PoleCam Product Review
For a variety of upcoming projects I've been searching for a small unobtrusive jib that will allow Jimmy Jim or Cam-mate style shots without the size, weight, and setup time required by those systems, enter the PoleCam. Owner operator John Gillan was kind enough to give John Matysiak and I a demo in his parking garage and within minutes, he'd won me over. The PoleCam is a game changer in a number of ways, and I plan to incorporate it on a wide variety of projects.
The PoleCam is exactly what the name implies, a camera on a pole...
...think a mic boom with a tiny pan/tilt camera where the mic should be, that's PoleCam. But don't let it diminutive size fool you into thinking its a toy, this is a serious piece of production gear with 15 years of engineering behind it. PoleCam is relatively unknown in the US but it's been rocking fantastic images in Europe since the last millennium. I find it mind boggling that it hasn't seen wider acceptance in the US, a fact that I hope to see change.
The pole is a double weave carbon fiber tube that attach in 1 meter seconds with a tool-less snap system. The system can extend to 5 meters. All cabling runs down the inside of the boom pole. Setup takes about 10 minutes (maybe less without my incessant questioning) and is easily accomplished by a single operator, no assistant necessary.
The remote head attaches to the end of the pole with a twist style friction lock and features a pass through for the camera control cable, head remote cable, and a small ambient mic.
The head is a beautiful example of inginuity, engineering, and miniaturization. Because the system is designed to fly "icecube" form factor cameras (like the Iconix or Toshiba) there is no unessesary bulk in the head. It weighs ounces yet delivers very smooth and precise pan tilt and lens control through 3 micro servos. The servos are silent, clutch driven, and feature hefty gear reduction where needed. The entire head with camera installed could fit inside a Pringles can, crazy!
The electronics and batteries mount onto the sail at the operator end of the pole and act as most of the counterweight for the system. Because the camera and pole are so light, you don't need much in the counterweight department. No more dumb-bells and shot bags. A couple of steel plates velcro to the back of the mast and that's it. The whole system is light enough to be operated hand held (yes, it's a hand held jib) when locked into the included vest. John is the first to admit that as novel as this approach is, he rarely if ever flies the system off the vest. A standard and surprisingly light weight tripod with fluid head provides the ground support that will allow you too achieve the smoothest shots.
The joystick control will be immediately familiar to anyone that has ever flown a Jimmy Jib or Cam-mate. It is smooth, fast, and very intuitive to operate, much more-so than a conventional jib. Having never touched the system before, I was creating production quality moves almost immediately, even tracking John's dog Scout as he chased his tennis ball all over the garage.
In short, PoleCam rocks! I'll post more reactions after we give the system a workout in a live multi-camera setup next week.
John was a very gracious host and is an all around great guy, very professional and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I'm looking forward to working with him and his system long term.
Here is a small sample of what the pole cam can do. This short intro video was a last minute addition to the live seminar. The Polecam allowed us the flexibility to achieve shots that would have been beyond impractical with traditional jibs. We literally folded it in thirds and took it up a standard passenger elevator to get the penthouse party shots. We were lobby to shooting on the penthouse patio in under 10 minutes. Try that with a Jimmy Jib.
A quick intro video I shot with the PoleCam and 5d. 20' Jib from lobby to penthouse in 10 minutes. The opening music over black is allowing for on-stage lighting effects during the live event.