The Camera Bag: Genie is a Dream Product for Creating Smooth Panning and Easy Tracking Shots with a Digital Camera


posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:08 PM EST

Geniethe-logoLast weekend I shot a video with my digital camera of our local wine and arts fair. Despite my best efforts, the resulting video had its share of "is it an earthquake?” panning shots, along with teeth jarring tracking-while-walking shots. Even with my camera's image stabilization technology and the assistance of a few people, getting these shots to flow smoothly was a challenge.

Recently, we reported on the Camera Dolly, which offered one solution to keep video shot with a digital camera steady but it took a very basic four-wheeled approach. Now there is something far better, though more expensive, on the horizon for steadying tracking shots: The Genie.

The Genie is a programmable black box that allows a photographer to produce fluid panning and tracking shots as well as professional looking time-lapse videos. It promises to be the breakthrough that will give thousands of Canon 5D owners and others the ability to make truly professional quality videos.
The Genie box sits between the camera and tripod or other any support like a skateboard or a platform on ropes (see photos below). To use the Genie, the photographer just has to enter a program of preplanned motions and the Genie does the rest, precisely following these directions.

Invented by two New Zealanders, Ben Ryan and Chris Thomson, doing business as Syrp, the Genie’s software is designed to be user-friendly. Simple controls on its face allow the photographer to input the chosen moves and using the Preview mode review the actions and fine-tunes them.

With time-lapse imagery, the Preview mode simplifies determining time intervals for use in a video. Then, after shooting a video, the programmed motions and timing can be saved in the Genie for later use as a preset.

The Genie can even be set to move the camera continually or to pause between shots. Its inventors say it will be able to work with any camera with remote inputs. Plugged into these ports, the Genie will take control the camera settings during a pan or time-lapse shoot.

Syrp is raising funds to manufacture the Genie through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter and has already met its initial $150,000 target with nearly a month of fund raising still left. Originally, Syrp sought 465 pledges of $690 each and at this point only a few of those are left.

Buyers of these pledges will get a $300 discount on the device’s proposed retail cost of $999. As a bonus, these folks will also get panning and tracking accessories, two meters of rope, a camera connector, wall charger, and their names in the boxes of the first production run.

Unlike some of the other Kickstarter projects we have reported on, the Genie idea is seen as a good bet. Five backers quickly snatched up all the available $10,000 packages and for their support. Each will receive 20 Genies at half the retail price.

Syrp is also offering some $3,000 packages and backers who buy these will get a  holiday at lovely Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand. (Although they will have to pay for their own airfare to the resort.) A beautiful wilderness area in surrounded by New Zealand Southern Alps, it sounds like the perfect place to put a Genie through its paces.

A mobile app is, of course, in the offing too and you can see the Genie in action in its promotional Kickstarter video below.

For more information, visit Syrp's home site here.