Every NAB Convention needs a technical WOW! moment with last year’s being the MoVI (well the film that Vincent LaForet made anyway). This year it might be on the Andra booth with its motion capture focussing system.
The Andra ‘auto subject’ tracking is extraordinary. They set up a magnetic field and the subject wears a sensor device that senses its location, down to a few millimeters! The field they set up is limited in size apparently due to request from ‘others’ (military perhaps?).
The system is a motion capture system twined with a remote focus pulling system. A portable magnetic motion capture system is used to accurately track subjects and cameras in real time. That data is then used to drive a lens control motor.
You need sensors for this to happen and these are very small and are placed on the performer out of sight. You then choose the focal point in relation to the sensor which is enough for the system to work. The videos on their booth and on their site show that the focussing is incredibly fast and amazingly accurate.
You can control the system using an iPad. Another option is to use the Arc which looks like a normal focussing hand unit except it has a touch screen interface. You can then flip between focal points by hitting a button or turning the dial.
You can choose to let the system pull focus for you, allowing you to simply decide when and how fast to move between subjects, or you can just use the data to pull manually.
Inventor Sam Fisher of Cinema Control Labs commented on the system: “Andra has many adjustable parameters and has been designed to give you full creative control over focus, without having to worry about distances. The results can look as organic or robotic as you wish. Speed of pulls, composition and any other nuance of focus control is still achieved using the touchscreen interface or the Arc hand unit.
“The range of the system is scalable depending on your usage and should be thought more of as area coverage than range. The Standard Package uses two sources on a boom pole mount which gives a 24 ft x 16 ft area of coverage. This means that subjects can get up to 24 feet from camera.
“However, it is possible to use fixed nodes at longer distances, where depth of field is more forgiving, which allows performers to move in and out of the capture range. For the simplest setups, using camera mounted source with the DSLR package, the system is best used for wide lenses and close up work. This setup has a range of approximately ten feet.
ARC & Motion Controller
DSLR Starter Kit (1 Controller, 1 Source, 1 Hub, 2 Sensors)
Standard Package (1 Controller, 2 Sources, 2 Hubs, 3 Sensors)
Pro Package (1 Controller, 4 Sources, 4 Hubs, 6 Sensors)