A slider is a device that allows you to attach a video camera and then move the camera side to side or backwards and forwards smoothly and precisely for interesting video effects, and can create a sense of movement where there isn’t any. Sliders come in many different forms and sizes, from small units no longer than a standard ruler and weighing a kilogram or so, to behemoths metres long and weighing tens of kilograms (in many respects you could consider a dolly a slider). Like tripods and gimbals, sliders are typically designed to suit specific camera weight ranges with some only capable of carrying a few hundred or so grams, to ones that can carry 100kg or more. Sliders also come in various operating configurations, manually operated or motorised, with the more sophisticated (read expensive) ones able to be operated via a mobile phone app or through built-in controls to provide all manner of sliding options. There are also sliders that can double their effective length through clever mechanics.
In my quest to learn more about video production, for the last year or so, I’ve been avidly scouring YouTube and the internet in general for sites that provide information, examples, reviews and personal rundowns on video production. Early on I was looking for information on gear needed for video production, cameras, audio, lighting and accessories. I wasn’t looking just for gear reviews, but for candid opinions on gear that actual videographers/film makers were using or had used and how they found them in real use. In doing so I found some very good YouTube channels and started to follow them with interest. Once I pretty much had my gear sorted out, I started to look for more sites that dealt with producing videos, as well as editing videos, and once again came across a number that I still follow. As I’ve noted before, YouTube can be a double-edged sward with good and bad results and sometimes more choice than you can handle.
In Part 7 I covered two types of gimbal that you can use with video cameras, static and motorised. In this part I’m going to focus solely on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal, some accessories I have for it, and how it can be used in somewhat innovative ways using accessories that any photographer or videographer most likely owns. I’m assuming that every videographer will own at least a tripod and some will also own a slider and If not, this story may provide an incentive to do so. Some of these techniques obviously can apply to all gimbals, but some techniques may not be as easy to emulate, if the gimbal doesn’t have the features that are available on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal’s handle (but more on that later). I haven’t noted any blogger/reviewer comment on what I’m about to discuss, so I’m assuming that no one has given any similar thought to how you can make use of gimbals and accessories in different ways than normally envisaged.
As if this has never been done before! Anyway, in Part 6 of Making Movies I wrote about the slider that I’d bought and noted that I was considering turning it into a motorised slider so that I could get more controlled and smoother motion. What I was achieving wasn’t too bad, but I could never quite get consistent motion across the full length of the slider and that started to become very frustrating. That convinced me even more that I needed to add a motor to the slider. But what really prompted me was when I decided to dismantle one of my old printers, salvaging any useful parts that I could remove, I came across a number of bits and pieces like motors, belts, brackets, as well as hundreds of small screws. That spurred me to start looking at converting my slider to a motorised one, given the parts that started to pile up.
In Part 6 I discussed a range of accessories that can make movie production easier and professional looking. Hand- held gimbals are becoming a major part of this, but the cost of motorised ones had me avoiding getting one. However, after numerous failed attempts at getting the static gimbal to work with my main cameras, I was facing a very frustrating brick wall that I couldn’t penetrate. While the static gimbal is supposed to be able to handle the weight of my cameras (much like a Glidecam), I was beginning to suspect that wasn’t the case. No matter what I did and no matter how many videos I watched on how to balance this gimbal, I could not get it to work. The shoulder rig on the other hand is great but is more a substitute for a tripod in awkward situations but, when moving about, the shoulder rig shows lots of jitter and movement. The more I pondered the subject matter that I would be recording, moving about was going to be a major part of anything that I did and what I had wasn’t going to cut it.
I mentioned in Part 4 that gear wasn’t the most important thing when producing video and it’s not, but there are things that can make your video production easier and more importantly interesting, as I’ve been slowly finding out. Video production is all about conveying a story through visual impact; movement, light and manipulation of scenes, movement being one important aspect, and not forgetting sound and editing, as I mentioned in Part 5. This is how video provides the story that words provide in a book; you can’t leave it to the reader’s imagination, you have to create the imagination and that’s what I’ve been discovering. To that end, there are tools or accessories available that help you to create that imagination, as opposed to simply pointing a bare camera at things. You could achieve reasonable results with nothing more than a hand held camera, and movies have been done that way, but the results may not be as good unless that’s the effect that you want.
While the story, as discussed in Part 4, is still the most important aspect of video, there are two technical aspects that are pretty much vital to video post-production (compiling the story), software and hardware (a decent computer). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Cyberlink PowerDirector for a while now because it’s not too bad a video editing suite. It’s well priced and, more importantly, it will run on my nearly 10 year old PC. So with PowerDirector and my old PC I’ve been able to produce all of my YouTube videos, but that old PC (Dell Studio XPS) has really been starting to show its age. It’s frequently rather slow, even when running moderate tasks and often running out of memory when doing several things at once. I knew that it was on its last legs as far as any photographic or video editing was concerned and my fears became more immediate when one of my monitors started to play up, which I confirmed was the graphics card starting to flounder. Getting parts for this PC was becoming difficult, so I was now more or less forced into looking at something new and more capable earlier than I anticipated.
Following on from Part 3, one of the most important things when it comes to producing good video is not the gear, it’s the story you’re telling and the planning that you do beforehand, which may include screenplays, scripts and storyboards. When I once mentioned this on a photography forum, I was immediately ridiculed for suggesting that anyone needs to do these things to make a video. It was the usual knee jerk reaction, without any thought being given to the general concept behind these words. I wasn’t suggesting that you needed formal planning, screenplays/scripts and storyboards to make a video, but having even a rudimentary story and plan will help in producing something meaningful. It’s like taking a holiday where most people don’t simply jump in a car or plane and travel to some place without any though as to where they want to go and what they want to do. In this context, planning is vital. Even millennials sometimes plan their photography/video trips.
Continuing on from Part 2 and as a prelude to Part 4, which will be about planning, I thought I’d cover how I intend to get all the video footage I will need for what will hopefully become a short movie. I’ve already discussed one aspect of how I intend to achieve this in my story about my new ‘action cam‘ and in this part I’ll cover the additional tools that I’ve put together so that I can get as diverse and as comprehensive a coverage of the things that we do on our Cruises. Since our Cruises involve a wide variety of environments including highways, dirt roads, rough tracks, river crossings, and then camping in varied bush settings including High Country huts, I have to consider the numerous ways in which I can cover those potential scenes, especially while on the move. It’s all part of the planning and, to do that, I’ve come up with various solutions.
Continuing on from Part 1, even though many cameras can produce say 1080p video, they don’t always provide great results because they haven’t been supplied with the proper Codecs and other features. However, modern cameras are getting much better and most new digital cameras, as well as action cams and even dash cams, will produce excellent 1080p and good to excellent 4K. The more expensive the camera, usually the better the results. Even smart phones are now producing some amazing 4K video and getting better all the time. Cheap video cameras, like many action cams, can promise a lot but deliver little, so quality is always going to come at a price. That said, there are now very high quality video cameras available that are quite compact and at exceptionally good prices, Blackmagic is one brand worth considering.