I recently shot a music video directed by Benny Boom and Lucky for the artist Waka Flocka. We rented the ATM Gyro by Aerial Exposures from Tom Miller of Blue Sky Aerial and strapped it to the back of a pickup truck. The above video is a compilation of shots from the Waka Flocka video, with un-color corrected footage of the ATM in action.
I had seen Vincent Laforet’s video of the ATM and was excited about it’s possibilities. From watching his footage I thought it would be a great tool to use as a balanced poor mans camera car to track our hero picture car. After receiving and opening up the ATM though I was disappointed that the Laforet review (and the ATM site itself) didn’t have more detail on the product. It’s definitely a great tool, but you certainly need to practice to get it right.
The ATM comes in a small pelican case which is great for taking it everywhere. I have to say that when i first opened it up, the ATM Gyro is not what I expected. If you look at the picture below it’s basically a U-shaped mount that connects two KS-8 Gyro’s from Kenyon Laboratories via a heavy bungee cord setup. The bungee setup surprised me. Its hard to see from the photos and I expected a more precise machinery for panning and tilting the aerial exposure mount. I had rented the ATM expecting to be able to do precise pans and tilts, thinking I would be able to use it like a stabilized dolly/camera car. Once I saw the bungee I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to be precise. I was partially right and partially wrong.
My Key Grip, Chad Bennet had set up the ATM GYRO on the back of his pickup with two ratchet straps and pancake apple box…it was on there solid. We turned on the Gyro’s and mounted the 5D with the 24-70 lens (not pictured)and a Zacuto baseplate on it, positioning the camera rig so it was balanced perfectly over the mount. Balancing the camera is extremely important (More on this later). Once you turn on the Gyro’s you need to wait 20 minutes for them to come full power for the rig to fully work. I had an HDMI splitter with two monitors attached, one for me and one for my 1st AC Ron Elliot who was doing the focus. We were already late and the sun was going down so we were certainly rushed in setting up the rig (we had previously been shut down by 15 Compton cop cars so we were also nervous about shooting). Before we started moving the camera bounced around on the bungees and I thought there was no way I could get a steady shot. Once we started moving though I was pleasantly surprised.
With the 24-70 and the camera balanced I got fairly decent tracking shots without any practice on the ATM. It certainly had some bounce to it and operates in no means like gyro stabilized camera crane arm or a completely flat dolly…however you can still get some very good shots with it once you get used to working the bungee pan and tilt. As you can see below you kind of hold it off the back like a machine gun, panning and tilting this way. This in itself is an inherent problem in operating. However once you get used to it it sort of works. The best shots using the ATM Gyro are when you are keeping it steady, aimed straight at the subject. As you can see when the car darts back and forth across the lanes it’s a lot harder to keep up. I think with practice though you can achieve some good results.
Our problems came when we mounted the 70-2oo on the camera. We were working so fast I didn’t balance the rig…BIG MISTAKE. Without balancing the camera and ESPECIALLY on a long lens, we could barely get stable shots with the image bouncing UP and DOWN. By the end of the shoot I managed to get a few good shots with the long lens, figuring out how to roll with the motion. But when we stopped to finally balance I was only be able to get one more shot before we had to move on to a sunset setup off the car. I certainly need to do more tests with the longer lens when I have more time to see the full capabilities of the ATM Gyro. As for now I’m still looking for a more precise poor man’s Gyro Stabilized unit….but I certainly still think the ATM Gyro has great possibilities and when used creatively can be a great tool. If anyone has any tips for operating or setting it up, please post them below…thanks!!!!