In an effort to ensure that the best equipment is available to both local and foreign production companies shooting in South Africa, a joint venture between the Visual Effects Company (VFX) of London and Johannesburg-based Reflex Motion Control brings an academy award-winning motion control system, the MILO motion control rig, to South Africa for the 2009 season.

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Jay Mallet and Peter Constantatos MILO rig
Explaining the MILO, Reflex Motion Control MD, Peter Constantatos, says: "It's fast, accurate and reliable while maintaining the portability needed in today's live action environment. It is quick and easy to set up either on location or in the studio. It has an operating range of 3,65 meters maximum height and 3,05 ,meters maximum reach all along precision track.

"As a portable system the MILO can be positioned on decking to give a greater vertical range overall. If space on set is at a premium, the rig can also be removed from the rails and used without the tracks is required.

"Motion control," explains Constantatos, "is basically a fully repeatable computer controlled camera with multiple movement axis. It creates a moving VFX shot. It can also do replication, make a crowd of 20 look like 200 for instance. It can also scale people up or down, an example being the Umpalumpa's in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Reflex Motion Control, who operate out of the Foghound studios in Midrand and specialise in sophisticated motion control equipment, have for the past 12 years being offering the MOTOMAN 7 rig to film and commercial makers alike.

Detailing the new rig, Constantatos says: "The MOTOMAN that we have offered up until now is a rugged and reliable industrial robot specifically adapted to provide motion control on video, 16 and 35 mm film cameras. The rig has seven axes of freedom including tracking and operates on industry standard Giraffe tracks. Track lengths of up to 10m are achieved. The rig can jib camera from below track level to almost 3m high and achieve almost any camera orientation within that envelope. Pan/tilt/roll of 300squared can be achieved."

The computer provides accurate referencing of the lens' nodal point allowing full nodal pan/tilt/roll. Moves are programmed as a series of points (key frames) and moves between these points can be programmed as linear, circular/arc or spline moves. Acceleration and deceleration can be set to ease in/out of the move. Move time can be accurately set for each move, and move time can be scaled. Moves can be divided for stop-frame animation (up to 1500 frames in one move).

"The rig can be moved from studio to location with relative ease in our custom-built trailer. Set-up time in studio is only one hour. Moves executed on location can be stored and repeated at other locations or in studio. The MILO is a great advancement on the Motoman.

"Joining forces with VFX (London) means we will now be able to offer the South African market the best in motion control equipment and expertise. VFX has a long tradition of providing quality motion control and effects work on major productions including four Harry Potter features, two Bond movies and numerous commercial works.

"The MILO rig was flown to Cape Town, and has been based there for the 2008/2009 season. The advantage the collaboration between our company and VFX brings to the South African market is significantly reduced costs (freight and travel costs are now out of the picture) plus a local support crew to ensure everything runs smoothly. The principal operator is still flown from London ensuring the best skills are available for your shoot," explains Constantatos, adding that the rig was transported to Johannesburg and set up in the Foghound studios recently to demonstrate its capabilities to the local market, with VFX company engineer Jay Mallet in attendance.

The MILO will be returning to Europe but can be brought back to South Africa should the need arise.

"Its final shoot in SA will probably be a Guinness commercial at Constitution Hill shortly," concludes Constantatos.