DJI Ronin 4D Series: ActiveTrack and Sport Mode
So far, they set up the Ronin 4D in lightweight handheld mode with the Flex cable installed. Altogether, it weighs about five pounds. Coming up next, they will mount the 4D on the duty dolly to showcase ActiveTrack mode and its dual operator setup.
|PRO TIP: If you haven’t already, bookmark this page to quickly return and reference it.
This lesson is part of the DJI Ronin 4D Series, a series that demonstrates how to get the most out of your Ronin 4D.
Lessons in the DJI Ronin 4D Series:
|You’re going to learn:
DJI RONIN 4D VERSATILITY:
The DJI Ronin 4D is an incredibly versatile tool — especially when it comes to action cinematography. Switching to ActiveTrack mode, Jason moves from operator to dolly grip while Shane finesses the shot on the wheels.
On Shane’s last film, they built the Sony Venice Rialto 2 in a backpack, separating the image sensor block from the camera body. They also set the camera system up for handheld and studio modes to enhance their efficiency. Then, they would cap it off with a 10:1 anamorphic zoom lens or their set of primes.
From there, they attached the backpack to the dolly. (Just note this was his B-camera setup as the A-camera was built for studio mode.) If they wanted to go handheld, they would simply take the backpack from the dolly, strap it on, and they were ready to go. This process saves time and money, and, best of all, it’s really that easy!
It’s the same concept for the Ronin 4D.
There’s a quick-release plate mounted to the bottom of the camera and on top of the Matthews Dutti Dolly. That way, you can switch from gunner mode to handheld, and then easily mount it right on top with the quick-release plate onto the Dutti Dolly.
CREATING A CINEMATIC LOOK WITH THE ZENMUSE X9 SENSOR:
Before showcasing the performance of the Ronin 4D’s ActiveTrack in action, Jason and Shane take the Zenmuse X9 sensor and turn it into a cinema movie-making machine.
So, how do they do that? It all starts with a filter. They place some butyl tape around the exterior of their 35mm lens and then attach a Soft/FX 1 Filter.
Since there are a lot of lights, Jason attaches a piece of 1-inch black paper tape that works as “the eyebrow” to the top of the lens to keep the light from hitting the glass and creating a milky image.
SINGLE OPERATOR ACTIVETRACK MODE:
Next, they lower the Dutti Dolly down and prepare for the shot. As their actress, Kyra, turns the corner, they will slide with her and as she eventually ends in the chair, they rotate around into a closeup.
They start the shot with ActiveTrack and then move into dual operation mode for the second part of the shot.
|NOTE: Refer to the video portion of the lesson to view the entirety of the shot.
SINGLE OPERATOR ACTIVETRACK SHOT ANALYSIS:
First of all, what struck Shane the most was just how well the ActiveTrack functions and enabled one person to pull off a complex shot.
Now, electronics also present challenges. For instance, the Preston Light Ranger has an autofocus mode but there are times it can become confused, such as when actors cross in front of the camera.
You can combat this kind of issue by adding another person to the workflow. This is where Shane comes in to operate the wheels to finesse the shot and take the electronic’s shortcomings out of the equation. That way, they can deliver an amazing cinematic image!
DUAL OPERATOR ACTIVETRACK MODE:
With Shane now operating the wheels, he sets the image to where he likes it. Rather than a centered frame, Shane favors the hallway. So, when Kyra comes around the hallway, they can tease the room that she’s entering.
Setting up for another take, this time they change their aspect ratio to darken the edges of the frame. Since it’s difficult to see around the edges of the frame line, Jason darkens the edges so that all Shane sees is the 16×9 aspect ratio.
Before there were too many lines that felt confusing, so they went into the menu system and made it a perfect 16×9 aspect ratio. Now, Shane can perfectly see his frame.
Starting from the top, they do another take which allows Shane to finesse the shot even better than the first one.
DUAL OPERATOR ACTIVETRACK SHOT ANALYSIS:
They nailed the last shot with the timing and by finessing the focus while working in tandem with Jason as the dolly grip. Getting the shot right takes communication between the camera team and the actors. Sometimes they may need to slow down to allow enough time for the camera to keep up.
With only two people, they were able to pull off a complex moving shot with both the ActiveTrack and manual control of the focus via the wheels. Jason was able to track and maintain focus on Kyra’s face with ActiveTrack, and then Shane was able to hold focus on his end when necessary.
DJI RONIN 4D SPORT MODE:
In the lightweight handheld mode with the Flex cable attached, they prepare to demonstrate how to operate in Sport Mode. This allows them to be incredibly staccato around some action.
Their demonstration will focus on three mode variations:
- 24 fps — 180-degree shutter
- 24 fps — 90-degree shutter
- 60 fps — 180-degree shutter
24 FPS AT 180-DEGREE SHUTTER
They begin with 24 frames per second set with a 180-degree shutter speed.
24 FPS AT 90-DEGREE SHUTTER
Moving on to 24 frames per second at a 90-degree shutter, they will eliminate motion blur with a staccato feel.
60 FPS AT 180-DEGREE SHUTTER
Now, they move into super slow-mo mode with 60 frames per second at a 180-degree shutter.
SPORT MODE SHOT ANALYSIS:
After looking at the playback, Jason confirmed that the 90-degree shutter speed looks fantastic because it removes the motion blur.
Imagine being on a basketball court with rollerblades moving around with the players seamlessly, and capturing full plays as a oner with the Ronin 4D in Sport mode. The possibilities are truly endless.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
There you have it! Jason Robbins and Shane Hurlbut, ASC discovered firsthand that the Ronin 4D’s modularity really comes in handy as a tool on set. This allowed them to switch quickly from handheld mode to remote operator mode. And it really was a cinch! Shane jumped on the wheels and operated in addition to ActiveTrack mode, which automatically selects the target and holds focus on it.
They then took the handheld mode to the next level by going into Sport mode. Jason notes how Sport mode allowed them to track with action laser fast, whether it’s tracking on a basketball or someone running down the hallway at a full sprint.
But what does an ASC cinematographer think about the Ronin 4D’s ActiveTrack and Sport mode?
At first, Shane didn’t know what to expect with the DJI Ronin 4D’s functionality. However, once he saw it in action, he was absolutely blown away. He never saw cameras capture the kind of shots the Ronin 4D did.
As a champion of new technology, Shane is adamant about leveraging the innovations of the DJI Ronin 4D in the feature-length narrative space.
To put a cap on this review, Shane Hurlbut, ASC puts his stamp of approval on this camera system and will ensure that it’s at the ready on his camera truck.
WATCH THE FULL DJI RONIN 4D SERIES!
If you haven’t already, start from the top and watch all the other lessons in the DJI Ronin 4D series: