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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Moving Your Moving Pictures

Use sliders and jibs to add smooth, subtle movement to HD video and time-lapses

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Jibs like the Libec Swift Jib give you crane-like action to get both motion and unique vantage points.
A fluid head feels like it's made with fluid inside to keep the motion smooth. With current fluid heads, that effect is created by a complex series of gears inside the head. There's a drag control that gives you control over how much resistance will be applied. The drag should be set so that it's easy to pan the camera, but it stops when you stop without slippage and it doesn't have any bounce back. To pan well, it's important that you level the head perfectly. It only takes a few seconds to do it. Use the level on your tripod and an inexpensive bubble level on the camera and you can't go wrong.

Tilting is similar to panning, which is why so many people use the terms interchangeably. Technically speaking, tilting is moving the camera up and down while panning is moving it side to side. As with panning, a good fluid pan/tilt head will do you just fine, but your still photography three-way head or your ballhead won't get the job done. The tilt control is managed via interworking gears in the head, and a drag lets you set the resistance.

The Next Step: Sliders
We mentioned hefty camera dolly carts that need large track assemblies, which you'll see in photos from big Hollywood movie sets. The modern DSLR version is a slider. Okay, this is an oversimplification, but we're making a point. Simple dolly moves don't have to be like the three-minute tracking shot in the beginning of the Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil. Placing your DSLR on a four-foot slider gives you an incredibly powerful tool for adding a dynamic element to your videos. The slider can be supported on a tripod or two, or it can rest directly on the ground via outrigger feet.

The camera mounts to a head, which attaches to the moving car on the slider. A low-profile head is helpful, but not a necessity. Your pan/tilt fluid head will do fine. You can use the slider by hand simply by taking hold of the fluid head's control arm. If you want to create smoother action, use your slider's manual belt cranks, if so equipped. Either way, go slow for the best results. Fast, herky-jerky motion will just make your viewers get motion sick.

For more precise movements, you can motorize your slider. A remote-controlled motor system lets you program the movement to give you smooth, consistent motion clips. The downside to motorizing is that it's expensive. The cost of the slider easily can double with motor units, and it can go much higher with more sophisticated computer-controlled remotes.

Going Higher (Or Lower): Jibs
Using a slider, you can do push or pull movements, where the camera moves forward or backward, and if you have the slider tilted on an angle, that push or pull also will change the height of the camera, which can give you a great effect. The next step is to place the camera on a jib, which is like a miniature crane system. There are a lot of compact jibs, which are ideal for DSLRs, coming onto the market, but they're still larger, less convenient to transport and use, and more expensive than most other motion accessories. They're also indispensable for creating a high-impact crane movement.

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