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Old April 10th, 2008, 12:19 AM   #1
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Table-top dolly heaven

If you've ever used or are considering one of the various tracker or table-top dollies on the market this one should be at the top of your list:

http://www.omni-tracker.com

I was able to test-drive one this week and am amazed at it's capabilities.

Having used the P+S Skater extensively only as a rental I've always wondered if it would be possible to produce a similar device that would be affordable enough to purchase - without sacrificing usability or build quality. Warren, the brain-child and designer of the Omni has done it.

First off, this is no DIY garage project put together with aluminum I-tubes or heavy steel plates; Warren is a commercial-design engineer by trade and knows proper design philosophy and structural requirements like a NASA engineer, and his product reflects his expertise.

The build of the unit is top-notch; it's solid, well-thought out design that takes the best concepts of the Skater and refines them. In point of fact, the Omni can do things the Skater cannot.

The price is amazingly affordable; it's closest competitor (only in cost) would be the Axis Dolly but at $2000 it's more than three times the cost of the Omni and, it does not have the same design philosophy making the Axis Dolly more suitable to track use than table-top. The only other "similar" device is the P+S Skater however it's $6100 price-tag put's it squarely as a rental-only since almost no indie producer could justify the cost - unless you somehow end up using it on nearly every shoot.

Using the Omni is completely a dream; the wheel action is completely smooth (it's spec'd to handle 50lbs *safely* but clearly the unit can handle much more) and setting up the wheels for curved moves is fast and easy.

I'm not allowed to speak about specifics, but I will tell you that Warren is working on another version of the Omni that will give it capabilities that no other table-top dolly has ever had - at any price yet still cost less than $1000. That in itself, is truly an amazing feat of engineering.

As many of you know, I don't recommend anything unless I've proved that it meets mission-critical commercial standards and the Omni absolutely does, and for less than $600 you can't make or buy anything else that comes close to it's usability or bang-for-the-buck viability.
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Old April 10th, 2008, 02:06 PM   #2
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Hmm, interesting. I need a dolly system for a huge shoot next month and am wondering how this would fair for certain shots.

How smooth are the wheels?

Can a monopod be attached to this unit with a camera for higher elevation shots and still be level?

How solid is it with varying ground, such as gravel (if at all), rug, wood, etc?

If you know, that'd be great!
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Old April 10th, 2008, 04:09 PM   #3
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Marshall,

Clearly you're not understanding the concept of a table-top dolly; You can't use a monopod at all for anything such as this (a monopod is a human-bracing device only, not an accessory for a camera mount), nor can you use a table-top dolly on gravel or anything that isn't a smooth surface.

If you want to run over rough ground you'd need either what's called a doorway dolly with large, pneumatic tires and a shock-absorbing camera mount (be prepared to spend over $10k for the good ones) or you'd have to setup a track and appropriate track-dolly, such as the Axis or half a dozen others specifically designed for track use.

I'd suggest doing more research on the appropriate uses for the various types of dollies before spending any money.
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Old April 10th, 2008, 06:49 PM   #4
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Oh, I know about the ones with the shock systems and such. My thought about this one was essentially wondering how high the camera can get on this unit and still work properly as I know I can use it for low shots on floors and such. I don't expect it to work with a 7' monopod!

In terms of a floor, though, is it smooth and relatively quiet?
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Old April 10th, 2008, 08:03 PM   #5
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If you need "altitude" on a dolly then you need to look at something like the Axis dolly, which is really designed to have a full-sized tripod mounted to it. Then you could get as high as the 'pod would allow. A table-top dolly like the Omni is not designed for having the camera mounted high above it, but literally on top of it or either on a fluid-head or in the case of the Skater a 30-degree rocker.

Most people who use table-top dollies like the Omni don't use them just on floors, but take along height-adjustable tables or platforms on which the dolly rolls. We often use a wide bakers-rack which has adjustable shelves which allow us to raise and lower the height of the dolly from just above the floor up to about 60". Higher than that and you'd need stilts to properly reach and control the camera/dolly.

With respect to noise, no dolly that I've ever used makes any audible noise at all and the Omni is the same - completely noiseless. Remember, you don't use something like dollies for fast motion but slow, deliberate movements that can sometimes be *almost* imperceptible.

Based on your questions I still feel that you're not understanding the design purpose of table-top dolly and you need to look at demo footage and design specs to really get your head around it's proper use.
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Old April 10th, 2008, 08:09 PM   #6
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Thanks for the info thus far. I've used some in the past w/ the camera, tripod, seat, etc, as well as one that gets pushed by another person. Seeing your post here, and as I've never used a table-top version, I like the idea for ground-level shots....don't think I'd have any use for it actually being on a table, though. Hmm...
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Old October 5th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #7
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Portable Tabletop

Hi Marshall. Have you ever managed to use a rubber mat or some other portable mat as a tabletop for using the tracker dolly ?
I want to use something that will fit in a backpack.
Cheers!
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Old October 5th, 2008, 12:38 PM   #8
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i've used the omni-tracker with a pair of step ladders and a piece of laminated wood, for shorter length dolly shots, it works in a pinch....although for short distance movement, i just purchased one of alastair brown's Glidetracks, and it is infinitely more portable than an omnitracker plus all that stuff.

Warren from Omni-tracker is great to deal with...and so is Alastair. Both are excellent communicators and right there with the customer service. These are different tools, though they can meet some similar objectives.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 07:18 PM   #9
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Thanks for the detailed write-up. And it always makes me feel better buying from someone that "gets it" and is good to work with - and it sounds like these guys are.

One quick question. How easy it to use? I see these beautiful arcs in the gallery vids but I wonder how difficult it is to do that.
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