One of the most defining facets of any filmmaker’s style is how they position and move the camera. Though the time honored “tripod or dolly?” choice expanded with the advent of the Steadicam operator-controlled motion system in the 1980’s, the cost of even renting one (and the operator) have remained out of reach for the new breed digital filmmakers.

The MōVI M10 from Freefly Systems Inc. looks to offer a smart and relatively cost-effective solution. The MōVI M10 setup is a motorized, triple gimbal system that provides rock-solid smoothness under ridiculous amounts of motion, both small and large, and for a fraction of its cost could offer what the Steadicam does – and potentially a whole lot more.

The M10 is aimed at the rapidly growing category of film-quality digital video cameras such as the Arri Alexa, Sony F5 and F55, the Scarlet line from Red and the just announced Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. The M10 seems to be in the same mindset: offer the highest value for money and a cool technology that changes the entire value equation. The MōVI system weighs 4 pounds and can travel in a thin suitcase as carry-on luggage.

From the looks of things, the M10 can do a whole lot more than just create the occasional follow shot. The demo video shows cam operators running down stairs, through traffic and crowded sidewalks, and even rollerblading with the cameras rolling. The resulting footage is amazing – perfectly sharp and jitter-free, without any distracting shake or discontinuity.

A drawback of the system is that it is only able to carry about 10 pounds of camera and lenses – about the weight of digital camera back and basic lens setup. However, a larger M20 model is being developed to handle double that weight for more dramatic and significantly costlier lenses (the kind that are priced like condominiums you rent).

The M10 is based on a proprietary and custom-made gimbal and 3-axis gyroscope that digitally stabilizes the camera. The smoothness it provides over a wide range of conditions could really expand filmmakers frontiers of experimentation and change the way film is shot. The M10 allows shooters to make a complicated shot in less time than it would to explain it to the director. It could also negate the use of a tripod for many of the quick pan or tilt shots or even more complicated “push" and POV shots that would be either impossible or eat up too much time for any typical shoot not involving Jim Cameron.

The MōVI M10 sells for around US$15K and a smaller version, the M5, will be half that, at $7,500 – less than a quarter the cost of a typical Steadicam setup retailing over $30,000/US, and cheaper to buy outright with every option than the spend for just a single day of Cineflex system rental.

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