How Motion Control delivers limitless creative opportunities.

Motion control, or MoCo, gives you the flexibility to move the camera in three-dimensional space with complete precision and repeatability. Today, MoCo is the backbone for almost every VFX scene that’s shot, and it doesn’t add complexity. On the contrary, even the easiest shots can be streamlined with MoCo.

Read on to learn why MoCo is such an invaluable tool for unleashing creativity and enhancing productivity:

Eliminating Camera Operator Struggle

There are two reasons that seemingly simple shots are often the trickiest to execute – precision and repeatability. A shot that starts out, head-on, and ends directly overhead sounds astoundingly simple to operate, but trying to execute that without robotics can be a real drain on resources. When you factor in challenges like coordinating a boom, dolly and tilt, holding critical focus on shallow focus long-lens macro shots, is nearly impossible. Trial by error is no way to spend your on-set time, so those “in the know” rely on the precision and repeatability of robotics.

Programming is Easier than Ever

Key framing and editing are now quick and easy to do! Moves can be imported from Maya 3D animation software. They can also be “live encoded”, then tweaked, so you have robotic control over organic action. For example, the dolly grip can operate the dolly and boom, while the camera operator operates the pan tilt head, and the A.C. is pulling focus—all LIVE! Then, that take can be edited and precisely played back. You can even choose which axis of motion is being played back, robotically, and which axes are “live encoding”. This blend of control and flexibility creates infinite new opportunities for unbound creativity that would be impossible without robotic technology.

Tricky Rigging Situations Made Simple

As seen in the Game of Thrones finale, a recent trend in cinematography across all genres is shooting at higher and higher frame rates for a slowed-motion effect. Each time you double the frame rate, you’ll need to halve the timing of any rig (including the motion of the camera). So, if you’re executing a 3 second shot, but shooting at 800 frames per second, your rig timing now has to occur at the right time within a 1/10th of a second shot. The old “ready-set-go” will never accomplish this level of precision, but MoCo makes it easy.

“Selling” a “Twins” Effect

Because audiences are seeing amazing visual effects everywhere, the bar for VFX keeps getting higher and higher. Say you needed to shoot a single actor playing twins, like Mark Ruffalo in HBO’s forthcoming series, “I Know This Much is True.” Certainly, a locked-off camera simplifies the challenge, but would the effect be convincing enough for today’s sophisticated viewers? What if you wanted the scene to feel organic, as opposed to “telegraphing” the effect? The solution is clear. You’d start shooting with a moving camera! MoCo can add a sense of realism to the shot, by using a rig that enables the two characters (played by one actor) to relate to each other on screen. For example, one twin could carry a pile of books, while the other grabs a few off the stack. How is this possible, with just one actor? You’d use a motion-controlled sled to carry the stack of books while the “twins” are just going along for the ride. This way, you can ensure that the books appear in the identical position for each pass. Here’s a great example of this kind of effect.

The Takeaway

Motion Control is a versatile, user-friendly, problem solver for all manners of creative challenges. It can be as simple as a giant repeatable turntable to spin a car or turn a set, as delicate as a rig configured to spin and tumble a diamond, or as massive as a camera crane. The possibilities are endless… And that’s the magic of MoCo.