Genie escapes bottle: Panning, tracking time-lapse shots now amateur-friendly
Chances are, if you have a DSLR, or even a mid-range compact camera, that you've at least flirted with time-lapse photography in your time. But you might have thought that those breath-taking panning and tracking time-lapse shots now de rigeur in natural history filmmaking were beyond reach due to the expense of the gear required to achieve them. By inventing the Genie, a small box of tricks that puts these capabilities in the hands of amateur photographers, Kiwi duo Ben Ryan and Chris Thomson (collectively known as Syrp) have smashed their Kickstarter target of US$150,000 and would seem well on course to pass the half-million mark with 27 days still to go.
Let's taker a closer look at the little black box, then. Essentially a middle-man between a tripod and camera, the Genie will pan and tilt the camera according to user instruction to achieve fluid panning shots. And by attaching the Genie to a track instead of a tripod, tracking and dolly shots are also achievable.
The Genie doesn't need dedicated track equipment - simple rope will do, allowing users to improvise their own tracks or cable runs using skateboards and the like. In one demo, Syrp shows a Genie-equipped camera suspended from cables running 60 feet (18 meters) across a lake. Unlike professional tracking rigs, you're only limited by the length of your rope.
Syrp says that much time and effort has been expended in making the Genie's software as usable as can be, and there are certainly some nice touches. The ability to save a bunch of settings as a preset after a successful take is a nice touch. A preview mode that sees the Genie constructing a pseudo-time-lapse in real time using video so you can assess the final speed of the run before committing to the time-lapse is another. The Genie can be set to move continually, or to pause for each shot.
Apparently the Genie is compatible with any camera that supports remote inputs such as timers, and this suggests that Stuff.co.nz is correct in its reports that the Genie will take care of all the fiddly camera settings that can prove rather off-putting (hopefully the Genie's UI is friendly, and speaks human). A mobile app for control of the device is currently in development.
Though Syrp has priced the Genie affordably, at least by the standards of committed photographers, it doesn't come cheap. Even so, Syrp has nearly sold out in all of its pledges that ship Genies to backers. At the time of writing, only 12 of the 465 $690 pledges are still available, for which backers get a Genie at a $300 discount, along with panning and tracking accessories, 2 meters (6.5 ft) of rope, camera connector, wall charger, plus your name in the boxes of the first production run. There are still five $3000 packages available (which, in addition to a Genie, lands you a holiday at New Zealand's Lake Wakatipu for your trouble - accommodation included, flights not).
Presumably smelling a profit, five backers have snapped up all of the available $10,000 packages which sold 20 Genies at half the eventual retail price of $999. If Syrp fails to pass the half-million mark, it may simply be because it sells out of its initial run of Genies entirely. Would-be backers late to the party may prefer to save the money they'd spend of a t-shirt (one of the lesser pledges) to grudgingly put towards the full $999 at retail.
A Syrp demo video showing what the Genie can do is embedded below.