The FIRST piece of gear you must get after the basics.

Slider, Mini Jib, Steadicam, … or ?

I was recently asked “What is the first piece of gear that I should I purchase after a camera, lens, and the basics like a tripod to improve visual production quality?” I didn’t have to think twice to be honest. My answer was a Slider. (Not a steadicam, mini jib, or other tools – keep reading). A slider is going to give you some beautiful imagery, and skyrocket your production value, in the most efficient and most accurate fashion.

Those last two points are critical! “Efficient and most accurate.” Many things can help you get fabulous shots but I’m always thinking what will give me the best results in the most consistent fashion and in the easiest way possible?

Why easy? No, I’m not advising you to be lazy and avoid hard work. But the bottom line is slidercinevateoften you will be under pressure and you’ll need things to work smoothly and to be able to execute on a dime. If you have a large budget, then that is another discussion altogether. At that point you can have expensive dollies and tracks and a qualified crew which will have it all set and ready for you. That is not the case I am discussing right now. I am referring to when you are a very small crew or even all by yourself.

Why not Steadicam?

Why not steadicam you may ask? I wouldn’t suggest going the route of a Steadicams first because that requires you to use it often. It requires you to get very good at it. It’s much harder to go from that to other types of devices without potentially losing your balance. You cannot shoot a million things with it, because you need things to stay in focus as you’re moving around. You’re not going to have a focus puller wirelessly pulling focus off on the side at first (until you do bigger productions), so you need to have everything in focus. That’s only going to happen when you shoot fairly wide.

Unless you become a big-time expert on Steadicam, that is not the first piece of gear I would recommend. Yes, it’s nice to have it. Yes, it gives you beautiful shots. Yes, I would add it to the mix, but if you had to choose one price of gear to start off with for the goal of improved visual production quality then I would say to start off with a Slider.

What’s so good about a slider?

The slider is very easy to learn, very easy to knock out  7, 10, 15 beautiful B-roll shots quickly, and they’re going to make you look like a million dollars. You can shoot with many different lenses on it. You don’t have to shoot with just wide, like you do on a Steadicam. Read that last sentence again!

I dare you to find the average guy making videos, shooting with a Steadicam, on anything longer than a 16mm lens. Why? Because it’s very hard. The main reasons are because it’s hard to keep things in focus. It’s hard to keep things framed properly.

Nailing your framing is quite critical at the higher level of production. And when doing a camera move, a smooth, controlled, and well framed final frame is the difference between amateur and professional. The slider, being that it’s on a track of sorts, can get you perfectly framed results … and it can do so quickly, with no crew and while being able to move on to a second or third shot immediately.

To Sum up, here are the advantages and reasons to get a slider before other gear for improved visual production value:

  1. A slider can be learned easily
  2. A slider can be used quickly
  3. A slider can get accurate results
  4. A slider will allow for many lenses and shallow depth of field to be used giving you a variety of results

So, if you don’t have a slider and you’re looking to up your visual production value, my advice would be to go out and get one, practice a bit and watch your filmmaking jump up a notch immediately.

What do you think should be your first piece of gear beyond the basics?

Do You Agree With Me?

If you have a slider, what are the pros and cons?


  • stayhigh_247

    I do agree that having a slider is a must but I think the most important piece of gear to buy after camera, lens, tripod is quality audio gear. You need good mic’s shotgun(s) and lav. A good recorder if you are going the dslr/mft route. After that it then depends on what you shoot, what kind of work are you doing, that determines the next piece to buy. I have bought many pieces of gear over the years that I thought I really needed and they end up collecting dust. But good glass, a solid tripod and quality sound gear are a must for every shoot. I didn’t mention the camera because they come and go and I choose cameras based on what the job is. Which doesn’t have to mean expensive cameras either.

    • Aviv Vana

      “to improve VISUAL production value” 😉 Otherwise I agree. Quality sound is key. And not just mics, but sound design(!)… i.e. foley, sound effects, soundtrack etc.

  • Aviv Vana

    Exactly Antony! Good tripod and monopod should definitely be first IMO. I consider those in the “after the basics” category. Assuming you have that … slider 🙂

  • Aviv Vana

    Love it Caine. That’s the way to roll. You can knock off so much quality stuff in a short time. A one day shoot can yeild all your interviews and b-roll quickly.

  • Aviv Vana

    I haven’t tried one of those, as it needs a smooth surface to work. But they seem like a great tool to get some quick awesome movement in the right situation. And they are so small that having one along for the ride seems like a smart idea. No to mention cheap!

  • Totally agree. It was my first extra. I’ve already had made a DIY dolly track, to use with a 10Kg ENG cam. But when light pro cams arrived (and after DSLRs too) I converted to use a slider. First I bought a big – 1,5 m – then I changed to a smaller 70cm and it’s always on my tripod. I almost don’t use a standard pan and tilt anymore. Even when panning I normally track also. Probably I use it too much? I think that’s the problem with sliders you get addicted. Right now I always add movement, still shots look like stills as in photos. Unless there’s scene movement and add movement myself. Yes it’s artificial, yes maybe unnecessary, but I liked the result and in most motion pictures you get always a slight movement in all shots (even establishing ones). And I personally think the steady is dead. First I make a clear division that I don’t see anybody doing. Steady cam for me is the all package. Articulated arm, vest, monitor, and steady, The glidecams and company I call them handheld steadies, more cheap, only one piece, more easy to learn the basis and fast to use by the same operator/videographer specially if you use 2 cams. You only need to balance it (the most difficult part) and grab and go as you want. I personally say the handheld steadies are dead because right now I would buy a 3 axis gimbal instead. For me that’s the second piece I’ll buy. There are pro options with low prices right now (1500 Euros) and you get a freedom of movements that you can get with a steady (handheld or not). So for me good by steady… Like it was good by dolly… and hello slider and 3 axis gimbal (guys we need a sexy name for this…).

  • IndieP

    As a “do-it-your-selfer”
    on a tight budget, I considered for some time and pondered over this very
    question, and came to the same conclusion, that a slider would be the most important
    piece of equipment to purchase after the basics. However, I do not group audio
    in the same category as “basics”, as it is such an important group of equipment,
    that it must be placed in a separate category as being of such importantance as
    the camera itself i.e. (If you don’t have a camera, you can’t shoot, and if you
    don’t have good audio, it’s not worth shooting).

    I just recently viewed the yearly address by
    the Queen of England and as you may imagine it was just a frontal shot with no
    other angles of view and no tuning of her head to the side etc. The only piece
    of equipment they used to make an otherwise static piece of footage interesting
    were some slider shots.

    Oh, and for those of you who fly, try
    stuffing a jib, dolly or crane into your carry-on, LOL. Hope this helps
    someone. And for those that may be interested, after a lot of research I
    purchased the Shark Slider Bundle by iFootage.

  • nelsonsmith

    No one ever says start investing in a good assortment of flags, scrims and screens, but I find myself constantly having to control light and not having enough items to effectively get the job done. Plain and simply if you’re working with a minimum crew (or no crew) you need C-stands and flags.