AGITO on set and in drama
March 31, 2021
Motion 24 is one of the UK’s leading companies specialising in moving camera systems. Set up in 2015, it supplies a wide range of equipment — everything from handheld rigs to tracking vehicle equipment through their partnership with Action99— to film, TV, music, and advertising clients worldwide.
It develops a lot of its own specialist kit in-house but is also not afraid to buy in tools from other companies as well if they provide something extra for its clients. And this is precisely why it found itself purchasing an AGITO modular dolly system from Motion Impossible in the middle of 2020.
“I did actually look at building something similar a while ago,” admits James Davis at Motion 24. “I’ve raced remote control cars so I’ve got a good understanding of how that end of the system works. But the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate how many years have really gone into developing the AGITO system. So we decided to just buy one.”
Motion 24’s new AGITO has already been used on several high-profile drama projects too, for instance being one of the key units filming the spectacular crash of a long-wheelbase van for Series 6 of Line of Duty, currently airing on BBC.
“The AGITO has a lot of advantages for that sort of work,” says Davis. “It’s low profile, making it easy to keep it out of the scene or paint it out if required, and it’s a much quicker to deploy alternative to the traditional way of filming such a shot with a tracking vehicle. It also requires less people on set, which is an important consideration for shooting during a pandemic.”
Motion 24 also used its AGITO for a couple of signature shots on Bad Wolf’s Discovery of Witches for Sky; shots which Davis says would have been unsafe or cost-prohibitive with conventional equipment.
One of the shots was a high-speed tracking shot through a corridor that started off with a very precise, dolly-like move around a person laying down on a gurney, and, as they get off the gurney, it follows them as they run down a tight corridor.
“It’s the kind of shot where you would probably use an electric tracking vehicle normally, but it was a very tight situation for an electric truck; it was very fast, and you’d have to have driven through a doorway that was the width of a desk. That in itself would have been dangerous, never mind the danger to the talent if something had gone wrong in such a confined set-up.”
The camera rigging required for an electric truck would also have meant compromising the shot as the crew would not have been able to have the camera in the position that they could on the AGITO.
“It was the winning tool in that situation for its speed and flexibility, and we actually used all of the system’s capabilities in that one shot,” says Davis. “We used every steering mode, we used the Tower, and we used the switchable drive settings on it as well. That really drives the point home; what else could you do that with? The first part of the shot is a Steadicam or dolly shot, and the second half is essentially a tracking vehicle shot. With the AGITO we were able to seamlessly combine those shooting techniques into one move.”
Another much slower, tracking shot down a curved corridor on Discovery of Witches showcased the cost-effectiveness to productions of using the AGITO too.
“Other ways of shooting that would have come with greater hire costs and larger crew, as well as requiring time to build and take down,” says Davis. “We just drove the AGITO onto the set, set it up, programmed the speed, and steered it gently down the corridor, treating it very much like a motion control rig. That flexibility can save productions significant amounts of time and money — and we did it in three takes as well.”