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MTV VMAs Relied On Motion Impossible AGITO Trax Systems For Live Production

Motion Impossible
(Image credit: Motion Impossible)

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—MTV Entertainment deployed four Motion Impossible AGITO Trax systems for its live broadcast of the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) from the Barclays Center here Sept. 12.

North Salem, N.Y., -based camera robotics supplier JitaCam provided the systems, which are modular remote dollies featuring multiple configurations that allow smooth motion from slow, precise dolly movement to high-speed tracked operation.

With a simple, fast change of its drive ends, the AGITO can be configured for free-roaming operation in Sports mode or precision movement on rails in Trax mode, the company said.

“We started talking to MTV in May about this show, and by July, discussions turned serious,” said JitaCam owner and president John Pry. “The plan from the beginning was to use four track systems. It was our idea to make it four AGITO Trax systems.”

The company and Pry have worked with different MTV Entertainment and Viacom production people, including the main stage director of this year’s VMAs Joe DeMaio, for more than 20 years.

“This year’s VMAs didn’t have a single camera on a pedestal head,” said Pry. “It was just impossible to do that. You had the audience on the floor, a center stage main entrance, performance stages both house right and house left. Traditional camera stacks would have to be pointing dead center on each area and would block the views of everyone in the audience. It was all AGITOs, handhelds and Stedicams.”

(Image credit: Motion Impossible)

Two of the four AGITO Trax systems were equipped with two cameras apiece, giving DeMaio six AGITO-mounted cameras from which to choose. Each was on tracks under the stage with the towers and Shotover G1 gyro-stabilized gimbal-mounted cameras protruding out.

“The two double-cam AGITOs were about 20 to 30 feet from each performance stage,” said Pry. “Each had a lower camera for wide shots, and the higher tower camera for tight shots...although sometimes they did switch roles.”

Pry and his crew started setting up the Saturday a week before the VMAs, with everyone taking off the following Monday for Labor Day. On Tuesday, they started teaching the camera operators how to use the AGITO.

“We had one of our guys manning one of the AGITOs, but MTV wanted to use their regular camera operators for the rest,” said Pry. “Now, these guys are amazing camera operators when it comes to handheld or cameras on heads, but they had little to no robotics experience.

“It wasn’t a hard learning curve, but we gave them a crash course in the AGITO and would give them different operating options until they were comfortable with what worked for each of them. Rehearsals started Wednesday, and come show night, they all had the operation of the AGITO down solid.” 

Reflecting on the show, Pry expressed satisfaction with the performance of the systems. A primary goal for the shots from the AGITOs was to not stand out, he said.  To the audience at home, they looked just like cameras on heads with movement.

 “What made me very happy,” said Pry, “was when we were all done and Joe [director Joe DeMaio] said that this was the first show he had ever done – and he’s done a lot of award shows – without a single camera on a head.”

“[H]e was happy about that. We received a lot of extremely positive feedback from everyone. And at the end of the day, that’s what you want,” said Pry.

More information is on the company’s website

(Image credit: Motion Impossible)