An advertising agency creates a robotic system for the realization of high speed movies with RoboDK

Chile-based ad agency EngamaDos has developed an accessible robotic system to create high-quality slow motion shots for ad videos.

Combining RoboDK’s programming software with an industrial robot, the system is more affordable than existing solutions for robotic filmmaking.

Robots have become a tool increasingly common to create slow motion video clips for the advertising of food and beverages.

With a high-speed camera attached to the end of a robot, shots are faster and much more accurate than with a human cameraman.

These systems allow filmmakers to create more engaging food and drink videos. However, the high cost robotic systems can be restrictive, especially for companies based in countries with low GDP.

EngamaDos, a creative advertising agency in Chile, has built a robotic system that is cheaper and more accessible than most commercial systems.

Creative consultant Xavier Sanchez says, “There is a lot of demand for these types of shots. I shoot with the robot about 4 times a month. We use them for food, beer and beverage companies. Our customers include Nestlé, Coca Cola and Nacional Beers.

How robots took over high-speed videography

Slow motion is common in video advertising. Tantalizing images of fresh pizza dough spinning through the air, close-ups of water droplets running down a cold bottle or sizzling steaks on a grill excite our senses and make us appreciate the products.

This type of shooting involves complex series of coordinated movements that are not easy to pull off. A chef performs a quick movement like cutting an onion in half or sharpening a knife. These movements are often too fast for even the human eye to see clearly.

The conventional way to create such shots is for a human operator to move the camera in hand. However, this is very imprecise and the camera can not be moved quickly.

Over the last 5 years, many video artists began to use industrial robotics to coordinate such complex movements. A high-speed camera is attached to an industrial robot arm. An electronic control system synchronizes the movements of the camera with lighting and other engines.

In the blink of an eye, the robotic system moves the camera with absolute precision and repeatability. This allows filmmakers to focus on perfecting the more organic aspects of the setup, such as the movement of the food, the flames from the cooking medium, or the steam coming from the food.

The problem of high-cost robotic cinema

Until now, most existing commercial systems for robotic filmmaking have been inaccessible to all major companies.

Sanchez said: “We saw a similar system for the first time in 2016. But the price was very high. For me to deploy such a system in a low-GDP countries like Chile, it had to be affordable enough for people to rent it.

The EngamaDos team decided to explore how they could achieve the same level of high precision with a robotic system they had built themselves. This would open the technique of robotic videography to many other companies.

How the system works

The system is based on a Stäubli TX90XL industrial robot, a Raspberry Pi embedded development board and RoboDK robot programming software.

Sanchez explains how all of these components fit together: “With the Raspberry Pi, we were controlling triggers, lights, and external motors.

“This avoids damage to the system or the environment and synchronizes all effects. RoboDK is easy and intuitive to use with good support. It’s a really friendly development environment.

Using RoboDK, the team system is easy and quick to program. This allows them to update precise camera movements on the fly while filming.

Next steps for robot cinema at EngamaDos

EngamaDos has seen great adoption of the robotic system by its customers. A recent project for Chilean company Melt Pizzas, for example, featured some very dynamic replays and helped brand the company as a disruptive and challenging pizza brand.

They now plan to increase the speed of the robotic system.

Sanchez said: “Next, we plan to add a 7th axis system to move the robot faster. This is difficult to achieve because the robot weighs 200 kg and we need it to move at 6 meters per second with full precision.

This upgrade will allow replays even more impressive and the additional axis will be easy to integrate with RoboDK.

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Marilyn J. Hernandez