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Review: eMotimo Spectrum ST4

eMotimo's new camera robot, the Spectrum ST4, delivers multi-axis camera control for timelapses like its predecessor, the TB3, but features a new design and motion presets designed to enhance its appeal for video producers.

eMotimo has made a name for itself in the last few years with a couple of different camera robots. Streaming Media Producer readers may recall the eMotimo TB3, which I reviewed last year. Next came the Turntable, which allowed you to rotate small objects while the camera remained stationary. Next was the Cart which was a little camera trike that worked in conjunction with the TB3 so that you could program 3-axis moves without being tied to something like a slider.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016, and eMotimo has just released the Spectrum. The Spectrum (Figure 1, below) is a successor to the TB3, but it is not a TB4. It is completely redesigned from the ground up. Though it’s a similar product, it performs in an entirely different way. The Spectrum ST4 is a 4-axis controller with 2 motors built in for pan and tilt. The two remaining axes (M3 and M4) are powered motor ports on the side of the Spectrum ST4. Typically panning, tilting, sliding shots are the norm, but adding a 4th motor control allows for future coordinated movement with accessories like a turntable (currently available) or a focus motor (out late in the summer). All 4 axes can be controlled at the same time using the two analog sticks on the wireless controller. The ST4 can do timelapse and it can do real-time moves just like the TB3. However, the TB3 was designed primarily for timelapse photographers, and it wasn't built with real-time motion in mind. It had a pretty high motor noise, and it wasn't quite as smooth as video producers would want.

Figure 1. The eMotimo Spectrum, a successor to the TB3 designed with video producers in mind. Click the image to see it at full size.

eMotimo recognized that producers wanted to use the TB3 for real-time video capture, and designed the Spectrum with that in mind. The Spectrum still meets the needs of time-lapse photographers who want multi-axis motion in their timelapses, but should also satisfy video producers who find this affordable compact camera robot very appealing for their kit.

Features

The Spectrum is a solid aluminum body with a durable satin-black anodized finish. You'll notice that unit shown in Figure 1 shows some signs of wear. The reason is because I own it and use it in real productions, and I took it to NAB with me in April. Most of the products I review I do not keep. I get them from the manufacturer, I use them for a few weeks, I write a review, and I send it back. The Spectrum is an exception, because it's such a good product I actually bought one--at full price--to use in my production work.

As you may recall from my eMotimo TB3 review, the TB3 uses a Nintendo Wii controller. The problem with the TB3 for real-time video control was the fact that to use the third axis for sliding or rolling with the cart, you had to rotate the controller in the air, so you couldn't get a very precise feel because there was no feedback. The Spectrum uses the PS4 controller (Figure 2, below). It connects via Bluetooth. eMotimo doesn't offer a wired version of the controller as they did with the TB3. You just press the PS button on the front and you can see it all blink until it's made the connection to pair and go solid blue.

Figure 2. You control the Spectrum with a PS4 controller. Click the image to see it at full size.

Once your controller is paired to the device, you're ready to move. In the Menu settings (Figure 3, below), the very top menu is Live Motion, so Video mode is clearly priority here with this device. All you have to do is power it on, and takes 2-3 seconds to get past the splash screen and boot up. You hit the X button on your PS controller, and the Spectrum goes right into motion, so you can immediately start moving it around.

Figure 3. The Spectrum menu. Click the image to see it at full size.

eMotimo has created 7 different presets for motion modes (Figure 4, below). The first mode, Normal, is a pretty average speed. There is little or no damping to it, but if you go down to one of the quiet modes, a few modes down. the motor noise immediately dropped to virtual silence. Not only do these modes limit motor noise; they also deliver slower, smoother motion.

Figure 4. Motion modes. Click the image to see it at full size.

The slider that connects the motor to the hub, shown in Figure 5 (below), is a temporary 3D-printed plastic part. eMotimo is currently working on integrating the slider. The one that will ship with the slider is a carbon fiber version with extendable rods. It extends to about 5 feet and it’s very portable. Because the slider is all aluminum and carbons, it’s very light, but solid.

Figure 5. eMotimo will integrate a real carbon fiber part into the unit when it ships.

Related Articles
Here we test eMotimo's TB3 3-axis motion control camera robot with the Rhino slider system for its usability, versatility, and reliability for live production.
In this article we'll take a look at some non-traditional robotic camera systems and explain how you can use them to get greater freedom of movement and imaging choice in your live-streamed productions.