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A super-affordable wireless follow focus system for indie filmmakers. It's open source and Arduino compatible too!

STRECH GOAL #1 REACHED - 19mm ROD OPTION

STRECH GOAL #2 REACHED - ADD A LITTLE COLOR

NEW REWARD: CINE-STANDARD 32-pitch gear-drive version of the complete Lenzhound System. (See Update #4 for details)

Wireless Follow Focus

The Lenzhound, a super-affordable wireless follow focus system designed for independent filmmakers, consists of the handheld remote transmitter unit (RTX-1) and the motor/receiver unit (DB-1) which attaches to the user’s DSLR or video camera. The DB-1 lens motor is targeted towards DSLR and video cameras employing lenses with manual operation rings, but can be utilized with certain, heavier cinema lenses too. The system features open source, Arduino compatible firmware which enables a powerful array of user generated, optional settings. The Lenzhound System offers a flexible, wireless and user-friendly method of extending lens control to an assistant camera operator or “focus puller” enabling professional, cinematic filmmaking.

The RTX-1 (left) and the DB-1 (stainless rod not included)
The RTX-1 (left) and the DB-1 (stainless rod not included)

The Most Affordable Solution of its Kind

Indie filmmakers find it hard to afford the standby Hollywood-style wireless follow focus solutions and so we often go without. But it's an essential tool for next-level film making. So we began building our own - with the independent film makers' (usually rather thin) wallet in mind. Check what else is out there and you'll find the Lenzhound Wireless Lens Control System is extremely affordable and amazingly user friendly. It's also very flexible, lightweight and features open source code.

http://www.opensource.org/
http://www.arduino.cc/
http://www.creativecommons.org/

Plays Nicely with your Rig

Simply slide the DB-1 Motor Unit onto your camera's 15mm rod support system, slip on the lens belt, adjust tension and lock into place. (There's a stretch-goal for 19mm rods too.) Plug in the battery and with a flip of a switch, you're ready to go.

This system will work with virtually any DSLR lens with a manual lens ring on the market. (See our FAQ for lens compatibility)

The DB-1 on a steady gliding camera rig
The DB-1 on a steady gliding camera rig

DB-1 Motor/Receiver features:

  • Anodized aluminum dogbone arm
  • Works with industry standard 15mm iris rod systems
  • Lightweight; just over 8 ounces (230 grams)
  • Can drive any stepper motor up to 1.5A /phase (see Detachable Receiver stretch goal for more on additional motors)
  • Flexible power requirements allowing it to work with battery systems beyond the included 12v battery pack
  • Mini-USB port for firmware uploads
Daniel operating an early version of the RTX-1
Daniel operating an early version of the RTX-1
 

Compact and Wireless

The RTX-1 is a wireless remote control transmitter. Now your follow focus operator can give the camera operator some breathing room! It's compact, about the size of a smart phone, making it a comfortable fit in your hands for those production days that never seem to end. The remote itself uses a familiar industry follow focus knob design and range-marking disc; essential features for the assistant camera operator (AC) to reliably hit their marks on set. 

Pressing the encoder enters calibration mode
Pressing the encoder enters calibration mode

RTX-1 Remote Controller features:

  • Large, industry-style, primary focus knob
  • 4 Preset Buttons to set and recall positions
  • Tough composite and anodized aluminum case to withstand years of abuse
  • Compact design measuring roughly 3 X 6 inches
  • White distance marking disk for dry-erase or China marker
  • Uses four AAA batteries, providing up to 80 hours of operation
  • Mini-USB port for firmware upgrades and custom "Z-mode" programming beyond basic follow focus operation

More than just a Follow Focus

If you watched our video you might be asking, what is this User Defined "Z-Mode" they're talking about?

Well, we're independent filmmakers ourselves and we tend to think...independently. So we thought, why not allow the controller to be programmed to serve multiple functions and to be customized by the user. You can push the limits of the hardware and experiment on your own to create complex moves, adjust the speed profile curves or change the timing parameters allowing you, for example, to enable very slow, time-lapse type of functionality.

The open source nature of the firmware allows you to change the parameters in the default modes (Freerun and Playback) if you choose, but Z-mode is designed to enable access to that customization at the flip of a switch while preserving the default functionality of the other two modes. We'll be creating a Web and desktop application for both Mac and PC along with a code repository for defaults, upgrades and user-generated code. Don't worry, you won't have to be a code-head to use this feature. 

We hope to foster a creative community and to closely work with our user-base. We really want the film makers that use this tool to be a part of helping make it better. We believe building a web based community around open source software and designs is a key way to do this.

While the DB-1 is a combined receiver/motor unit, the master plan with our larger stretch-goals entails having the receivers be detachable from the dogbone motor units. Our receiver units can operate with almost any stepper motor on the market, making it easy for you to run stepper motors with different power capabilities, or dedicated to different functions like camera jibs, sliders, aerial rigs or just about any other crazy camera movement you can imagine.

A stepper motor tows a skateboard dolly controlled by a version of the DB-1 receiver
A stepper motor tows a skateboard dolly controlled by a version of the DB-1 receiver

Development Process

We thought it would be a good idea to show a little of the process of developing the current prototype system. 

The Dogbone Shaped Arm

At first we were thinking of a rectangular case to mount on the camera rod system, but the more we fiddled and clamped motors on different types of supports, the more this dogbone shaped "Y" kept coming up.

The dogbone arm takes shape in this first water-jet aluminum cutout. It's kind of a Rorschach shape.
The dogbone arm takes shape in this first water-jet aluminum cutout. It's kind of a Rorschach shape.
The first receiver box combines several popular development boards.
The first receiver box combines several popular development boards.

 As we narrowed down to certain motors, the shape of the dogbone arm is refined and married to the receiver box.

The DB-1 starts to take shape. A test-fit of the motor cap (above) and the receiver box (left) with its circuit board (right.)
The DB-1 starts to take shape. A test-fit of the motor cap (above) and the receiver box (left) with its circuit board (right.)
Motor caps for the DB-1 in various stages of production.
Motor caps for the DB-1 in various stages of production.
The DB-1's main circuit board.
The DB-1's main circuit board.

THE CONTROLLER REMOTE

Our first transmitter was just an attempt to stuff all the breadboard components into some sort of container. We had a hobby box on the shelf and we just started hacking and drilling. We finally got it to fit, but it wasn't pretty.

When we started thinking about the form of the controller we had requests from our favorite ACs to have a handle on the bottom and the "Paintbrush" was the result; A 3D printed, 2 piece unit with a battery cover. We love this design but it's a little too big and we decided that the injection molding would be cost prohibitive unless we really have enough demand to support it. If we reach our highest stretch goal we might revisit the paintbrush concept.

The final version of the 3D printed prototype (bottom) which we've shelved for the time-being
The final version of the 3D printed prototype (bottom) which we've shelved for the time-being
3D CAD model of the "Paintbrush" top half
3D CAD model of the "Paintbrush" top half

THE CURRENT CONTROLLER

The RTX-1 Remote came about very quickly after we decided to move on from the paintbrush. We had been dabbling with all the parts and materials and we really knew what we were after. The biggest thing was allowing ourselves to make the focus knob a little smaller than our original concept. This made the form factor just fall into place.

What's Included with My Reward?

MAKE US WAG (REWARD #1)

We'll post a Thank You Tweet or Facebook shoutout while you get the warm fuzzies knowing you've just helped indie filmmaking become a little better.


LIL' TREAT (REWARD #2)

All the love from above plus you'll get a cool sticker!

RAW DB-1 (REWARD #3)

  • DB-1 Receiver Motor Unit
  • Drive Belt
  • Latex Lens Band
  • 12v 3800mA Re-chargeable Lithium Battery with cables/charger
Raw DB-1 Package
Raw DB-1 Package

STANDARD KIT (REWARDS #4 , #5, and #6)

  • RTX-1 Single Channel Controller Unit
  • DB-1 Receiver Motor Unit
  • Drive Belt
  • Latex Lens Band
  • 12v 3800mA Re-chargeable Lithium Battery with cables/charger
Standard Kit
Standard Kit

1ST ASSEMBLY PROTOTYPE (REWARD #7)

Be one of the first individuals with a Lenzhound System. With this reward you'll be at the top of our list to get and help us field test one of the first five pre-production prototypes off the line, uniquely numbered and named. 

-- STRETCH GOALS --

Our main funding goal is the minimum required to get the first Lenzhound Systems built and in user's hands. But we have a lot more in mind than just that. As we get additional pledges the following options and upgrades will happen:

19mm Rod Option ($55,000)

We'll add a 19mm ROD MOUNT DB-1 available as an optional reward wherever the 15mm is offered. 

Add A Little Color ($72,000)

Add a little color to your life. We will offer a SELECTION OF COLORS to anodize the aluminum components of your Lenzhound Receiver and Controller.

If we reach this goal, we will do a survey to decide which colors to make available.

Some Colors!
Some Colors!

 AND - Every controller's marking disc will have an optional GLOW-IN-THE-DARK BACKING!

Glow in the Dark
Glow in the Dark

Detachable Receiver/ CPU Upgrade ($145,000)

All receiver boxes will get a free upgrade option to make the receiver/driver box detachable from the dogbone arm and the addition of accessible motor terminals. This allows connection of different types and sizes of motor for alternate applications.

AND - We will upgrade the CPU in both the controller and receiver units allowing for the development of more complex functionality and increased performance. (may add 6 to 8 weeks of design/development time)

Multiple Channels ($250,000)

We'll add a reward to upgrade the remote to expand up to three channels allowing control of IRIS, ZOOM, and FOCUS motors simultaneously.

-- Production and Delivery --

During our Kickstarter funding campaign we'll be busy letting people know about it, monitoring the survey's and FAQs and generally keeping in touch with everyone. But even during the campaign, as soon as we know we're funded we'll put all our vendors and providers on alert and place orders as possible for testing of the production prototypes before manufacturing. 

The production of the manufactured systems and fulfillment of rewards will happen in four phases.

Phase 1: Final Designs/verification - Before going to manufacturing we will undoubtedly have a few final design tweaks/iterations based on surveys, FAQs and other feedback during our funding phase. During this time our software development will commence and is slated to be up and running by the completion of phase 2 to be incorporated into our field tests with the pre-production prototype group. (4 to 6 weeks)

Based on our level of funding we will either go straight to pre-production prototypes from our hand made prototypes or we will incorporate the changes encompassed in our stretch goals.

Phase 2: Manufacturing - Circuit boards will be fabricated and assembled by a U.S.- based PCB fab-house to our specification using primarily surface-mount components. Hardware components will be CNC and manually manufactured/machined in the U.S. and locally plated/finished. (approximately 6 weeks for all manufacturing)

Phase 3: Assembly - Component manufactured pieces, i.e completed circuit boards, machined and finished hardware cases and motor arms, along with pre-made components such as the clamp-handles, potentiometers, motors and drive pulleys will be assembled by us and our helper elves at our facility in San Luis Obispo. We will batch the assemblies so that Earliest and Early Birds get priority completion. (4 to 6 weeks total for assembly)

Phase 4: Shipping and Delivery - As units are completed and quality checked they will be promptly packaged, including accessories, and shipped with Earliest Bird and Early Birds receiving first and second shipping, respectively. (one to two weeks depending on quantity of orders)

-- Your Help is Essential! --

You can help lead the way to a new era of better filmmaking. New DSLR's have made affordable, high quality film making possible where it wasn't before. Technology is revolutionizing independent filmmaking. We want to bring another valuable and affordable tool of the trade to this newly emerging market of filmmakers. We have prototypes that have been a lot of fun to use but now it's time to crank out the real deal. Now is your chance to be one of the first to join on on this journey.

Thank you for your pledges and support!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

If we don't meet our goal, nobody gets to have fun with their Lenzhound System!

There could most certainly be some unknowns or technical obstacles to overcome when entering into manufacturing. We have created several possible roadmaps for ourselves, depending on the level of funding we receive, to ensure delivery time is as accurate as possible. We are experienced filmmakers, familiar with striving for a goal. We are veteran business owners, acquainted with cost estimates, deadlines, product delivery, and navigating uncharted waters. This is however, our first time manufacturing a technology product so we do ask for your patience through this process. We are very excited by the enabling potential that a crowd-source funding platform such as this provides and we will strive to exceed your expectations for the new Lenzhound System.

Thank you for joining us on this adventure.

FAQ

  • You can control the Raw Motor/Receiver by uploading the control via USB. Our website will have code modules available and you can enter direction, duration, number of steps, and curve profiles, etc. It's intended for certain, prescribed moves, like pulling focus or iris during a time-lapse. If you want to use the unit like a follow focus, you need the controller too.

    Last updated:
  • The Lenzhound is very quiet. It can be used on set during filming with actors and cinematic scenes and not be picked up by lav mics on the actors or the boom mic. For many reasons, not just follow focus noise, we recommend not using the internal mic on your DSLR for your main sound acquisition for cinematic projects. During all but the loudest action you will definitely pick up the operation of the Lenzhound with the internal mic of your camera.

    Last updated:
  • No more than with any other means of driving a lens. You may have heard this because with steppers, torque can by increased by overdriving them with increased current and/or voltage and in this case they do become a little "amped-up." During testing of our motors, even when overdriving, we have not had any problem with visible disturbance of the footage. We HAVE HAD, however, distortion of the footage using automatic image stabilization functions on some Canon lenses. Turning it off eliminates the problem.

    Last updated:
  • Many people have been curious as to the range. Initially we were targeting 100 to 150 feet line of sight at low power in the 260–470MHz Band, although the boards we plan to use are rated 150 Meters in ideal conditions at full power.

    BUT - we've had a lot of questions about aerial use so we're looking into supporting a longer range.

    We'll do an update as we determine how best to implement a higher power/antennae configuration. We'll be looking at a variety of options including the 2.4 GHz Band. Meanwhile, since you can always withdraw your pledge, we encourage everyone to go ahead and commit now to help us get to our higher goals where the likelihood of implementing these features is greatly increased.

    Last updated:
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    RAW Motor/Receiver Unit. Motor with receiver box, lens belt, and a sticker. (See FAQs for how to control your RAW Motor/Receiver Unit)

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    CINE-STANDARD 32-pitch gear-drive version of the complete Lenzhound System. You will get a remote control, receiver unit with motor and gear assembly (DB-1G), 12v battery pack, USB cable, marking pencil and a sticker.

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    PLATINUM PROTOTYPE - Be one of the first to use a Lenzhound System. We'll send you one of the first five fully functional prototypes, named and numbered, right out of the test lab.

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Funding period

- (37 days)