This Device Will Make Follow Focus and Moving Timelapses a Piece of Cake

This Device Will Make Follow Focus and Moving Timelapses a Piece of Cake

It is insanely difficult to bring an idea for a product to market. One of the biggest impediments is, of course, cost. That's why I have the utmost respect for folks who put it all on the line to follow their dream, folks like Chris Field. Chris has invented the Lens Apparatus, a universally compatible lens controller for timelapse and DSLR videography follow focus control that looks like something all of us DSLR videographers will love.

So why did Chris build it? "Artistic use of focus control is something that has always been a part of photography," Chris told me. "It is used to isolate the subject and draw your eyes to specific points, convey emotion and help tell the story of the photograph.

"Timelapse has been around awhile, but the technical challenges of being able to control the focus have made it very difficult to implement. We have taken on that challenge and created something very unique, The Lens Apparatus. There is nothing like this on the market, at least nothing that offers universal compatibility for timelapse."

"The adjustment of focus has to be very dynamic and work on-demand. We have found the best way to do this with a flexible combination of automation and direct live control. Of course, not all lenses are the same, not all behave the same. So the challenge was to build out a control system for the Lens Apparatus that worked one any lens. It must work not only as a stand alone system, and also be very simple to integrate with any motion control system."

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But Chris wasn't satisfied with the Lens Apparatus being a one trick pony. "We also wanted to make this equally competent at follow focus work for DSLR video. By implementing a variety of speed range limits, and variations of control including direct position control we have also created a very robust and simple to use follow focus for video for clean smooth and consistent results."

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Chris is running a Kickstarter campaign which has already hit its funding goal, but he is still offering rewards for pledges to get the Lens Apparatus at a discounted rate. "We have seven pre-production units that are already in use and have received excellent feedback to their performance. We have been hand building quality timelapse systems for a couple years now, and are very excited to introduce this new system and can't wait to see what you do with it. We are prepared to handle any size of orders with this Kickstarter campaign, no matter how large or small."

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Chris tells me this idea stems from the 2011 Fstoppers Behind the Scenes video contest, so I'm glad that our medium led to something so sweet! You can get more details at the Kickstarter page. What do you all think? How would you use the Lens Apparatus?

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14 Comments

Header image from ONElapse photography @ timelapseomaha.com :)

Yes it is!! Thank you Jesse!!!

Interesting news, but not new. Sciencelookers has been making focus and zoom motors for timelapse applications for five years. Chris Field owned one of our motors before he "invented" this. I'm not going to rain on his parade by discussing problems with his design here. My motors are still sold directly to customers after discussing their exact requirements through my email (Sciencelookers@aol.com). We currently have three models of focus motor. We can steer you to the one which best suits your requirements or build something specific to your needs. We also make one of a kind motion control devices. Drop me an email if you'd like us to make something for you.

FStoppers is always welcome to come see whatever gear we're working on at the moment.

Best of luck on your Kickstarter campaign Chris.

You should get a domain name, an email account from that domain name and a web site for that domain name where we can find out more about your "motors". An AOL account means old person to most people. I googled Sciencelookers and did not find your web site.

Don't complain about not being recognized with being first if no one can find your product. Get a website or even a wordpress page.

You're right. I am an old fart. Just means I've had more time to learn about making things. Also right that internet marketing isn't my strongest skill set.

I began making timelapse focus motors for friends and a few specialist filmmakers. I also make one of a kind motion control devices for specific problems, sometimes for one specific shot. The focus motors have become one of a few exceptions where a single design has widespread general purpose utility. Selling through email allows a back and forth discussion that results in the product being optimized for the customers needs. Its very old fashioned and obsolete as you point out.

Our new website is A1net.net It was meant to go live with our own Kickstarter campaign intended to help us go from one-offs and small scale production, into mass production of those products with wider application.

I'm not accusing Chris of stealing an idea or anything of the sort. As far as I know, the first motion control lens built specifically for timelapse was made by Andrew Curtis. It was a one-off built around one lens. That inspired me to build a general purpose timelapse focus motor for any camera and any lens. As they were built in such small numbers, each run saw improvements based on experience with both manufacturing methods and the devices performance. We currently offer three distinct designs with different price points and performance. Our most popular model is modular, allowing several different choices for motors and gear reduction. We have specific variants of these for many different motion controllers. Chris has built a motor specifically for Chronos, and its excellent cross-compatibility with other motion controllers. I wish him success with it, but invite you to see what we have to offer as well.

Brian Reese's picture

They say... IN the vid... "while this system is the first to be marketed at this price point, it is not the first of it's kind". And you'd think for being in business 5 years... you'd own sciencelookers.com.

James I always have and always will be an advocate for you.

It was never my intention to try to insult you, or try to ride on any credit. Our design is very much our own design, and as you said others have made these as well. We were just the first to use it with a read mounted stepper motor via belt drive and include suspension, and the first to try a campaign on kickstarter. And while that is nothing incredible, it does solve several issues i have seen from just about every other manufacturer. One of the big ones is the difficulty in perfectly centering the Cinevate rings. If they are not perfectly centered it can move the lens. Our design solves that problem and also removes possible backlash between the gear and lens.

The real heart of the Lens Apparatus is the control system. As you know we have been working on The Chronos Project for a couple years now, and I really did put in a lot of time and thought to give as much control as possible. I had to spend quite a bit of time optimizing the code, and rewrote a substantial amount of it in order to offer as much flexibility as possible to control it. I learned a lot in this, not all lenses work the same. The fly by wire lenses have all sorts of strange behaviors i did not expect, it was a very large effort to figure out the ways to counter these problems and I'm very please with how well it all works.

In my view the only revolutionary thing about our design is our approach to controlling it with a mixture of keyframing and live ramping to make sure it will work with any lens.

I don't know exactly what "problems" you feel there are with the design, obviously this is not a design you would have chosen. However we do have pre-production units out, they have been tested by a variety of users on a variety of lenses. They do work and they work extremely well. We would not simply slap something together without testing it fully and sell it. That is not the way we work. You have not used our design, you do not have one of our pre-production units, and I do not feel it is fair for you to come on here and start making claims of "problems" that you can not verify or validate in an attempt to undermine all the hard work we have done.

Anyway we wish you luck in your endeavors.

-Chris
The Chronos Project.

Chris,

Sorry if I said too much. "problems" was a very poor choice of words, i totally apologize. None of our motors are without problems in certain circumstances, which is why we offer multiple models and a re-configurable model.

project Chronos is brilliant. The dolly is an excellent value with superior portability and your awesome controller which synchs up with motion controllers from other companies. Your modifications to the controller to optimize the focus motor are a first as far as I know.

It probably wasn't a good idea to butt-in and get free exposure on top of your article. The decision was made on the spur of the moment and not well thought through at all. We're trying to go from very small numbers to a larger market just as you have.

We'll be trying to get some online articles like this about our stuff. If we succeed, feel free to post, informing people about your products. Knowing you, I am sure your comments will be better composed than my poorly thought out attempt.

I have huge respect for the work you've done and the quality of the Chronos line. Please accept my apologies and best wishes for your continued success with project Chronos.

James like i said i have always been an advocate for you, and always will.

I would always be more than happy to plug anything you do on our website because i know you put a lot of effort and care in your craft, and you do not half-ass anything.

This is one of the happiest threads I've read in regards to competition. I love that you guys have each others backs. No one got crazy (as is tradition for forum and comment threads), and you both respect one another. That brings me great happiness. And James, if you need help with marketing, get in touch. ;) Chris, you seem to have it down pretty well. Good work all around. Thank you for restoring faith in humanity.

I bought a Chronocontroller from Chris earlier in the year. The man knows what he's doing, and personally learned about the setup I was making and recommended changes that had nothing to do with what he was selling. It was just a great experience. Like buying something from a friend who is also an expert and selling quality products.

Thanks Brett. I hope everything is working well for you. James and i very much do see eye to eye when it comes to interacting with the customers. We do have online ordering up on the website now, but i prefer to exchange a few emails to make sure whatever we have will in fact be a good fit for the client. Several times i have referred people to competitors because i knew their system would be a better fit for the specific application. That is my favorite part of The Chronos Project.

We do have a video on our Vimeo channel that does showcase one of James's lens motors, I did plug him, and provided the information for his controller, we still have his email linked on our facebook page in a gallery dedicated to his Lens motors.