyond

Depth of Field: Gregg Toland, Citizen Kane and Beyond

Whenever somebody equates "shallow depth of field" and "cinematic look," it's important to remember that the opposite is also sometimes true. Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson celebrates the work of Gregg Toland, ASC, born this week in 1904 -- the first master of extreme depth of field in movies like Citizen Kane and The Grapes of Wrath that forever changed what is possible for humans to do with cameras. This reprise of a classic article from the Creative COW Archives also offers a look at what Toland's approach to cinematic composition can mean for YOUR shooting.

Editorial, Feature
Tim Wilson
Cinematography
New Trends and Technology at Cine Gear Expo 2016

New Trends and Technology at Cine Gear Expo 2016

Cine Gear Expo 2016 exhibits open Friday June 3 and 4, at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California with major screenings, filmmaker panel discussions, groundbreaking techniques and new equipment premiers that are sure to influence the filmmaking industry. Catering to the world’s top motion picture, video and new media visual artists, Paramount’s prestigious back lot is the ideal setting for professionals to meet with colleagues and nearly 300 top equipment vendors to see live demos and get their hands on the latest gear. Take a look at how this year's hottest trends are shaping up.

Feature
Susan Lewis
Cinematography
School, Teachers, Italian Neorealism & a Few Soviet Films

School, Teachers, Italian Neorealism & a Few Soviet Films

In this exclusive interview, generously granted to Creative COW by the Gamma and Density Journal, during his lifetime, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, sat down with Yuri Neyman, ASC to talk about his life as a cinematographer. We remember the genius.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Yuri Neyman
Cinematography
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, 1930 - 2016 - Remembering the Genius

Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, 1930 - 2016 - Remembering the Genius

Winner of an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the long list of official accolades for Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC doesn't begin to illustrate the impact his work has had on generations of artists around the world. Friend, colleague, and Global Cinematography Institute co-founder Yuri Neyman, ASC shares some of his memories with us.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Yuri Neyman, ASC
Cinematography
Stepping into the Surgeon's Eyes

Stepping into the Surgeon's Eyes

Take advantage of years worth of Greg Ondera's surgical cinematography experience for cleaner, tighter shots and a better outcome.

Feature
Greg Ondera
Cinematography
Panasonic Makes 4K Handheld with AG-DVX200 Camcorder

Panasonic Makes 4K Handheld with AG-DVX200 Camcorder

Panasonic has announced a new large sensor 4K handheld camcorder with the same filmic quality of the VariCam, which also saw updates at this year's NAB Show.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Cinematography
Cinematographer-in-Residence: Mandy Walker ASC at UCLA

Cinematographer-in-Residence: Mandy Walker ASC at UCLA

Cinematographer Mandy Walker joins UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television as a Kodak Cinematographer in Residence, teaching the next generation of film students what it means to be a successful director of photography.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Cinematography
Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema

Adventures in 6K with Jackson, Wyoming's Brain Farm Cinema

Staffed with outdoor sport enthusiasts and and fortified with the latest in 6K cameras and post production technology, Wyoming-based Brain Farm Cinema is taking wild leaps into the next level of production capabilities and working through challenges in media and infrastructure along the way.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Cinematography
The NASA IMAX Project with Cinematographer James Neihouse

The NASA IMAX Project with Cinematographer James Neihouse

James Neihouse, the large format cinematographer renowned for his work on projects from shuttle launches to volcanic eruptions, and newly-minted Academy member, finds himself working around the globe, literally, shooting the IMAX 3D film, Earth 2.0 (working title) co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and NASA. In this feature, Neihouse reflects on experiences working with astronauts, race cars, and rocket launches, and how important choosing the best equipment is in extreme production.

Feature, People / Interview
Creative COW
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]