Voice:  888-44-WAYNE
Triangle & JIMMY JIB III

RoboCam Operator
Hand-Held, Pedestal, & Dolly


Wayne Norman Jib Owner/Operator - 818-558-3705

The Cam Mate versus the Jib*

When ordering a jib it is very important you specify a Jimmy Jib. There are huge differences between a Cam Mate and a Jimmy Jib. All Cam Mate Owners and Operators call their Cam Mates "Jibs". They do this to imply their units are capable of working like a Jimmy Jib, but the reality is they are unable to execute precise moves.

Cam Mates are made to work high, wide, and ugly, while the Jimmy Jib, in the right hands (see what makes for a great jib operator) can execute shots on the tightest element of a 20:1 video lens or 10:1 film lens.

There is a control on the Cam Mate and Jimmy Jib called dampening or ramping. Both terms represent the same critical function in relation to the operation of these two rigs. Essentially ramping and dampening adjust the quickness of the response of the motors to control input. When you turn off the ramping, the motors are immediately responsive. As soon as the Operator moves the joystick to pan or tilt the camera, it immediately pans or tilts, and when the joystick returns to a neutral position, the camera stops immediately. When you add ramping or dampening, the controls now become sluggish. When you move the joystick to pan or tilt, the motors now slowly ramp up to the desired speed, and when you want the motors to stop, they slowly ramp to a stop. Ramping, when below 10% to 15% on a Jimmy Jib can greatly add to the Operators ability to develop smooth, highly precise shots.

When ramping is over 15%, the controls become sluggish. If the operator needs to make a quick move, the motors simply will not respond fast enough to be accurate, and framing will be off, especially when working on a long lens.

The problem with the Cam Mate is their "dampening is a minimum of 25%. YOU CAN NOT SHUT THE DAMPENING OFF. It is impossible to do highly accurate moves on a long lens, no matter how good the Operator. To make it even worse, Cam Mate has made the unbelievably stupid decision to add ramping to the zoom control. Again, there is a minimum 25% ramp built into to the zoom, so if you have to do a fast zoom, not only does it take time to get fast, it doesn't stop fast, so you miss the framing you desire. The Jimmy Jib does not have this feature, so zooms are always highly accurate. You will find almost every individual who owned a Cam Mate has switched to the Jimmy Jib.

In addition, older Cam Mates must be perfectly level for the pan motor to work properly.  Again, Cam Mate made a huge design flaw by putting their pan motor in the wrong place. If the Cam Mate is not PERFECTLY level you will get "motor stall", making the pan jerky, and unsatisfactory. The Jimmy Jib can work on uneven terrain (within reason) and provide perfectly smooth pans and tilts.

The ramping setting can also be used to evaluate the skill level of your operator. If the Operator of a Jimmy Jib has their ramping set to greater than 25%, they are not skilled enough to execute smooth and precise moves. They are more typically going to work high, wide, and ugly, plus, if they zoom in, their move has to be slow and rarely ends at the longest element of the lens.

One Final Note.  By Design, the Cam Mate cradle forces the camera lens to be almost 8 inches lower than the Jimmy Jib Triangle and a full foot lower than the Jimmy Jib III.  This is important when working in areas where the ceiling of the room is low and you are trying to achieve as high a shot as possible.  This problem is very evident in multi-camera situations and you are trying to avoid crossing the lens of another camera.  The same system that forces the lens lower also can be a safety hazard as the leveling rod is under the Arm itself, and when working low, this adds an additional hazard.

The Cam Mate also has a stabilizing bar below the arm which adds the potential for injury to people working below the arm.  This Stabilizer reduces the Cam Mates ability to work above a crowded camera floor, and reduces the ability of the Arm to get low for effective shots.



Cam Mate recently redesigned many features of the Cam Mate to be more competitive with the Jimmy Jib. I recently worked with a brand new Cam Mate in Arizona and was very surprised at it's evolution. 

The pan and tilt motors now use the same "rubber band" gearing system that has made the Jimmy Jib a smooth and precise device. Unfortunately the pan motor is still on the cradle side of the mount instead of the arm side. The creates excessive strain on the pan motor, and because it is powered using 12 volts the motor lacks power if the Cam Mate is not exactly level.

There are still four problems with the Cam Mate that make it inferior to the Jimmy Jib. The first is the Cam Mate Arm Design. On lengths over 18 feet the Cam Mate is wobbly, especially in windy conditions. The arm design does not exhibit the same stability as the Jimmy Jib Triangle.

The second issue is the cradle leveling system used by Cam Mate. It requires more set up time and I found it to be an additional safety hazard because of it's under arm low hang. On two occasions during one shoot I had people almost walk into the leveling system, only saved by my quick reaction.

The third item is the cradle mount itself. The plate on which the camera is mounted is not solidly screwed to the cradle. Instead, they have two screws used to level the camera, but it's design can cause the plate on which the camera is mounted to "collapse" if you tilt the cradle so the camera is greater than 90 degrees to the ground. This is a major issue if you do music videos or other high energy dynamic shots that exceed the normal parameters of a jib shoot.

The fourth problem and possibly the most noticeable is the slip ring system forces the lens height to be considerably lower than the Jimmy Jib in under-slung applications.  In essence, the lens height on a Cam Mate is almost 1 foot lower than on a comparable Jimmy Jib.  This is of special concern when working in low ceiling environments when you are trying to get the lens as high as possible.  I was doing a multi-camera shoot in a room with a ceiling height of 12 feet.  With the addition of the hanging lights and the Pedestal cameras working at their highest, it was very difficult to do moves over the other cameras with the Cam Mate, and I was often forced to break my continuous iso shot to get to the next position.  It was very frustrating.  I knew if I had been working with the Jimmy Jib, there would have been no problem maneuvering. 

Overall, the shoot I was working on in Arizona was very demanding and required precise moves and the Cam Mate performed admirably. I especially appreciate the slip ring system for sending the video and control signals to the cradle. 

If you are going to use a Cam Mate on a shoot, make sure it is of recent manufacture (no older than 2005), or you will get the old Cam Mate that will greatly limit the performance you may expect.

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Wayne Norman - Jib/Owner Operator - 888-449-2963 (888-44-WAYNE)