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As a videographer, you know the importance of controlling motion in your videos. You don’t want unnecessary motion such as camera shake or jerky panning, but you do want smoothly controlled motion so that the recording isn’t so static.
In addition to video tripod heads, dollies, and drones, adding a video slider to our videography gear set results in more options for controllable motion.
What are Video Sliders?
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Sliders for video are a track that allows the camera to move smoothly along the rails. Think of it as an elevated train for your videography gear. A mount or holder for the camera is fitted to rails which can be self supported with its own feet or mounted to a tripod or other support.
The holder gets moved along the rails by means of a motor, hand powered gears, or moved by our hands. The motion is along one plane. Depending on what direction your camera is facing, and the orientation of the slider, this plane can be side to side horizontally, up and down vertically, front to back, or a diagonal angle.
In the video above, you can take a quick look at a couple of video sliders and see how they work.
What are the Benefits of Using a Video Slider?
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Sliders for video add in that crucial aspect that is missing from most videos made by beginner videographers, controlled motion. As a photographer, we usually do everything we can to prevent motion. For comfortable viewing of videos, we actually want to ADD motion.
But we want to add it in a controlled manner. A video slider is the perfect videography accessory to accomplish this goal. For a detailed discussion on why motion in our videos is important, take a look at this PhotographyTalk article and the subheading of shot length and scene length.
As with many video tips, you get out of the slider what you put into it, so we’ll offer a short video slider buyer’s guide to consider.
Features to Look for in a Video Slider
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Length of travel, how the movement is done, how the camera is attached, and how the video slider mounts are all important considerations, but the one feature I consider most important is how smoothly it operates.
I found two video sliders from Ikan that have extremely smooth movement and are in two different price points, one medium priced and one very reasonably priced for beginner to intermediate videographers.
I like shopping for video accessories at Ikan, since they design and manufacture what they sell, offering lower prices for high quality equipment. The designers are also active videographers and cinematographers themselves so they bring that wisdom and their in the field working experience to everything they design.
Belt Driven Slider
First, let’s look at the E-Image ES150 extendable belt driven video slider by Ikan. The movement is incredibly smooth and it’s driven by a belt drive with a hand crank. There is an optional motor drive for the belt that is smartphone app controlled and can be pre programmed for various operations.
The basic configuration has a travel distance of 23.5 inches for the camera mount and it is expandable by adding an extra set of rails for a total travel of 51 inches. Total weight is 8.5 lbs for the base unit and 10.5 lbs with the extension added.
It is very reasonably priced for its features and quality, being about the price of a better entry level DSLR. Adding the optional motor drive doubles the cost but also adds all of those remote features and completely hands free operation.
Basic Low-Cost Slider
Next item is the E-Image ES35 video slider that is moved by hand and has friction control for controlling the movement and 17.5 inches of total travel when mounted on a tripod. It’s that tripod mounting that allows for the wide range of travel in such a small slider, using a unique motion designed by Ikan.
The movement is so smooth it’s hard to believe how low cost this video slider is, around the same price as a decent video light or tripod. To step up into the better video that your DSLR or mirrorless camera is capable of, you’ll want to invest in a few high quality accessories.
Sliders vs Dollies
Why not just add a low cost dolly to our video tripod instead of using a video slider? The difference between video sliders and dollies is that dollies are basically wheels for your tripod while video sliders move the camera while mounted on the tripod or sanding on its own feet.
There are definitely lots of uses for tripod dollies but they are not totally interchangeable with video sliders. A dolly is very useful for longer lengths of movement and for incorporating certain types of multiple movements into your video shots.
If you had a good fluid head video tripod, a video slider, and a dolly for your tripod, then with practice you could accomplish quite a few interesting movements.
More Video Tips
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There are so many helpful video tips we’ve seen that can improve your videos, save you time, and save you money. As you get deeper into the fascinating and awesome world of advanced videography and cinematography, keep looking for hints, tips, and explanations of videography techniques.
We’ve shared many here with articles covering video editing, video lighting, and other video accessories, so add this video slider discussion to your list of tips to improve your videography. And please pass along any tips and ideas of yours to us. We’re looking forward to more and more fun with video.