Black forest motion system
The Black Forest Motion is a German company that offers professional solutions for the video-photographic sector. The motorized system proposed by them can be modulated and expanded according to the customer's needs, all of which can be managed easily from an app via Bluethooth (compatible with Android and iOS systems), making it an extremely flexible and convenient system to use in multiple and different situations.
The complete system allows up to the management of 4 axes with the possibility also to integrate 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 get the right balance between versatility of use and portability even during long multi-day treks I opted for the package consisting of the 100 cm motorized slider and the motorized head for Pan / Tilt movement.
From the first moment the impression is extremely positive and it is clear that the product is treated in detail. The various components are in fact sturdy and functional while maintaining an elegant design with excellent aesthetic finishes.
Let's now look at all the components in the system that I could test in detail.
It is the unit that allows us to manage the entire motorized system and is programmable from a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) on which the proprietary app must have been installed. The connection between the two devices is by Bluetooth signal. In this version up to 4 motorized units can be connected using Hirose 6/4 pin cables. There are also two 2.5mm aux inputs that allow you to connect our camera directly to be able to manage it using the interval timer 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 for some features. The first is the hi-end version in which we have the ability to simultaneously connect up to two cameras and 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, you have the same characteristics as the PINE R except for the possibility of connecting a maximum of two motorized units.
A further aspect to be emphasized is the possibility of connecting and managing motorized units of different brands with the appropriate cables. On the site you can find all the details on which other devices are compatible. In case of doubt it is however possible to directly contact their excellent assistance service.
Currently it is possible to choose the length of the slider between two versions, the 60 cm or the 100 cm, depending on your needs and the desired portability of the system. On the official website you will also find that a rail system that in the near future will be realese also a version with a modular to combine high portability with versatility of use based on the situation.
The slider is supplied with the respective case to protect it and make easier its transport. The first thing that catches the eyes are the finishes, in fact it turns out to be taken care of in the smallest details, not only aesthetic like the various anodized details, but also in those that make it extremely functional and versatile.
But let's start with the basic details. In the 100 cm version it weighs about 2 Kg. It is made of anodized aluminum alloy with the tubes in carbon fiber that make it rigid and light. On one of the two ends the quick release support of the motor is fixed which makes the 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 we find instead a plate for fixing to the stand with 3 holes 3/8 "and 2 holes 1/4". The slider is fitted as standard with 4 movable feet positioned on the two ends. In correspondence with the latter we also find the presence of a Swiss arca attack and two 3/8 ”holes extremely useful for fixing the slider to a stand or a different support.
At the time of purchase, in addition to being able to choose the length of the slider, it is also possible to select the motor to be used. The motor is a NEMA with a 4-pin Hirose 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 offered are a ball head and a fixing plate for the PINE R.
MOTORIZED HEAD (NT HEAD)
As for the slider, the first impression you get in your hand is that of a sturdy 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 one hole from 1/4". The high versatility is also ensured by the presence of 3 swiss fastening points, one on the lower part and two on the sides, the latter also have 4 magnets, allowing us to fix the PINE R with the provided adapter standard. There are also multiple leveling bubbles at different points.
Besides being able to be used for pan or tilt movement, it can be used as a star tracking device, combined with a polar telescope (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 on the official website). Of the same brand there are also the 16.000 or 20.000mah versions or it is possible to choose alternative solutions proposed by different brands according to your needs, the important thing is to check that the output voltage is compatible.
Product technical characteristics:
Slider 100cm = 2 kg
NEMA motor 14:1 = 560gr.
NT Head= 890 gr.
Pine R: 130 gr.
Cables: 50 gr each
XT Power 10.000mah: 280 gr.
Once the entire motorized system is assembled, we can start the proprietary app of the Black Forest Motion from our mobile device. As soon as the app is started, 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 case we need to take panoramic or 360 ° photos.
After this first step we will be on the home screen of the app where there are 4 icons (FIG.1):
1. Access to the work mode menu;
2. Synchronization of the motors connected to the Pine R;
3. Settings for using the connected engines;
Once our device has been synchronized and the available engines have been set correctly, we can proceed with the selection of the desired work mode.
The available functions are 11 in all, each indicated with a representative icon as can be seen in FIG. 2.
Briefly listing them we find:
• Freerun: allow 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, going also to adjust all the shooting parameters;
• 360 ° mode: allows the creation of empty photos;
• Turnatable: allows the management for 360 ° movement of an object that we want to resume;
• 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 of adjusting the focus to automatically perform the shots necessary for correct focus stacking;
A necessary point to make is that not all modes will always be available, in fact some of them will require certain requirements for your motorized system to work. For example, for the Macro mode it will be necessary to have the motor for adjusting the focus, while for the 3D-Scan 3 movement axes will be required.
Let's now analyze in detail the Time Lapse mode, that is the one I was able to test in greater depth during the realization of my last project. We therefore see all the potential of this system in the context of time lapse realization.
TIME LAPSE MODE
The initial screen that we will be in front of after selecting this mode will be the one shown in FIG. 3. We can make an initial subdivision of the screen in two areas: the upper one in which the various settings are grouped regarding the interval timer that will manage the shooting phase, and the lower area where instead we will have the possibility of going to set the start, 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 is set the desired frame rate for our sequence, I usually use a frame rate of 25fps, but you can also enter different frame rates like 24fps, 30fps, 60 fps or others.
After this first step you enter the number of photos we wish to take. This parameter will obviously depend on the duration we want to obtain for the sequence.
Next we will set the shooting interval. In this section we will then have the possibility to set various parameters. As we can see from FIG. the values to be set are 3:
• Camera: essentially corresponds to what "the switch is pressed". Normally we can set it to a value of 0.1-0.2, whereas if you click 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 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 between one click and its next one.
The values corresponding to the Movement and Excess entries are automatically calculated based on the other parameters of the sequence that we have set.
If an external intervalometer is used instead, it will be necessary to enter the "Slave" mode. In this case it will therefore be the external device that guarantees the control of the shooting parameters, so we will only have to set the value corresponding to the "Delay" item.
In the lower part of the screen it will instead be possible to set the Key Frame of the movement for our sequence, ie the start, end and 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 the recovery, it is advisable to carry out some short tests to verify that you have set everything up correctly. To do this, the "Test modes" section in the first part of the screen is helpful. Here we will find three possible test modes, which are briefly described in the lower part (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 rather complex and you are not sure if you have correctly set all the Key frames, you should also perform the "Movement Test".
Once this last verification phase is completed, there is nothing left but to 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 down the menu, we will have access to view 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 the moment it is not available the possibility to set the time and the interval of shooting directly from this screen, however returning to the main menu we will be able to access the interval timer function without deactivating the tracking mode.
As you can see from the FIG. 7 we will have the possibility to decide all the parameters for our shot and therefore the possibility of realizing also the time lapse maintaining the advantages that derive from the shots with the star tracker.
N.B. Point out that realizing a time lapse of the celestial vault with the star-tracker we will obtain a sequence in which the terrain will be moving and not the stars.
In conclusion I can say that the motorized system proposed by the Black Forest Motion turns out to be an extremely professional and flexible product, allowing it to be used in many situations thanks to the wide range of modes already preset and the possibility of expanding it according to one's needs.
As far as I am concerned, the product has numerous strengths that make it a complete and definitive product as far as the world of time lapse is concerned.
• Flexibility of use;
• Modulate as needed;
• Robust and with excellent finishes;
• Possibility to also use an external intervalometer
• Numerous features including that of using it as a star tracker;
• Intuitive app;
• Possibility to manage motorized units even of different brands.
• External battery;
• Connection of the various devices (Piner R and the various motors) with 6/4 pin Hirose cables, a feature that makes the system reliable from a connection point of view but less practical in certain situations;
• Noise during movements.
I conclude by leaving the link of my latest Time Lapse project in which I was able to test this system.