When in the field, many variables play into whether you’re going to get the shot or not. Success in the art of filmmaking relies on minimizing risk to ensure the highest probability of successfully capturing what you set out to capture. Weather, lighting, and gear reliability are a few of the countless constantly changing variables you will have to deal with.
Especially in outdoor film and photography, your environment will never be fully controllable. What you bring into your environment though is what you can control, and with that being said, helps limit risk and increases optimal shooting success. Though many filmmakers wish they could control the circumstances such as the timing of a snowstorm enveloping the mountain peaks, or exactly how the clouds will break to reveal the breathtaking sunset, sometimes it’s that unknown element that reveals the true beauty of what our planet has to offer.
Gear is one of the few variables that we as creatives get to hand select; so making the right selection is crucial. Like a good ole’ trusty tripod, a slider is one of the most useful tools in a filmmaker's bag. With each slider there are going to be pros and cons, but the important thing is to find the slider that best fits your need. Being adventure filmmakers has given us the opportunity to get our hands on numerous styles and brands of sliders. One of our favorites is the new Manfrotto 60cm Camera Slider.
There are a few things to take into account when selecting a slider.
1. Portability (size and weight)
2. Functionality (smoothness and noise level)
3. Reliability (build quality)
For us, we are constantly traveling, so portability is a must. This often means we are on airplanes or in cars and then once on location, hiking to and from sites. For traveling, the smaller and lighter the slider, the better. That is, without compromising functionality (Pro Tip: Southwest Airlines is one of the most media friendly airlines. You can often get extra oversized bags for free as well as priority boarding for just providing media credentials).
The last thing you want is to haul a piece of gear to a location only to find it’s not long enough to capture the shot you want or it’s too flimsy to get a steady shot. Manfrotto makes a 60cm (23in) and a 100cm (40in) slider. We have found that the 60cm is plenty long for the types of shots we need in remote locations. The 60cm is also incredibly sturdy. Having a fixed length single-track system made from fully machined anodized aluminum makes it quite solid. Many other sliders come in adjustable length on dual rail systems for ability to travel. This weakens lateral support, limits the weight bearing capacity, and is also a hassle to have to assemble, taking precious time. The 60cm slider weights in at a light 4.8 lbs and can rock up to a 22lb camera setup. We commonly run with one of two set ups depending on how far off the beaten path we will have to hike. For our closer locations, we mount the 60cm slider on a Manfrotto 055 CF tripod with a Manfrotto 502 fluid head. This set up weighs about 13lbs, which is incredibly light to begin with, but it only gets better.
When rolling with the BeFree set up, we love using our Nat Geo/ Manfrotto Tote bag, which lets us bring basic gear as well as a laptop (Pro Tip: Some essentials to keep with are a computer, hard drive, and power supply for your phone. We stick with Apple for our computers and we’re huge fans of the G-tech ATC rugged drives and the Lynktec Reel Juice portable charger).
What’s the point of having a slider if it doesn’t slide like butter? Camera sliders are miniature dollies, which have been used in mainstream film since the early 1900’s, so it’s no wonder we’re all suckers for a prime slider shot. We’ve all grown up taking for granted the beauty of camera movement. Movement is a powerful tool that can convey fine detail to draw the viewer in. Over the years, we’ve certainly found out that not all sliders are equal. After using the Manfrotto slider on various projects, we have been impressed with its fluidity. This is in part due to its high precision steel ball bearings, and the high performance polymer wheels that glide along the track. When filming b-roll, sometimes slider noise can be ignored in the mix of the ambient sound, but when filming run and gun interviews, sometimes you won’t have time to run a boom or lav and will have to resort to an on camera mic. On camera mics, like the Rode Video Mic Pro, can do a great job, but if your slider is giving off vibrations and or noise, it can ruin the interview. Again, limiting your risk variables will lead to greater success.
Equally important as portability and functionality is reliability. As filmmakers, purchasing gear you can rely is one of the smartest investments you can make. As stated before, this slider has a single-track system, which makes for minimal moving parts and pieces. The fewer the parts, the less there is to fail. Whether you always keep the slider in a carrying bag, or you toss it in the back of a car and it ends up rolling around, you can rest assured it’s going to keep on performing. I have yet to see another mini slider that rivals the simplicity and integral build quality as this Manfrotto slider.
The build quality is what gives it the wide range of camera support. It handles common DSLR’s like a champ as well as larger cinema cameras.
No matter where you are headed, the Manfrotto 60cm camera slider would be a great addition to your camera bag.
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