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A Tripod-On-Skates Lets Amateurs Pull Off Hollywood-Quality Camera Moves

Justin Jensen's Kickstarter-funded CineSkates approximates De Palma–style dolly maneuvers.

What’s the difference between a compelling, immersive short film and a throwaway piece of sub-viral crap? Not video resolution: nowadays, when every cat-filming schmoe has an HD video camera in his smartphone and the DSLR revolution has unleashed a tsunami of bokeh onto Vimeo.com, you need more than sharp pictures and good lenses to make an impact. According to Justin Jensen, an engineer-cum-amateur photographer/filmmaker who studied Computational Photography at the MIT Media Lab, "I realized that video quality is no longer limited by resolution, but instead by stabilization."

In other words, you need smooth camera movement to give your vids that juicy sheen of production value. But since Jensen couldn’t afford a SteadiCam, he invented CineSkates: a tiny, inexpensive, portable, expandable camera-movement platform based on Joby’s Gorillapod.

Jensen sought funding for his invention on Kickstarter, and apparently he struck a nerve with other indie filmmakers, because he exceeded his $20,000 ask in just one day. Since then he’s collected nearly $300,000—all for a homely looking little tripod on skateboard wheels. But CineSkates’ lo-fi look belies its ingenious design: As the video above shows, the Gorillapod’s flexible legs let a cinematographer bend the CineSkates into configurations that can execute sophisticated-looking camera moves simply by nudging the rig with a finger and letting inertia and gravity take over. (And besides, even Hollywood pros use dollies outfitted with skateboard wheels.)

The CineSkates platform is small enough to fit into a backpack, and Jensen has designed an expandable interface called Cinetics Connect into the legs, which will let filmmakers attach awesome-sounding (but as yet unreleased) accessories like robot-controlled wheels to their camera rigs. "We’re working on new clamps that will enable CineSkates to work with other tripods," Jensen tells Co.Design. "We’re working to have a complete system for filmmakers that will all fit in one bag." As a filmmaker myself who has schlepped my share of annoyingly heavy equipment cases on location, I can’t wait.

[Read more about CineSkates]