By Tim Jones
It’s time for a gear review, this time on the Lite Pro Gear Feather Camera Crane. As cinematographers, there are hundreds of tools at our disposal for making a visually interesting scene. One of those tools is the camera crane — a powerful tool that dates back to the early days of filmmaking. A crane shot can be used for a number of different reasons, but it’s number one purpose is to put the camera into smooth motion in a vertical or horizontal plane. At the end of the day, It’s a relatively easy way to add a lot of production value to an otherwise ordinary looking shot.
There are hundreds of different types of cranes available today on the market. In Hollywood, they’re often gargantuan in size and can cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For smaller crew sizes and the need to be portable, there are luckily plenty of options available. For years, my go-to had been the 12-foot Kessler Crane. I would use it on a lot of my shoots, particularly real estate videos, to give a feel to the space as if you were in the room yourself. However, using this bad boy comes at a cost. It’s heavy (like really heavy), plus you need to bring gym weights to counter balance the camera. Even though it produced stunning shots, it was always a hassle for our small crew. And taking it out in the field, or the backcountry? Forget about it.
I watched as some companies, including Kessler, came out with lightweight “travel” cranes, which were all enticing but none that seemed to fit the mold of what I was looking for. I wanted something I could strap on my backpack while hiking for miles to get to my destination. Another prerequisite was that after said hike, I couldn’t be dead from fatigue. My hopes seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream until one day I got a call from my college friend Abe, who was now living in South Lake Tahoe. He told me about his roommate out there who was building a super lightweight carbon fiber camera crane. I told him that if what he was telling me was true, to get me an order form ASAP.
I was soon having back and forth calls with the man behind Lite Pro Gear, Canyon Florey. The company was just getting off the ground and he was looking for
some filmmakers to get behind the product and really put it to the test. With multiple outdoor shoots coming up on the schedule, he sent one my way and I got to work.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the difficulties with larger cranes was not only the weight of the product itself, but having to lug bulky gym weights everywhere as well. The true beauty behind the design of the Feather Camera Crane is the fact that you don’t need to bring weights into the field. Weighing in at under four pounds (3.8 to be exact), you can strap it on your bag (my dreams have come true) and set out for your backcountry shoot. When you arrive, you unpack the little bag that holds all the accessories, throw it on the back of the crane, and stuff it with rocks. You fine tune the counter balance weight you need with rocks. It’s pure genius. When I do use the crane in a more controlled environment, I use gym weights because it’s easy. But when weight matters, and there’s rocks available, this design can’t be beat.
Aside from the light weight of the crane and the beauty of the design, it’s also incredibly fast and easy to set up. On average, it takes us five minutes or less to get it fully set up. In the field, the only part of the process that adds time (maybe five extra minutes) is finding the correct size rocks to counter balance the camera. In terms of camera restrictions for this thing, there really are none. We’ve used everything from small DSLRs up to the Sony FS700. I know a lot of people out there use RED cameras on it. One thing to note: the bigger the camera (and heavier the weights on the counter balance), the Feather Crane can start to wobble a bit on big movements. An easy way to control this problem is to operate it with two hands, and to make smaller, more precise moves.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve used the Feather Camera Crane on a countless number of shoots. As Grit Visual grows, we generally move into bigger, bulkier equipment. However, the Feather Crane is still one of our lightest, smallest and most reliable filmmaking tools. When I’m packing for a shoot, it always goes in the bag.
We just had Canyon Florey in town last week and he came by and visited our office with the newest version of the Feather Crane. He says that he’s worked out all possible kinks and its in its best form yet. I’d have to agree, the newest version is fantastic—but I know he’s going to keep innovating and making things better. I can’t wait to see what Lite Pro Gear’s next product is.
If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to step up your production, whether you’re a one man band or a production company, adding the Feather Crane to your equipment should be a no brainer. For more information, visit www.liteprogear.com.
Video review including plenty of sample shots with the Feather Camera Crane: