Halifax startup focused on revolutionizing film industry

HALIFAX — A local start-up company is attracting international attention, as it gets set to launch a product that revolutionizes the way video cameras stay in focus.

Cinema Control Laboratories Ltd. launched Andra last month at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas.

The Andra system attaches to a film or television camera. Using sensors, it adjusts the focus automatically, keeping the subject crisp and in focus no matter where it moves in the shot.

“Everybody has a stills camera,” said Sam Fisher, co-creator of Andra Motion Focus.

“They know they can take a picture with a stills camera with autofocus. What they don’t quite understand is that, with a moving subject, that problem is still not solved.”

Not solved, but Andra comes close.

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It uses a receiver box on the camera and a wireless emitter near the scene being shot. A sensor placed on the actor picks up the wireless signal, and relays information to the camera on exactly where to focus.

In this case, Andra is connected to a Canon 7D with a simple follow focus motor. Brett Ruskin / Global News
Andra's co-creator Sam Fisher adjusts an object, while the system keeps it in focus no matter where it moves. Brett Ruskin / Global News
Sam Fisher, Andra co-creator, moves the target object forward and back, while Andra adjusts focus. Brett Ruskin / Global News
Andra's automatic focus system keeps the "4" ball in focus, no matter where it moves in the room. Brett Ruskin / Global News
Andra's interface. Brett Ruskin / Global News
One feature of Andra allows an operator to adjust focus instantly using an iPad. Brett Ruskin / Global News
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Andra's co-creators discuss tweaks to the system. Brett Ruskin / Global News

“The film that I’m working on right now is an action film where we’re going to have bow and arrows and guns and stuff like that,” said Kevin Kincaid, a local film producer and actor.

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“The ability to get precision focus from, say, somebody’s eye to the barrel of a gun can be really difficulty. The Andra can really be a nice solution.”

ANDRA SOAP from Cinema Control Laboratories on Vimeo.

Since its soft launch in April, Andra has been attracting attention from independent filmmakers and big-name Hollywood directors. The system is expandable and adaptable to fulfill a variety of needs.

The Nova Scotia government seems to believe the product has a bright future. Last month the province’s Small Business Development Program reimbursed $14,950 of Cinema Control’s $29,900 investment to identify and analyze potential markets.

The system’s retail price will start at $12,000 for a basic system. Extra sensors, transmission boxes and receivers can be added for an extra cost.

Andra’s creators hope to start selling the product later this year.

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