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Experimenting with the Helix
[HIGHLY RECOMMEND WATCHING IN FULL SCREEN]
Be sure to check out the Helix from Letus - a revolutionary new product that opens up new creative possibilities to lower budget level productions. (Yes, the pun is intended. :) ) The Helix is being launched at NAB 2012 - you can check it out for yourself at their booth C12449. If you are at NAB this year, be sure to stop by and say hi, as I'll be around hanging out with the Letus team. More about my experience below ....I was fortunate enough to be able to test out the Helix on a music video I shot for Enric Sifa. I literally got the first unit as it arrived form the production line. Being able to take the Helix to remote locations over a three day music video shoot was a great way to put it to the test. As with any "alpha" products / designs I did discover some issues with this first unit - like difficulty in being able to balance the whole rig once it is fully built. However, not only is the team at Letus receptive to feedback, but they are quick to respond. A week after the shoot they had already implemented a dovetail system into the bottom of the Helix, now it can quickly and easily be balanced saving a lot of time and effort. With the alpha unit I was using I had put an Element Technica bridge plate and dove tail on the bottom of the Helix. While this worked ok, it increased the height of the rig, and consequently the center of gravity, this in turn increases the load that the tripod head experiences. (Which can be an issue for smaller tripod heads.) The other reason I'm a big fan of Letus' integration of the dovetail into the bottom of the Helix is due to cost - using the ET solution I had devised meant an $1,000 increase in accessories. And now this costly expense can be avoided all together. So kudos to Letus for quickly solving an issue and doing it in a manner that also decreases the cost to the end user. :)
As you can see in the video posted above, the Helix spins the camera around its optical axis which opens up all kinds of new possibilities for productions that are on limited budgets. I can see using the Helix manually to recreate the rocking sensation one would get when on a boat. Or I can see framing up a subject on the ground so that it looks like they are in a normal orientation and then spinning the camera to reveal that they are actually laying on the ground. I can also see using the Helix to lock the camera in an vertical position to take advantage of the full hight of the camera sensor for green screen work. And there there are opportunities for motion photography and time lapse ... the ideas and possibilities are really only limited by the imagination of the user - no longer is it a limitation of budget and resources! It really is an exciting time to be a cinematographer and a filmmaker.
I'd also like to thank Sean Brown for coming along during the production of the music video and shooting the behind the scenes material. I'll be releasing more videos talking about the lighting setups in the weeks to come.