Thread: Tilta Nucleus-M review

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  1. #1 Tilta Nucleus-M review 
    Senior Member Daniel Stilling's Avatar
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    I wanted to start this review by getting one thing out of the way: yes, what you get for the price is absolutely amazing!
    But I'm not measuring it against its price, but as a proffesional tool to be used on sets big and small. So, in the end, it really doesn't matter how much it costs, but how well it works. After all you can't tell the Director to wait a few minutes to fix an issue with the wireless follow focus, but its ok, as it was so cheap...
    Well, to start, when you open the case, its jam packet with stuff. The lid has the cables nice and strung. But I found it to be not very practical. Once you get all the stuff out, it was impossible for me to repack it. I wish the case was larger or that Tilta offered a larger case version for the 3 motor set, wouldn't mind paying more for that.
    Now to the unit itself: Very well built. Tilta has been doing well on the designing and manufacturing of their products as of late. The focus puller hand unit is not too big or small. The knob seems to be of a slightly smaller radius than other units in the market and it fells a little on the stiff side. Hopefuly it will feel a little tad looser as it gets broken in. Nice wooden back. One huge negative is the lack of mounting points. It only has a couple of m4 or m5 (not sure which) screw holes in the back. I was able to mount a chese plate I had and a rosete mount, to integrate it with a wireless monitor for my focus puller.
    The motors are about the size of the large Preston motor, but lighter. The mounting bracket was simple and worked as it should.
    I won't go much into the nuts and bolts of how the system works, as you can find lots of tutorial videos from Tilta, but more of mine and my assistants impressions after using it.
    For its maiden job, I set the system up with the AC hand unit to control focus and the zoom rocker/fingerwheel unit to control zoom and start/stop onboard a Gravity gimbal.
    I got both the 3 pin Fischer (for Arri) and the RED start stop cables. They both worked with my Weapon, using either the RED cable through the Sync port or the Arri cable plugged in to the WC D box or the Tilta "D rig", so that was a nice surprise.
    On set, for the 2 days that this commercial lasted, I am pleased to say that the unit performed without a single hiccup. Never lost connection and never misbehaved. And that is more than 1/2 the battle won right there.
    My AC quickly became accostumed to the feel and workflow of the system.
    I used my RED Weapon Helium with a Sigma 18-35.
    Some things to note are: if you turn off your hand unit or grips, but keep the motors powered and calibrated, the calibration stays once you power those units back on and they are ready to be used instantly. But if you power off the motors, during a battery change for example, the motors lose their calibration. I set the system up so as the moment the motors are powered on, they automaticaly perform a calibration, which makes it a fairly non issue, but i do wish the motors would keep their calibration. I also wish the motors would turn on automaticaly when fed power. That would make it all completely brainless.
    Another thing to note is that the start-stop can get cross controlled. For example, if your camera is powered off and your Nucleus is on, and you press the Rec button, then you power the camera on, next time you press the Rec button, you are actually cuting, so nothing happens in camera. So you have to press the Rec one more time to start recording. This happened a couple of times for me, but as i figured out what happened, it made sense. I dont know if theres a firmware fix for this, but its a very minor thing.
    We converted the camera to conventional studio mode a few times, so I didn't want to use the zoom controller. I kept the motors in place, with the zoom motor disconnected from the lens. When we powered on the motors first time in this configuration, the zoom motor of course started spinning freely with the automatic calibration I had set up. So, as I have done many times in the past with my Preston, I reached to the motor with my hand to stop it, simulating the hard end of a lens. Usualy the torque of the Preston motor lets you do that if you're just careful about it. I have to say that the Nucleus motors almost tore the skin of my fingers as I tried to stop it. Ouch! That was a ton of torque. I have no doubt it can turn very stiff lenses.
    From then on i just disconnected the power cable :)
    The zoom rocker worked well for changing the focal lenght on my Sigma 18-35 between set ups, but wasn't the greatest at making smooth zooms during the shot. Im very used to the microforce and the way it ramps the zoom and changes the speed as you give the rocker more or less pressure. In that respect it just didn't have the same organic feel.
    In the slowest speed setting, I was able to do some zooming in the shot, but that is one area that can improve. The rocker is held to the grip by a couple of screws, so maybe Tilta can come out with an upgraded rocker that works more like a Microforce...
    It would also be great if Tilta also could create a controller in the same basic shape as a Microforce, so it can be used with fluid heads. That would rock!
    Battery life was good. On day 1 we decided to keep going until it would go no more. So, of course, as the sun was setting and we were racing, the AC hand unit dies... And we were far from the carts. Then i just popped the batteries of the hand grip and handed them to my AC, to his great happiness. So, day 2 we changed all the batteries at lunch ;)
    I have owned most of the wireless follow focus systems out there, and I have to say that regardless of price, this is a great performer, solid and no hiccups, full of tricks up its sleeve with the 3 independent controllers in the kit. I am pleased about the innovation that it brings, not just copying other systems, but coming up with something new.
    It was just a 2 day job, so other issues could come up, but so far, my first impression couldn't be better. Some minor issues to address, but Tilta has been very interested in getting a great product to market, and i think they delivered.
    Daniel Stilling, DFF (Danish Society of Cinematographers)
    Director Of Photography
    www.danieldp.com
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Chris McKechnie's Avatar
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    Glad to hear it sir!
    Chris McKechnie
    Director of Photography
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  3. #3  
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    This is good news! Thank you, Daniel.
    www.hal-long.com
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  4. #4  
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    Thanks Daniel for your review.

    I myself also read good review on DJI Focus when it was launched and ended up buying one unit (about $2000 at that time). After a short time, I feel regret about my purchase because the motor is too weak to handle big/old lenses, the motor also too easy to broken down after several uses. I sent the unit to DJI and after months of repair, it comes back get through 2 or 3 jobs and motor fail again.

    To prevent such situation, can you help to give your opinion on the durability and reliability of the unit ?

    Much appreciated
    Last edited by Phan Duc Cuong; 11-08-2017 at 05:00 PM.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Jacek Zakowicz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Stilling View Post
    Usualy the torque of the Preston motor lets you do that if you're just careful about it. I have to say that the Nucleus motors almost tore the skin of my fingers as I tried to stop it. Ouch! That was a ton of torque. I have no doubt it can turn very stiff lenses.
    That's nice for stiff lenses but if it tore through your fingers it may tear through the end stops on focus and iris just as easily. Is there a torque adjustment on the motors?
    I wouldn't want to work on a lens with broken iris or scuffed focus helix after the motor took out the end stop and dragged it through the threads...
    Just a thought... Some lenses have beefy stops but most don't - especially the vintage lenses.
    Jacek Zakowicz, Optitek-dot-org, jacek2@optitek.org
    Professional Broadcast and Digital Cinema Equipment
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Daniel Stilling's Avatar
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    Yes, I had it set for the highest torque. It has 3 settings. I'll probably take mine down a notch.
    Daniel Stilling, DFF (Danish Society of Cinematographers)
    Director Of Photography
    www.danieldp.com
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member Jacek Zakowicz's Avatar
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    Another issue is the end stop feathering. The proper way of doing it is the motor sensing the current jump when the end stop is reached and, once the calibration is complete , it should actually never hit the end stops again- stopping just short of hitting them since the end stop position is calibrated. I know many systems don't work that way and keep slamming the stops since we work on many lenses that have stops loose or moved due to constant banging by the motors.
    Does this system feature the "stop feathering" or whatever it's called?
    BTW that feature also prevents motors from premature failures since they don't constantly overheat from the current jump...
    Jacek Zakowicz, Optitek-dot-org, jacek2@optitek.org
    Professional Broadcast and Digital Cinema Equipment
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Tommaso Alvisi's Avatar
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    Jacek, you're soooo right indeed! I tried to explain this and a manual cal method to Tilta on Facebook to no avail...
    TOMMASO ALVISI | tommasoalvisi.com
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  9. #9  
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    I was thinking in getting the RT Motion, but since I saw the nucleus I feel this is a no brainer price / benefit. How different will you feel vs a RT motion?
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  10. #10  
    I would love to see how you were able to mount it to a cheesplate! Can you share your setup?
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