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PD Movie Live Air 2S Review – the best wireless follow focus for one-man crews and larger teams

Buy the PD Movie Live Air 2S
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This is Dave from DQ Studios and today we’re taking a look at the latest update to the already great PD Movie Live Air 2, the 2S. Not sure what the S stands for, but this focus wheel is Small. I already did a review pitting the original Live Air 2 against my Tilta Nano Follow Focus. The original Live Air 2 already beat the Tilta Nano in every regard. Now the Live Air 2S brings an even tinier, more flexible focus wheel which can transform into a full-sized wireless follow focus wheel to become the perfect follow focus for both run & gun one-man crews and bigger teams with a dedicated AC as focus puller.

FULL DISCLOSURE:

Before we get to the review, full disclosure: I was sent this product without charge, but without strings attached too. So as always, I’ll be sharing my honest thoughts – both good and bad – and giving you the details so you can make your own informed decision.

WHAT IS IT?

Look ma: no wires! The PD Movie Live Air 2S is a truly wireless follow focus with a unique and tiny focus wheel – perfect for run & gun setup – which can be quickly inserted into a larger wheel for more acccurate focus pulls.

WHY IT MATTERS:

While Auto Focus has come a long way, with eye-AF being especially useful for shooting people, manual focus offers a level of control useful in many situations including macro, product and documentary shoots.

An added benefit of wireless follow focuses is the ability to finely control focus while the camera is on a tripod, gimbal, automated slider, jib, or with another operator.

WHO IT’S FOR:

Content creators, video makers and filmmakers that wants more control of their focus.

WHY SHOULD YOU TRUST ME?

I own several “traditional” 15mm rod follow focuses, but because the gear mechanism is directly connected to the lens, any wobble or shake of your hand translates that wobble to the image captured. A wireless follow focus disengages the force required at the control wheel and lens, which allows for better focus pulls with less movement required while operating.

I was also an early-purchaser of the popular Tilta Nucleus Nano “wireless” follow focus and have years of experience with its pros and cons.

As a full-time commercial and documentary filmmaker, I shoot a lot of varying subjects for my clients including interviews, handheld broll, cars, macro and studio product videos. You can see my professional work at dqstudios.com

Here’s a link to a great video PD Movie made on how to setup and use the Live Air 2S . So let’s move on to the review, starting with its design and build quality.

REVIEW

Design & Build Quality

Summary first: great build quality with no worries other than the micro USB charging port on the tiny control wheel.

There are 3 primary parts of the PD Movie Live Air 2S system:

A. MOTOR

  • the motor seems unchanged from the Live Air 2 and this is a good thing. The motor body is metal and thin by design. Two proprietary batteries and a dual charger and micro-usb cable are included (no AC power supply included).

B. CONTROL WHEEL

  • the control wheel is absolutely tiny being just over an inch in diameter with textured metal perimeter and silicon/rubber surface which is also its sole button. At the rear of the control wheel is a standard 1/4-20 threaded male bolt for ease of mounting.
  • The 2S kit includes a full-size control wheel in which the small control wheel nests. This ingenious design allows the flexibility to quickly switch from the small to large wireless focus control wheel with the benefit of more accurate control. The large wheel’s rubberized grip feels great in hand, and the metal handle includes 1/4-20 mounting points for adding additional Live Air 2S focus controllers to control focus, iris or zoom at your fingertips. The large wheel is connected to the hefty grip via a 19mm rod. This rod can be removed by 2 standard 1/4-20 screws to reveal multiple female 1/4-20 mounting points on the large wheel, adding even more flexibility for mounting options.

C. RIGGING HARDWARE

  • the same innovative hotshoe / 1/4-20 15mm rod attachment is included in the box (with rod)
  • A beefy metal clamp (thicker and stronger than the integrated clamp on the control wheel of the original Live Air 2) with 1/4-20 mounting points on every side for mount the small control wheel on 15mm rods, handles and more.
  • A universal lens gear ring is included making it possible to use the Live Air 2S out of the box without the need of purchasing additional cages or rigging hardware.

Pros:

  • Design: 2-in-1 tiny and full-size focus wheel options make the PD Movie Live Air 2S perfect for both compact run & gun setups and macro/stEasyAzonudio/larger productions with dedicated focus pullers.
  • Strength: Even with its tiny motor battery, there is enough torque to turn even the rather stiff focus ring of the Sony 24-70 GM.
  • Bonus upgrade path: I believe existingPD Movie Live Air 2 users can upgrade to the new controller by purchasing just the new control wheel!

Cons:

  • Small Control Wheel edges are not rubberized – harder to do one-finger focus pulls. Easy fix: (Cheap version) add rubber bands or (Expensive version) add these Grifiti silicone bands
  • Cannot use Control Wheel with external power due to the placement of its micro USB charging port. Thankfully the fix is fairly simple – keep several non-rechargable LR2477 batteries in my camera bag as backup power for full-day shoots (haven’t had to use any yet!).
  • micro-usb charging ports instead of usb-c charging ports

Difference between the Live Air 2S and the original Live Air 2

  • Easier Motor battery removal – included stickers make removal of battery easy
  • Control Wheel – better in every almost way. Smaller and larger at the same time. Easier to mount via integrated 14-20 screw. Slightly more torque required to turn updated control wheel. Only thing I miss is the excellent feel of the grippy wheel of the 2 (easily fixed with addition of rubber band or Grifiti band as noted above)

The Competition:

The Tilta Nucleus Nano is the Live Air 2S’s best-known competition. The Live Air 2S is superior in every way including:

  • onboard battery of the 2S motor vs micro—USB wired power of the Tilta Nano. This advantage cannot be over-stated for simplicity of rigging that doesn’t require yet-another-cable and also the fact the Tilta Nano’s weakest link is definitely the choice of powering the motor through the rather outdated micro-usb port. I made another video sharing my tips and tricks to keep my Tilta Nano running, but there’s no such need for clumsy workarounds with the Live Air 2S.
  • Wireless stability is far superior on the 2S vs the Nano. When I mount my Tilta Nano motor and control wheel on the same side of my camera, the wireless signal loses connection making it jumpy and unusable. I’ve experienced no such issue with the Live Air 2S – I have never had an issue regardless of where I mount the wheel relative to the motor.
  • size and weight: the narrower motor of the 2S allows more mounting flexibility. The tiny control wheel of the 2S is extremely easy to mount and configure. In contrast the Tilta Nano requires the added expense and weight of purchasing additional hardware to mount to my gimbals and 15mm rods.

Tips and Recommendations

  • Getting a grip: If you find the mounting clamp sliding around on 15mm rod, add some shelf liner around the rod to get a better grip.
  • For one-finger focus pulls, add a rubber band or Grifiti bandGrifiti band to the small control wheel.
  • Mounting and removing the small control wheel was a challenge at first, but is easy to do after a couple of times of practicing. Tip: use the large focus wheel to screw and unscrew the tiny control wheel after seeding the first thread.
  • Use 15mm rods with 1/4-20 taps and 15mm rod end caps with 1/4-20 tap for even more control wheel mounting options.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the bottom line?

After years of working around the faults of existing wireless follow focus systems, it’s truly refreshing to see innovative and reliable products like the PD Movie Live Air 2S come to market.

What’s also great is how responsive PD Movie is to their user base. Almost every critique I reported in my original review of the PD Movie Live Air 2 has been improved upon with this 2S update.

I’m also intrigued by PD Movie’s plan to release a motorized slider with pan/tilt control based around the same motors used in the Live Air 2 ecosystem. If the Live Air 2S is any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited to see what they launch next.

The Live Air 2S is the lightest, most flexible, reliable and innovative wireless follow focus to date. And with both a tiny and large control wheel option, it’s the right choice for one-man-crews and will grow with you onto larger productions with a dedicated focus puller.

If you are a content creator, video maker or filmmaker who’s in the market for a reliable and flexible wireless follow focus, I highly recommend getting the PD Movie Live Air 2S.

WRAPPING UP

That wraps up this review but before I let you go, I do have a thought of the day to share with you.

An the thought of the day is this:

“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Thanks for watching, God bless, and I’ll see you in the next video 🙂

THANK YOU! + THE NotSo FINE PRINT

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