The SciTech Award Goes to... the Stab-C Classic, Super-G & Stab-C Compact Stabilizing Heads
COW Library : Cinematography : Debra Kaufman : The SciTech Award Goes to... the Stab-C Classic, Super-G & Stab-C Compact Stabilizing Heads
These camera and lens stabilizers, says the Academy, "allow any standard motion picture camera to be fitted into the open architecture of the structure. The system can be quickly balanced and made ready for shooting platforms such as helicopters, boats, camera cars or cranes."
The Stab-C Classic (Stabilizing Cradle) is a 5-axis stabilizing camera system that eliminates adverse motion artifacts from pan, tilt and roll throughout a typical 25-250mm (film lens) zoom range. "By mounting it in a stabilizing cradle, the camera is rock steady while the world goes crazy around it," says Nettmann. "My system allows any camera to be mounted; you don't need special cameras or lenses. The cameraman can remotely point, roll, pan, tilt, zoom, focus - all the controls - and see a steady picture and not get motion sick."
The system is also completely silent and can be used on any type or size of camera crane, camera car, cable support or helicopter to produce stable images. The roll axis is fully controllable and maneuverable, with adjustable side arms that can handle many size payloads. The Stab-C Classic is extraordinarily robust, having been used in weather from 30o to 120o Fahrenheit, drenched with water and frozen with snow and ice.
The Stab-C Compact (Stabilizing Cradle) is a smaller form factor of the Stab-C Classic and shares its many features, including the ability to point straight down. It is controllable via NSI's Advanced Data Link, which can allow the head and control desk to be miles apart. The Advanced Data Link integrates with any microwave, laser, RF, IR or other communication relay on the market.
The Super-G is a 5-axis aerial camera stabilization system, rated at 120-knot flight speed, and capable of stabilizing any camera or payload with a stable image at the end of a 250mm film lens. Other features include a stabilized steerable roll axis and optional wireless control
The Stab-C Classic, Stab-C Compact and Super-G systems have been used on a long list of feature films, most recently and notably on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, where stabilizing helicopter-mounted cameras filmed Tom Cruise rappelling around the outside of the Burj Khalifa Hotel, the tallest building in the world. According to Nettmann, the company does approximately 12 feature films a year.
The systems have also been used for competitions at numerous Olympics Games. "In 2004, in Turkey, we had the systems on a track alongside the swimming pool for the swimming events and along the track for track and field events," says Nettmann. "At the latest one, in Beijing, we had two stabilized cameras, one slo-mo and the other HD. We could keep up with the runners, drop back or move ahead."
Nettmann Systems International, which has 20 worldwide rental outlets, is currently building seven systems for the London Games, for cycling, track & field and swimming. Recently, the systems have even gone 3D. "Sports is starting to use 3D," he says. "Three times, we've filmed the fastest runner, Usain Bolt, with our Stab-C Compacts on the track and 3D cameras."
This is Bob Nettmann's fourth SciTech Award. He founded Nettmann Systems International in 1972, and and immediately turned his attention to building helicopter door-mounted camera stabilizers, similar to others on the market. These systems use passive stabilization because the mounts feature a high level of inherent inertia. He went on to develop the Astrovision and Vectorvision systems for shooting aircraft in the air. Astrovision and Vectorvision, which are still the only systems for doing high-speed air-to-air cinematography, garnered Nettmann his first Academy SciTech Award in 1977.
"Those systems put my little company in the limelight," says Nettmann, who started off his career in the U.K. at the Marconi Wireless Telegraph company. "Before that people were trying to shoot airline commercials from a B-25, with camera positions in the tail and nose of the plane. But the B-25 would struggle to get up to altitude and keep up with the airliners. My system was for the Learjet, which can outpace a commercial airline.
Since then, Nettmann won a second SciTech award for his remotely controlled optical relay system, the Pitching Lens, which aided cinematographers in capturing miniatures. The Pitching Lens was used on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Black Hole. His third award was for the Cam-Remote and the scaled-down Mini-Mote, robotic cameras used at the end of camera cranes that are the forerunners of today's greatly expanded stable of remotely controlled cameras. "The basic idea was to displace the cameraman to a safe environment away from the camera and still have full control of the camera's positioning," says Nettmann. The technology has been productized by Matthews Studio Electronics, as well as by NSI with its own gyro-stabilized heads and helicopter gimbals.
"I love doing this," says Nettmann, who notes that his son Karl is being primed to eventually take over the 40-year old company. "I never thought about return on investment. I've always just thought I'd like to design and build that idea."
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