The new Axis1 thumb wheel focus control, for gimbals, Steadicam and more
The new Hocus Products Smart Roller is our latest device aimed at the new brushless gimbal market to allow single operator focus control through a compact finger roller mounted on the gimbal handle bar.
The Smart Roller plugs into the Axis1 receiver with one single ultraflex cable and can control camera run stop in addition to other functions detailed below.
The roller can also be used on Steadicam gimbals, tripod pan handles or shoulder mount handle bars and could be used to control zoom instead of focus if necessary.
The Smart Roller also includes a very versatile clamp which can be used to position the roller in the best place for comfortable operation.
The Smart Roller really is smart - its not just a name. Unlike other similar products, this controller is not just a simple analogue potentiometer in a box. This roller features a very high resolution contactless magnetic encoder and micro controller to detect the roller rotation. This means the knob itself has no hard stops, which leaves us so many more options for control rather than a simple knob you roll with your finger.
We have added a haptic feedback (vibration) function to the roller which gives a short sharp buzz to let the user know when they have reached the end of the lens.
The Smart Roller has a button panel which puts an array of roller and system settings at the operator's finger tips. All of these buttons can be operated without ever moving your hands off the rig. There is also an indicator light which mimics the status light on the Axis1 hand unit, to confirm camera run/stop status and other system statuses.
The Smart Roller connects to the data port on the Axis1 receiver with a single Ultraflex cable, which is about the same size and flexibility as typical headphone cable, so floppy it won't interfere with a gimbals fine balance.
The Smart Roller has a few buttons on the roller body, which are designed to be accessable and used by the same finger or thumb you use to operate the roller wheel.
The roller body has a run button to start and stop the camera so you don't have to take your hands off the rig to start the camera recording before a take. The camera run is handled through the Axis1 receiver, so can run pretty much any camera, including Red Epic and Canon C300/500 cameras, as well as Sony F5/55 and Arri Alexa cameras.
Sometimes the motor will not rotate the lens in the direction you are expecting. This could be down to where the motor is mounted, or personal preference. The direction can be toggled very quickly and easily using the dedicated direction change button on the roller body. The direction could even be changed on the fly during a take if needed, all without moving your hands
The gear button changes the ratio between the roller and the lens. This basically means you can change how far you have to rotate the roller for one rotation of the lens, so you can set the roller up to exactly suit the shot you are working on. You can set the roller in a low gear for very precise and slow focus control, or a higher gear for quick and fast focus pulls. Again, this setting can be changed on the fly, without moving your hands.
Sometimes you only need to use a certain part of the lens, so for these situations, the Smart Roller features a limiting function. This can be used to select a specific section of the lens range, which can make the focusing job easier. This function is also useful for infinitely rotating DSLR lenses.
HU (Hand Unit) button:
This provides the ability to swap control between the Smart Roller and the Axis 1 hand unit. The run button and tally light on the roller stay active and synced to the hand unit while the hand unit is in control.
Not really a button, but worth a mention. The indicator light mimics the light on the hand unit. This status light is there primarily to alert the user to any problems (motor unplugged or uncalibrated) and also indicates camera run/stop status.
One thing we can pretty much guarantee is that most of the time, you are going to be touching the roller. This makes haptic feedback (precisely controlled vibration) a very effective feedback mechanism. As mentioned above, the Smart Roller does not have any hard stops on the knob. This has one major disadvantage - how do you know when you have reached the end of the lens? The haptic feedback mechanism in the Smart Roller provides a short sharp vibration through the roller to let the user know exactly when they have hit the end of the lens.
Mounting a product like this is important. If you can't get the roller in the place you need it, then why bother? We designed the roller with three sliding dovetail slots on the body so the various mounting options can be attached on any side of the roller, and the mount can be slid up and down the body.
The clamp for the roller is an all new design, not seen before in our industry. When designing the clamp for this roller, we felt it was important that the clamp be small, low profile and light weight, be very flexible and adjustable, and be entirely tool less in its installation and adjustment. We also wanted to make sure that the clamp could grip any size or shape object properly and firmly.
On top of this, we wanted to make sure it could wrap around the tube, and not need to be threaded on from the end. Knowing that this clamp was most often going to be mounted on a carbon fibre tube on a gimbal, we wanted to make sure that the clamping force was distributed evenly around the tube, and so as not to pinch the tube in one or two places, which could damage or crack the carbon.
The clamp uses a thin, flexible and grippy rubber belt which wraps tightly around the tube to apply the clamping force. The clamp body is machined from aluminium, and the tension is applied using a small thumb screw. The belt itself is very strong, and has fibreglass reinforcement inside and cannot stretch. It will not mark the tube, and by simply adjusting the length of the belt, the clamp can grip anything, and not just round objects.
The clamp has a rotation adjustment for the roller so it can be rotated into any direction, and is held securely with a rosette, and all of this is done entirely without the need for any tools.
All in all, the clamping system provides five axes of adjustment so you can get your roller right where you need it, and it will stay there.