My Review: Kessler Crane, K-Pod, Hercules 2.0 at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Jibs / Cranes / Booms


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old December 17th, 2009, 07:44 PM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: New York NY
Posts: 35
My Review: Kessler Crane, K-Pod, Hercules 2.0

It's has been some time since I've posted anything on DVInfo and decided to tell everyone of my experience.

Several weeks ago, after getting all the permissions, releases and permits in hand, I was finally ready to shoot a video I had been asked to do. I agonized over the lighting, framing the scenes, making sure the audio would be as good as possible and that everyone knew their lines and how it was being shot. The day went well, everyone had a good time and I was happy that nothing major went wrong or broke down. All the footage was in the camera. All that was needed was to import the scenes and edit. Hooray!

Well, all was not so rosy. As I plied through the footage, something was wrong, something missing. Maybe I'm not editing the scenes properly. Move this, change that, make this shorter, change the order. Everything I tried just didn't gel. What is it? I spent days trying to decipher the problem. Finally, one night while watching a program on TV it hit me like a ton of camera batteries falling from the sky. IT'S BLAND! But Why? Movement on screen. Yes, there is a pan here and a tilt there, a few scenes shot from different angles, but . . . it's BLAH! Where are the moves and shots that get your attention on many shows? There aren't any, that's the problem. Something had to be done. I had equipment, but not what was needed to bring this to a higher level. What I needed was a crane.

I spent some time looking and researching what was available. There are DIY cranes seeded throughout the internet, many not worth the time or effort to build, or limited in their ability, capacity or safety. This would not do. One thing I was sure of, once acquired, it would see use. With that in mind, I decided a purchase was best. Several manufactures adorn the pages of magazines, sites, forums and the internet. Some appear cobbled together, a few weak in construction, while others are far beyond my budget. I examined the options, features and construction, and made a decision, I would order a Kessler Crane.

Within a few days of placing my order, two packages arrived at my door. IT'S HERE! My first reaction was WOW! The K-POD is a massive but not overly so well built piece of equipment. With a handling capacity of 500 pounds, it stands there waiting for you to throw what you wish at it. As I ogled in amazement, this product almost asks, “Go ahead, put a refrigerator on me. I laugh in your general direction!” It inspires confidence that it will do its job always. The pockets on the legs are a very nice touch in providing confidence that the legs will not slip. The legs when opened have one fixed angle and the included and installed mid level spreader snaps into place with authority. This beast is designed for heavy duty work. The upper part of the assembly is fitted with a 100mm bowl and has several holes around the outer perimeter that could be used as tie down anchor points. BRAVO!

Sitting atop the K-POD, was the HERCULES 2.0 head. Not festooned with many knobs, dials or handles, what is there is all you require. The upper handle tightens and clamps the head around the pan handle. The pan handle can be repositioned or removed, is of a good length, padded and strong. To the left a handle adjusts the tilt mechanism from a light drag to no movement and everything in between. I found the tilt drag to be very smooth. A metal locking pin is provided which allows the head to be fixed to a level position assuring no slippage and no need to over tighten the tilt drag when in this position. In addition, there is a spring return within the head that returns it to level position, although it is not adjustable. To the right a third handle adjusts the pan drag. It's range is from free to no motion at all. Below the head sits the 100mm half ball. A cap between the handle and the underside of the bowl allows the user to allow of more or less movement of the ball. A small round bubble level is located on the head just behind the tilt head. The upper portion of the head is flat and came with two knobs that are used to anchor the crane firmly, no chance of it slipping here. In addition tapped holes are located which will allow the mounting of a quick release receiver and plate such as a Kessler studio plate, a Manfrotto 577 or Giottos M621. WELL DONE!

Is there anything one might find at fault here? In my mind, no. The components are well matched and machined very well for the designed purpose, and that is the key to this etup. There could be some nit picky things one could find fault in, such as the head does not have pan arm rosettes, the pan arm is a fixed length, the spring return is not adjustable or that the legs are set for a fixed angle. These are not faults, as this setup is designed to carry a crane, and it does it very well. Despite the nit picky things mentioned, I found the K-POD and HERCULES 2.0 quite adapt at handling a camera without the crane attached. I own 2 other tripod/head setups that I am very pleased with and would have no problem substituting the K-POD and HERCULES 2.0 if needed. With the addition of the quick release receiver and plate, you have an outstanding set of legs and head that will leave you beaming from ear to ear.

Now, for the final piece, the crane. Built from the same material as the tripod, the unit I purchased was the 8 foot model. Seeing the tripod, I knew the crane was going to be just as good. Assembly time took just a few minutes with the tool less package. Once everything was connected and the camera was mounted, I added the counterweights, a total of 22 ˝ pounds to the rig. I was surprised that I had achieved a fairly good balance, but decided to tweak it further. I repositioned the weight bar and one of the 10 pound weights forward. Now it was time to test it. I placed the camera low to the floor, released the tilt drag and the vertical brake and watched. The camera slowly rose and stopped almost level. Thinking of how the clock masters adjust Big Ben when it is running a little slow or fast, I placed 3 pennies on the camera basket and watched to crane achieve perfect balance.

Moving the crane up and down was effortless. If that wasn't enough, panning this awesome rig was an even bigger delight as I moved the beast with just the tip of my index finger, very smooth. One of the selling points for me was the ability to tilt the camera basket or fix it at any particular angle, lock it, then raise the crane and keep the same camera angle. As I ran the crane through it paces I looked for any twisting, bounce, torque, or droop, I did not notice any of these. Once the crane is balanced, the vertical brake only requires a modest twist to lock the crane in position. It held the camera at any position I placed it and did not move once. I was very impressed.

Balance is one of the key things for a crane to operate well. Besides having the crane balanced, having the camera balanced in the basket will go a long way in achieving good motion. The next is practice. Learning how to start and stop the crane gracefully and performing the movements smoothly takes a little work and time, but not to the same degree that a Steadycam warrants.

The Kessler Crane is surprising nimble and adjustable. There are many accessories available for the Kessler Crane, but I will not elaborate on them as I have not purchased them . . . yet! A visit to the Kessler site will reveal what is available, or an email will provide you with any additional information you require. In my opinion the Kessler Crane, K-POD and HERCULES 2.0 head are fantastic products, very well made, and is the best “bang for the buck” you can find. And, did I mention this comes with a lifetime warranty to boot!

What about the video? Well, after much discussion, I managed to convince everyone that we needed to shoot a few scenes over again. The footage captured thus far has the feel of a much larger budget production. The Oooos and ahhhhs the crane garnered was only surpassed by the rushes we viewed that day. Although the Kessler Crane performed brilliantly, the weather didn't. Quite literally it “rained on my parade”, and I could not get the outside shoots I wanted. That will have to wait for another time when the weather and crew are more agreeable.
Manuel Correa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 4th, 2010, 12:53 AM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 81
Thanks for the great review. I'm pricing the different options together -- how much did your setup cost in total? thanks.
Allan Tabilas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 13th, 2010, 03:43 PM   #3
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: New York NY
Posts: 35
Thank you for your comment.

As to your question of how much I paid, it really doesn't matter as the price was at a time Kessler was offering a special. I'll just say it was below the current price listed on their site at this time.

In no way did the price influence my review or my personal feeling about the product.
Manuel Correa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2010, 12:14 AM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 506
I own an 8' Kessler crane with the K Pod system and Hercules 2.0 head and I also think it is a great setup. The quality is excellent and the design insures none of the flexing you get with some other cranes at this price point. I also am very impressed with the smooth movement when the crane is balanced.

Right now I usually operate my camera from the end of the crane with my Satchler FSB6 head mounted to the optional extender I bought.

The only issue I have is trying to get the 75mm head to fit into the 100mm to75mm adapter I bought with the crane. I emailed asking if any other folks had reported this problem and they said no so later this spring when I set it up again I am going to take pics and send it to Kessler for advice.

Someday when my budget allows it I want to get a motorized pan and tilt head like the PT20.

I think with the options my setup was around $1500 not counting my Satchler FSB6 head. I think it is some of the best money you can spend.
D.J. Ammons is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2010, 03:32 AM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
I just bought a Pocket Jib and a Vinten 3AS (75mm), and the guy at Kessler mentioned that some people have had problems with the 75-100mm adapter. Maybe he was talking about you?

I ordered a Vinten adapter, but it's backordered. I might just have to stuff some packing foam in there for a week or two so I can try it out. :)
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2010, 03:47 AM   #6
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Singapore
Posts: 1,498
A 10kg head is required. I did it with a 75mm 6kg vinten head and found it hard to lock the crane from panning. The spread also tends to spread so I had to use a dolly.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y15...y/IMG_4159.jpg
Sean Seah is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 14th, 2010, 05:06 PM   #7
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
In my case, the 3AS will be under the camera on the Pocket Jib. The Jib will rest on a K-Pod with swivel head. Should be solid. I plan to operate it from the camera end using a monitor.
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 19th, 2010, 03:11 AM   #8
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
I received the Kessler K-Pod, Pocket Dolly and Pocket Jib today. They're all totally solid. The K-Pod is like Gibraltar. It makes regular tripods look like spaghetti.

The Pocket Jib is even better than I had pictured. It's a manageable size when in the case, and is as large as I need when extended. There's no sag or flex that would misalign the shot. The drag is smooth and controllable and the brake will do the job.

The Pocket Dolly is really fun. The feel is great and the crank works well. Again, it's nicely built.

I only have one request for improvement... I bought the caster wheels for the K-Pod. They're nice and large and they lock well, but they're not as rock solid as the stock pads. Unfortunately, it takes a number of minutes to change from pads to wheels. It would be nice to have some solid jacks that take the wheels off the floor, or some "shoes" that go around the wheels and take the last bit of play out of the system.

I haven't done enough shooting with it to know if I will stick with the wheels or ditch them. It's possible that with the whole system set up, I'll have enough weight to keep the wheels settled. However, if I were to use a tripod head right on the K-Pod and was trying to do my smoothest pans, I'd definitely remove the wheels. And that setup is more solid than any standard portable tripod that I've ever used. It simply doesn't budge.

Anyway, if there were a quick way to go between a fixed and rolling setup, this setup would be, well... perfect.
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 19th, 2010, 11:02 AM   #9
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 81
Hey Jon thanks for the review. Did you happen to get the k-flex track with it as well? Or are using the wheels as a pseudo-track, or are the wheels simply to move the k-pod around? With Manuel and your review, I'm looking at these various options.
Allan Tabilas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 19th, 2010, 05:05 PM   #10
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
The flex track and wheels would have blown the budget. I got the wheels with the intention of using them to move it around, but I'm thinking I would skip them if I were to buy again. They're very good, but not rock solid. It takes too long to switch over to pads. And the Pocket Jib is small and light enough and breaks down so quickly that it would really not be too big a hassle to break it down for moving from building to building.

For place to place within a room, I'd probably just lift the whole thing. To move to another room, I'd unscrew the ball mount and carry the tripod and jib separately. For anything further, I'd break it down and put the jib in its (very nice) case. I was also thinking of storing it on wheels, assembled, but our storage location is a bit tight. I'll use the cases. It's mostly a safety thing. I don't want somebody tripping over a leg or hitting their head on the jib.

The K-Pod case didn't arrive with the order. I called Kessler and it's on its way. The K-Pod comes with an elastic strap to hold the legs together. That might be adequate for many people. The case will be nice for loading in the car though. I highly recommend the Pocket Dolly case though. Without it, the jib is kind of a random bunch of metal bars connected to one another. It wouldn't really stand on end, and things would catch on it. With the case, I can put the swivel head in a pouch in the center, slide the jib over it, zip up the semi-soft/hard case, and now I have a nice rectangle that can stand on end against a wall or stack with other stuff. It makes the storage area look slick, rather than out of control. Visually, the K-Pod looks more compact, controlled, and organized, so the case won't make as much of a difference. It would keep it from being banged up in the back of a van though.

I also got the Pocket Slider case. It will keep the wheel from getting lost, and it has a shoulder strap for easy transport. The belt is somewhat exposed, so it will help keep the belt from being damaged.

So, the cases are nice to have, but the wheels might come off and stay off the first time I want a more solid platform. For now, I'm keeping them on. We will see...
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 24th, 2010, 09:25 AM   #11
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Raleigh, NC and Atlanta, GA
Posts: 52
Tornado season is approaching our area. We've decided to alter the recommended procedure of sitting in a small interior room like a closet, and sit beneath our K-Pod!
__________________
Steve Brame
creative illusions Productions
Steve Brame is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 27th, 2010, 04:36 PM   #12
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Ogden
Posts: 161
How have you found the fluidness of the head to be? It's not a true fluid head, so I'm curious. Thanks!
Annen James is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 27th, 2010, 05:14 PM   #13
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Raleigh, NC and Atlanta, GA
Posts: 52
We've never really used it as a camera tripod. I imagine that it could be in a pinch, but no, I don't believe it's a fluid head. But it's absolutely perfect for it's intended use...holding a Kessler.
__________________
Steve Brame
creative illusions Productions
Steve Brame is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 28th, 2010, 10:18 AM   #14
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Ogden
Posts: 161
I was referring to in as being used with the jib. It seems fluidness would be just as important used with the jib as it would be with a camera on top.

It's not jerky, grippy, sloggy, or whatnot?
Annen James is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 28th, 2010, 10:25 AM   #15
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Raleigh, NC and Atlanta, GA
Posts: 52
Oh...sorry...with the weight of the jib setup on it it's very smooth indeed. With everything balanced correctly, and the tripod head locks opened all the way, I can barely touch the crane and it will either pan or tilt several inches before stopping. I apply the stops somewhat usually though, because I like a little bit of resistance to help prevent from moving past my point.
__________________
Steve Brame
creative illusions Productions
Steve Brame is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Jibs / Cranes / Booms

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:36 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network