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Rexy Wheels: A Custom Gaming Rig Designed To Train Camera Operators

Developing The Rexy Gaming Hand Wheel

After working as a Libra Head Technician in the film industry for 12 years, including major film franchises alongside some of the best camera operators in the world, Rob Portus saw an opportunity to design and develop a product unlike any system out there on the market - the Rexy Gaming Handwheel.

His experience, coupled with the shared view of fellow camera technicians that utilising hand wheel operated cameras consistently achieves the smoothest movement, led him to create a prototype set of hand wheels during the 2020 lockdown.

This prototype, manufactured using an old computer mouse, rubber bands and off-cuts of plywood, amongst a few other resources available in his shed, was “crude and rudimentary” as Rob puts it, but provided the capability to learn and practise operating hand wheels in an accessible way.

Countless prototypes have been produced since this initial proof of concept and having joined forces with his father-in-law John Brazier, a retired computer programmer who used to write code for CERN, Rob is confident that Rexy Wheels can take camera operation training to an exciting new level.

John’s role in ensuring that the design of the circuit boards, software and coding are all up to the highest standards required, complements Rob's efforts in refining the build of the hand wheel, making sure that it is comfortable for extended periods of game play.

Over the next 2 years, the Rexy Gaming hand wheel was developed with precision at the forefront of the design, with the device essentially acting as a training unit for camera operators to develop intricate, transferable skills whilst using the hand wheel to play video games.

A Purpose-Built Cinematic Hand Wheel For Competitive Gaming

“Rexy is short for Remote X/Y, because it is a remote control for the X and Y axis”, Rob comments on developing the brand. “We believe this is the first set of professional-grade hand wheels made exclusively for playing computer games.”

The design was incredibly important from day one, with the Rexy Wheels needing to have the same feel and general functionality as Libra Head Hand Wheels.

This would enable the next generation of camera operators to learn their skills with heavy hand wheels, using the framework of video gaming to offer a competitive, fun and accessible experience.

Rexy’s current position sees the business “somewhere halfway between the film industry and the gaming market”, as Rob highlights. “For starters, most people in the film industry use Mac, whereas most gamers prefer PC. Film crews are suspicious of anything too cheap, they like to pay extra for quality, and are used to buying products made in small batches.”

This aligns with Rob’s scope for sourcing components to assemble the units, particularly whilst he is still testing the market. Fasteners need to be manufactured from high quality stainless steel for their corrosion resistance and longevity, whilst simultaneously complimenting the aesthetics of the design.

That being said, Rob recognises that the gaming industry is often dictated by mass-produced items being readily available at relatively low cost. As such, the next generation of Rexy Wheels will need to offer a budget version, utilising lighter aluminium handwheels, as opposed to stainless steel, and necessitating a similar aesthetic but with greater customizability.

As Rexy develops new additions and accessories, Rob mentions the importance of making sure that units were designed to be easily upgradeable, necessitating a modular housing.

This would reward customers buying the early editions of the system by ensuring that their investment was worthwhile in the long term, with later upgrades still being interchangeable with the original model.

This is something which Rob feels will help to encourage sales across both markets, with Camera Operators seeing the Rexy Wheel as a career investment and Gamers wanting a fun, customisable controller they can express themselves using.

With this in mind, it was imperative all versions of the Rexy Wheel were built using high quality components that would be readily available and be used across all later editions of the rig.

Sourcing Precision Components For Precise Movement & Control

The biggest challenge when developing the Rexy Wheel was to ensure that precision engineering components could be sourced quickly and at a competitive price.

Currently, the Rexy brand is able to manufacture the gaming Hand Wheels in batches of 50 units, several times throughout the year.

Rob comments that “Accu are perfect for this level of production. I can get a good bulk discount on small components, such as Shim Washers, Nylon Spacers and Hexagon Nuts in the hundreds, the quality is guaranteed and the delivery is quick enough to not have to worry about keeping too much stock of these parts. This gives me great confidence in my supply chain.”

The patent-pending 2-Button Handles, used by Rexy Gamers to operate the handwheels and take in-game actions, utilise primary and secondary ergonomic buttons.

The handles are fastened to the wheels using Accu’s M8 Cap Head Screws and M8 Thin Hex Nuts, in combination with miniature flange bearing to allow for smooth rotational movement.

The Hand Wheels themselves are attached to the main housing using various types of high quality assembly hardware, including 10mm Nylon Spacers, 7mm E-Clips and 3mm Dowel Pins.

Rob mentions that all of these components were selected to compliment the bearing module that is CNC-machined to high tolerances and assembled by hand to ensure zero free play.

“The Hand Wheel has to feel like the cameras on set” comments Rob, meaning that everything has to be solid and robust whilst still allowing for precise control.

As a result, the components Rexy Gaming use in the design and build of the Hand Wheels are carefully chosen to afford both a sleek and modern design, whilst also ensuring perfect wheel alignment every time. This means each unit is fine tuned for optimal movement and total control over the sensitivity during operation.

Rob also highlights that following the success of the Mark 1 hand wheel, “the hardware will likely be backward compatible with future iterations of the Rexy Wheels but the housings will keep on being developed, making sure early adopters will be able to upgrade their units.”

Rob believes that this approach will pay off in the long run and encourage a dedicated community to form around this relatively niche technology, with users able to feedback ideas for new features and improvements.

You can see the Rexy Gaming Hand Wheel in operation on the video below, showcasing the unit’s capabilities in offering precise movement on the X and Y axis.