Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: Kessler Oracle Controller & ElektraDRIVE Motor Pod

The review: I enjoy making time lapses so much, I invested in the Kessler Oracle Controller and ElektraDRIVE motion control system.  I've wanted to try out this gear for a long time now, so I was very excited to get started.  After watching several video tutorials, I connected the motor pod to the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly, and was up and running in less than 15 minutes.  It's a nice, tight seal between the dolly and motor pod, and a simple two-cable power up.  I ran off A/C socket power, while I charged the battery.  When it was ready, I connected to the Oracle Controller, and spent the better part of the day time lapsing with no power issues.  The "simple" set up in the Oracle was easy for me to get a quick start, and once I finished my 30 minute calibration, I was shooting my first motion-controlled time lapse.

< The battery-powered Kessler Oracle controller & elektraDRIVE motor pod with Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly.

< The Kessler motion control time lapse system.

< When using the outrigger feet of the pocket dolly for ground shots, you might need a monitor to be able to see your shot.  The IKAN v5600 is perfect for time lapses on the pocket dolly due to its light weight.

< Oracle controller resting on my improvised Redrock Micro 15mm rod holder.  The knee pads help with ground shots.

< iPhone 4 time lapse of my time lapse.

After several practice runs on the front porch, it was time to get the gear out in the field.  I packed up my gear into one 1510 Pelican case (Oracle, monitor, batteries), one camera bag (with 5DMKII, 60D, 70-200mm, 2x extender & 14mm wide), and the pocket dolly.    I chose a nice sunny spot at El Porto Beach in Manhattan Beach, CA, and quickly set up a low key time lapse.  The key to not being hassled in the field is to keep the gear as inconspicuous as possible (e.g. leave cases in the car).

< Out in the field shooting a beach lapse.  Very low key set up, and the stone bench made for a great level shooting platform (but no tight foreground).  I stashed the battery and Oracle under the bench, and enjoyed the sunny view.

<  The ElektraDRIVE 500 series motor pod connected to the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly.  I'm also rocking the 2x extender, and a Singh Ray ND filter.  My rule of thumb for the time lapse is one exposure every 10 seconds for over an hour.

Overall: This was my first experience with Kessler gear, and I'm very impressed with the simplicity & sturdy design of the system.  You can use the ElektraDRIVE for time lapses, and motorized dolly moves on small sliders like the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly ($1000).  There's still plenty for me to discover like the smart lapse system in the Oracle, and any number of tweaks in the advanced mode (e.g. incline power, slow/fast ramp up/down).

From my initial test day with gear, I've already started to plan my epic single axis time lapse movie because the time lapse and slider possibilities are endless.  It's great gear, and at an affordable price ($1400) for the independent production company or specialized HDSLR filmmaker.

Ethics statement: I wrote this review because I purchased and love the equipment.  No company is sponsoring me.  I would not endorse a product I did not believe in.

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