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Preston. Why so much?


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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 07:43 AM

I'm trying to put together a full rig for myself. From the reading and conversations I've had, it seems that Bartech (along with Heden motors) makes a very nice focus package. Many ops seem to use it and many seem to like it. At around $5k, I think it SHOULD be pretty decent.

Now, is there any way to simply state why a Preston system costs a Toyota more than the BFD? I know the Preston self-calibrates, and it's more rugged, and the company's history with military applications is a great asset. However, is it just a sum of all those little things that pushes it into a much higher league, or is it one or two primary functions?

The one best explanation I've gotten so far is that the Bartechs are delicate, where as Prestons are built like a tank. OK, that's great. But if a BFD breaks, it can be replaced 3-4 times before reaching the price of a Preston.

To make myself clear, and I may just answer my own question here, I'm a big proponant of quality and refinement. If you were to tell me comparing a BFD to a Preston is like comparing a Honda to a Mercedes, where it's not one thing specifically, it's a combination of them, I'd be reasonably satisfied. But will they not both get you to where you are going?
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#2 Anders Holck Petersen

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 10:29 AM

It all comes down to what you need: A complete "Lens control system" or a simpler "Focus device"

The FI+Z is a complete Lens control system in the same class as the Scorpio, the Arri WRS, and the Chrosziel Aladin.

The Bartech is a simpler 1 channel device, comparable to the Chrosziel Mag Fox, or the Benz.

Some advantages of the Preston FI+Z compared to the (Bartech):

- 3 servo channels for Focus, Iris and Zoom (1. You would have to buy 3 Bartech's to match and an AC with some serious big hands to hold and operate the 3 transmitters)
- Microwave transmitter 2.4 GHz (Radiowave 900MHz)
- 29 frequencies (10)
- 16 bit Transmitter resolution (12 bit)
- Digital Servo. (Analog servo)
- Auto calibration (manual by two dials on reciever)
- Dedicated NIMH battery (9V cell)
- Better build in a smaller package.


I need a "Focus device" so I bought the Bartech, and it works great for what I do.
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#3 JimBartell

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 10:48 AM

Without commenting on the Preston system, which I have always said is an excellent piece of equipment, I'd like to respond to a couple of points here.

A BFD and M-One is $4K, instead of $5K for a BFD and Heden. Personally, I think the M-One is a superior motor and a better value.

Over the 6 years of making BFD's we have identified and solved all the items that might be considered "delicate", such as the antenna connectors (now reinforced and none have broken since) and the inadvertent insertion of the power cable in the Data In port by assistants (protective plastic covers). Also, the CPU chip in the transmitter, which was originally a large square PLCC chip that could get dislodged if dropped has been replaced by a DIP package that is much more secure.

Virtually all the repairs I get are older units that don't have the redesigns or simple component failures that affect all electronics. The antennas can and do get broken or lost but they can be purchased from Digi-Key for under $8 each. As far as I know no BFD has ever been destroyed or required repairs that took more than an hour. This is out of over 600 units in daily use in over 30 countries.

Jim "I wish I was as tough" Bartell
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#4 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 03:11 PM

It all comes down to what you need: A complete "Lens control system" or a simpler "Focus device"

The FI+Z is a complete Lens control system in the same class as the Scorpio, the Arri WRS, and the Chrosziel Aladin

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Ummm let's not get started on the Aladin piece of garbage. It's neither a Lens control System or a Focus device. It's an abortion. (I know I spent 6 months with two of them "controlling" iris on a HD series, they don't work)
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#5 Anders Holck Petersen

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 05:58 PM

Ummm let's not get started on the Aladin piece of garbage. It's neither a Lens control System or a Focus device. It's an abortion.


Yeah, "In the same class" was misleading. What I meant was something like "Comparable advertised features"
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#6 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 11:30 PM

Afton,

If you have heard the Bartechs is fragile, you've been misinformed. They are rugged little beasts; plain and simple. I don't wish to to reward those who have abused my gear (albeit, unintentionally), but my units (serial nos 22 & 68?) have been dropped, hung on things, beat up, etc. and have worked like.... a Toyota. Which brings up the Toyota/Mercedes analogy, which I think is a good one. Both get you there. One is mechanically simpler and therefore there is less to go wrong. But then the other IS a Mercedes. From what little I know of your situation though, Afton, you'd be nuts not to buy a single BFD and M1 (yes, it is the best motor for this system). Add to the system later. Buy a Preston even later, if you must (or a new rig, etc).

I'm on a film in Rochester New York now, but I'm supposed to do a commercial in Boston at the end of the month (or early Sept). Look me up if you want to check out my gear.

Cheers,
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#7 Daniel Stilling DFF

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 09:31 AM

Well,

I'm on a show now where they have a Preston in the rental package from Panavision, so it's getting used with my rig. The Preston transmitter batteries keep dying. the 9V Bartech solution was listed as a disavantage, I strongly disagree with that. Just steal a couple from sound and you are good for a few days.
Then, the other day the DP wanted to do an Iris pull. He had to run asside me, and the AC, as they had a cable from the transmitter, to a smaller iris unit.
Well, the cable malfunctioned and the iris went crazy on a couple of takes, really anoying. Solution was for the 2nd AC to operate the iris from the main controller, where the AC was pulling focus allready...
Then again, a Preston privatelly owned is probably better kept and malfunctions less than one rented by Panavision, but that goes to show you that a Mercedes can have electrical problems too!!
And spending sooo much more money, so AC's only have to push a button to calibratte??

Just my 20.000,00

Dan
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#8 Frederic Chamberland

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 03:42 PM

Hi all,

I am the proud owner of a Scorpio for a year now and was a proud owner of a BFD before. I say before because I had to sell it to get the money for the Scorpio. This is a piece of gear (BFD) I WILL buy again when the money is there for a backup. Both units have their value points depending on the job to be done. In my case, I was happy when I begun in the business to have a complete focus remote for 5K, the best value for the money at the time, but I also don't regret a minute the 20K invested in my Scorpio. I also have to add both persons I have dealt with in my purchase of the Bartech (Jim Bartell) and my Scorpio (David Hable) are among the best players in this business.
My 20 000 - 5000 cents,
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#9 Flakse

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 12:45 PM

Interesting thread.

How is the Preston technically better?

- Is 2,4Ghz better than 900 mz? In what way?

- Is 16 bit better than 12 bit, can you really see the difference?

- When is digital servo better than analog?
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#10 Brant S. Fagan SOC

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 07:47 AM

Gents--

I own both a Preston and two (2) BFD units. Both are great! Really!

I am not sure that I would compare the BarTech to a Toyota, but rather a great piece of gear at a great price.

Having owned them all, from a CP WRC-4 (it worked great and still does!) Seitz, BFD and Preston, I can say that at a certain level, people "expect" a Preston. I don't agree with this "attitude," but it is prevalent in the industry, in the US for sure, perhaps elsewhere too.

My philosophy on the Steadicam gear is this: Get what you can afford, work it, upgrade when you can, or have to.

If someone says that you "must" have the XXX box to get the job, ask what is the specific need and offer that your YYY box does that too but at a lower price. See what happens...

In response to Flaske's post:

1. I believe that 2.4 GHz has less "traffic" at this time thus making intrusions less likely.

2. More bits are better when you expand the scale for more precision and definition, especially when shooting anamorphic at night...

3. Digital is better when trying to be accurately repeat moves and pulls. See above response.

Jim Bartell, back me up on these, yes?

Best,

Brant Fagan, SOC
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#11 JimBartell

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 12:20 PM

1.  I believe that 2.4 GHz has less "traffic" at this time thus making intrusions less likely.

2. More bits are better when you expand the scale for more precision and definition, especially when shooting anamorphic at night...

3.  Digital is better when trying to be accurately repeat moves and pulls.  See above response.

Jim Bartell, back me up on these, yes?

Best,

Brant Fagan, SOC

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hey Brant,

Basically, yes. It's all a matter of degree. How much is too much or good enough? It's to some degree like stereo turntable specifications used to be. How much "wow and flutter" can you hear? Are 4096 steps of resolution enough or do you need 65,536? Can you accurately position the knob in the transmitter to 0.085 degrees or to 0.005341 degrees?

Beats me. I just build them. You guys use it. Remember, the old Seitz had, at best, 512 steps, and it performed well enough to do "Goodfellas".

Jim "way too old if he remembers wow-and-flutter" Bartell
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#12 thomas-english

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 02:56 PM

I reckon I am quicker setting up my bartech (integrated into my rig) for each "steadicam shot" and then for each lens than most AC s are with an LCS that they only use once a week or every 2 weeks.

I am pretty good at knowing the order to turn turn off an LCS so it actually reboots properly every time it crashes... but i still prefer that "hardwired" feel of controll that will work whatever happens that I get from the bartech.

Often we scrap the LCS or preston in favour of the bartech that works and has power and works and just works !

I ve just got very good at engaging the motor at exactly 5ft for every lens and then the AC thinks the setup is slick. As far as he s concerned its as good as anything. But then again I set it up for him.

Please can we have some proper discs please..... I think thats the 15,000 dollar difference.

The other thing is I charge 70 pounds a day for my single channel. Hire company s get 160 pounds a day for a preston nowadays in england, and my bartech is not half the price.

I would buy a preston if I had the randomn cash.... just to look good. But the bartech works very very well, but I don t let the AC set it up.
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#13 thomas-english

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 03:00 PM

900mhz bounces around walls more than 2.4ghz, which is more line of sighty.

I believe the preston does both. The bartech is on 900mhz.
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#14 RobinThwaites

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Posted 24 August 2005 - 04:12 AM

Hi Thomas

Normally 2.4 would be line of sight but the Preston uses RF technology that overcomes that.

Robin Thwaites
OpTex
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#15 Erwin Landau

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Posted 28 September 2005 - 09:06 AM

Well,

I'm on a show now where they have a Preston in the rental package from Panavision, so it's getting used with my rig. The Preston transmitter batteries keep dying. the 9V Bartech solution was listed as a disavantage, I strongly disagree with that. Just steal a couple from sound and you are good for a few days.
Then, the other day the DP wanted to do an Iris pull. He had to run asside me, and the AC, as they had a cable from the transmitter, to a smaller iris unit.
Well, the cable malfunctioned and the iris went crazy on a couple of takes, really anoying. Solution was for the 2nd AC to operate the iris from the main controller, where the AC was pulling focus allready...
Then again, a Preston privatelly owned is probably better kept and malfunctions less than one rented by Panavision, but that goes to show you that a Mercedes can have electrical problems too!!
And spending sooo much more money, so AC's only have to push a button to calibratte??

Just my 20.000,00

Dan

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Panavision is a bad example...

They are pushing there own piece of garbbage FI+ZAC and neglecting the Preston, all units need a recell... and a serious service... I had complained about that to Howard and he got on the phone with Panavision... 2 days later there where 2 units from Panavison getting serviced at Preston...

Anyhow.

My batteries last usually a week for just Steadicam use...
I have a Preston wireless Iris unit so that the DP can pull as much as he wants (runs on Camcorder rechargeble Batteries... think about the enviroment).
Together with the single channel MDR it also can be used as a back up FF or as I use it for handheld FF so that I don't have to pull my MDR from my Sled...
And the AC get's a break as the Focus Iris unit weighs only a third of the Hand unit.

And it would be $16'000.- do your math.

I had never an AC complain...

Erwin "Happy Preston owner/user" Landau
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