5D MKII Gadget: ATM Gyro

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Above: These are a series of shots made with the unit pictured below – of a runner jogging down country roads, shot with a Canon 5D MKII and a 24~105mm lens (w/ stabilization turned off on that lens) during the Maine Media Workshops.  See a larger version of this video here.

I’ve just gotten my hands on a very promising gadget that I think is perfect for anyone using the 5D MKII in a situation that requires external stabilization.  The ATM is short for “Advanced Travel Mount” and was designed by Aerial Exposures primarily for aerial and ground based video (i.e. to shoot aerials from a helicopter or plane, or to shoot from a ground-based device such as a vehicle or even a boat.)  But something tells me that creative filmmakers will be able to come up with many, many uses for this unit that no one has thought of yet.

The Aerial Exposures ATM Gyro Mount on the flatbed of a pickup truck as part of class on the 5D MKII at the Maine Media Workshops. I was able to get fantastic results with the 70~200mm pictured above - set to 105mm.

While the unit will be a bit pricey for some – the two KS-8 Gyros cost close to $7,000 alone – it’s something that aerial photographers / the film industry will find extremely enticing when you compare this unit to other units that sell for 20X to 50X more.  The ATM kit sells for $11,495 w/ two KS-8 Gyros, and for $4,495 w/ case if you already own gyros and want to buy it separately.  Basically the unit consists of a mount for the camera that dangles from a bungee cord with two Kenyon Labs Gyros hanging below – each mounted at a 45 degree angle from one another.  The two gyros spin independently – and long story short – the camera in effect almost “floats” regardless of how bumpy the ride.  (Within reason of course.)

The Result:  pretty amazingly stable video from a moving car on a bumpy street.   On the second example below  – you’ll see the trunk gate from the rear of the vehicle we were shooting from violently bounce  as the SUV drives over a pothole in the Wall Street area of New York City – notice how the runner stays perfectly steady.  That’s a pretty amazing result from a sub $12K unit.   I can see this unit being used with vehicles/boats/planes to pull off some pretty high end moves – and I can also see some indy filmmakers finding new ways to use this as a substitute for dolly shots or any shots where you need a rock steady image.

Above: Here is another video – this one shot with a Canon 5D MKII as well, a 24~70mm 2.8 – notice how much the rear gate of the SUV moves in relation to the image when the SUV hits a pothole.  See a larger version of this video here.

And for those that don’t want to buy one – more of these units are becoming available for rent and are extremely affordable compared to other aerial/ car stabilization devices.   Some of you may still be shocked at the $12K price tag – but you should realize that the higher end devices are astronomical in price (Cineflex, Spacecam and others) those are are in the $250,000 to $750,000 (and up and up) range.

One should note that almost all of the competing devices have to be mounted on the helicopter / plane – and that costs quite a bit more and involves filing paperwork with the FAA.    Whenever I’ve traveled abroad – these units needs to be shipped overseas, and you need to ground the helicopter for a few hours before the flight and after to mount and unmount these larger devices for example – it’s an ORDEAL.   With this unit – it fits in a carry-on case!  When you’re ready to shoot,  you secure the ATM on the back of your car / truck / helo / boat other with straps/other safety devices – and you’re pretty much good to go.   No FAA paperwork – no headache.  The unit runs off of the KS-8 batteries or can run off high AMP AC power from your vehicle/aerial platform.

So if you’re looking to produce some Hollywood like moves but don’t have a major budget – this ATM device is relatively incredibly affordable – and it allows you to pull off some pretty amazing stabilization moves that are generally within the grasp of only high-end commercial productions.  I know that I like it so much – that I debated whether or not to share this with everyone – or to keep it as part of my “secret 5D MKII arsenal…”

And one more thing:  I recently spent a great week with 14 students/colleagues at the Maine Media Workshops to show them some of the ins and outs of filming with the Canon 5D MKII.    I’ll mention some of the other gadgets that I introduced them to in future posts – but the ATM ending up playing a pretty key part of the final resulting video.   Here is a link to that video (you’ll in effect see some of the above shots in full 1080p HD) – and keep in mind that many of these students had never worked on a video production before – to many this was the first time that they were asked to work as a team, to quickly develop a screenplay, to direct, light, DP, produce, record audio, edit, grade – not to mention that they had to learn each piece of gear and how to use it correctly!  We really covered a tremendous amount of ground in less than a week.

I’m really quite proud of what they pulled together.   We spend 2 and a half days shooting together in the end- and edited a piece together just in time to make the final show on the last evening of the workshop.  I  highly recommend the Maine Media Workshops to anybody interested in sharpening their skills in either still photography or film.

P.S. If anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested in trying the ATM model out – I’d be happy to rent it out.  Heck I might even ship one out if someone from outside of the LA area is interested.  Let me know.