Battle of the Robot Dollies

No, I’m not talking about killer Barbies here … I mean camera sliders that work by themselves.

At NAB, Redrock Micro announced a product they called “One Man Crew” (kinda sexist, don’t you think? But I guess they realized that “crew of one” was already being used).

Here’s the nice demo that the Redrock Micro folks put together to spotlight “the first and only parabolic motion system available.” In plain English, this thing will dolly past a stationary object, keeping it properly framed and in focus. This is useful, because trying to do the same thing while pushing a normal dolly or slider and panning a camera usually results in uneven, herky-jerky motion (trust me, I’ve tried!).

The “One Man Crew” sells at the Redrock Micro store for a cool $1,500. Not bad, considering how much technical wizardry is under the hood.

Then, today, the gentlefolk at Kessler announced their Parallax system. According to Kessler, this accessory adds “automatic panning and fixed-point shooting capabilities to the Kessler line of sliders” … And it’ll do it for $399.

Here’s the product demo video.

As you can see, the Parallax does more or less the same thing as the One Man Crew, but it does it with a much simpler, purely mechanical device that doesn’t seem to have any electronics at all. Your opinion of whether that’s good or bad may be influenced by the fact that the announced pricetag of $399 does not include the required Kessler Pocket Dolly or CineSlider, which start at around $700 and go up to about $1,200.

The key advantage of the One Man Crew seems to be its use of a parabolic path that keeps the camera a constant distance from the subject, allowing focus to remain solid throughout the move. However, this requires measurement to set up, and Kessler prominently states, that the Parallax “does not require specific measurement calibration and does not have a fixed subject distance requirement.”

So, did Kessler just “kick Redrock in the teeth,” as one of my friends put it, or are the products different enough to share the marketplace?

If you don’t already own a Kessler slider, the pricepoints for both systems are fairly similar, but the idea of having to take measurements and being able to position the unit at only one distance from a subject seems like a bit of a drawback for the One Man Crew. It will be interesting to see what happens once these units hit the streets.

5 Replies to “Battle of the Robot Dollies”

    1. Great point! Edelkrone (formerly “HandySLR”) is based in Turkey, and they don’t have as much exposure in the USA as the Kessler or Redrock, but they are slowly building market share. If the Target Module winds up with a price advantage, it could really be a spoiler for both of these other products.

      Here’s a sneak peek at the Target Module from NAB. Edelkrone hasn’t announced a price or release date for this product yet.

  1. Well I have products from all 3 of these companies. And I have needed repair and support issues resolved from all 3 of these companies. I can state that only the 2 in the USA have a mechanism for eventually helping out a customer with parts and service, if they are based in the USA.

  2. I’m weary of these motorized solutions from companies such as Kessler and Redrock. As an early adopter of Kessler’s CineDrive system, I can only say what a headache the thing was. Riddled with technical issues and quite unusable. We shipped the darn thing back after about a month+ of troubleshooting with their tech department to no end. They didn’t even cover shipping costs for their faulty product! Now I’m hearing murmurs of similar issues people are having with One Man Crew from Redrock… Forget it!

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