by Giorgio Sironi | 20th March 2017
The ShooTools AutoPan is the first universal panning head that allows you to synchronize the rotation of the camera with the movement of a slider. You can mount it on any slider, regardless of type, brand, model or length (up to 3 meters). Read on for my full review. The ShooTools AutoPan pan head for universal slider use. Last year I wrote a review of the ShooTools Slider PRO 100, a nice piece of equipment that found its own place in my kit. I have grown so fond of it this past year, that I also purchased the Slider PRO 150 in order to have two different lengths at my disposal. However, one problem I found was finding an affordable tripod head for them. My main interest is shooting details and macro shots, which need particular precision and have to be perfect in the combination of sliding movement and pan. After trying to reduce the height of the bowl for a Sachtler 18 head, my research brought me to the ShooTools AutoPan. According to ShooTools, the AutoPan is actually pretty sleek for interviews and talking heads too, and it can also create panoramas and rotate as needed due to its 360-degree range. You can even use it with a dolly or trike or, if you want, you can use it as a turntable too. So… I ordered it. ShooTools AutoPan – Features The AutoPan comes in a HPRC hard case, and as soon as you open the box, you immediately get the feeling of quality Italian design and care for detail. One side of the unit features three ports: a DC power port to charge the battery (4 different plugs are included for the battery charger), an external sensor port and a shutter release port. On the other side you will find the USB port for the firmware update. The setup buttons face the operator and are at the opposite end of the spring-loaded, 3-meter-long cable mechanism that makes the head move in sync with the motion of the camera. And that is the ShooTools Autopan’s secret: the cable gives a precise position to the unit’s brain of the AutoPan, which calculates the amount of pan you need to reach certain positions (keyframes) while the camera slides. Because of this, the built-in motor in the ShooTools AutoPan can keep the camera pointed at the subject during the length of the tracking shot, moving between keyframes and repeating the slide always in the same way. You don’t have to worry about manually hitting the sweet spots on cue. ShooTools AutoPan – Setup Setting up the AutoPan is very easy: you only have to set at least two keyframes, and you are ready to shoot. The two buttons on the unit allow you to rotate the head clockwise or counterclockwise to get the shot you need, with up to 10 keyframe positions. It is battery powered, and runs up to 8 hours on a full charge. Charging it is easy-peasy, and is ready for another day’s work in little time. Although I don’t often do time lapses, I found out that the ShooTools AutoPan works great stand-alone on a traditional tripod. ShooTools are also about to release a smartphone app that will allow you to control the unit via WiFi. It will allow you to perform 360° pans or time lapses, and manage all the settings remotely. I will soon give it a try. ShooTools AutoPan – Hands on With my slider prepped, I mounted my Canon C300 plus a Manfrotto 502HD Pro on the AutoPan. I weighted the setup beforehand and I was well under the 10kg of maximal payload of the AutoPan’s maximum payload, so I was set to go. It took me a few tries at first to find out the right sequence and pressure needed for the buttons, but it was just a matter of a few seconds to get the hang of it. My first try was impressive: I started with an interview situation, and the camera always pointed at the right spot. If I changed focal lengths between shots, the picture was more than just nicely framed even without reprogramming the AutoPan. Once I started to test some detail shots, I was reassured of the effectiveness of using an automated panning system. The strain of combining precise pan and slide motions is already high enough, but when you use a tripod head that is not of the level of quality you are accustomed to, then it just becomes frustrating. With the ShooTools AutoPan, that frustration was gone. Set the start framing, set the end framing, and boom, it’s done. Whatever speed, whatever number of repetitions, whatever angle the camera was pointed in, every shot was the money shot. The only small problem I found was that, although slow movements work perfectly, cranking up the speed of the slider makes the AutoPan a little noisy. The increased strain on the motor becomes audible, which could be a problem if you intend to use the recorded sound. Slower interview shots didn’t present this problem, and I didn’t use sound on the high-speed shots so it wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s still something to keep in mind. Don’t forget that even if the AutoPan is very easy and fast to get up and running, it is still a controller that needs to be set up and programmed, so be sure that the production you are working for is well aware of the breaks you need for your next setup. I can tell you from experience that no one is going to like interrupting an interview just so you can set up the pan, so prepare your shot accordingly and let the ShooTools AutoPan do the work. What I would like to see next is a motor to automate the sliding movement that works in tandem with the AutoPan in order to achieve a so-called “second shooter”. I was looking at the ShooTools Motor Control Plus, but that is another story… ShooTools AutoPan – Conclusion The ShooTools AutoPan is a good solution for the filmmakers wanting to elevate their shooting by adding nice movement to their productions. It really is a revolutionary electronic tool in that it is designed to be universal, as it is compatible with any slider in the market, regardless of brand, length and whether it’s manual or motorized. Its a self-contained internal motor and rechargeable battery system that pans your camera in several different modes, synchronizing it with the movement of your device. In a nutshell: a unique tool in the market. Here’s ShooTools’ official video for the AutoPan, which (apart from its advertorial look) shows you well how it works: What do you think of the ShooTools AutoPan? Would something like this find a place in your kit? Let us know in the comments below!Read more
by Giorgio Sironi | 6th April 2016
This is a guest review by Italian cameraman Giorgio Sironi, based in Vienna, Austria, of the Shootools Slider Pro. As I started looking for a new slider, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I did know what I didn’t want. I have seen, used or tested many different sliders, big ones and small ones. Good ones and atrocious ones. I talked to many colleagues, and I was intrigued of the various requirements each of them had. A tool is not just a tool, but more what the person using it makes out of it. For good or for bad. So what were my necessities? Putting it simply, I wanted something light that I could travel with. I wanted something long on the tripod but even on the ground. I wanted something sturdy, if you can carry an Alexa, you can carry an A7. I wanted something affordable just to keep my wife at bay. And I wanted something aesthetically pleasing – just to fit the global image. After this ego trip, I began my search. A few sliders came to my mind, full aluminum, with retracting rails, cheaper ones, sturdier ones. After a long search, I saw an ad from Shootools. The product looked interesting and it being an Italian firm I decided to call them up. The first contact was friendly. The sales manager took a lot of time to explain to me the ups and downs of the slider. I told him my concerns, and he gave me real answers. So I decided to order it. The Shootools Slider Pro 100 ShooTools is an Italian manufacturer who has already produced items like the Slider Modula with extension rails, or the dolly 360 with motion control (something worthy of a look in the future). Their latest product is the slider pro (60, 80, 100 and 150). Let’s take a look at its main features. This slider boasts a new Magnetic Field Technology. A magnetic field is generating between the lateral stoppers and the carriage while running close the end-stop and counteracts at the beginning/end of the track, by slowing down the run of the carriage while reaching the end-stop. That means that when I push the carriage toward the end of the rail a kind of invisible cushion warns me and stops me before hitting the end. Spooky but intriguing. You can even shoot the carriage toward the end, and it bounces back without hitting the end. No more hard hits. Its carriage as no less than eight high precision steel ball bearings for the maximal fluidity of movement and performance. But everybody knows that you can have the best bearings on crappy wheels, and the result is of course crap. Apparently not here, the Shootools trademark wheels are made of an innovative ST-66 technopolymer, they guarantee maximal smoothness and extreme fluidity, in temperatures ranging from the lowest -50 up to torrid 130 degrees Celsius. As a bonus, it allows high payloads without fear of deformations. A nice touch is the possibility to quickly adjust the friction and a nice, fast and very safe brake which allows a good blockage of the carriage and its load even if it is on the heavier side. It weights just 2,8 Kgs, and we are talking about 100 cm worth of slider. The shorter ones go down to around 2 kilos. Even with this featherweight, the slider feels stable and sturdy. Why that happens is best described by the guys from ShooTools: „the rail has got an absolute exclusive, unique layout, designed and extruded by ShooTools. Light and at the same time strong, the ShooTools Slider Pro has a peculiar trapezoidal section intended to have the maximum steadiness possible. Did we already mention that it can carry up to 50 Kgs? No? Well, it does. The carriage, the rails, and the structure are made for this kind of payload. Is your tripod ready for this too? It has two movable tripod fixing points. They are two base plates with two threaded holes each (3/8“ and 1/4“) that you can move on the whole length of the slider and position wherever you want. In addition to that, you have four small feet, with rubber inlays, that you can position where you want. It looks and feels good. The wooden end stops are one nice touch, they give the slider that fancy touch and offer a unique grip. But they are not the only design united to tech features, „Each component undergoes two distinct types of treatment: the first one, by shot peening through ceramic spheres, increases the hardness and the resistance to fatigue of the object and, also, provides a pleasant hi-grip finish. The second treatment, anodizing at 30 microns, protects the device from any external agent.“ That means that the finish is not just black and sleek but resistant and pleasant to the touch too. It has lifetime warranty; that makes my Italian friends not only very convinced of their product but even very optimistic about our working, social and economic future! An official product video demonstrating the moves: My Conclusion I didn’t use the slider for too long, and I am not impressed by sleek and Black, but if I can give my 5 cents I would say that is an excellent piece of equipment! For now, it feels, looks and works as a professional tool. I can carry it easily, even on the tripod. I can take it down from the tripod, put it on the floor, on a table or top of a crate in just a few seconds, and I still have the whole 100 cm for my use. The carriage is very smooth, and it took every camera we threw at it. My Pros: Very light, to carry and to use.Plug and play, no adjustments no maintenance. Plug and play, no adjustments no maintenance. Nice new features, like the magnetic field or the honeycomb structure. It looks good. The optional bag is well made. It is made in Italy. I am Italian. Nice responsive and helpful Sales team. My Cons: The built-in feet are nice but not enough for stability; I suggest to buy the optional wider feet for more stability. If I put a tripod plate on the slider base plate I have no holes to put the optional wider feet, that means that every time that I want to use the feet, I have to unscrew the tripod plate and move the slider plate in the correct position. After a phone call with ShooTools, I ordered two extra slider plates and mounted them on the slider. This offers me four access points for feet, tripods or hanging possibilities. It adds around 200 grams to the whole weight, but it is worth it. ShooTools even assured me they are going to look into the issue and probably come up with extra smaller plates for the feet. The magnetic field is nice, but it eats a few centimeters away on both sides, that makes the slider a bit shorter than a full meter. All in all a nice product. In its price range, I think it is a good choice. Would I suggest it to a friend? Well, as I said at the beginning, just if it fits his necessities. But if it does, hell yeah! ———————————————————————————————————————— MAIN FEATURES Lightness-record Magnetic Field Technology Friction System Wheels slide inside the rail. Horizontal load ± 50 Kg Total absence of maintenance Integrated feet Ready for motorization Lifetime warranty IN THE BOX Camera Slider PRO Integrated feet Setup Keys Instruction Manual Non-woven fabric wrapper TECHNICAL DATA Weight: Camera Slider Pro 60: 2,20 kg Camera Slider Pro 80: 2,50 kg Camera Slider Pro 100: 2,80 kg Camera Slider Pro 150: 3,55 kg Load: ± 50 Kg Material: stainless steel, Anticorodal alloy, Technopolymer; end-stops: wood Treatments: Shot peening, Organic Anodization ————————————————————————————————————————Read more
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