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Mercy Ships are a Christian Charity, operating a fleet of three floating Hospital Ships, crewed by teams of professional medical volunteers.

These ships travel to some of the poorest countries in the world, where they carry out key surgery on local people to restore sight, rebuild disfigured faces and remove tumours and cataracts, as well as providing vital health education to hundreds of patients.

On Mercy Ship's last trip to the Gambia earlier this year, Vinten Broadcast loaned the team a new Vision 6 tripod system, enabling them to film their vital work. The crew wanted a 'fly on the wall' account of their visit, both on location in the villages, and on board ship in the operating theatre.

Andrew Watkins who has worked for many years in high-end commercial work and broadcast television, is one of the Mercy Ship's volunteer cameramen. Not unfamiliar with Vinten equipment, Andrew chose the new lightweight Vision 6ST2 with a Sony DSR3000 camera for the Gambia project. The Vision 6ST2 system consists of a Vision 6 pan & tilt head with two-stage aluminium tripod and standard floor spreader.

The production team needed a camera support that was extremely versatile to fulfil all the requirements of the brief, enabling video to be shot unobtrusively in many varied conditions during the six-day trip. All Vision systems offer excellent height range and are extremely durable and lightweight, and the Vision 6 is no exception.

The Mercy Ships crew put the Vision 6 through its paces, and reported on its performance.

"It is a terrific design, and as you can see, we used all aspects - double stage, 90 degree angle, as low as it would go, and in some very tight spaces. Because of its flexibility, I would be very keen to use a Vision 6 system again, particularly if I was filming on-board ship. As a Director, there are so many situations where I would need its unique features to get those tricky shots in the operating theatre. I always ask a lot of my crew; we are always on a tight schedule, sometimes in difficult and cramped conditions, but I was never disappointed with the result"

Lynn Rothwell, Producer/Director.

Andrew was particularly impressed by the ±90º tilt angle of the head. All Vision heads offer a true 180º tilt angle, with no spring back when pushing against the tension.

"This meant we were able to get a shot of the complete bow of the ship showing its immense height, and also allowed us to be very close to the surgeons as they operated, achieving an impressive, high level, continuous shot."

"The 90º tilt angle was also used when we filmed morning worship from the upper deck and the uppermost part of the mast", reported Andrew. "We were also able to shoot from directly underneath the mast, both during the day and at night, capturing wonderful shots of the moon above. Another favourite feature was the well positioned drag control with the 'knobbly' bits'!" (referring here to the detented LF drag knob design).

Highlighted as the best feature on the Vision 6 was the illuminated levelling bubble. No other head in its class offers an illuminated bubble. Andrew said

"It was absolutely vital for setting-up at night, and also useful in shady conditions when we were filming at the village dental clinic and the new water and sanitation sites."

Andrew also commented that "It was very easy to obtain quick levelling too on uneven ground, which we often experienced in the remote village areas and on the building site of the new hospital project."

The quick-release Vision leg locks proved to be essential during some of the quick 'fly on the wall' moves. "Silky smooth leg action" said Andrew, "with locks which gave me complete confidence that the legs were secure - without any danger of over-tightening."

The Vision 6 was used frequently extended to its maximum height, particularly when the team were in the ship's operating theatre, allowing the video crew to be very close to the action, without being too close to the patient.

"The new Vision 6 definitely provided us with great height range and operational capability. With such a small, lightweight system, it was comfortable on the shoulder for carrying around, even in the mid-day heat! I was very impressed with its durability and total flexibility in such a lightweight, compact head."
Andrew Watkins, Cameraman

"Congratulations on a great design."
Lynn Rothwell Producer/Director

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