VIEWFINDER: Sliders, Gliders and Stabilizers

After using tripods regularly, many of us might long to have smooth, stable footage and also be able to move our cameras at the same time. Do we have to invest in a slider, glider or stabilizer to accomplish this?

That’s a good question. The short answer is no, but we all know there’s more to consider and it has to do with what we plan to shoot, how we plan to shoot it and what we plan to do with our footage after we get it in the can. It’s almost impossible today to view a video production that doesn’t somehow incorporate movement along with solid, stable camera work. There’s plenty of examples of powerful video storytelling that feature either remarkably stable handheld sequences or shaky cam footage that was created intentionally.

The movie Cloverfield exemplifies the fact that though you may want stable movement, it’s not absolutely necessary to achieve cinematic success or accomplish something equally applicable to your next backyard video projection party. In fact, a search for the term shaky cam brings up the very interesting fact that while it may appear reality programming started the current trend for handheld production work, not so long ago, producers grew to using it in the 1960s.

There’s a universal appeal now for the Holy Grail of stability and camera movement. Some cannot afford to purchase the equipment that promises to make stable camera movement so easy to acquire. One of the great things about video people is their creative ingenuity and developing improvisational skills, either on their own over time or by reading DIY articles featured in Videomaker, on the Videomaker Forums or the many diverse Internet sites that cater to our craft. A search on Videomaker for do it yourself will get you a tremendous list of features, articles and videos that can help you create videos as you imagine them.

One of the great things about video people is the creative ingenuity and improvisational skills that they develop.

Meanwhile, what are the alternatives? Many of you have learned to utilize everything from bean bags and pillows, to bracing against something solid or performing the Groucho Shuffle en lieu of a tripod or stabilizer. Others have incorporated wheelchairs, skateboards and other forms of impromptu equipment to get the look they want.

The DSLR and Camera Rigs Buyer’s Guide
The DSLR and Camera Rigs Buyer’s Guide

Not to be overlooked are the countless video cameras on the market today that feature some form of in-camera stabilization, either optical or digital image stabilization. Properly used, either of these can help offset the effects of unwanted camera shake. But what about those of us who want and can afford the real thing. The sky’s the limit, just check out this article and others on Videomaker. The DSLR and Camera Rigs Buyer’s Guide can also help.

It’s not so much that a videographer has to have a specific toolset to accomplish smooth moves or even controlled shaky cam footage, because there are many ways to improvise when something just right for the job is unavailable. As long as we keep in mind the story we want to tell and how we want to tell it, we all can accomplish solid shots or smooth moves based on the same principles that helped engineer sliders, gliders and stabilizers.


Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.

The DSLR and Camera Rigs Buyer’s Guide[/caption]

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