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As more and more video production companies and independent videographers rely on DSLRs to shoot a majority of their work, finding more compact equipment is becoming easier. The Orion DVC210 8 ft DSLR Camera Crane/Jib ($299.99/~£180.55), made by ProAm USA, is an example.
This is the company's first crane/jib targeting DSLR videographers, with a low price point and portable nature. A fully loaded Orion DVC210 is cheaper than a Kessler Pocket Jib, and it's fully modular, including length extensions and LCD monitor setups sold separately. A decent fully-loaded DSLR jib setup can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000, and the Orion DVC210 resides at the lower end of the spectrum. If you're in the market for a highly portable jib that will take your DSLR video to the next level, read on.
In its basic $300 form, the Orion DVC210 crane/jib is offered as a kit consisting of two aluminum interlocking 4' sections, tilt handle and control, and extension bracket for larger cameras. This way, the DVC210 can be mounted to a tripod and utilize the tripod head's rotational motion in order to pan. The Orion DVC210 can achieve a 5' (152cm) gain from the tripod or support and up to 11' from the ground when attached to a large tripod. It can mount to standard tripod heads using 1/4" x 20 or 3/8" x 16 threads without the need to remove the tripod head, and supports up to 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
While a great deal of shots can be achieved with the DVC210 at the basic level, it really begins to shine with available add-ons, many of which were sent to me by ProAm. One was a tilt brake that locks the DVC210 in place vertically so that it can pan at a fixed level. I was also sent a rugged crane stand with 3/8" bearing base mount, the latter enabling the DVC210 to pan smoothly when attached to a stand instead of a tripod. The 4' extension section enabled the DVC210 to extend 9' from the stand support and 15' from the ground, which made quite a noticeable difference. All of this could fit inside the optional carry bag, which measures 54 x 12 x 6 in. (137 x 30 x 15 cm), so the ability to stash a camera crane/jib that can reach 15' high into a portable bag is quite impressive.
|The tilt handle controls the camera's vertical movement.||Weights can be added to the handle in order to properly balance the camera.|
For just over $600, the Orion DVC210 with the aforementioned optional accessories is a comprehensive kit for DSLR filmmakers looking for professional production on a budget. But there's one more optional accessory that really takes this jib setup to the next level, and that's ProAm's 7" Iris Pro 2 1080i/p Compatible HDMI RGB LCD Monitor. The monitor has HDMI, RCA AV-In (BNC), and RGB in (BNC), and is compatible with many DSLRs. The monitor has an 800 x 600 native resolution, swivel mount, and can be mounted to a hot shoe. In order to fasten it to the DVC210 crane, I needed the $16 bracket and a 10' HDMI cable to reach my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Power is supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers approximately five hours of life. The LCD screen ships with a sun shade, tabletop mounting stand, remote control, AC adapter, and 3' HDMI-to-mini-HDMI cable.
As far as setting up the DVC210, the camera has to be counterbalanced via weights on the operating end. There is a set of handles for moving the crane up and down, as well as a vertical rod for adding weights. I purchased a cheap set of vinyl dumbbells and was successfully able to counterbalance the 5D Mark III with about 10 lbs of weight, which allowed the camera to come to rest with the crane at an angle. Weights can also be added to the handles, and the Orion DVC210 ships with two spring clamps to keep the weights in place. The tilting mechanism on the jib can be operated manually or automatically by inserting a pivoting pin that keeps the camera perpendicular to the ground at all vertical points.
|The whole shebang in its tested form at 8 feet. Even more length can be added with the 4' extension.||A look at the 7" Iris Pro2 HDMI monitor with swivel mount.|
The total price of the equipment I tested came to $918.94, but there's good news for budget filmmakers who need a monitor. ProAm also offers the Orion DVC210 8' DSLR Camera Crane Production Package, which includes a 7" LCD monitor, stand, 10' HDMI to HDMI Mini cable, Canon battery adapter plate, BP battery, charger, crane carrying bag, and four Velcro cable ties for $648.95. Compared to competing brands, that's a very good price.
Setting up the Orion DVC210 took a couple minutes, tops. The rugged stand is made of large diameter round aluminum poles and easily extends with a wide stance in order to provide extra stability on different types of terrain. The stand can extend upward a few feet to provide even more height for the crane, and features a locking pin to prevent the column from shooting downward quickly in the event that one of the locks fails. But I don't see that happening, as the stand locks provide the ability to apply a large amount of torque, courtesy of the extra large knobs. The bottom portion of the crane itself has a pivot hinge that enables the crane to tilt.
For swiveling, ProAm sent me the 3/8" Bearing Base Mount, which enables the crane to pan on the stand. The bearing base mount's operation was especially smooth and flawless, and I found it to be a necessary component for ultimate fluid movement. Now, the Orion DVC210 crane can be mounted to a tripod and rely on the tripod head's panning movement, but you'd need an extremely rugged tripod in order to support the weight, especially with the 4' extension. The one tick mark against the stand was its non-telescoping legs. This affected the stand's leveling capabilities on uneven land, and suggested that a tripod would be better geared for uneven territory. So, the tradeoff is ruggedness for leveling ability when it comes to a stand vs. a tripod. I used some small wooden blocks to level the stand on uneven ground.
|The tilt brake on the DVC210. The top pin can be removed for manual tilt operation.||The safety pin on the DVC210's stand.|
One thing I like about the DVC210 is its modular ability. There are threaded holes in the crane's pivot hinge for adding things like the LCD mount and tilt brake. The camera mounting plate at the end of the crane can accommodate larger video cameras with an extension bracket. One really great thing about the camera mounting plate is that it's a center mount, as opposed to ProAm's previous model, the DVC200, which featured an offset mounting arm. The problem with that design was that the camera mounting arm would bend downward, causing an off-level horizon. The DVC210 fixed that issue with its center mount, which is ideal for DSLR cameras, and the extension bracket can enable video cameras like the Canon XH-G1 to be mounted.
When it came to the balancing ratio on the Orion DVC210, it was a little tricky to find the sweet spot. According to the manual, in the 8' crane mode, a ratio of 3:1 is used (3 lbs at operator end, 1 lb at camera end). This transitions to a 4:1 ratio when the 4' extension is used to achieve 12' So, at 8', I used approximately 12 lbs to balance a Canon 5D Mark III with battery grip and 14mm lens. When I added the 4' extension, I needed close to 30 lbs. ProAm includes a set of large metal washers in order to fine-tune the weight by adding one washer at a time. Once everything was finally dialed in, the DVC210 performed excellently. Motion is fluid and effortless, and the crane can travel from about an inch from the ground to its full height in the air. The DVC210 is slightly more difficult to handle with the 4' extension, given the added length, so proper weight balancing is crucial, and an experienced operator needs to be behind the wheel.
|The extension mounting plate for larger video cameras.||The entire kit fits inside a portable bag.|
The DVC210 has a tilt control that's operated via a handle. This can be manually controlled by removing the locking pin, or automatically controlled by leaving the pin in. In automatic mode, the camera will always remain horizontal to the ground. Manual mode opens up more creative windows in that the camera can be tilted, moved vertically, and pan all at once. The only catch with manual mode is that it requires more skill in order to control the tilt motion of the camera. It was especially difficult with the 4' extension, to the point that I almost required the help of an assistant.
The tilt brake came in handy when I only needed to pan, but it could use a little refinement. When I went to twist the locking wingnut, the bolt spun on the other side. So, in order to really crank down on the lock, I'd need a wrench. It wasn't the end of the world, but did require one extra step. One thing I will mention is that there is no panning brake. So, when I left the DVC210 alone for a second on a windy day, I quickly learned that was a bad idea when the camera came wheeling around. A panning brake/lock would be a nice touch.
|In full beast mode with the 4' extension.||The bearing base mount allows fluid panning.|
One component I couldn't live without is the 7" LCD screen. I tried to shoot without the monitor, relying on the EOS 5D Mark III's puny LCD screen, and that just didn't work. The 7" screen's HDMI signal was rock solid and the picture was crisp. The only thing that would make it all better would be a camera remote to control zoom, focus, and record, but that's something that's more geared toward camcorders. With an assistant to focus and press record, shooting with the DVC210 is a wonderful experience. Even without an assistant, I was able to walk to the end of the crane, set my camera controls, press record, and walk back to the control end. Overall, I had an excellent experience with the Orion DVC210 crane/jib, and would not hesitate to use it again on a shoot.
For a DSLR videographer on a budget, the ProAm Orion DVC210 is an excellent investment. I had a blast shooting with it, and could not believe the level it enabled me to achieve in my production quality. It's a complete kit that can break down and fit into a shoulder-slung carry bag that would fit in the backseat of a compact sedan. While the kit I tested landed at just over $900, ProAm offers a turnkey kit at under $650. Compared to the competition, the quality level and value of the DVC210 is virtually unsurpassed. I only had a few minor issues regarding the tilt brake lock that needs a wrench, and the lack of a panning lock. Also, the addition of telescoping legs on the stand would really help in uneven terrain. But aside from that, the Orion DVC210 is a top-notch video motion product that is friendly to the wallet.
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