axiiio started out as a home build by axiiio team leader Adam Liwszyc, to counter the OUTRAGEOUS cost of remote follow focus units. At the time he was filming scenes with digital SLR's and steady-cams but wanted better control of depth of field. To do this required a focusing system that was a part of the steady-cam rig, but was controlled remotely either by a second operator or himself via a thumb wheel. The idea was to be able to remotely control focus using close up portrait lenses with a low aperture setting on his steady-cam rig to get close to subjects while they moved around.

I almost fell off my chair when I got some prices for remote follow focus systems. Buying them was like the cost of a new small car and hiring them meant 100's of dollars of dead cost, so I thought I should just build one.

And that's what he did. It was knocked together from a simple micro processor prototyping board with a wireless transceiver and parts from Spark Fun and Pololu.

It worked really well, was very simple and only did one thing (FIZ controller). One of his friends suggested he make a commercial version and start selling it as there was clearly a need.

This reminded Adam of conversations he had had with his former manager Gerry Bron in the 90's. At the time Adam was running his production company United Urban Artists in the UK. Gerry (who was very interested in digital VFX and animation) had wondered out aloud whether it was possible to make a motion control system for film, that didn't cost as much as a house and whether a system like that would be useful for 3 mills island studios. Adam was helping Gerry and Edwin Shirley with a proposal to make the sound stages at 3 Mills Island digital friendly and thought it wasn't a bad idea.

I looked into it, and did some back of the envelope calculations on what it might cost, and Gerry and I discussed it, but it was still a rather expensive proposition in the late 90's, so we decided not to risk it. Everyone had other business interests at the time and we thought that the return probably didn't warrant the risk so we shelved it.

Fast forward to 2012, and that's when the light went on for the axiiio concept. With the creation of a reasonably inexpensive digital servo motor for the follow focus unit, and some clever closed loop control technology, why not use the same digital servo motors used for pulling focus to provide motion as well? The cost to do it was now low enough now for it to be accessible to anyone.

At roughly the same time as this revelation another practical problem was surfacing for Adam with cameras mounted on gyro stabilised rigs.

The problem with putting your camera on either a steady-cam rig or an electronically stabilised one is that it's really difficult to change camera parameters once everything is set up and your ready to go. It's easier with steady-cam, but nigh on impossible with a gyro-stabilised rig, unless you turn it off - which was what I ended up doing most of the time. Anyone who's dealt with this knows what I mean because its a P in the A! So I started experimenting with the possibility of remotely changing camera parameters from an iPhone so you didn't have to touch the rig if it was balanced and set up.

Now the idea grew into something even more ambitious. Combine smartphone remote camera control with a motion system capable of controlling not only the digital servo's developed for the remote follow focus system, but also tilt and pan on the new breed of gyro stabilised rigs.

At this stage Adam had already built 2 hardware controlled prototypes for remote follow focus duties. They had a lot of cool technology built into them all of which could be ported easily into a universal system that was smartphone controlled. It meant ditching the hardware controller, but using smartphone technology opened up a range of possibilities that would be difficult to achieve with the current design, without adding lots of cost to the final product.

So the decision to move forward with a universal motion system that was capable of controlling multiple digital servo motors for both camera motion and lens control, outputting commands to a connected camera to change parameters within the camera and capable of interfacing with the latest gyro stabilised camera rigs.