I have always loved gadgets and tools, especially when they can help me to improve…whether it is a hobbyist activity or in my job. One of the challenges as a road tripper is that space is a commodity, so it’s difficult to lug around a lot of equipment. As a travel video blogger I’m always trying to improve my skill-set, so I was very excited when I discovered Cinetics, a company producing a line of affordable, compact, lightweight cinematography equipment that helps you put your ideas into motion. As you will see in my video below, incorporating stabilized motion into your shots adds a brand new dimension to the footage.
Cinetics has, and continues to develop, a whole line of innovative products to assist photographers and videographers–this post and video however are focused on the SkatePlate (aka CineDolly). The SkatePlate is ingeniously designed with space and functionality in mind. The device quickly breaks down into the size that will nearly fit in the palm of your hand (or camera bag), while only weighing a few ounces. It’s made of a highly durable resin plastic (I can attest to its durability as I left the CineDolly unattended on elevated surfaces a few times and it fell to the floor…twice with the weight of my camera. Both my camera and SkatePlate were unharmed. Let this serve as a warning, the wheels are so fluid that if the surface is not perfectly level, the CineDolly will begin to move on its own.)
After the arms of the SkatePlate are extended, all you have to do is snap on the wheels. There are three diagrams on the SkatePlate, and each of the wheels are numbered with letters. Simply move the wheels to the appropriate letter and the wheels will be perfectly positioned to move in a circumference; back-and-forth; or, forward and backward. Attach a ball-head to the SkatePlate, then your camera to the ball-head, and you’re ready to add stabilized motion into your shots/video. It takes all of 30 seconds to set up and position the SkatePlate with your camera for the desired shot.
One of the many things that impresses me about Cinetics is the foresight they have in developing their products. The components they produce allow them to work with different Cinetics systems so that you can add-on or expand for particular applications. For example, the adapter that connects the wheels to the SkatePlate can be popped off and a different adapter used to connect with a Joby Focus tripod to give you additional functionality. You can even remove the wheels and replace them with suction cups so that you can mount your camera in positions (and to surfaces) you never thought possible…places where a traditional tripod might not work.
I’ve been using my Cinetics SkatePlate for a couple months now for a number of different shots. It is necessary to have a very smooth surface in order to produce the most stabilized shots. You won’t always have a smooth surface to work with in the field, so you’ll want to keep that in mind. Of course Cinetics has thought of this obstacle, so they sell a lightweight surface product; however you can probably find something around your house or office to use as well.
You will see a series of shot examples in the video above, however here is a list of some I’ve filmed:
- Hotel lobby with super smooth marble floors. I just let the CineDolly rip…it must have rolled 25-30 feet.
- Across the surface of a very long bar when no one was around…I captured liquor bottles as the CineDolly rolled down the bar.
- The CineDolly is wonderful for food shots. Just place a plate in the middle of a table and run the CineDolly all the way around the dish.
- On a ping pong table, running the SkatePlate side-to-side as ping pong balls were driven at the camera.
- Commercial kitchen counter as a chef prepared a meal.
- One thing I haven’t had a chance to try yet, is bringing a solid surface into the field with me…stay tuned for a whole new list of ideas.
The ideas are endless. If you visit the Cinetics website you will see some killer videos they’ve produced, showcasing each of their products. One shot I really love in the Cinetics videos is that of cue break on a pool table. Last month I was in Puerto Rico filming a video for a hotel that had a casino…that pool table shot gave me an idea, unfortunately I could not get permission to film it. I thought some shots on gaming table would have been cool, for example the craps table or maybe blackjack. Apparently the gaming industry does not like cameras (other than their own) in their casinos…who knew!
Cinetics has a new product coming out in which I’m very interested…it’s called the CineMoco System. Put some v-shaped wheels on the SkatePlate, place it onto their SkateRail system…then, with a computerized motor controller hooked up, you can program the movement you want. This system will be awesome for hands-free and timelapse photography.
Another thing I love about Cinetics…their story. In a nutshell…innovative guy out of MIT media lab sees a need and creates a solution. That simple idea turned into a fledgling company by crowd funding. In a single day on Kickstarter, Cinetics raised enough money to take their first product to market. The rest, as they say…is history.
If you want to take your video/photography to the next level by integrating stabilized motion, be sure to check out the products offered by Cinetics. If you own and use a SkatePlate or other Cinetics product, please leave a comment below with your thoughts, ideas and shot suggestions.