Can ULTRA really handle the demands of a world-class shoot?
BTS stories of how ULTRA delivers when everything is at stake.
Before the first ULTRA even came off the assembly line, I had the honor of being invited to work with the system alongside very talented people on very cool projects. After all, MotoCrane operators do shoot some of the coolest stuff in the world.
These projects would not only be fulfilling on a personal level, but they would flex ULTRA in new, unforeseen ways in the real world. Performance, Weather ratings, Reliability and Portability were about to be put to the test in real-world scenarios, with the success of our customers on the line.
We’ve all been on set when something goes wrong- it’s an inevitable part of our job. The camera won’t boot up, someone forgot the dolly, The HMI won’t strike, etc. These are the moments we all work to avoid as we run the gauntlet. Knowing that awful feeling firsthand, we built ULTRA to handle the most difficult demands so operators know ULTRA won’t let them down.
Performance (75mph + 1.0g cornering)
“Would you be interested in being part of a SEMA camera car build?”
2 months after getting that email, I arrived at HOONIGAN in Long Beach, CA with ULTRA in flight cases, ready to build a camera car for SEMA 2018. ULTRA was built on the Corolla and ready for camera in less than 2 hours. Test day was hectic and reflected the pressures we regularly feel on set. “We have this location for 1 hour, and we have 2 hours of work to do.” The crew was new to each other, but thankfully our driver (Larry Chen) had chased our Formula D driver before, and knew his driving lines. We hit the ground running, and I was terrified as we flew into the first corner at 60mph. Mind you, ULTRA was rigged to the Corolla temporarily via our SSG Kit. We did back-to-back runs of hard acceleration, braking, and cornering chasing after the 900hp 350z until its rear differential blew. The whole rig performed without a problem and blew everyone (including myself) away. It was a great day, and left us all feeling really confident about the performance of ULTRA.
“ULTRA was the only thing I was concerned about, and it was the only thing that didn’t cause me any trouble.”
Sometimes the shot calls for sunshine. Other times for rain. Or snow, or mud. Mother nature often tells us one thing, then does another. The point is, weather is tricky and impossible to control. I arrived in Jacksonville to support a customer who needed ULTRA on a Mercedes-Benz shoot prior to taking delivery of their own unit. They were dealing with unpredictable weather earlier that week on the shoot, so when I arrived the first question was “Where do we need to bag this for protection from the elements?” I responded, “You don’t.” Everyone explained that there would be lots of water and mud, and I repeated that I wasn’t concerned. “Just bag the camera and head. The arm will be fine.”
We shot the segment in the morning hours before lunch. The Cayenne camera car ripped through puddles and mud off road, all during a constant drizzle of rain on the equipment. Despite an excellent bagging job by the camera department, issues were confined to the head. ULTRA 1, elements 0.
Reliability (CAN-BUS, safety factors, off-road)
“When things go wrong, you can’t put a price on right.”
There are tons of variables on a shoot- people, locations, talent, equipment, etc. We all remember the early days of digital, when redundant RED ONE’s were required on set in anticipation of overheating or the camera bricking. We’ve come a long way, but the principle still applies- gear needs to work and if it doesn’t you’re screwed.
Craig from Rennkamera called me a few days before his ULTRA arrived to him. They had booked a shoot with Firestone, and would be shooting just 2 days after their ULTRA arrives. To make sure the shoot went on without a hitch, Craig anxiously invited me to the shoot as Arm Op and ULTRA Tech.
I arrived to Motion State where the Rennkamera “Black Viking” was already built. After going through the rigging, and mounting the XL, we started going through the shot list. Off-road trucks, cars powersliding through water, and stationary jib work was all on the table. With limited real-world experience with ULTRA, they were rightfully questioning whether or not they should be agreeing to the terrain, the water, and the bigger lenses. Would this sacrifice reliability of the tool? Should we be more conservative on such a big shoot?
I assured them that there would be no issues, and that ULTRA was built for it.
The first setup was straightforward- camera car and picture car make a left through a wet intersection as picture car power slides around the outside. We nailed the shot on the 3rd take and moved on. The next setup was a simple move, but would test the reliability of ULTRA as we plowed through a spout of water. We did run, after run, putting the IP65 rating of ULTRA to the test. Still, no problem.
Day 2 was one of my favorite experiences with ULTRA. After lunch, we had time before production needed us, and Craig had not yet pushed ULTRA to the limits. So we scurried off to a closed part of the track to put some laps on his new rig. What started as a careful saunter ended as a fast, aggressive rip through the gravel rally track. Craig’s smile grew as he piloted with newfound confidence in the reliability of the ULTRA.
We finished the day with tracking footage of the truck. The agency wanted to see gravel getting thrown, so we staged the 500hp Cayenne next to the picture car and did several hard launches and pulled through corners. Despite the terrain, the elements, and the lateral accelerations ULTRA performed without a hitch for the entire shoot.
Portability (Flies as checked baggage)
“What’s the difference between ULTRA and a Russian Arm?”
It’s a common question, and my answer is usually “You can’t fly with a Russian Arm as checked baggage.” While snarky, it highlights the importance of portability. Everything else is relatively portable (cameras, lights, gimbals, tripods) so why shouldn’t a remote arm be portable? Productions demand it from our customers, and so we demand it from ULTRA.
I’ve flown with ULTRA on 12 flights in 10 months for various projects and deliveries. Every time I take off, I smile knowing there’s a 12-foot remote arm waiting for me at baggage claim.
Thanks to intelligent modular design, and robust Flight Cases, ULTRA is the first 12' remote arm in the world to fly as checked baggage. With regional barriers removed, our customers are able to lead production wherever it needs to go. That is freedom.
Performance, Weather ratings, Reliability and Portability were put to the test in real-world scenarios by world-class brands. ULTRA has run the gauntlet more than once and came out unscathed. ULTRA is not indestructible, but it’s a lot tougher than we expected.
Not convinced that ULTRA can handle the demands of your work?
Let us know. We’d love to answer your questions! Or check out www.MotoCrane.com for more information.