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Precision thin section bearings ensure rigidity and repeatability of camera motion control rigs

Precision thin section bearings ensure rigidity and repeatability of camera motion control rigs

A UK-based designer and manufacturer of robotic motion control systems for live broadcast, film and photography applications, is utilising Silverthin precision thin section bearings from Carter Manufacturing on a variety of its robotic motion control camera rigs. The thin section bearings are playing a key role in ensuring the overall system rigidity and repeatability of the camera booms and rigs. 

The British film industry is growing more quickly than any other part of the UK economy. Between July and September 2015, the UK’s movie business grew by 5.9 per cent as the ‘James Bond effect’ took hold. In contrast, the UK economy grew by just 0.5 per cent in the same period. In the last five years alone, the ‘motion picture, video and TV’ industry has grown by over 50 per cent, from being worth less than £2 billion to more than £3.1 billion.

Based in Blindley Heath, Surrey, Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC) is a leading designer and manufacturer of robotic motion control solutions. From live broadcast and film productions to product photography, MRMC gives customers the ability to capture their visions via a groundbreaking suite of hardware and software. The product range includes camera booms, cranes and rigs, two- and three-axis motion control systems, as well as camera heads, sliders and controllers.

Over the past 40 years, MRMC’s track record in technical and engineering excellence is unrivalled, earning critical acclaim including an Academy Award in 1999 for its contribution to the special effects industry in feature films. Recent feature film projects include Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pan, and Cinderella.

Ronan Carroll, chief mechanical designer at MRMC comments: “These days, camera motion control systems such as cranes and rigs need to be as compact, space efficient and lightweight as possible in order to minimise the costs associated with transporting these camera systems around the world, from one film location to another. Our customers also demand solutions that are reliable, accurate, repeatable and that provide a steady line-of-sight for the camera at all times. In order to design and manufacture systems such as these, we need to source high precision engineered components for our equipment.”

One critical engineered component on an MRMC camera rig is the bearing. As Ronan Carroll explains: “For camera rigs, the overall system rigidity or stiffness is critical to provide the camera operator with repeatability in terms of filming a scene. Therefore, when we engineer a camera rig, elimination of system backlash and minimising clearances in the supporting bearings are essential. The rigidity of the system starts with the basic mechanical structure of the rig, but the bearings are absolutely critical to the overall stiffness and accuracy of the complete, fully assembled system.”

One example of an MRMC camera rig that utlilises thin section bearings from Carter Manufacturing is the SFH50 a camera motion control pan tilt head. This system is a high precision, highly repeatable one that is ideal for virtual studios, virtual reality, animation, time-lapse and web promotional videos. The system has an optional 360-degree roll axis and is compact and lightweight for film location work.

The SFH50 uses Silverthin thin section bearings from Carter Manufacturing to support the circular motion of the camera roll housings. The bearings are supplied as sealed, preloaded (K-Preload) units in 6in and 7in bore diameters. “The SFH50 is a super-sensitive piece of equipment and so we require bearings that eliminate camera ‘rock’,” says Carroll. “The Silverthin thin section bearings are four-point contact units which are preloaded to a precise specification to give us the system rigidity and repeatability that our customers need.

“The bearings are sealed units, as the camera rigs are used in both indoor and outdoor applications, so we need weather-resistant components. In addition, as the bearings are preloaded, this simplifies and reduces mounting and assembly of the bearings to our camera rigs.”

Other robotic motion control systems from MRMC also utilise Silverthin thin section bearings from Carter Manufacturing. The ‘Modula’ range of camera motion control rigs from MRMC provides extremely high accuracy and high rigidity for filming at very high speeds of movement. This system is capable of providing a wide range of shots at speeds in excess of 3m per second and has the strength to carry heavy payloads, whether a full film camera package or a 3D stereoscopic rig. The main pivot on the arm of the Modula is supported by a Silverthin thin section bearing from Carter Manufacturing. This 2.5in bore diameter four-point contact (angular, radial and moment loads) bearing is preloaded to maintain rigidity and ensure accurate repeatability throughout its entire life.

“Carter has been supplying us with thin section bearings for the last five years or so. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, as deliveries, product quality and technical support from Carter has always been first class. We therefore look forward to continuing this relationship in the future as we begin to develop even more sophisticated robotic motion control systems for our customers,” concludes Carroll.

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