Redrock Micro Navigator, SLS & Atlas Motor - My experience & Thoughts.

Discussion in 'MōVI Pro' started by Josh Park, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. Josh Park

    Josh Park Member

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    Yesterday, Brian from Redrock Micro was able to meet me at Stray Angel Film in Los Angeles for me to demo their Navigator and Atlas motors. If you're unfamiliar with these two items, Navigator is a "command module" that controls gimbal's 3 axis movement - tilt, pan, and roll, PLUS it's a full FIZ unit built in, allowing you to control Focus, Iris, Zoom from your finger tips. Atlas Motor is a wireless follow focus unit that includes both radio and wifi built in and is it's own MDR with 4-pin Lemo pass thru.



    FullSizeRender 7.jpg
    Omar from Redrock was helping out with the setup, while Brian (off the photo) and I were talking about the system. The setup was my Movi Pro setup with Sony FS7 MK2, RED 18-50mm Lens and Cinemilled Dovetail with a counterweight.


    What I was most interested in was how Navigator performs. When I saw the demo at Cinegear floor, I only had few minutes to play with it and I felt as if I didn't get to experience it's full potential. I'm prepping for a travel job that requires me to use a zoom lens on the camera, so I had my priority list to cross out.

    1. Zoom rocker by my fingers to pull zoom at my will.
    2. Integration with Mimic Pro Bush Pilot.
    3. Ease of use and versatility
    4. Reliability

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    Navigator mounted on my Movi Pro ring handle bar (30mm)

    FIRST LOOKS
    In person, Navigator is incredibly small but packs quite a punch. There is a jogwheel on the left side of the body (not pictured) which allows you to navigate to a menu to make adjustments, front three buttons correspond to the devices you want to adjust - Bottom row of the screen indicates a (Lens) icon and (Gimbal) icon. The joystick is easy to push click and easy to control. Push clicking the joystick changes the white LED to either Blue, Light Blue, and Green, which changes the gimbal control setting from Majestic, Smooth Lock, or Full manual.
    Lens Controlling is done with the finger wheels and the joystick. Finger wheels control Focus and Iris. Joystick controls zoom.


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    Back of Navigator - You can see two finger wheels, one 4-pin Lemo Port, LP-E6 battery for power, S Bus port, which is connected to Movi Pro's Comm1 port, and a Lanc port.

    POWERING the NAVIGATOR

    First, you can power the Navigator two ways - one is with LP-E6 battery, and the other is through the 4-pin Lemo port on top which allows you to either connect to a Dtap source or Atlas motor (which I will show later)

    Our initial setup was with Redrock Micro's new SLS motors - one for Zoom and one for Focus. These are the motors designed specifically for the Movi Pro - it comes with Molex connector cable pre-installed. It was my first time spending time with the motor for longer than a few minutes and I have to say I was pretty impressed by it. It's one of the lightest motors I've seen and supposedly has much higher torque and power than their previous generation motor, Torque. Upon testing, the performance indeed lived up to it's expectations and seeing how the motor snaps to focus marks precisely was just simply delightful.

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    Two SLS motors mounted to Movi Pro setup. These motors have integrated cables, which saves them weight and size, according to Brian.

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    These two motors plug directly to the FIZ ports through the Molex connectors.

    HICCUP with CARBON FIBER RODS
    So, upon firing up, we noticed the lens couldn't calibrate the lens properly - it would rotate only about 2/3rd of the whole rotation. Omar tried to recalibrate a few times but we couldn't figure out why the lens won't map the entire rotation properly.

    Upon close examination, turns out the culprit was my 15mm carbon fiber cross patterned rod. According to Brian, the cross patterned carbon fiber rods has a tendency to bend when good amount of force is exercised, which confuses the lens calibrating system from perform a full mapping of the lens. Once we swapped out my carbon fiber rod with an aluminium rod, the problem was solved.

    It's a good thing to note - if your lens won't hit the marks or won't rotate fully, you might want to try swapping out your carbon fiber rods if it's bending during rotation. Redrock Micro apparently sells non-cross patterned carbon fiber rods that won't give out the same problem.

    Once everything was setup properly, I was able to check that the Navigator was working solid - motors turned nicely with the finger wheels and the joystick.


    CONFLICT with MIMIC PRO BUSH PILOT
    Next, I wanted to check how cooperative the Navigator is with Mimic Pro's Bush Pilot.

    Bush Pilot simply took over lens controlling whichever lens channel it toggled from Mimic Pro's menu. In this case, we wanted to have Bush Pilot be a focus control unit and the Navigator to be a zoom.

    Something weird happened - when zooming with Navigator, SLS motor on zoom axis started to stutter and wouldn't do a smooth rotation. Strangely, once Mimic Pro was turned off, that problem immediately went away. It was more noticeable when the zoom rocker was being pushed down than up.

    Here is a video illustrating the issue.



    Brian made some phone calls to find out why but it's currently only assumed that Movi Pro is being overloaded when accepting information being sent from both Navigator and Mimic. Pro. It's one of those unexpected collision when working with a 3rd party manufacturer. This is an error that hopefully can be fixed and I can only hope Freefly can provide some support on fixing this problem for Redrock.


    SOLVING THE CONFLICT
    One suggestion Brian had is to swap out the SLS motor to their Atlas motor, minimizing the pathways the motors signals have to go to turn the lenses. This way, Navigator won't have to pass through Movi's API to turn the zoom but send signals directly to the motor.

    Mounting the Atlas motor was incredibly easy. All we had to do is take the motors out, Mount the Atlas motor, and plug a Lemo cable in to one of the ports on the motor and the other side of the cable to the Navigator.

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    Atlas Motor is mounted next to SLS Motor. There are two LEMO ports on the motor, we are plugged into the one on the right.

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    And then, the other end of the cable plugs directly into the Navigator, providing power to the Atlas motor.

    What was impressive was a single LP-E6 battery was able to provide power for both Navigator and Atlas motor completely. Normally focus motors work between 12-16v range, but this was pulling enough power for both devices just from a single LP-E6 battery, which operates at an average of 7.2v. This was pretty impressive. Of course if you want to power the devices from a Dtap source, all you have to do is plug in a Dtap to LEMO cable to the remaining port on the Atlas motor.

    Swapping motors solved our lens stuttering issue. Atlas motor worked nicely with the Navigator and the focus motor with Bush Pilot worked great as well.


    This is a video of the Atlas motor running with the Navigator. Notice the lens rotation doesn't stutter anymore.


    This is a video of a quick test I did. I wanted to see if the Navigator can pull off a "vertigo effect" comfortably. I tried only a few times with Brian standing in, so please excuse the imperfection with the shake and focus. Pulling on the zoom control with the Navigator perfectly worked out and I was able to achieve this look.







    NAVIGATOR - THE GOOD / THE BAD
    The menu
    is straightforward - it does what it shows. The icons are very clear and understandable and there is no confusion. I wish there are more options for the Lens settings such as dampening, torque settings, and directions (There is only zoom speed adjustment available) However, I heard there will be a phone App coming which will allow you to control settings more in depth.

    The front facing buttons are designed to do one function only, which is nice. Clicking "Action" button changes the LED color to red, which indicates a R/S trigger. Unfortunately I didn't have any Movi Pro direct R/S cable for Sony FS7 so this was left untested.

    The fingerwheels can be placed nicely depending on where you're grabbing. It might take some time to get used to it, since focus and running with Movi isn't always an easy thing to do. Nailing focus on a lens longer than 25mm could be incredibly tricky, but it's definitely a nice feature for solo-operation shooters.

    The joystick feels great and responds very well. Doing pan/tilt with the stick was flawless and responded nicely. It performed great as a rocker switch for zooming in/out as well.

    One feature I would have liked is repositioning the panel. You can get your index finger positioned comfortably to pull the finger wheels, but the joystick felt a little too far away from my thumb. I had to mount the whole unit above the hand rest divider on the ring and pan it closer to me to reach the joystick with my thumb comfortably. If the unit can slide forward or backwards, that would have been great for the ergonomics.



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    This is how I was holding onto the handle bar and use my thumb to pull the zoom.


    It's Battery optimization was outstanding. According to Omar, a single LP-E6 battery can power the Navigator for almost a full day's work without changing. On top of it, this single LP-E6 battery can also power Atlas motor no problem. I haven't been able to daisy chain more Atlas motors to see if this is still a possibility. Even running a single motor from one of these small batteries is pretty amazing.

    There was an issue with the zoom speed - the speed of pulling and pushing (zooming in/out) was different upon testing. You can see the videos posted above and can tell that the motor turns the lenses at a different rate per different direction. I brought up this issue and Brian assured he would have the team take a look into it.

    The signal collision with Bush Pilot is another issue. This means you cannot use Molex connector ports on Movi Pro to pull all of your motors. If you don't care about stuttering motion of your zoom then this won't be a problem for you, but I'm sure most of us do not want to deal with such issues to begin with. I just hope Freefly and Redrock Micro can figure out this problem together and hopefully solve this issue on the next update.


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    It's nice to see all the motors running off Movi Pro's internal FIZ Molex ports.




    SLS MOTOR - GOOD/BAD

    This motor is one of Redrock's highly ambitious projects - specifically designed for Movi Pro only. They removed the cable ports from the motor and decided to embed a cable directly. You lose the versatility but you gain from it's lighter weight. This is one of the lightest motor's I've seen - almost as light as Hocus Product's Reflex motor. Brian did mention there is a Molex to 7-pin Lemo cable adapter, which allows you to put it on Freefly's Wedge, so perhaps SLS Motor might work with other Wireless Follow Focus setups, we'll see.

    FullSizeRender.jpg
    The SLS motor is stylish looking and is height adjustable to the rods.


    CONCLUSION
    Navigator is probably the only existing third party system that allows you to control Movi Pro directly through it's API protocol. I definitely like the idea of not having an additional MDR rigging and worrying about power draw. It has a lot of potential and Redrock definitely built a great ecosystem for the gimbals to be controlled at your finger tips. Obviously this system won't be for everyone to take advantage of since every Movi operator has a different kinds of jobs they take, but for a solo shooter that runs with a minimal number of crew and wants to have more creative control, I think the Navigator delivers.
    It's a new product and it hasn't been tested extensively, so there is more to learn about the Navigator. If you have your own experience with it or even own one, please share your experience below. Thank you for reading and I hope this helps your purchase decision if you decide to get one yourself.


    Thank you Brian and Omar from Redrock Micro for taking their time to demo the system with me.
    Thank you Stray Angel Films in Los Angeles for lending us your space.
     
  2. D Lerrick

    D Lerrick New Member

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    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for sharing this with all the details! Have had this on pre-order and hope I will get my unit soon. I think it will be a very helpful tool for both solo stuff or when attaching to mimic handles for a dual operator situation.

    Best regards
    Dave
     
  3. Josh Park

    Josh Park Member

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    Have you had a chance to test them out yet?
     
  4. D Lerrick

    D Lerrick New Member

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    No not yet and they couldn't tell me when it will ship...I was really excited about this but the waiting time is crazy
     
  5. Rob Ruscher

    Rob Ruscher Member

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    thanks for putting this together. Can the SLS motors be controlled via the Movi Controller? I thought that any motor plugged into the movi pro could be controlled by a movi controller.
     
  6. Josh Park

    Josh Park Member

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    I received mine like 10 days ago and took it out on a job immediately. Having a zoom control at your finger tips has been great for my job. I have to say it does come with a high price tag, so I'm not too sure of how to justify the cost of this.

    SLS motors should be compatible with Movi Controller just like any other motors.
     
  7. Blake Scott

    Blake Scott New Member

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    In theory the SLS motors SHOULD be fully compatible with the movi controller however the sls motors and freeflys' integration of them is completely lacking debugging. I have been struggling to get the motors to reliably respond to ANY commands given via Mimic or movi controller like motor speed or motor torque. Additionally after a calibration and a few minutes of use the zoom motor will go completely unresponsive until i do full reset. After speaking with Freefly in person and doing a demo they acknowledged the issues but it is not a priority until enough people who intend to use sls and movi send in formal support tickets via their email system. Im raising this to their attention and hoping sls users will speak up now.
     
    Alejandro Selman likes this.
  8. Roland Fleming

    Roland Fleming New Member

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    Hi, I know this is an old thread, but I have a couple of questions:

    1. Are the issues controlling the SLS motors from Mimic or Movi Controller now resolved?
    2. Is there any way to manually calibrate lenses without hard stops (ie., regular DSLR lenses like the Sigma 18-35 Art). I've only been able to find information about auto calibration, which I think assumes the lens gears have hard stops.

    Thanks, much appreciated if anyone has information!
     
  9. nick midwig

    nick midwig New Member

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    I believe they worked out any SLS motor issues with mimic and MōVI control. I use the SLS motors all the time.

    I also don’t think you can manually calibrate with the navigator along. I remember asking Redrock a while back. You could manually calibrate through the mimic but that does take a while. I’ve just been grabbing the lens to create hard stops when using stills lenses
     

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