Last week, I compared two recently-announced products: Redrock Micro’s “One Man Crew,” and Kessler Crane’s “Parallax.” Based on the information available at that time (basically, just the sales page & promo videos on the respective companies’ websites), it was a little difficult to tell exactly what the distinguishing characteristics of each product were.
I’m pleased to report that, today, I was able to have a very pleasant and in-depth conversation with Brian Valente, one of the partners at Redrock Micro. I asked him some tough questions about the One Man Crew, and I was a little surprised by what I learned.
First and foremost, it turns out that the One Man Crew was NOT intended to compete for share in the slider market which Kessler dominates. Instead, it was designed to accomplish one specific function: to smoothly, silently and automatically maintain a continuously moving shot of an interview subject (or other “talking head”), keeping the subject perfectly centered in the frame, without losing focus at any time during the motion path, and without taking a long time to set up.
Apparently, one of the trends in contemporary interview filming is to have one stationery camera and one moving camera. To that end, the One Man Crew allows solo shooters to do two things at once. While he or she operates the stationery camera, the One Man Crew glides back and forth on its curved, 36″ travel path, gently slowing down and changing directions at each end of the path, so that 100% of the footage is usable. Incidentally, the speed at which it moves IS adjustable.
I asked Brian about what appears to be the main drawback of the One Man Crew: the fact that it only works if the subject is exactly six feet away from the camera. He said that, while customers were initially skeptical about this limitation, they actually wound up liking the fact that they know exactly where to put the rig. And, Brian added, the One Man Crew even has built-in lasers to help people set the distance with absolute confidence.
Another feature of the One Man Crew is that it is whisper-quiet. Kessler sliders, for all their excellent qualities, are not known for their emphasis on silent operation. A little bit of noise is not an issue for b-roll or product shots, but it could be a serious problem for interviews.
Ultimately, though, Brian emphasized that both he and the Kessler team do not feel that their products are in direct competition with each other. The Kessler Parallax is an accessory that adds another dimension of motion to existing Kessler products. The One Man Crew is not for people who want an all-purpose slider; it is a turnkey solution for people who don’t have the time, personnel or expertise to set up and program a motorized camera, but who want to add that element of motion to their interviews. It also allows them to know exactly where to set the subject, and to know that he or she will stay absolutely in focus (as long as the subject doesn’t squirm around too much, of course!).
It was very interesting for me to hear a personal explanation of the rationale behind this product. I really hadn’t gotten the emphasis on silent operation and continuous smooth movement from the promo video, but now that I know that those are key features, it’s pretty obvious!
I’m not as convinced as Brian is that the One Man Crew and the Parallax won’t be in competition with each other, but after our conversation, I’m inclined to think that the advantage may be more to the Redrock side. Current owners of Kessler products are probably likely to simply add the Parallax to their kit, since it is a $399 purchase, vs. the One Man Crew’s $1,500 pricetag, but for people who do NOT own any Kessler products, the decision is a far less clear-cut one.
To build a Kessler rig that would do what a One Man Crew can do would cost at least $1,500 (and perhaps as much as $3,000, depending on how automated you wanted to make it), and it would not be as quiet, or as quick to set up, as the One Man Crew. On the other hand, the One Man Crew can accomplish the basic functions of a slider (with the added advantage of maintaining focus), with the only limitation being a mandatory six-foot distance from the subject.
Several times during our conversation, Brian mentioned that he was less interested in talking about his products than in hearing what other people thought about them. So, weigh in! Leave a comment, and let me (and Redrock Micro) know what you think.