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Review: Cinevates Atlas FLT

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Atlas FLT:

The Cinevate Pegasus Carbon LTS sold me on rod type Linear Tracking Systems (aka: Sliders). The versatility and adaptability of a break down “component” system just happens to work really well for my style of travel packing and shooting. But while I’m waiting for my ultimate lust slider (the Cinevate Atlas 30 DSLR AT with motor/controller ;-) I thought I’d test a few “all-in-one” systems to see if I couldn’t immediately fill my smaller movement needs.

With this in mind I’ve recently been playing with (photographer speak for testing ;-) a few different brands and models of sliders including the Cinevate Atlas 10. It’s ruggedness, versatility and silky smooth slides made it easy to see why it’s Cinevates most popular product. But as great as it is, I still found myself looking for a lighter, more “packable” slider as the 10 was just a little too well made (read: beefy) for me.

20110530_atlas_flt_stills_005While down at NAB this year I mentioned this to Dennis Woods, the CEO of Cinevate, and he immediately lit up with that little grin of his and led me over to their latest product, a scaled down version of the Atlas 10 called the Atlas FLT.

(side note:…I’m starting to think of Dennis and his crew as the ultimate “enablers”…every time I think of something I might want or need (and sometimes even when I haven’t) he seems to have produced yet another perfect toy (err tool ;-) to fill the need…Maybe Dennis the Menace would be a better title for him ;-)

20110601_flt_scale_still_002And there she was…small but not too small at 26″, light but not flimsy at just under 5 1/2 lbs (approx 2.4 kgs with AT legs) lbs, and just like it’s bigger brother it’s a captive rod/bearing design with those cool micro adjustable feet and yes, the optional all-terrain legs and counterbalance kit work with her too. A single small, silky smooth slide was all it took…I was in gear lust again. It was immediately obvious that the folks at Cinevate had succeeded in producing a lighter, much more compact version of the Atlas 10 while still retaining it’s quality and functional versatility.

As you’ve probably guessed by now she arrived here in Seattle soon after I returned from NAB (thanks Dan) and I put her right to work. Dennis had cautioned me that balancing the load on her was something I needed to pay attention to and I soon found out what he meant. Because of it’s compact nature (and the laws of physics) the rail system can bind up if the loads torque the plate and bearings by being excessively front or back heavy. Once you understand that you can smoothly glide a fairly decent sized load with her…in any direction.

20110530_atlas_flt_stills_01520110530_atlas_flt_stills_041To start with I probably overloaded (sorry Dennis, I had to try ;-) the FLT with the 501 head, GenusTech rail system from my run and gun rig, Bravo follow focus and the D7000 with 70-200mm / f 2.8 lens and the smallHD Dp6 monitor and guess what? As long as I paid attention to balancing the load she still slid as smooth as silk. Under a more “normal” load it’s not as much of a consideration but balancing the load is still a good habit to get into (especially for a gear junkie me ;-).

First tests were the simple macro slides of flowers and random studio objects I usually perform to detect any shakiness or hesitation (stuttering) in these “motion” devices. Then I turned the QR plate parallel to the rails and mounted it on a 501 head (so I could tilt side to side), switched to a 60mm macro and tested her angled push, pull, reveal and escalator abilities. While verticals and a few of the more extreme angles required bracing on a nearby wall or by adding additional end support (note to Dennis: the addition of parallel QR plate mount holes at either end of the underside of the body might make this a little speedier and increase it’s range) all in all it was easy enough to accomplish and smooth moves, with only operator induced stutter/hesitation, were the norm.

The re-introduction of the 501 head, rail system and follow-focus with either the 24-70 or the 60mm macro and smallHD Dp6 gave me the opportunity to try some sliding-rack focus combo shots that came off rather well (once I got coordinated). It easily has the capacity and precision to support and smoothly slide this fairly heavy set-up while performing multi-function moves.

20110530_atlas_flt_stills_050(Note: The scale you see on it in the pics (metric in homage to the FLT’s Canadian roots ;-) was my addition for reference and a degree of repeatability)

After this series of tests I had no hesitation pulling it out for some “B” roll on a promotional piece I shot for our friend Glenda’s “Village Walk” African educational charity. It’s small size and unobtrusive nature allowed me to hide it behind a fichus plant and capture her in an emotionally charged and unguarded moment between takes. I literally reached over and gave it a small pull into where I had previously determined (by the scale) that it would nicely frame her and any of her “off camera” reactions. Even with my one-handed off-balance “pulled slide” technique the result was a perfect revealing moment.

A few days later I brought it to a boxers promo shoot where I went with the 60mm macro and switched to a Acratech ballhead without the rail system and follow focus for the vertical rise, slide and push shots. For the verticals the FLT was again end mounted on a 501 head with a c-stand arm threaded through one of the many mount points in the top end plates as additional support. It actually turned out to be a much easier and unobtrusive way to get small moves we needed instead of using the Jib we had setup (which when pushing things into the face of someone bigger and stronger than you with a potential attitude problem, seemed like a good idea ;-). Though the addition of those additional QR mount points at the ends of the underside of the rig would make using it as a “mini-jib” an easier process.

20110530_atlas_flt_stills_054Bottom line: I like it…as you can see from the video samples, although it’s small, it’s very well built and has enough length at 26” (a 35″ version is also available) to add interest while being portable enough that you can take it anywhere. Removing the all terrain legs allows it to fit in the side pocket of my ThinkTank bags where it’s always accessible and ready to take advantage of any opportunities that may appear so I find myself using it much more than I thought I would.

For the variety of shorter moves that are it’s “range” it’s definitely a capable, very versatile tool. It’s very reasonable $579.00 base price makes it especially worth checking out if you’re looking for a high quality, compact, lightweight one piece slider that should last you a lifetime. You can read more and see a through overview video, (featuring Dennis the Menace ;-) on Cinevates FLT page.

Have fun…Ric

BTW: For those of you who are also looking for a remote motion control / timelapse shooting capable slider I’ve just heard from Dennis that he has the prototype system on his desk and it will be compatible with all of their current sliders…and it will have wireless remote follow focus…sweet ;-)

3 Comments

Tommi

June 1, 2011

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FLT could be the tool to add some motion to travel documentaries. If it goes into a backpack without the legs it would be easy to carry around. Did you experience any problems keeping the track clean and thus the movement smooth?

admin

June 1, 2011

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Hi Tommi…

It easily goes in or on a backpack with bungees…the AT legs are quick to remove if putting inside.

The installed “cleaning pads” do help keep the rods free from dirt and the end plates come off with 2 set screws when the channel ends get a bit of buildup after crawling around/through things for a while.

…Ric

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[...] kit for not only shoulder rig work but also on my sliders (should be perfect for either my Cinevate Atlas FLT or Pegasus ;-) and as a detached remote for jib [...]

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