Welcome to the DOJO!
Anyone who is a regular visitor to us here at the DOJO knows that I absolutely love buying new toys and gadgets for my indie filmmaking toolkit. And I really enjoy getting to try out the gear I know other guerilla filmmakers are dying to find out about without having to risk their own money buying it. That’s right, I spend my money so you don’t have to!
One item in particular that I have been eyeballing for years now (ever since we shot “Bite Me, Fanboy” back in 2001) is a motorized pan and tilt head. The Bescor MP-101 motorized pan & tilt head to be precise. I’ve seen this thing pop up in ads everywhere — from DV Magazine to Indie Slate to ads online. The bummer for me was that I never really had a reason to go out and buy one because I didn’t have my own boom/jib set up. And, in spite of what my wife says, I don’t normally go out and spend $120 for no reason!
Luckily for me, my father-in-law is an expert craftsman and we put together a pretty spiffy new 12′ boom/jib rig that was just begging for a cool remote pan and tilt head. About two seconds after we finished constructing the boom I was on B&H Photo’s website finally getting to order up my very own Bescor MP-101 motorized pan & tilt head! I was so excited. While I was there I also ordered the RE-20 20′ extension cord for the MP101′s remote control system. Since I was going to be placing the Bescor up on the end of my jib, I knew I was going to need the longer cable extension to be able to actually make use of it.
One thing I skipped out on ordering at the time was the optional AC power supply for the Bescor MP-101. I figured batteries would be the best bet since it was a remote unit. What I didn’t realize is that the Bescor MP-101 eats batteries alive. I get around 15-20 hours of use before the batteries go dead on me. That isn’t a bad amount of time, but having the AC power supply hooked up to a rechargable battery pack might save you money in the long run.
Having had the Bescor mp-101 motorized pan and tilt head for almost a month now, I must say I have been very impressed by the unit. I’ve used it with a very lightweight Canon ZR850, my tricked out Canon HV20 (on rails, with the Azden SGM-1x, Raynox HD6600PRO lens and Beachtek DXA4 strapped on for good measure) and with a Canon XHA1, and I’ve seen some great performances with every camera. The MP-101 itself weighs about 2 pounds so it doesn’t require a huge amount of additional weights to balance it out.
Adding the Bescor MP101 to my boom has given a huge boost to my filmmaking. First off, it is now quick and easy to do camera adjustments without having to move the boom itself, which makes for a huge time saver. Second, my boom doesn’t have independent pan control (it does have tilt control), so with a bit of practice, having a remote controlled, motorized pan & tilt head really opens up what I can do with my shots now. Finally, I can get those long, tracking crane shots like in big budget flicks. Awesome!
The key thing to remember about the Bescor MP101 is: the bigger the camera, the slower the pan and tilt. With the ZR850 (or even my Flip Ultra) attached, the Bescor pans a lot faster than when I’ve got the fully loaded Canon HV20 or the XHA1 strapped on there. In my opinion, this is a good thing because the slowest speed normally might be a bit too fast for some shots and the extra camera weight helps smooth things out to give you a great, steady pan.
If you are a low budget, indie or guerilla filmmaker looking for a very good, very solid and very slick motorized/remote pan and tilt head, then look no further than the Bescor MP-101. You can find this bad boy at B&H Photo for under $120 and get the remote extension cable for an extra $15. Amazon.com also offers the MP101 Motorized Pan and Tilt Head for about $118.95.
That’s it for today. Until next time, keep shooting!
-Mat N., the Film Sensei