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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hi-Tech Studio: Sliders

For time-lapse and motion capture, these simple devices give you a powerful tool for creating impressive projects

This Article Features Photo Zoom
From top to bottom:Kessler Stealth; Kessler Pocket Dolly;

As more professional photographers make the leap into motion capture,
they're discovering that DSLRs lend themselves to handholding and camera movement during a clip. That is, while anchoring the camera to a sturdy tripod and locking down the whole setup has its time and place, DSLRs give you the freedom to explore shooting in a more dynamic way, from extreme herky-jerky, rapid movement, which is trendy for some filmmakers today, to smooth motion through the use of steadying rigs.

Philip Bloom Signature Series Pocket Dolly
Handheld shoulder options are available from Novoflex, Redrock Micro, Zacuto and others. They're usually modular so you can add and remove components to suit your project. Steadying rigs from companies like Glidecam, Steadicam and VariZoom are useful for creating the classic Hollywood look of smooth movement over large distances. If you're going to lock down your DSLR on a tripod, a pan/tilt fluid head lets you make smooth, albeit limited movements. Dollies do a fantastic job, but they aren't always practical. Amid all of these options for moving the camera while you're shooting, it's the slider that offers DSLR filmmakers a hybrid between a full-blown dolly and a pan/tilt head.

At their most basic, sliders consist of a rail and plate to mount a tripod head. When attached, the camera can slide along the rail smoothly, creating an effect that's distinctly different from the pivot you get by panning from a single point. You can mount the slider to a tripod or a pair of tripods (depending upon the length), or you can attach outrigger-style feet to it and mount on the ground or another surface. Most sliders have some sort of a drive system (it can be standard or an option) to let you move the camera indirectly. High-quality sliders are precision devices that allow the camera to move smoothly without shudders, shakes or bounces. A slider is used for making the camera move a few feet at the most, but just that little bit of movement will change the perspective of your shot, and even a slight change in perspective often makes a big impact.

DitoGear OmniSlider
Another aspect of filmmaking where sliders make an impact is in time-lapse, which has exploded in popularity. On Vimeo and YouTube, you'll find thousands of projects, ranging from short 30-second clips of throngs of people in Times Square to elaborate multifaceted movies that show cities or national parks. And it's not just about Internet-sensation videos. There's money to be made in selling stock footage of time-lapse, too.

The basics of creating a time-lapse are simple. Program the camera or intervalometer to shoot X number of photographs at Y interval to generate a clip that will be Z in length. Of course, there's more to it than that. In this article, we look at sliders that, in addition to being helpful for a lot of motion shooting, are also excellent tools for adding a moving element to your time-lapse. This adds to the complexity, but time-lapses with movement stand out and get noticed. If you've never seen a time-lapse with movement, take a look at the trailers for Tom Lowe's TimeScapes (www.timescapes.org). Lowe is one of the most innovative time-lapse filmmakers in the world, and he makes extensive use of movement.


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