We started working on MoVI Pro officially on Tues Nov 17 2015, its code name was ‘Project Meerkat’. We kicked of the project with a one week sprint that is intended to answer critical questions the team has, align the team on what we are building, and tackle significant technology risks early.
By Nov 19th we have mocked up this early prototype and flown it on the ALTA in the warehouse. As a team we really like to make quick / low complexity prototypes to get a feel for how the final product might feel, perform, and look.
(I swear we were not drinking….)
In this case we had the original MoVI to pull parts from which allowed us to build out this functional prototype in no time. Building quick prototypes is really effective at aligning the team early on…there is just something about holding a prototype in your hand that makes the direction seem even more real.
A little less than a year later we are launching the MoVI Pro, and I wanted to give some insight into how create products at Freefly, as well as share some of the challenges and funny moments…..
First off in case you have not seen MoVI Pro yet, take a look at this video for a deep dive into the product
You can find the user manual here and some quick product specs:
Let’s talk about some of the technical hurdles associated with developing MoVI Pro (many of these turned into my favorite features)
It was clear coming out of spring week that we had an absolute boatload of features that we dreamed of including, but we had to balance all these features with upholding the MoVI legacy of lightweight and simplistic design. We had a challenge ahead of us!
We had previously developed an ultra small 3 axis FIZ controller with the Wedge. We thought we could go even smaller, perhaps small enough that we could build it right into the camera mounting plate. To shrink the size way down we had to ditch the lemo connectors, instead we opted for small / lightweight molex Micro-Fit connectors. They checked all the boxes…great cycle life, latching connector, robust design, and we could create a nice custom overmold. In the end we managed to pack not only the FIZ, but all sorts of accessory ports into the area beneath the camera plate (we call it the TSU – “Tilt Stage Unit”)
The team did an incredible job of packaging all these sensors, power, and data ports into such a small enclosure and dealing with the power and heat dissipation requirements.
- USB C
- 12v accy D-Tap
- 12v Camera power – supplying 6A!
- CAN port
- CAM port
Smart batteries were on the ‘must have’ list at the conclusion of sprint week. We had all lived with bare 4s lipos for too long and wanted something better. We knew that we wanted dual batteries with some key features:
- Hot swappable (one pack would need to power the gimbal while swapping)
- Lightweight – had to keep weight down!
- Robust enclosure
- Integrated ‘fuel gauge’ so users could instantly know charge status
- ~ 1 hour run time while powering common cameras
- Quick charge – robust cells that could take intense discharge and charge rates.
- Zero slop / play in the battery mount – this could negatively impact gimbal tuning.
It took quite a few iterations, but we ended up with a battery that achieves all these goals. The feedback from people on set has been that this is one of the best new features on the MoVI Pro.
From Ryan Haug, Motion State partner:
Freefly: How was the workflow with the new batteries?
Ryan: Phenomenal, be able to hot swap and power our Alexa Mini or Red for that amount of time will change our workflow drastically. Especially for cable cam shots, previously we were having to battery swap and power down every hour. Being able to hot swap and run on longer periods is Huge.
Version 2 Autotune
Tuning a gimbal is a pain in the butt. The optimal tuning changes with lens, gimbal pose, accessories, etc. Basically only a few people on our team are ‘gimbal whisperers’ and can tune them to their full potential. We knew a key aspect to ultra stable shots was improving customers success with tuning and optimizing their gimbal. We have had plenty of emails over the years where people have had trouble getting smooth footage, only to find out their stiffness values are all 10!
We knew by now that people just want to shoot, not pet and tune their gimbal for hours.
Shane to the rescue….he devised the algorithm behind Auto Tune V2 which finds optimal settings for Pan,Tilt, and Roll stiffness and filter settings in around 10 seconds!
He drastically reduced the time it takes to autotune, and added the ability to automatically set the filters. Shane has helped me tune many a gimbal over the years, but now I can achieve a ‘Shane Tune” even if he is sleeping….
It also makes a really cool growling noise and our team made a special “NECKFACE” version for the release of Ty Evans Neckface video:
Mimic Beta was a huge win for Freefly and our customers. We came up with the idea after playing with a new mode in the MoVI Controller that allowed users to control gimbal pointing with the built in IMU in the MoVI controller.
We got the idea to put handles on the controller to create an intuitive controller that allows all camera operators to successfully point the camera. Once we tried it with customers we were sold. The idea was so powerful we decided to use existing hardware and rush it to market in just over a month. We knew we would come back and do a new version of the mimic at some point, but wanted the technology in people’s hands until we had the time to tackle the project in earnest.
When we say down to design MIMIC for MoVI Pro, we had a huge wish list:
- Built in battery
- Built in wireless radio
- Integrated screen
- Control of MoVI Pointing / FIZ / and Camera
- Control of RED cameras over RED RCP
- COM and USB C ports
- IMU / Dual GPS / Baro / BLE
In the end we created an incredibly flexible and adaptable building block for our camera movement ecosystem. With its suite of sensors, and long range wireless the possibilities that exist with mimic are incredible to think about. While some of them won’t be enabled at launch, we are excited to see how people will use MIMIC and how we can quickly develop and enable features to allow users to interact with the MoVI In the most natural and organic way.
Ring / Stand
When we built the original MoVI, the stand was a huge pain in the butt. We didn’t think about it early enough and it almost delayed the original shipments of MoVI.
For MoVI Pro, none of us wanted to cart a stand all over the world, and we really wanted the ability to instantly put the gimbal down to combat operator fatigue. Additionally we thought about the ability to shoot macro / static / time lapse shots from the integrated stand.
Casey Warren was the mastermind behind the original MoVI Ring, and once we started playing with the ring we knew it could be built with feet in a way that would work. We increased the diameter of the ring to make it more comfortable for users, and also reduced the wall thickness to decrease the weight. The result is an ultra light / but crazy stiff and robust ring that allows users to instantly set the camera down. The first time Hugh and I shot with the solution, I refused to give it back.
Thats it for this blog post on the MoVI Pro….I will touch on some of the funny events that happened during development in my next post!