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class="Heading4">Preston FI+Z

Has anyone seen a Preston FI+Z kit come up second-hand, what sort of prices do they fetch ? Also does anyone have a list of what a minimal kit would consist of (Including two motors, driver, Microforce, FI+Z, gears for commonly-used primes, Primos, zooms, and power cables for Arri, Moviecam and Panavision, 15mm & 19mm brackets, batteries chargers) There seems to be an almost endless list at Preston's website.

Would anyone who has owned and used both care to compare the Preston and the Scorpio in terms of ruggedness and reliability ?

Tia Rory Moles 1st AC London


Hi Rory, Long time no see, how are things going?! In answer to your question, I've never seen a Preston kit go second hand and I've had my eye on buying one for the past 18 months or so. When I priced up the bits required brand new you're looking at around ?12-15K after discounts.

Best regards,

Chris Burton (TV/Film Camera Assistant/Operator)

Manchester, England


Hi Rory,

A minimal Preston kit would normally consist of FIZ Control, Microforce, 3 motors and brackets, microwave link, connector cables, batts and charger. It's the only unit to use 2.4Ghz spread spectrum technology. In laymans terms this means your frequencies can be spread out over up to 15 channels - in short never any slack. I've owned one for several years now and find it to be the most reliable lens control system around. I cannot comment on the Scorpio but compared to the Genio and VFX (sorry Howard) it is far superior.

Yes it is an expensive kit but well worth the investment and provided it goes on enough jobs for you this will be paid back quickly. I lease mine both wet and dry hire(with insurance). I've found over the years that they are constantly in demand and there are never enough of them to go around. I've only ever seen one 2nd. hand Preston and that was a few years ago at Birns and Sawyer, North Hollywood. The price was very close to list price - like a good German car these units don't lose their value. If you're serious about getting one try getting direct from Santa Monica. Optex are agents in the the UK but will slap you with an extra 10-15%. Try getting the DM2 motors they're lighter and smaller than the DM1 but just as rugged. Their F/X Unit looks great - does speed ramping for ALL cameras. Last time I looked though it was still waiting for FCC approval. Preston will happily charge you up to $250 for a simple Lemo or Fischer cable.

This is madness. If you speak nicely to a rental house they will normally make you some up for peanuts. I got all mine frm the nice boys at Panavision UK. The Power and Remote start cable is a God send esp. on cranes and Steadicam rigs. Likewise don't buy their 15/19mm brackets from source - any good engineer will sort you out with some cheaply. Although their microwave link is great I always carry a hardwire for back-up just in case. Interestingly enough medical supply shops have the right cable - I have 15m. - they use it for heart surgery - that's how reliable it is! A word of warning - don't buy their LightRanger autofocus; the Leica Disto is just as good and will save you megabucks. Hope this helps.

All the best,

Marc Ehrenbold GBCT London Based 1st.AC

Steadicam Master & Howard Preston Owner


A word of warning - don't buy their LightRanger autofocus :

the Leica Disto is just as good and will save you megabucks.

Marc :

Most of your information in your post seemed valid, but the last paragraph puzzled me. How can you compare the Light Ranger to the Disto? The Disto is a tool that measures distances accurately while the Light Ranger is an independant auto focus system that works with just about every lens and gets the job done on the 1st take. Imagine an actor running towards camera from 200 yards to finish in an extreme close up at 10' (only his 2 eyes in frame) at 100 fps with a 450mm at T2.8.

The Light Ranger will get the job done on the 1st take, flawlessly. Setup time from scratch : 3-5 minutes Imagine the same shot, but this time someone has a brilliant idea : track in over 20 yards to finish in CU sooner. The Light Ranger gets set up on the dolly next to the camera just as quickly, and you get the 1st take. Price Light Ranger rental: around 600$/day, but double check that. Price Disto Sale: 1000 $ The Light Ranger goes out only on rental, and usually in LA area. If there's one for sale, please let me know.

Leo Mac Dougall AC Paris


A minimal Preston kit would normally consist of FIZ - Control, Microforce, 3 motors and brackets, microwave - link, connector cables, batts and charger. - - It's the only unit to use 2.4Ghz spread spectrum - technology. - In laymans terms this means your frequencies can be spread - out over up to 15 channels - in short never any slack. Bzzzzzttttttt.....

The Scorpio Has 2.4GHZ Spread Spectrum and had it BEFORE the Preston. - I've owned one for several years now and find it to be the - most reliable lens control system around. Scorpio is JUST as reliable, with more features too boot. - I cannot comment on the Scorpio but compared to the Genio - and VFX (sorry Howard) it is far superior.

I've only ever seen one 2nd. hand Preston and that was a - few years ago at Birns and Sawyer, North Hollywood. - The price was very close to list price - like a good - German car these units don't lose their value. I know of 15 units that have been sold 2nd hand, you just have to know where your looking

Their F/X Unit looks great - does speed ramping for ALL - cameras. Last time I looked though it was still waiting - for FCC approval. It's had FCC approval for at least a Year. And it Ramps everything BUT Panavision and The New Arricam's. A capability that the Scorpio has had since it was released 5 years ago. - Preston will happily charge you up to $250 for a simple - Lemo or Fischer cable. This is madness. If you speak - nicely to a rental house they will normally make you some - up for peanuts. I got all mine frm the nice boys at - Panavision UK. The Power and Remote start cable is a God - send esp. on cranes and Steadicam rigs. Really? That's not the way it is in the US, Cable Solutions or Custom Interface Technologies are the two suppliers that I use. -

Likewise don't buy their 15/19mm brackets from source - - any good engineer will sort you out with some cheaply. Jerry Hill makes the Best, it's call a PAM (Preston Adjustable Mount) Personally I like the Scorpio better since all three controllers are on one unit, It has a built in LCD Display that gives you motor position indicators, camera speed and footage (Things that you need to know when your a FIZSAC) you can also network three hand controllers so three people can be anywhere and control the same MDR. Scorpio also has the "Vertigo" Tracker which is a "Motion tracker" for dolly tracks that will control focus and zoom, which works great for table tops. The Scorpio also use's an off the shelf battery that you can get anywhere in the world.

Eric Fletcher SOC Steadicam/"A" Camera Operator Los Angeles, CA USA


Can one use the Light Ranger in Reverse?

I once had a tele shot similar to the one described: "Imagine an actor running towards camera from 200 yards to finish in an extreme close up at 10' (only his 2 eyes in frame) at 100 fps with a 450mm at T2.8. The Light Ranger will get the job done on the 1st take, flawlessly."(Leo Mac Dougall AC Paris) But we were at 150 fps and the actor ran through a forrest of tripods, reflectors etc. So the actor was virtually invisible from beside the camera(my position) or the side of the shot (i.e. an assistant calling numbers wouldn't work either.)

Could one (if we had one) have hidden the light ranger almost 180 degrees(but hiden or out of frame, of course) opposite the camera pointing at the back of the actors head? Would a light ranger work in reverse like that? Where do you get a light ranger in paris???

Charles Curran AC

Norway


>Can one use the Light Ranger in Reverse. Could one (if we had one) have hidden >the light ranger almost 180 degrees(but hiden or out of frame, of course) opposite >the camera pointing at the back of the actors head? Would a light ranger work in >reverse like that?

Theoretically, yes : it works by triangulation.

Once you've given the lens info (infinity + near distance + any distance between the 2, which it keeps in memory), you must give it its offset distance from film plane. You do this by simply pointing it to a hand equivalent to this distance. The Light Ranger does all the calculation during the shot. The advantage is that sometimes your best spot will be above the camera in order to avoid the extras and maintain the aim on the target actor. 180 use: why not. I've never done it. You'll probably be limited by the length of the cable (Preston specifies that it can't be more than 30 feet from camera).

Also my gut feeling tells me that the closer to camera, the less margin for error. (It's a computer after all). Also, for this specific shot, if the camera was keeping the actor in frame most of the time, you probably would have been able to use the Light Ranger next to camera by a very slight offset from lens, either in front & below, or behind & slightly above & right. It's rigged to disregard any measure beyond a certain range: if a truck passes in front of an actor running towards camera, and its distance is greater than x feet from target, it will keep the focus going at its previous average speed. Thus, when the truck clears, there's a good chance the actor will still be in focus, or it will adjust the stray instantaneously.

http://www.prestoncinema.com/products_light.html for details Where do you get a light ranger in paris??? Unfortunately there are no Light Rangers in Europe. At this time, they're on a rental basis only, in LA. I still hope that some rental house in Europe will work out a deal with Preston to have one not too far away.

Leo Mac Dougall AC Paris


Hi, Obviously I've never worked with the lightranger, I think it works with a laser. We've had the example of an actor running towards camera with an extreme close-up of the eyes. Where do you point the laser? If someone is running very fast his eyes will probably not exactly aligned over his chest, and we are talking centimeters or less if you actually shoot this. I can't believe that an actor likes to have a laser pointed between his eyes. So how do you do it?

Herman Verschuur Cameraman Amsterdam, Netherlands


"We've had the example of an actor running towards camera with an extreme close-up of the eyes. Where do you point the laser? If someone is running very fast his eyes will probably not exactly aligned over his chest, and we are talking centimeters or less if you actually shoot this. I can't believe that an actor likes to have a laser pointed between his eyes. So how do you do it?" If it is that close on the actors eyes it would be very difficult to keep them in frame any way, but if you are not seeing the background how about them running on the spot and tracking in on them on the dolly? say on a 200mm?


 

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