Long-time filmmakers can attest to the fact that while gear isn't everything, the right tools can make breathing life into a shot exponentially easier and more enjoyable. Today, we’re taking a perfunctory glance at camera sliders, stabilizers, and gimbals and how each plays a unique role in realizing your cinematic visions.
Camera sliders are just what they sound like: tools designed to slide your camera along a horizontal plane, producing smooth, stable, and controlled tracking shots. There is a variety of sliders available offering different capabilities―the most rudimentary being the motorless slider, which typically utilizes a roller bearing mechanism. Revo’s 33" V2 Slider is exactly that. It allows you to slide your camera over its track smoothly without any electrical components; just a simple push transforms your once static scene into a new dynamic one.
Adding a level of automation to the slider workspace are motorized units, such as the GVM GP-120QD Motorized Carbon Fiber Video Slider. This slider allows you to snag parallax tracking shots through a battery-powered USB remote. Instead of having to push and pull the track manually, you can now adjust slider speed, create automated interval presets, vary motor torque, as well as set start/stop points all with the click of a button.
While tracking motions are the primary camera motions you can expect from most sliders, there are some that introduce panning and tilting capabilities to improve your dynamic captures. Syrp’s Genie II 3-Axis Pro Slider Kit, for instance, allows you to take full creative control of your sliding shots by integrating a motorized platform with a motorized pan/tilt head. Through either an iOS- or Android-compatible device, you can key-frame each one of these axes independently of one another to create a vast array of pan/tilt/track shots with tack precision.
The realm of camera stabilizers is broader and more general, compared to sliders. While sliders comprise a track-and-head system of sorts, stabilizers come in all shapes and forms, making it easier to pick the perfect tools for your specific shooting needs. Let's take a look at three unique stabilizers and what they can do for you.
Vested stabilization units such as the Easyrig Minimax system are popular with many cinematographers because they dramatically increase the ease of handheld shooting sessions. These devices take the brunt of your handheld cinema rig’s payload and distribute it evenly across the included body harness, allowing your arms to work without fatigue. On top of the of reduced bodily strain that the Easyrig provides for filmmakers, it also further stabilizes handheld shots by providing an additional point of contact with your camera, removing micro jitters and unwanted vibrations. Other brands such as Ready Rig and FLYCAM provide similar options with varying features and price points.
The Glidecam is another prime choice for stabilization because it provides you with gimbal-like motion and smoothness without any of the motorized components. Once you’ve secured your camera to the Glidecam, the included counterweight plates and position-adjustable, three-axis positive twist lock can be fine-tuned to provide you with a tactile response suited to your sensibilities. This can be paired with a vest/arm system like the Glidecam X-10 to remove the majority of the load from the arms and dissipates unwanted motions.
For small, lightweight cameras, utilizing something like the Vello ActionPan can be a great way to add extra stability to your shots at a budget-friendly price. While it is not as robust as some of the other options we’re describing here, it can be an excellent tool for filmmakers who could benefit from the additional point of contact. The large, cushioned grip, when used in conjecture with smaller cameras that feature little to no grip, will create a more secure ergonomic experience, improving overall stability.
Acting as motorized stabilizers, gimbals have become a staple among savvy filmmakers. Gimbals remove unwanted camera movements and shakes by employing brushless motors, typically throughout a three-axis system―the three axes being pan, tilt, and roll.
A powerhouse in the gimbal market, DJI and its Ronin series has provided filmmakers with compact yet robust stabilizing solutions. The brand’s latest, the RS3 Pro, has advanced the current state of gimbals with a 3.3-lb body offering a support payload of up to 10 lb. Integrated controls allow you to control camera parameters, expedite balancing, as well as customize a variety of gimbal functions and modes.
Zhiyun’s WEEBILL-S is a powerful yet budget-friendly gimbal stabilizer; weighing just 2.04 lb, this gimbal was designed for users of compact mirrorless cameras in need of three-axis stabilization. With battery life of up to 14 hours per charge and six modes of operation, you can be sure to rely on the WEEBILL-S to help create captivating imagery in a compact form factor.
As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have on hand and, if there's one that the vast majority of the population tends to carry, it would be the cellphone camera. With the prominence of content creation on short form social media platforms, phone cameras are being used to a greater extent than ever before. The DJI Osmo Mobile 6 takes all of the standard functions found in gimbals and delivers it all in an extremely compact package. Osmo Mobile 6 users also have the capability of utilizing ActiveTrack 6.0, automatically tracking human subjects without any manual intervention.
These are all tools designed to aid in filmmaking― there is no single tool for the job, but an assortment of tools attuned for specific needs. Which of these would you prefer to use in your filmmaking? Do you stick with one or do you diversify and utilize a variety of these devices? Let us know in the Comments section, below!