With the OBSBOT Tail, you can take good action video without even trying
4K video camera spins around 360 degrees to automatically track moving subject
I’ll admit: When the OBSBOT Tail first arrived, I wasn’t expecting much. It’s created by a company I’ve never heard of -- a young startup called Remo Technology based in China’s tech capital Shenzhen. Yet it promises to do what most well-established brands haven’t done: Building a video camera that spins around automatically to track and lock a subject in frame.
Sounds too good to be true. But Remo proved me wrong.
The OBSBOT Tail is really easy to use. And by that, I mean most of the time, the 4K camera does the job for you. All you have to do is tell it who to track: Either hold your palm up like a stop sign, or open the OBSBOT app on your smartphone and tap on the person you want to follow. Next, choose from four speed modes ranging from "slow" to "crazy". Once it starts filming, the lens pans around 360 degrees and tilts up and down by itself. The zooming, aperture setting, and white balance are taken care of automatically. All of the footage is stored on a microSD card.
It blows my mind how lazy I can be when shooting with the OBSBOT Tail. You pretty much just leave it alone to work its magic. And if you’re filming someone other than yourself, you can sit back and see the shot unfold in real time on the phone app. We tried following a child in a playground and a shopper on a mall escalator. The camera was able to lock the target at the center of the frame.
To take the challenge up a notch, we enlisted the help of Karen Choi, a professional ice skater and coach who moves faster than most regular human beings. During half an hour of jumps and spins, the OBSBOT Tail fixed its gaze tightly on Karen -- except for a few instances when she came too close to the camera.
Once the camera lost track however, it often forgets who it had been tracking. That’s especially true after the rink started to fill up with more skaters. I had to tap on the app again, or have Karen stand in front of the camera. It wasn’t too much of a hassle honestly, considering how rarely this happens -- and how little I had to do throughout my shooting experience anyway. But it also means I have to pay at least some attention to the footage while it’s recording.
When the OBSBOT Tail works (and it does most of the time), it does a pretty damn good job. As the target glided further away, it zoomed in to adapt. When she moved to a darker space, it captured more light. When she was blocked temporarily, it kept following. And when she contorted herself into different postures, the camera didn’t get confused. The resulting video is smooth and clear.
That’s not to say the OBSBOT Tail is for everyone. Yes, it’s roughly the size of a tub of ice cream and weighs just a little more than a pound, so it’s not exactly a brick to carry. But then if you’re looking for something lighter and more portable, something you can take with you on a morning stroll or an evening party, there are more suitable choices -- say the DJI Osmo Pocket, or your smartphone camera.
Instead, the OBSBOT Tail is probably best for action-packed events that involve a person moving in high speed -- whether it’s a basketball match, a breakdance battle, or an outdoor playdate. And even more so if the subject you’re trying to film is yourself. Because in most cases, the OBSBOT Tail is probably going to follow the subject better than anyone you can trust to manually hold a regular camera. And best of all, they won’t even have to have any video shooting skill: The OBSBOT Tail will just take over and do the job itself.
The OBSBOT Tail is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter at an early-bird discount of around US$490, and retails for a regular price of US$719.