11 August, 2022

Lights, camera, action

28 July, 2022

In live broadcasting, time is of the essence. This case study showcases how Hydraulics Online designed a hydraulic system that automatically keeps the camera crane level from one location to another.

Adrian Croome of Adrian Croome Media Ltd is the creator and operator of ‘Off Road Jib‘. He has worked in television for 25 years with vast experience and a portfolio of work that includes BBC Springwatch, Blue Peter, Countryfile and dramas including Sherlock, Hollyoaks and Broadchurch.

I have a dream

Outdoor filming for TV series such as BBC Springwatch Live is no easy feat: live broadcasting means there’s no opportunity for ‘take two’. Add uneven terrain in woods, farmland and rivers and unpredictable British weather into the equation… and at times it can seem like a ‘mission impossible’.

Croome has been ‘swinging jibs’ since 1998 and has lots of experience in largescale wildlife and nature filming. A ‘jib’ is a long metal arm (or rig), which can stretch up to 30 feet, with a camera on one end and a counterweight and camera controls on the other. It operates like a seesaw, but with the balance point located close to the counterweight, so that the camera end of the arm can move through an extended arc.

The fluid motion effect that is achieved from using jibs helps to create a variety of dramatic and smooth sweeping shots across countryside, crowds and stages. The camera can tilt up and down, pan left and right, or do a combination of both – capturing dynamic movements and cinematography.

After many years of having to manually level the heavy arm and then re-position the camera between different sets and locations, Croome knew there had to be a better way. He had a vision of a camera mount, which would automatically self-level whilst moving the base regardless of terrain. He knew it must be possible, but didn’t pursue it further, simply not knowing who to turn to. “I didn’t know where to start and thought it would be too complicated and way too expensive to make it a reality,” he reflects.

Chance encounter

One weekend while staying with his family in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, Croome had a chance encounter. Holidaying in the same area was Mark Tonks, managing director of Hydraulics Online. The two families’ children had been playing together for most of the day and so the ‘grown-ups’ struck up their own conversations. Oblivious to Tonks’ background, Croome talked about his work as a TV broadcaster and his need for a hydraulic system to solve his manual rigging dilemma. Tonks then naturally introduced Hydraulics Online – explaining how the company specialises in custom-made hydraulic system design.

The first prototype

Discussions continued to the technical specifications; Tonks gave an idea of cost – which was happily within budget – and arrangements were made for Tonks to see the camera jib in action so that a prototype system could be designed.

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