Do the cheap motorized pan/tilt heads work? at DVinfo.net

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Old September 19th, 2006, 11:27 AM   #1
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Do the cheap motorized pan/tilt heads work?

I need a motorized head to do some slow tilts from the ground up to a horizontal plane. It would be nice for some well controlled pans of landscapes at high zoom levels too.

I have searched, but can't find, if any of the (apparently quite a few) low cost motorized heads work acceptably.

Here are a few:

http://www.21best.com/21_best/electr...for_sale_.html

Thanks!
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Old September 19th, 2006, 12:58 PM   #2
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I don't have a lot of experience with the different types of motorized heads, but its probably a safe bet that the motion isn't going to be smoother than what you can do by hand with a good tripod. Usually motorized heads are utilized when having an operator do the motion isn't feasible, such as the camera being up out of reach on a jib arm.
I used to operate a weather cam at a TV station, and while the zoom control was good, the pan and tilt function was used only for positioning the shot, not during the shot, as it was way too jerky. Is there a reason why you are not able to pan the camera yourself? I think for the ultra smooth motion people use gear heads, like ARRI.
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Old September 20th, 2006, 08:32 AM   #3
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Thanks for the info.

I will search B&H to see whats available for lightweight (4 - 8 Lb) cameras.
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Old October 16th, 2006, 04:22 PM   #4
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Jeff,

I got a Sunpak motorized, remotely controlled head a few years back and use it to operate my 2nd camcorder at events. I think it was the only model they offered at the time, and it was about $150 or so, rechargeable battery included.

Mine included a remote control that not only controls the head, but can also be programmed to control the camera -- zoom in/out, start/stop recording.

My experience is the same as Cal's in that it's great for remotely positioning the camcorder, but the video is not so great while the head starts/stops moving the camera -- whether panning or tilting.

As might be expected, the more you have the lens zoomed out, the worst the video shot as the head starts or stops will look.

There's an option for the head to constantly pan back & forth (think security camera mode), and that footage is acceptable.

But, say you want to remotely track something or someone moving perpendicular to the direction the lens is pointing. My Sunpak head pans at a constant speed, so if that constant panning speed is faster than the moving object, then a lot of stopping and starting would be required, and that will result in some rough footage, especially at a high zoom. If the constant pan speed is slower than the moving object then, well, you're outta luck.

A remotely controlled head with variable panning speed would be great.

Of course, you'll also need some way to monitor what the camera is shooting, and that can be either by wire or wireless -- which is more stuff you might need to buy.

Anyway, for an event like a wedding it's perfect because there's not a whole lot of movement during the primary money shots. It's just a matter of getting the camera positioned. I've put together some great footage that wouldn't have been possible with only one camcorder, or, with two camcorders but one of them pointing in a fixed direction.

I forgot to mention that I use this motorized head with a VX2100 with whatever the biggest battery is plus external mike. Fully outfitted, I suppose everything comes to at least 6 or 7 pounds. I imagine a lighter camera would have less inertia and would induce less bounce when it starts/stops moving. A heavier camera would have more bounce.
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