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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Smooth Operator

Try sliders to add interest to your videos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Try using a wide-angle lens and a slider to create dramatic effects and a sense of depth when you're shooting HD video. The look can be stunning.
When making the transition from stills to video, the conventional wisdom dictates that camera movement is bad. True enough, nothing says "amateur" more than a shaky video shot or one that whips back and forth across the scene in an uncontrolled frenzy of panning (a practice aptly described as "firehosing"). Indeed, the biggest change for me in adding video to my repertoire has been a renewed acquaintance, and dare I say, love affair, with my tripod. It's the one piece of gear that will add a professional polish to your video faster than any other.

Yet when we watch movies and TV, we see all kinds of movement of the camera, from slow, majestic crane shots, where the camera appears to rise into the air, to tracking shots, where it appears to be moving alongside, or along with, the action, to pans and tilts, which sweep the viewer up and down or across vistas.

Thanks to the small size of our gear, and the ever-growing number of filmmaking accessories designed specifically for these small cameras, the gear to accomplish these techniques on a small scale are now portable and affordable. When it comes to tracking and jibbing, a little of the effect goes a long way, thus these compact tools punch far higher than their weight, in terms of the production value they add to your movies.

Sliding Into Home. A slider is essentially a mini-track that fits on a tabletop or tripod. Typically, these portable sliders are about two to four feet long and a few inches across. The rails are very small, and there's a carriage that rides along them on which you put a ballhead or panhead and then the camera. The carriage makes contact with the rails either on a friction basis or with ball-bearing rollers.

Much of the technology used to make these small sliders comes right from the robotics industry, where they're used in all types of manufacturing facilities. For our purposes, a ball-bearing slider will be smoother, but heavier and more expensive than a friction-based slider. I have a three-foot ball-bearing slider for work close to home, but when I have to fly, I take my smaller two-foot friction slider.


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