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05/06/2017

The Vortex Aerial Camera System By Cammotion

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The Vortex Aerial Camera System is a completely unique and one-off piece of kit designed for on-camera vertical tracking from the ground up to 100 feet – reaching above most large trees – or the equivalent of seven double decker buses high.

Best described as a vertical telescoping crane or mast, Vortex has also been called a "boat on steroids" due to its sophisticated stabilising rigging and perhaps the result of being designed by a team of sailors!
The story of the creation of Vortex, which was awarded the GTC seal of approval, is remarkable and not for the faint-hearted. Matt Gladstone, founder of Cammotion Ltd. and inventor of Vortex, trained as a cameraman and conceived the idea while perched up a camera tower at the Open Golf in St. Andrews.

It was the height of summer with people sunbathing on the beach below. Matt, in full cold weather gear, was huddled next to his camera to shelter from the bracing and freezing wind. "There must be a better way of getting high angle shots," he mused.

Matt's vision for Vortex was realised mainly as a result of his incredible spatial and problem-solving ability and his sheer perseverance. Determined to stick to his original brief, Vortex was a feat of design and engineering – a small but stable working footprint (5.4 x 7.6 m with jack legs), easy to manoeuvre (towable trailer and hydraulic wheel drive), quick to rig and de-rig (minutes not hours), operable in wind (up to 30 knots – that is near gale force), stable and strong enough for a full size camera and lens, and it had to be "hard-wired" because radio links are too unreliable on live events. Coupled with the Cineflex and a 42x lens, Vortex can provide stunning vertical tracking shots with speeds of up to 2 m/s. Starting with a high and awesome wide shot provides an overview of an event followed by a track down to the action at ground level. Vortex is simple to integrate into an Outside Broadcast with its only minimal requirement a SMPTE fibre.

Ten years on from its launch, Vortex has been used on an impressive list of events and films and is still going strong. Credits include Trooping the Colour where Vortex is tucked away in the corner of a yard in St James's Park, only accessible to small vehicles.

On camera, Vortex provides the all-important overview of the parade ground with gentle moving shots using the tops of trees as foreground. Other credits include motor racing at many European circuits where it provides fast-moving shots from track level to overhead on hairpin bends to see the action unfold as cars spin off the race course.

Vortex has been setup on bridges (Tower Bridge, Pont-Neuf), roads and pavements (The Mall, outside Oval tube station, Greenwich, London Studios), fields (the Somme, Latitude Festival, St. Andrew's Golf Course), parks (Hyde Park, St. James Park, Clapham Common, Windsor Home Park), race courses (Goodwood, Cheltenham, Ascot, Silverstone, Aintree, Newbury, Epsom) and Palaces (Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle). From feature films to live broadcast, Vortex has provided stunning shots that cannot be achieved by any other product.

The ability to use a full size camera and a 400 mm lens (Fujinon 42x9.7) in challenging outdoor conditions makes Vortex a valuable addition to any broadcast.

Our showreel at the BAFTA-nominated Somme event exemplifies Vortex at its best (www.cammotion.co.uk).

This article is also available to read in the June edition of Broadcast Film & Video as part of an Aerial Filming feature.

(JP)
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