We really like Ben Ryan and the team at Syrp, and their Genie motion controller [B&H | Amazon] is the company’s signature product statement of their design philosophy – which is very Apple-like. I just wish the Genie itself were controlled by an equally Apple-like iPhone app.
What a tease!
The Syrp Genie motion controller arrived in packaging straight out of the Apple playbook — it fairly shouted “we get design AND the environment AND high touch,” and the Genie itself was just beautiful. It promised ease of use for ANY slider for any photographer or videographer – not limited to one brand or configuration of slider.
And in fact, it delivers on that promise– but not without said photographer or videographer knowing about time-lapse; the basic concept of physical tension; and his own camera in very particular ways.
Like whether or not the camera buffer is big and fast enough for uber-smooth time-lapses without dropping frames (not so with the lovely little Canon Rebel SL1 [B&H | Amazon] in my experience, but no problemo with a Sony a6000 [B&H | Amazon] with a Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS [B&H | Amazon]).
Or the need to turn off image review; auto-focus; and, really, auto-exposure (or again, run the risk of dropping frames, getting judder or getting flicker).
And to make sure that the rope supplied with the Genie (which is a big part of what allows it to be used with any slider) is pulled very tautly – along with making sure the mounting plates for the Genie (there are two – one for sliders, one for panning) are screwed down very tightly to the tripod or slider carriage so they don’t twist. A set of Cartoni Focus sticks [B&H | Amazon] and Manfrotto 100mm half ball [B&H | Amazon] were a rock solid combo for panning time-lapse, and I tested the Genie on both the Cinevate Duzi and Syrp’s own Magic Carpet slider [B&H | Amazon] to good effect.
Syrp Genie Time-lapse Panning Footage Using Sony a6000
Syrp Genie Video Footage Using Canon Rebel SL1
But the thing that frustrated me even to the end – and I am willing to own most of this because I do have middle-aged eyes — was the display: I simply couldn’t see it in bright daylight without putting the nearest article of clothing over my head in a poor imitation of a mid-19th century still photographer, and even then the screen’s reflective display did me in more often than not.
But it wasn’t just the screen – it was the fact that I had to contort myself to see it. The display glared at me impassively, utterly contemptuous of any need I might have for a slightly easier angle of view.
Sigh. I guess I need to own most of that, too.
Getting older is a bitch.
You can imagine my joy when I visited with Ben at NAB 2015 and saw their new Genie Mini [B&H] with its iPhone app (I can see it in any light! I can hold it at any angle! I can hold it close to my face from whatever my favorite position of the moment happens to be!).
And – while I’m wishing away here – I’d love to see a complete, modular Genie system allowing full slide, pan and tilt simultaneously. With the Genie Mini, they’re now two out of three.
Ben Ryan of Syrp Showing Genie Mini at NAB 2015
The Bottom Line
If you’ve got a manual slider that doesn’t have the option of a motion control add-on – but you’re looking for the smoothness and repeatability that motion control can give you — the Genie should be on your short list. You just need to make sure you’ve done your homework about your own gear, and make sure to keep everything taut and tight. If you do, you’ll dramatically up your production values with one of the most consumer-friendly motion control devices on the market.
Syrp Genie Motion Control Time Lapse Device
The Genie Motion Control Time Lapse Device from Syrp is your key to the creative world of time lapse photography or real time video. The 4″ cube takes up very little space in your bag and at only 3.3 lb it's easy to make it part of your standard rig.
The Genie, which allows both panning and linear motion control, attaches to standard gear such as dollies, sliders, jib arms and tripods. Simply attach the panning accessory to your tripod or support and mount your optional camera and ball head to the 3/8″-16 stud atop the Genie. The weight of your equipment is rarely a concern since it supports up to 44 lb. An illuminated bubble level is built in to help in setting up for panoramas. The Genie has factory presets such as Stars, People or Clouds but you can enter an unlimited amount of user presets into the Genie's memory for custom work. At maximum panning speed a 360° pan takes 5 seconds, while 39″ of linear movement takes 23 seconds.
Linear time lapse can be done on a rail or on a linear support system of your own making. While the Genie comes with 9.85′ of rope to pull it across the rail, the movement of your time lapse is only limited by the length of your rope. Kevlar-cored rope with lengths of 328′, 164′ or 32.8′ are available for separate purchase. The Genie has been tested successfully on a homemade 60′ dual cable stretched over a lake.
Inputs include both USB for firmware and a sensor input. The free firmware upgrade enables bulb ramp-in and ramp-out functions and HDR (High Dynamic Range). Ramping is the process of modifying exposure settings on a camera in order to maintain a desired exposure value while the camera is in Bulb mode. This is especially valuable for transitional day into night, or night into day time lapses.
The sensor input accepts a motion, light, sound or other type of sensor to start your program in response to specific stimuli. The Genie ships with both panning and sliding bases, two slider mounts, 9.85′ of rope and a multi-voltage charger for its built-in battery. A three-hour charge gives you about 12 hours of run time, depend on the weight of your camera. The Genie is compatible with approximately 130 cameras from nine major brands.
(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)