Tiffen Steadicam Volt 3 For M Series – First Look

Tiffen’s Volt System is meant to enhance an existing Steadicam rig with horizontal stabilization, allowing the operator to seamlessly switch between fully manual and assisted operation. At Cine Gear 2024, we had a chance to talk with Nick from Tiffen and get an up-close look at the newest version in their Volt line, the Volt 3. While it’s still only a prototype, Version 3 has an interesting new feature. Let’s see what it has to offer!

Nick pointed out that a problem with electronic stabilization systems is that if the operator wants something different than the system, it can lead to a lot of second-guessing and repeated tries. However, the appeal of a Steadicam like the M-2 lies in its immediacy, allowing the operator to work directly with what they see through the lens without having to coordinate with another operator on wheels or a dolly (or a computer system), for example. With the Volt 3, they aimed to preserve this immediacy while offering more control in managing the third axis in more challenging areas. In response to operator feedback about awkwardness during extreme tilts and challenging conditions like heavy winds, a motor has been added to help control the pan.

Steadicam Volt 3. Credit: CineD

Nick mentioned that there has been substantial feedback on the prototype, with focus still on maintaining operator control as in the earlier models. Now the goal is to be able to fine-tune the added motor to an individual operator’s preferences without having to turn to outside apps and software. In other words, Nick said it should work like an “operator’s assistant,” still leaving the operator fully in control of the framing while getting some support in maintaining the horizon level and keeping the sled in neutral balance, for example. With this line of thinking, they have prioritized integrating controls as hardware directly on the unit wherever possible.

The controls on the Volt 3 prototype

The unit is designed to feel much like a fluid head, with the help of the new motor providing the ability to comfortably maintain the position set. To enable this, there are currently four controls on the side of the unit – Pan, Tilt, Roll, and Damp. (Nick pointed out that these controls will definitely change as they receive more feedback.) The Damp control can be tuned so that it’s very strong, similar to “using a gyro on the bottom for those crazy situations, like a vehicle mount,” as Nick states. It can also be tuned way down to feel like a frictionless bearing.

In the sub-menu, inertia can be controlled so the rig can feel lighter or heavier, as needed. Braking is a new function to the Volt 3 that works like drag in a fluid head. Braking pressure can be set and adjusted to move the sled, but once it’s free, it moves like a normal sled until you want it to stop. This is beneficial for any situation where you need the rig to be very solid.

Which sleds will work with Volt 3?

Volt 3 will be compatible with M-2 sleds only. The control board will be inside the M-2 and can be placed inside existing M-2s by sending the system in to be modified. Currently, there will be no external control box, but the company is committed to releasing one in the future so that Volt 3 will work with older sleds. That said, he emphasized that the current Volt units on offer will not be discontinued, and as Volt 3 is a new, fully electronic gimbal, some operators may even choose to keep their manual unit as a backup.

Volt 3. Credit: CineD
Tiffen Steadicam Volt 3. Credit: CineD

Pricing and availability

There is no pricing currently given as they are too early in the design phase, but the current gimbals are priced at around $12,000. The aim is to release Volt 3 by the end of 2024.

What do you think about the Steadicam Volt 3 new electronic gimbal? Is it something you might be interested in as a Steadicam user? Let us know in the comments!

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