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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Landscapes In Motion

Take your movie clips and time-lapse projects using these professional techniques and tools

Labels: Gear
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Kessler Crane offers a huge range of sliders, jibs and controller systems. Their CineDrive system gives heavy-duty motion and time-lapse shooters an incredible amount of automated control.
Like the name implies, sliders are essentially simple rail systems that allow the camera to slide from one end to the other. They're sometimes called slider dollies. Sliders come in a variety of lengths. If you've never used one, you're likely to think that longer is better, but in reality, most landscape shooters will never need anything more than 3 to 4 feet in length to pull off a stunning effect. These smaller sliders are incredibly useful and easily transported. You can use a slider at an angle to set up a more vertical move or just keep it level for simple moves from side to side.

One key element for a slider, if you're planning on doing any kind of time-lapse, is a motor system. Any decent slider can move the camera smoothly, but to move it at a steady pace, particularly at a speed of 3 feet per hour or slower, requires a motor system.

If you're not planning on doing time-lapse, with a little practice you can probably do a lot of work by hand. Obviously, the key is to keep the rate of movement steady.

Jibs are primarily used for vertical camera movement although they can also do some fantastic horizontal moves. For time-lapse, pros have been making use of heavy-duty jibs for some time, but they have only recently become useful for enthusiasts, as costs of the units as well as motorized motion-control systems have come into a reasonable range. As with sliders, if you're inexperienced, you may think you need to have a big jib with a lot of vertical rise, but that's really not the case. Small travel jibs that disassemble into compact packages are plenty adequate.

You can see a particularly good tutorial on time-lapse by Vincent Laforet on his blog: blog.vincentlaforet.com.
The real hassle with a jib isn't the unit itself as much as the heavy counterweight you need to make the system work. Recall your elementary-school science classes about levers, and you'll grasp the problem immediately. A jib is essentially a lever with the fulcrum point at the tripod. If you have an 8-foot jib with 2 feet on the effort side of the fulcrum point and 6 feet on the load side, and you have a 2-pound HDSLR on the end of the jib, you need about 6 pounds of counterweight. (Force of effort = Force of load x distance of load/distance of effort, or Fe = 2 lbs. x 6 ft./2 ft.)

If you're looking at this figure and thinking, "That's not how a lever should work; it's supposed to make moving a heavy object easier, not harder," you'd be right. The problem here is that you're using the lever backward, and you can see that if you use a heavier HDSLR and lens on a longer jib arm, your counterweight starts to get pretty heavy. It's not the sort of thing you want to carry for any kind of distance along with the rest of your photo gear. So the key with any jib system is to keep things small and lightweight.

Simulating Moves In The Computer
You can add some movement to your motion footage and time-lapse without having to invest in hardware like a slider or a jib by using software. Programs like Panolapse let you pan and zoom, among other things. The overall range of motion you can simulate is limited, but you can create some beautiful effects, and it's this kind of effect that can really make a project stand out from the crowd.

Panolapse software simulates camera pans, tilts and zooms. The software lets you get into camera movement without having to invest in hardware.


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