Crane Shots – The Jony Jib

by John Huffman

The classic was always “the pullout and boom up” at the end of a movie, while the credits started rolling. Now you see these shots strategically placed throughout movies, in television programs, concerts, commercials and the list goes on.

I kept watching the ads in the back of the magazines and checking in at NAB thinking that someone would come out with a mid-priced jib for professionals with a limited wallet. Instead the market went to the smaller arms that barely extend the camera over your forehead. I guess they have their place?

And what about the ones that look like they need pedals and you get on and workout for 20 minutes? Maybe they have their place too? We also saw some homegrown units that we would be embarrassed to show up at a client with. Then there are the do-it-yourself instruction kits you can buy. Some of those are made out of wood, saw horses, bailing wire and”¦well, you get the picture.

We had a music video shoot coming up in September of 2002. We inquired about renting a jib. The project’s limited budget made it prohibitive. Another guy in town was going to lend us his, but it didn’t work out. So we started the design of our own, based on the simple parallelogram.

We knew we wanted it to be heavy enough to hold a full sized camera but not too heavy to lug around to locations. We needed it to break down small enough to fit in our van or even a car trunk, if someone borrowed it. It needed to be tall enough to reach dramatic heights yet stoop to the turf when needed.

We reminisced on all that we had seen and read over the years. We applied the requirements and started designing in Visio. (what a great technical drawing program) We figured all the pieces, pivot points and connections. It looked great on paper but would it actually work?

The shoot date was getting closer so we stepped up the process, purchasing pieces, cutting, painting, assembling, balancing and tweaking. After a week or so the prototype was born. The jib barely knew our little Canon GL1 was out on the end of its arm. It flew around the shop like it was on a cloud. Up, down, left and right. That was great, but we wanted to move the camera in one direction while the jib was moving in the other. We also wanted to see the action close-up. The camera’s LCD is great but hard to see when it’s 12 feet away from you. So we started adding accessories.

We purchased the Bescor MP101 pan & tilt unit, about $90, and a 20-foot extension for the controller, about $10, from B&H Photo. This is a “light duty” unit for cameras up to 6 lbs. We sandwiched the head between the front jib platform and the camera while the controller was mounted to the lower control arm near the weights toward the rear of the jib.

The lower arm has a foam jacket that is open at the top which makes a great wiring raceway and gives protection from bonking some unsuspecting spectator. I also purchased a Delvcam 56 5” 12 volt LCD monitor, about $240, from Markertek Video Supply. This mounts on the vertical pivot point that mounts the arms to the tripod. We fitted the jib with a small mounting bracket that positions the monitor right in front of me. I also needed to remotely control the zoom, focus and record button of my GL1 so we purchased a Canon ZR1000 LANC remote control, about $185, that we mounted to the tripod handle. Now we control the ZR1000 with my left hand and the MP101 with my right. My left hand also tongues the jib while my right hand booms it up and down.

I didn’t want to be tethered by power from an extension cord so we installed an Anton Bauer Gold Mounting Bracket, about $80, just under the LCD monitor. We added some wiring, connectors and electronics that connected the Bescor pan & tilt and the Delvcam monitor to the battery mount. Since the Canon batteries are pretty light, we powered the camera from it’s own battery. NP1 battery cases are also available if that’s your preference.

Now came the fun. We practiced the compound moves we could now make with the add-ons, which was actually quite challenging to do. We set the camera on a fixed object (like someone on stage), started with the camera at its lowest point. We boomed the jib up and to the right while panning the camera left and tilting down, keeping my subject framed. This was the fun stuff!

The day of the music video shoot arrived. The jib held our GL1 and was one of three cameras shooting the action. We rented the downtown outdoor plaza, a stage and invited as many as we could to get a good crowd. About 350 showed up, many of which were just curious onlookers. The group was Sweet Deliverance, a Christian A cappella vocal band. The music video was their cover of the old Doobie Brothers tune, Jesus is Just Alright. The jib performed wonderfully and we got some great footage. We were glad that we took the initiative to venture out. The video would not have been the same without it. We’ve used the jib multiple times since then.

The Modesto Christmas Parade was the first “Live” shoot that the jib has seen. Then a friend of ours, that owns a local advertising agency, recommended we put one up for sale to see if there was a market for this size and price. So we built another one and decided to call it JonyJib. Well the response has been overwhelming! I guess he was right!

We also designed an ATA carrying case that is UPS shippable. We are also designing a pan & tilt unit with dutch roll for larger cameras. So now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Yeah, the JonyJib is affordable, but once I add up all the accessories I might as well buy one of the more expensive jibs” Even the more expensive units do not come with the accessories. You’ll still need to fork over the plastic for those!

See the JonyJib

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