Philadelphia has a vibrant film community with an abundance of state-of-the-art resources, but until the fall of 2021 it was missing one groundbreaking piece of equipment: an industry-standard motion control rig – The MRMC Bolt – A High-Speed Cinema Robot.
When Emmy-nominated Director/DP, Mike Greenberg returned to Philadelphia after four years in New York City, he took stock of what robot solutions Philadelphia had. To his surprise, there were no name brand motion control rigs . Simultaneously, Expressway Cinema Rentals was already keyed into this opportunity and on the hunt to expand its repertoire.
“Our Mission at Expressway has always been to increase access to advanced tools to our filmmaking community. The Bolt was a natural extension of this,” says Expressway Owner and Chief Strategic Development Officer, Zac Rubino.
So the two entities teamed up with the mission of bringing the standard-bearer robot arm to the City of Brotherly Love. From there, a beautiful partnership formed.
Expressway’s keen awareness of the creative community’s needs and Greenberg’s technical expertise formed together to create Mocolab, short for motion control laboratory. Mocolab seamlessly combines cinematography and robotics to engineer stunning visuals for clients of any kind.
Now, a full year later, Greenberg and the whole Mocolab team can look back fondly on how far the Bolt cinebot , affectionately known as “Bottie,” has come. Bottie arrived at Expressway’s door in a massive shipping crate. With the help of the crew at Bud’s Studio, Greenberg got to work bringing the robot arm to life.
Things started with a bang when Mocolab took part in creating a viral video with magician John Stessel and DP Giancarlo Stigliano. A behind-the-scenes video featuring the bolt arm capturing one of Stessel’s illusions garnered 28.4 million views on instagram. It was clear the world wanted to see what Bottie could do.
“It’s been a blast introducing our Bolt Jr+ to the region,” says Greenberg. “To have a portable motion control rig with a track that runs on standard power has been a game changer for the city. It makes motion control accessible where it was once logistically restricted.”
The robot is a capable motion control solution perfect for anything where you want frame accurate repeat passes. It lives up to its name! The Bolt is fast, like watching a lightning bolt. When combined with a high-speed camera, it creates a truly unique look.
Bottie is adaptable and multi-purpose. It’s great for tabletop food and beverage shooting, but with its 30 feet of track and ability to cover ten feet a second across the ground, there’s no limit to what it can do.
The creative community has already felt the impact of Mocolab.
“As a producer, it’s great having a partner in Mocolab that can easily provide motion control to my wide variety of clients,” says Loaded Pixel President Bobby Reed. “What once was a large and expensive lift is now attainable and turn key for most of my clients.”
Mocolab has had a busy year since then, hosting jobs and traveling to productions.
“We had the opportunity to shoot a lot of tabletop, promoting food and beverage brands both in Philadelphia and Rochester,” says Greenberg. “That was the wheelhouse I always expected, but our client base was more diverse than I anticipated. Some opportunities featured an NFT with Bella Hadid, an art exhibit at the Whitney, our favorite 76ers, the red carpet at the BET Awards, and a catalog of protective sports equipment.”
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from this past year!
In February, Mocolab traveled to Rochester on a commercial for Wegmans with Director Will Strawser. With the help of the robot arm, Strawser was able to capture, in strikingly delicious detail, items from Wegmans’ Meals2Go menu.
“This was my first project directing a video with the bolt, or any robotic camera arm, and I can honestly say it’s a game changer,” says Strawser.
The commercial involved the Mocolab loading, programming and shooting 4 dishes in only one day, creating a dazzling commercial for the grocery store when combined with Strawser’s lifestyle scenes.
“There is no way I would have been able to get through as many shots as we did with traditional studio camera movement options,” says Strawer. “The Bolt made my life easy, and I cannot wait to work with it and the team over at Mocolab again.”
As a company with roots in Philadelphia, there can be no better honor than getting called upon to work with the 76ers.
This shoot required a composite of multiple players on the screen as if they were in the same area at the same time. Historically, this kind of content requires locked off shots but for Director/Producer Ryan Thielen of Triglass Productions that process was not preferable.
“We wanted a motion-control camera rig that could be brought on location and give us the flexibility to film multiple players during different times of the day, and get them all in the same shot,” says Thielen.
“The Mocolab rig was the perfect solution. It was portable enough to travel to an exterior location and set up quickly enough to accommodate a full schedule of shooting. The process worked like a dream, and everything came together beautifully as if we had the whole team on set at the same time.”
When it comes to capturing red carpet content and showcasing fashion, the MRMC Bolt Cinebot adds a layer of depth that traditional photography can not. Bottie even stopped by Expressway’s annual Ping Pong BBQ to give attendees personalized slow-motion portraits.
“Mocolab has played an important part in the success of our event-based activation,” says Andrew Robinson, CEO of Extraordinary Entertainment, an event design, production, and entertainment company.
Mocolab joined Extraordinary Entertainment in creating a branded glambot activation at the 2022 BET Awards. “Part of the benefit of being in the MRMC family is that we can access expertise and equipment across the globe. In Los Angeles, we worked alongside Camera Control” Greenberg said.
“Their communication, onsite expertise, creative ideas, and professionalism are second to none,” says Robinson. “They have made our ability to execute extremely easy and effortless.”
Mocolab has been an asset for production companies in Philadelphia, Upstate New York, and the surrounding regions. Its crew was pleased to work with long-time Expressway client All Ages Productions.
“Expressway has always been our first call for anything and everything camera related. Here at All Ages were extremely psyched to get an invite last spring to get a first-hand sampling of the new Mocolab magic,” says James Doolittle, a producer at All Ages Productions.
Having Mocolab’s operators on set allows companies to focus on the concept while he focuses on the technical aspects.
“Mike is nothing but a most generous and friendly host to those, like me, technically challenged – and was extremely helpful to see its applicability in person,” says Doolittle. “We even brought a client. They were so impressed by the team and their mastery of Bolt mechanics that we booked a job within a few weeks.”
After a successful year, it’s safe to say Mocolab is achieving its goals and then some.
“The Bolt opens up tremendous creative opportunities to accomplish shots that are otherwise impossible to achieve,” says Rubino. “Over the past year with Mocolab, we’ve seen our customers do exactly that by accomplishing complex and exciting projects that would not have been possible with traditional camera motion equipment.”
Though this last year has been impressive, what Mocolab can accomplish will only go up from here. With several projects in pre-production, Unreal and XR integrations, and Mocolab’s second operator Vince Perretti logging more hours running the Bolt, 2023 will be just as dynamic.
“What’s most exciting is that we’re only scratching the surface of the creative use cases for the Bolt,” says Greenberg. “As we continue to build awareness of the rig’s capabilities among directors and agencies they continue to dream up more elaborate and innovative concepts.”
Check out Mocolab’s social media to see what projects they roll out next!
Book an in-person or virtual demo with Mocolab (267) 888-6120.