Black forest motion system
Black Forest Motion is a German company that offers professional solutions for the video-photographic sector. the motorized system proposed by them is modular and expandable according to customer needs, all easily managed from an app via Bluethooth (compatible with both the Android and iOS system), making it an extremely flexible and comfortable system to use in many and different situations
The complete system allows up to the management of 4 axes with the possibility also of integrating the use of an external intervalometer for the execution of time lapse.
I was given the opportunity to test their system for several weeks for the realization of the last part of my time lapse project. To obtain the right ratio between versatility of use and portability even during long treks lasting several days I opted for the package consisting of the 100 cm motorized slider and the motorized head for the Pan / Tilt movement.
From the first moment the impression was extremely positive and it is clear that the product is studied in detail. In fact, the various components are robust and functional while maintaining an elegant design with excellent aesthetic finishes.
Let's now see in detail all the components in the system that I have been able to test.
It is the unit that allows us to manage the entire motorized system and is programmable via a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) on which the proprietary app must have been installed. The connection between the two devices takes place via Bluetooth signal. In this version, up to 4 motorized units can be connected using 6/4 pin Hirose cables. There are also two 2.5mm aux inputs that allow you to connect our camera directly to be able to manage it through the intervalometer in the app or to use an external one. On the opposite side we find the input for the power supply (DC Barrel Jack 2.1x5.5mm 10-24V) and a Micro USB Type-B port to be used for updating the software.
There are also two other versions: the Original PINE and the PINE Lite, which differ from the PINE R in some features. The first is the hi-end version in which we have the possibility to connect up to two cameras simultaneously and to expand the system thanks to the presence of two RJ11 6P6C ports (similar to the ports for Enthernet cables). In the Lite version, on the other hand, we have the same characteristics as the PINE R except for the possibility of connecting a maximum of two motorized units.
A further aspect to underline is the possibility of connecting and managing also motorized units of different brands with the appropriate cables. On the site it will be possible to find all the details on which other devices are compatible. In case of doubts, however, it is possible to contact their excellent assistance service directly.
Currently it is possible to choose the length of the slider between two versions, the 60 cm or 100 cm version, according to your needs and the desired portability of the system. On the official website you will also find that a rail system that can be broken down into several segments will soon be available so as to combine high portability with the versatility of use according to the situation.
The slider is supplied with the respective case to protect it and facilitate its transport. The first thing that catches the eye are the finishes, in fact it turns out to be studied in detail, not only aesthetic like the various anodized details, but also in those that make it extremely functional and versatile.
But let's start from the basic details. In the 100 cm version it weighs about 2. It is made of anodized aluminum alloy with the tubulars acting as a carbon fiber guide which make it rigid and light. The quick release support of the motor is fixed on one of the two ends which makes assembly extremely simple and fast. On the sliding slide we find a small level to simplify the correct positioning of the system. In the lower part there is a plate for fixing to the stand with 3 3/8 "holes and 2 1/4" holes. The slider is equipped as standard with 4 movable feet positioned on the two on the ends. In correspondence with the latter we also find the presence of an arca swiss attachment and two 3/8 ”holes extremely useful for fixing the slider to a different stand or support.
At the time of purchase, in addition to being able to choose the length of the slider, you can also select the motor to be used. The motor is a NEMA with a Hirose 4-pin connection and it is possible to choose between 3 different reduction ratios (5: 1, 14: 1 or 19: 1) based on the maximum load to be supported and / or the maximum speed with which the slider will have to move.
Two optional accessories proposed are a ball head and a fixing plate for the PINE R.
MOTORIZED HEAD (NT HEAD)
As with the slider, the first impression you get by picking it up is that of a robust product with a very high finish. It has a 4-pin Hirose port on one of the sides, while in the lower part we find a 3/8 "hole and a 1/4" hole. The high versatility is also ensured by the presence of 3 arca swiss fixing points, one in the lower part and two on the sides, the latter also have 4 magnets allowing us to fix the PINE R with the special adapter supplied as standard, as well as multiple leveling bubbles in different points.
In addition to being used for pan or tilt movement, it is possible to use it as a star tracker, combining it with a polar scope (sold on the official website as an optional accessory) or a laser for pointing the polar star.
For my tests I used a 10,000mah power bank from XT Power (as recommended also on the official website). There are also 16,000 or 20,000mah versions of the same brand or it is possible to orientate yourself on alternative solutions proposed by different brands according to your needs, the important thing is to check that the output voltage is compatible.
Technical characteristics of the product:
Slider 100cm = 2 kg
NEMA motor 14: 1 = 560gr.
NT Head = 890 gr.
Pine R: 130 gr.
Cables: 50 gr each one
XT Power 10,000mah: 280 gr.
METHOD OF USE
Once the entire motorized system is assembled, we can start the proprietary Black Forest Motion app from our mobile device. As soon as the app starts, two windows will appear, the first one in which we will be asked to activate the Bluetooh, which is necessary to remotely control the system, and a second window in which we will be asked to activate the GPS, the latter it will be requested by the system in the event that we have to take panoramic or 360 ° photos.
After this first step we will find ourselves in the home screen of the app in which there are 4 icons (FIG.1):
Access to the working mode menu;
Synchronization of the motors connected to the Pine R;
Settings for use of connected motors;
Once our device has been synchronized and correctly set the available motors, we can proceed with the selection of the desired working mode.
There are a total of 11 functions available, each indicated with a representative icon as can be seen in FIG. 2.
Briefly listing them, we find:
Freerun: allows us to move the machine freely according to the axes of movement available from the system;
Time-Lapse: guarantees to set the desired framing variation for our sequence, also going to adjust all the shooting parameters;
360 ° mode: it allows the realization of frantic photos;
Turnatable: allows the management for the 360 ° movement of an object that we want to take back;
Astro: offers various tracking speeds for shooting celestial bodies with long shutter speeds.
Giga-pixel: allows the creation of panoramic photos;
3D-Scan: allows the creation of 3D scans of an object;
Macro: offers the possibility to adjust the focus to automatically perform the shots necessary for correct focus stacking; FIG. 2 Screen with available modes
A necessary note to do is that not all modes will always be available, in fact some of them will require certain requirements of your motorized system to operate. For example, for the Macro mode it will be necessary to have the motor for adjusting the focus, while for the 3D-Scan 3 axes of movement will be needed.
Let's now analyze in detail the Time Lapse mode, that is the one that I had the opportunity to test in more depth during the realization of my latest project. So let's see all the potential of this system in the realization of time lapse.
TIME LAPSE MODE
The initial screen that we will face after selecting this mode will be the one shown in FIG. 3. We can perform an initial division of the screen into two areas: the upper one in which the various settings are grouped as regards the intervalometer that will manage the shooting phase, and the lower area where instead we will have the opportunity to go to set the beginning, end and possible intermediate Key frames of the movement of our system.
Let's now analyze the two modules in detail.
The first thing to do will be to set the desired frame rate for our sequence, I usually use a frame rate of 25fps, but it is also possible to enter different frame rates such as 24fps, 30fps, 60 fps or others.
After this first step, enter the number of photos we want to take. This parameter will obviously depend on the duration that we want to obtain for the sequence.
Next we will set the shooting interval. In this section we will then have the opportunity to set various parameters. As we can see from FIG. 4 the values to be set are 3:
Camera: essentially corresponds to how much the "switch is pressed". Normally we can set it to a value of 0.1-0.2, while if you shoot in BULB mode this value must be equal to the desired exposure time.
Delay: essentially corresponds to the time interval before the system moves to reach the next position. We will therefore have to set a value at least equal to the exposure time. Obviously if we will work in BULB mode it will be sufficient to set a value of 0.1-0.2 seconds since the exposure time is managed by the "Camera" parameter.
Interval: corresponds to the time that elapses between a shot and its next.
The values corresponding to the Movement and Excess items are automatically calculated on the basis of the other parameters of the sequence that we will have set.
If an external intervalometer is used, it will be necessary to enter the "Slave" mode. In this case, therefore, the external device will guarantee the control of the shooting parameters, so we will only have to set the value corresponding to the "Delay" item.
At the bottom of the screen it will instead be possible to go to set the Key Frames of the movement for our sequence, i.e. the starting points, the end points and the possible intermediate points, with the respective position of the motorized system, so as to obtain a smooth transition between them.
At this point, before starting shooting, it is advisable to carry out some short tests to check that everything has been set correctly. To do this, the “Test modes” section in the first part of the screen comes in handy. Here we will find three possible test modes, which are briefly described in the part below (FIG. 5). My advice is to perform at least the first two tests that require very little time, in case you are scrupulous and the movement to be carried out is quite articulated and you are not sure that you have correctly set all the Key frames, it is also advisable to perform the "Movement Test" .
Once this last verification phase is completed, all we have to do is start the sequence. Scrolling the upper menu to the right we will have access to the screen of FIG. 6.
Here very intuitively we will find a button to start and one to stop the sequence in case of problems. Scrolling further through the menu we will have access to the display of the progression of our sequence, also monitoring the variation of the position of the motors and their possible acceleration or deceleration based on the Key frames set at the start.
The following mode allows us to use one of the motors for Pan or Tilt movement as a star tracker. From the main screen we can select the desired tracking speed from the three available: for the stars, the moon or the sun.
For now, there is no possibility to set the shutter speed and interval directly from this screen, however returning to the main menu we will be able to access the interval meter function without deactivating the tracking mode.
As can be seen from FIG. 7 we will have the possibility to decide all the parameters for our shot and therefore the possibility of realizing also time lapses while maintaining the advantages that derive from shots with the star tracker.
NB I specify that by making a time lapse of the celestial vault with the star tracker we will obtain a sequence in which the ground will move and not the stars.
In conclusion, I can say that the motorized system proposed by Black Forest Motion is an extremely professional and flexible product, allowing it to be used in many situations thanks to the wide range of pre-set modes and the possibility of expanding it according to your needs.
As for me, the product has numerous strengths that make it a complete and definitive product as regards the world of time lapse.
Flexibility of use;
Modulate according to needs;
Robust and with excellent finishes;
Possibility to use also an external intervalometer
Numerous features including that of using it as a star tracker;
Possibility to manage motorized units also of different brands.
Connection of the various devices (Piner R and the various motors) by means of 6/4 pin Hirose cables, a feature that makes the system reliable from the connection point of view but less practical in certain situations;
Noise during movements.
I conclude by leaving you the link of my latest Time Lapse project in which I had the opportunity to test this system.