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Vortex is a revolutionary remote-operated camera mast capable of filming stable shots travelling from ground level up to 30 metres.
In 2005, Matthew Gladstone, a BBC cameraman, realised the need for a lightweight camera mast that could be operated from the ground and could film where large ‘Cherry Picker’ lorries couldn’t go. He approached Realise after a large structural engineering firm concluded it wasn’t feasible. We decided it was. Clearly, though, this would be a tough challenge with extreme, competing requirements. It had to:
- Weigh only 1/6th of a Cherry picker, be compact, towable behind a Land Rover and deploy in 15 minutes
- Be operated entirely from ground level
- Lift heavy TV / film camera up to 30 metres in 15 seconds
- Produce stable shots in winds of up to 30 knots
On top of these technical requirements, the first version of Vortex needed to be produced quickly, under a phenomenally tight budget and operate commercially.
First, we assembled a 5-man team, whose can-do attitude, expertise and collaboration proved vital to rapid problem solving throughout the project. Secondly, through concept sketching, calculations and CAD, we quickly proved a radical concept with 7 offset mast sections.
Then followed a huge volume of detailed design, solving key make or break details like supporting huge loads on the sliding mast bearings. After testing destroyed various conventional bearings, the team found the solution in offshore yacht racing technology – a typical example of lateral thinking that made Vortex possible.
That solved, the huge 3000+ part CAD assembly, was converted into high quality engineering drawings. Working closely with suppliers, the team themselves spent many hundreds of hours on the build, extensive structural testing and CE marking, keeping costs down.
Vortex is the world’s first 30m high trailer mounted TV camera mast. It can be rigged and de-rigged in minutes enabling it to relocate several times a day, unlike anything else that high.
The good use of virtual prototyping in 3D CAD saved the project in excess of £200,000, whilst computer animation enabled Cammotion to line up potential broadcast filming work prior to completion.
To date Vortex has filmed all subsequent Grand Nationals, The Royal Wedding in front of Buckingham palace, F1 at Silverstone and Spa in Belgium as well as many sporting events, live broadcasts and specialist film shots such as Dorian Gray. It is highly praised by directors who love it’s dramatic camera shots and cameramen who admire the engineering solution. Last year Vortex won the rarely awarded Guild of TV Cameramen “Seal of Approval”.