Ever found yourself in the situation where the movement of a tripod just isn't enough? You pan or tilt, trying to add more drama to the action, but your shot is still stagnant and boring? The VariZoom Solo Jib has your answer. Offering simultaneous dolly and jib movement, the Solo Jib brings even the most banal scenes to life. The VariZoom Solo Jib can be operated by a single shooter and is simple to assemble and use. On top of that, the price is fantastic at only $1349. The whole package includes the dolly, jib and tripod. Also included is a flat mounted head for two-person use, which allows for coordinated pan, tilt, jib and dolly movements. Because of the reasonable price tag, one might ask if it’s up to pro use, and astonishingly, it is.
First off, the cases are nicely built. Each component of the system — tripod, dolly and jib — had it’s own bag. The dolly bag is a soft-hard bag while all other bags were simply soft bags. The entire process — from opening the case, to reading instructions, to being fully assembled — took only minutes. The system was surprisingly easy to assemble. One nice feature the dolly offers is that it could be configured to any length from a little more than three feet to 16 feet. This is a huge range. If you have ever used a portable dolly before, you’ll be familiar with the technical issue of fitting into the space you're shooting. Because the length is divided into five segments totalling 16 feet, one could use the dolly in the smallest of rooms. As we assembled the track, the quality of the build showed. The bars holding the track apart from each other were easily attached and kept the tracks parallel, preventing binding and allowing for smooth dolly movement. The dolly itself, although small when collapsed, opened up with one thumb screw and set easily onto the track. Little rubber grommets on the outside edge of the dolly wheels give a nice connection to the track.
After attaching the tripod to the dolly, we found that it performed very smoothly. The dolly has simple tripod leg supports; just push in the rod to set it tight against the feet, tighten a screw and each leg is secured. The tripod came with a head attached, which needed to be removed so the jib could be mounted. All one needs to do is unscrew the level lightener from the ball joint and the head comes right off.
The jib attaches the same way as the head. It even has a leveling bubble in the middle to assure correct mounting. This is a nice addition, as other jibs in this price range require an external level to set up correctly.
Offering simultaneous dolly and jib movement, the Solo Jib brings even the most banal scenes to life.
A quick-release mounting plate attaches the camera to the jib. The jib has two junctions, giving it a longer reach. The upper and lower arm of the jib are adjustable, allowing for adjustment to the head and letting you tilt down or up in situations where this is warranted. These adjustments could possibly disrupt the level of the camera, but it isn't an issue because there is another leveling bubble on the mounting plate.
The weight side of the jib adjusts to allow for better leverage with less weight. The set comes with a 5lb weight. This wasn't quite enough weight to give the jib equilibrium when using a Canon 7d with a 24-70 L series lens, but it wasn't unusable. Shortening or lengthening the weight arm did help this considerably. The fix was simple enough; more weight was added and the problem was resolved.
Once everything was assembled, we had a camera mounted and started rolling. We shot past a foreground focusing on a focal point with multiple depths. With dolly and jib moving, having a few different depths of objects from foreground to background lent drama and made the shot more dynamic. The ability to, for instance, smoothly and easily lift up past a subject while at the same time dollying in adds dimension and professionalism to a shot. The combination of jib and dolly movements made a simple static scene quickly come to life.
There isn't much to the system: dolly track, tripod and tripod jib mount. Although the jib isn't very long, it’s still long enough to get some fun jib shots. If you are one that likes to operate a jib from the leading arm, not the weight side, doing a jib and dolly move is a bit awkward. However, since it’s so easy to operate from the other side, it shouldn't make much difference beyond a slightly longer learning curve.
Comparing the VariZoom dolly track to other micro dollys in its class, it held great footing. Some other dolly tracks go down easier, but don't allow for shorter length options. This is hardly a competitive difference. After putting this dolly jib through its paces, we found that it’s a simple product with impressive functionality. It’s got a nice price tag and seems to be worthy of a pro’s daily use.
- Ball-leveling system (65/75mm hybrid)
- Fluid Head w/adjustable tilt drag and quick release plate
- 2-Stage height adjustment
- Mid-level spreader
- Built in bubble for leveling
- Switchable Rubber/Spiked feet
- Dual handle capability (w/optional 2nd-handle accessory)
- 7lb camera capacity
- Max Height 9ft (w/ 5' tripod)
- Carbon Fiber Stored Length 38''
- Weight 6.9lbs
- Max Reach 4.2ft
- 75mm, 65mm, or flat base w/3/8'' stud.
- 16' track
- Foam underpad
- Folding dolly
- Max Load: 45lbs
- Includes custom soft-hard case
- Easy setup
- Case for each part
- Smooth dolly movement
- Great price tag
- Insufficient weight for the jib
- The track binds if not aligned properly
Chris Monlux is the Creative Services Manager at an NBC and CBS affiliate.