Today we are going to talk about camera sliders: when they are great, when they are crap, how to use them, and last of all, if you should buy one.
Over the last few years, the camera slider has become a staple in a freelancers kit after their camera and tripod. They have become relatively cheap, and they offer more advanced and cooler looking shots to your projects, which is great!
The problem is, now that everyone has one, they are really being overused.
In a similar way to getting your first fast lens and shooting absolutely everything at f1.8; when you get your hands on a slider, everything you shoot at first moves up and down on this thing. I was certainly guilty of this in the past!
Here at The Film Look, we use sliders for two different types of production. Short films, and client videos.
Let’s, first of all, talk about using sliders for short films. You can utilise sliders in your films in a few different ways.
To reveal something. Sliders are great as movement into a new scene, or to reveal objects in an interesting way. They provide a really smooth and stable lateral movement which makes your shot look more cinematic.
The slider is also great to add tension to a shot. A slow crawl on someone’s face can add instant production value to your film with very little extra set up.
When using a slider for short films, less is more.
If an audience member notices you used a slider, then you've used it wrong. Immersion is key to good filmmaking, and if I’m sucked out of the film because my brain just went “oh cool, slider shot” then it’s been used incorrectly.
Demonstrating your sweet kit to an audience instead of just trying to tell an immerse story can result in giving your film ‘the amateur look’.
For side-on lateral movements, you will need depth between the foreground and background if you want to create a parallax.
What’s a parallax, you say? You know when you are sitting on a train and you look out of the window, and you notice the hills in the background barely move while the trees closer to you keep zooming past. That difference in perceived movement and speed is a parallax.
Without depth, as in, objects in the foreground and background, a parallax can’t exist. So adding a slider movement to a wide establishing shot without something to separate the background and foreground is pointless. There won’t be any striking movement.
In cases like this, shoot something in the foreground to slider from. Or just stick to a pan or tilt, which can be just as cinematic.
Basically, what I’m saying is, there needs be a reason to use it. For short films, every shot needs motivation. Question all movement. Ask yourself, why am I using this type of shot? What is it going to achieve over something simple?
If you are adding a slider movement because it’s just cool and no other reason, just stick to the tripod.
Everything you choose must add something to your storytelling.
On the other hand! Client work is a bit different. Since sliders are easy to setup, fairly non-intrusive, and since they add so much production value to a shot, they are perfect for client shoots.
Clients love slider shots because it just makes everything silky, and really sexy. It adds instant quality and production value to a client project without stretching the budget to undesirable heights.
The same rules apply to the slider shot on client projects, there needs to be a motivation of movement. But, it’s a little less strict.
The camera slider isn’t there to replace your tripod, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
So should you buy a camera slider? Yeah, they are pretty cool.
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