Robic Claims Industry Fastest Robotic Camera System

A new high speed filming robotic camera system has made a break with convention by writing its own software.

“What makes us different is that all other robotic camera systems run on the same motion control software which is kind of limiting,” says Joe Masi of Robic distributor Triptent. “We created our own program from scratch.”

Robic, from New York developer Robic Team, is a robotic arm for capturing precise pre-programmed camera moves at extreme speed. It features a high-torque follow focus capable of moving from zero to infinity in just 0.25 seconds. It can travel up to 170 kph capturing 2,500 frames per second. The system is compatible with pro cameras including the Phantom HD, Flex 4K, Red Epic and the ARRI Alexa Mini.

The software was written in-house by Fernando Kocking. The de facto standard of motion control software is a Windows-based system developed by Mark Roberts Motion Control and used in their systems including Milo, Cyclops and Juno.

It says, Mark Roberts Motion Control is the only company in the world that develops both the rigs and the software, so the two are very closely integrated, giving greater versatility that cannot be offered by any other software for motion control. It contains features that have evolved from the company's involvement in the industry for over 20 years.

“Robic’s software does not send frame by frame positions to the robot like FLAIR because the speed communication in high speed motions is not fast enough,” explains Kocking. “So we send all the trajectories to the robot memory and run it from there. We also increase the robot communication to a digital parallel 32-bits giving us faster communications and more time to correct the motions of motors and robotics around Robic. The same parallel 32-bit system will be used to control all other robots, rails or extra motors that requires total synchronisation.

“Our software is designed more for speed and motion control while others are designed for motion control and still frame animation like old fashion motion control. They have used the same software for the last twenty years.

“Also, we do not base our time line on timecode (SMPTE) but in microseconds interval (1 millionth of a second) giving more subdivisions to control and also at high speed there is no time code on Phantom cameras. These types of speed are not possible with the Flair system. To capture a drop of water falling from a glass you need at least a 1000th of a second to really be enable to control the moment of the drop in your frame. In that we are very different from Flair.”

Kocking is working on adding torque control to push the robot’s speed even further; kinetic human recognition; collision avoidance control so the robot knows where it is in real space to avoid impact and a control panel for use by non-technical personnel.

“We can always customize the system for your shoot, whatever the technical need, of course within the capabilities of the system.”

The hardware comprises a set of four motion control arms developed by Staubli.

Two of the robotic arms, together with the custom Robic software, are designed to control cameras, and two are designed to control objects. The camera control arms can be used alone, or can be programmed to follow the movements of an object mounted on another Robic arm for synced capture. The system has also been designed so that camera arms can be controlled and programmed very simply via a Sony PS4 controller, “dramatically reducing prep time” says Masi.

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