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 often 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:
- A slider can be learned easily
- A slider can be used quickly
- A slider can get accurate results
- 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?