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Last month, we had the pleasure of announcing the addition of Raoul Rodriguez to the CANTEEN roster.  Raoul is the creator of the Ulysse Camera Cranebot, an intuitive high speed motion control robot.  We sat down with Raoul to talk shop and dive deeper into the bot's technology and his process:

Can you tell us about your background and how you found a pathway in both art + science?

I don’t recall who was the first, the director or technologist.
I have always been curious. I like to observe things whether they are artistic or technical, but what interests me is to create whether it is images, stories or robots. Technology is a tool among others, but building visual narratives is what keeps me going. I don't really consider myself a technologist. Although I studied science and technology, it is the scientist's point of view that interests me in the creation, observation of details, experimenting with textures, colors, etc, and the random part... I love to be surprised by the images I participate in creating as a Director and/or DP. I appreciate collaborations too, doing chemistry with other creative people.

Can you tell us about Ulysse?  What innovations were you looking to introduce?

Ulysse is a motion control robot that I developed with my team at my company, Sublab. I was looking for a tool that was both precise and fast, but that didn't separate me from the camera and from creativity. We developed Ulysse as an intuitive tool that allows Directors, DPs, and camera operators to frame in real time without having to ask someone else to do it for them. The idea is to use robotics as a tool that accompanies us in a creative process, and that allows us to change our mind quickly to create simple or complex movements at the rhythm of the elaboration. An intuitive and simple tool that supports inventiveness. I always joke saying that I used all my past frustrations to develop Ulysse.

With so much camera support technology from cranes, gimbals, MoCo, etc., why another one?

It's true that we are lucky to have choices in creating movements. Most of them are complementary and are specific tools for the realization of certain shots. Ulysse has another approach: my point of view and my experience as a DP and Director are the drivers of the development with a user vision. I take here the statement of Eric Yealland, Director and DP, which makes me say that we succeeded in our goal: "Ulysse is the perfect hybrid between a Technodolly and a Bolt". I agree with him, lol.

Why is MoCo particularly relevant for shooting tabletop?

Using a MoCo like Ulysse is an ideal tool for tabletop for several reasons: to make fast movements with slow motion cameras, to synchronize special effects, and to capture macro viewpoints are all obvious reasons to use motion control in tabletop.

Another point is that storyboards have become longer. So we strive to put as much time as possible in our shooting hours - to be able to adjust the frame and the movement quickly, instead of setting up the camera dolly, the focus, etc. Our goal is to make shots that require precision with freedom and fluidity. Directors, DP's and creatives are happy with the simplification of the process. We save a lot of time and therefore budget which makes producers and clients happy too. 

How will the growing accessibility of MoCo change the industry for product and food focused productions?

The visual language and storytelling is constantly evolving.
Having quite a few years of experience (I’m still young) in this field, I've seen that camera movement is something that has been democratized in tabletop. But these are tools. What is most important, and most fun, are the humans who create these images. I like progress when it facilitates my work and allows me to go further into details, and faster.

You clearly are passionate about the convergence of art and technology. How does this inform your work?

Yes it's true, at the same time I also like to hide the technology. It is the most effective when used consistently. Personally I believe that it must be at the service of creation. That's why I called my company Sublab. Like a laboratory in a cellar that works for the creation that is on the ground floor. I find nature beautiful whether you look at it from very close or very far. And it is often what inspires me. A bubble is like a small planet.  A splash of liquid, a vegetable, or a coffee bean can be a potential actor. I try to tame them by highlighting their beauty. I also admire the work of other talented people with whom I have had the chance to collaborate when I shoot jewelry or watches, special effects, dancers or models or the design of a toy or a car. I hope that my admiration and respect for the work and high skills of all these people comes through in my images.

Which of your past projects have leveraged Ulysse to the best of its potential?

I can quote projects with effects, fast movements or wow sequences. But with Canteen we did a project recently with toys on a neutral background. We accomplished nearly 15 shots in one day, without overtime, in a relaxed atmosphere and changing and refining each shot. It doesn't seem like anything but Ulysse is the only tool that could have allowed us to do it in a record timing.

Click here to check out some of Raoul's work shot on Ulysse, and to learn more about the robot, follow this link to Sublab.

West Coast Rep
Lauren Schuchman 

East Coast Rep
Daria Zeliger

Midwest  Reps
Margueritte Juliusson + Dawn Ratcliffe

Mailing Address
100 West Broadway, Suite 3000
Long Beach, CA 90802

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