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Kessler Crane – CineDrive Review

Disclaimer – I do not have any association with Kessler Crane, Eric Kessler or any person(s) at the company. My review of the CineDrive is not paid for, endorsed by or otherwise known about by Kessler Crane.

If you’ve read this blog, listened to the podcast or just heard me talk about independent film equipment, you’ll know I love Kessler Crane. The build quality of their tools, combined with the unparalleled customer service and annual innovations make it one of my top pics for investing in equipment.

I’ve finally gotten my hands on a CineDrive and put it through its paces on a project I was hired to do. A lot of VFX, a lot of match-moving (repeated shots, precisely handled by a computer to insert plates, actors, props, etc) and a deadline that was, if I’m being honest, borderline criminal.

When you’re working on low-budget independent films, there’s generally no real budget for amazing VFX or complicated shots. In general, indie film shoots are fast (we often work with borrowed locations, usually with business or time restrictions on when we can shoot), extremely guerilla, and on a shoe-string for a budget.

So, when I had to put together a complicated shot that involves a chase-scene with two people teleporting through multiple dimensions, I turned to the Kessler CineDrive to make it happen.

I’m listing the equipment I used below:

  • Kessler Crane Shuttle Dolly
    • Used SpeedRail and some outrigger legs to hold it all up.
  • Kessler CineDrive
    • The heart & brain of the motion control move. Conntected with an iPad and the Digital Control Center.
  • Canon C300 MkII
    • With Canon Cine Glass
  • Kessler ION Battery Packs
    • Honestly, didn’t use these much because we had local power but it was nice to have.

Once I had everything set up, I was able to follow my Hero through a isles of a grocery store, firing off squibs and some air cannons for the “explosions” and “bullet hits” while he teleported away from the bad guy. They were both running, so the move was complicated, but I was able to capture the actors in the store for my first scene. For the second scene (or the first teleport) I set up the exact same Kessler system in a steel foundry and matched the same running movements of the actors. In the third scene (second teleport) I duplicated the set up, ran my actors through a forest area and captured the same movements. The fourth scene (final teleport) put my actors in a warehouse where they ended up fighting.

Once the individual shoots were complete, I was able to easily composite the footage on top of each other in After Effects, use a simple transition effect to make the “Teleportation Field” (Video Copilot plugins work WONDERS here) and make the entire 45 second scene seem pretty darn smooth.

I didn’t want to do any cuts or takes between the scene, I wanted to keep the action dialed up and in the moment, so the motion control CineDrive made it so easy to duplicate the same camera/crane movements in multiple locations and only have three cases to take with us. I think that is one of my favorite features of the whole kit, the fact that it’s so portable and so easy to move around and set up, that you forget that you’re working with complicated equipment and just get the shots you need.

As a side note, the shoot did have a time-lapse scene at the very beginning and while that was extremely easy to do with the CineDrive, it could’ve been handled with a lot of the other Kessler gear as well so I wont really go into that, except to say it was a cake walk to set up and run.

Ultimately, a lot of people will complain about the cost of the Kessler CineDrive and the other equipment I mentioned, but I think it is a extremely worthwhile investment. More so than cameras, because you’ll replace cameras every year the newest sensor comes out, but my Kessler gear is a workhorse that will still be running along, pulling repeated and complicated moves when I’m running the canon C1800 MkVI. (Not a real camera, FYI)

The point is, if you’re going to invest in a career in VFX or film making in general, you’ll want to invest your money into equipment that is going to last you a long time, give you the production quality you are looking for, and be easy to set up, reliable, and well supported by an amazing company. You’re going to want to invest in Kessler.

Some larger Hollywood type films would use a Milo Rig or something similar (a huge, complicated six-meter armed gargantuan motion control rig that costs half a million dollars) but I was able to pull off the same effect for something that set my company back less than $15,000. Now I own the equipment, can use it on a thousand projects, carry everything in a couple of backpacks, and generally up the production value of whatever I’m shooting. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, that purchase price has been paid for several times since I got the equipment.

All in all, I’m happy with my investment and I’m thrilled to see what I can work on in my own projects with the CineDrive.

If you want to check out CineDrive as well as all the other Kessler products, just head to http://www.kesslercrane.com/ and have a look.

Rent cameras. Buy Kessler.

About Justin Kincaid

Justin is the host of Film Fervor and a passionate lover of independent entertainment. Indie films are where people can truly express themselves and Justin believes that there are too many limitations on "mainstream" movies to be able to tell good stories.

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