Innovative HDSLR Tools
August 22, 2013
If you’ve so much as dipped a toe into the world of HDSLR video shooting, you know that your camera isn’t going to do a professional job right out of the box. You’re going to need a whole cast of supporting devices to get smooth, well-focused footage. You’ve probably also noticed that amassing such a collection of devices can cost you a pretty penny. These innovative tools put a new spin on video-production gear to make the process easier and more intuitive, and help you make the most of your budget by performing multiple functions.
Using a slider will let you achieve smooth camera motion, whether in and out or side to side. It’s a set of rails that sits between your camera and your tripod and allows you to move the camera smoothly. What sets the SliderPLUS+ apart is its compact design. At only a foot long and 3.7 pounds, it fits easily in a backpack or a large camera bag, which makes it easy to carry for a location shoot. It gives you 1.7 feet of sliding range, and unlike other sliders, its rails move along with the camera — meaning they won’t appear in your shot when you pull back (with most lenses). You can adjust the resistance on the SliderPLUS+, and its four height-adjustable feet let you use it on the ground or a tabletop instead of on a tripod (although its sliding range is limited to .85 feet with that setup). It’s also compatible with a motorized motion-control unit from Edelkrone that you can use to automatically control motion for video or set up for a time-lapse series of still shots. Edelkrone also sells a 1.5-foot XL version that gives you 2.6 feet of sliding range on a tripod and 1.3 on a tabletop.
Price: $499.99 for the SliderPLUS+
$699.99 for the SliderPLUSXL
Midas Mount SnapFocus
Learning to pull focus smoothly while shooting video is one of the skills that photographers taking up motion shooting have to master. It’s typically done with a follow focus device, which attaches to the lens and lets you control focus via a wheel or a lever while you’re shooting. Midas Mount has taken a new approach to make focus control as simple and intuitive as riding a bike. In fact, it makes focus control just like riding a bike, minus the pedaling. The SnapFocus provides two focus-control grips designed just like bicycle handgrips. To use it, you mount the SnapFocus onto your camera rig, so that the grips are positioned for your hands. Squeezing the bike-brake-like levers on the grips rotates the lens focus ring and lets you control resistance through a gear-and-pulley system attached to the lens. Midas Mount recommends its own HitchHiker shoulder rig for use with the SnapFocus, but you can mount it on any rig with a standard 15mm rod-based system. Using a wearable rig with the SnapFocus lets a single camera operator move the camera and pull focus at the same time through intuitive controls—a boon for small productions and independent motion shooters. Midas Mount also plans to offer SnapFocus accessories for one-handed focus control and two-handed control of both focus and zoom.
When it comes to versatility, this little contraption is hard to beat. A modular support system, the CineSpider has a base plate and a set of short, socket-mounted arms at its heart. With your camera mounted on the base plate, and the arms attached to the plate, you can select from a variety of accessories that fit into the socket at the end of each arm, depending on the type of shot you want. Filming a car chase? You can attach the super strong CineSpider suction cup accessories and mount your camera on the side of a vehicle. Want to achieve smooth camera motion in the studio? Replace the suction cups with rollerblade-style wheels to turn the CineSpider into a tabletop dolly. The position of the wheels can be adjusted to fine-tune the curve it follows, too. There are attachments for mounting the base plate on standard 15mm rods so that you can attach the CineSpider to another support device. And when you don’t need the whole CineSpider for your camera, the legs can be used separately as supports, as long as there’s something to stick to the suction cup end: the ball mounts that fit into the arm sockets are equipped with standard 1/4-20 studs.
Price: $169.99 - $499
Unless you’re going for the intentionally shaky look, stealthy is what you want to be when you’re handholding a camera to shoot video. VariZoom provides a whole array of ways to achieve stealth with this rig, and its compact design makes it easy to carry for location shoots. You can configure it to serve as a simple handle for eye-level shooting, reconfigure it with an arm that rests against your chest for three-point shooting, or use it as a short monopod by swinging the arm down. When the arm is in the down position, you can unlock the gimballed hand grip to turn the Stealthy into a stabilizer. By adding VariZoom’s optional monopod leg extension, you can bring your camera up to a 6-foot height. You can also set the Stealthy on a surface and let it stand on its own as a tabletop pod, and when you’re not shooting, you can fold it up and hang it on your belt with an included clip. It’s built to support up to three pounds, but VariZoom also sells a counterweight attachment that brings the weight limit up to 5 pounds.
Zacuto PlaZma Light
This light is about as cool as it sounds, not just because of its ultra-slim design and the fact that it’s filled with microplasma, but also because it’s actually fairly cool in terms of temperature. If you’re tired of burning your hands on hot lights and want a soft, even video light source that’s very portable and easy to handle, the PlaZma Light should do the trick. Because there are no bulbs involved, its light is very diffuse and even, with a 120-degree angle of illumination. In fact, the light is so soft, you can bring it very close to your subjects’ eyes without making them squint. But this doesn’t mean it lacks power. Zacuto rates its output at 2,000 lumens, which outshines competing LED panels. The PlaZma Light is dimmable, too. Its high color-rendering index (CRI) of 90+ means its illumination should be very consistent, and Zacuto is offering it in 5800K and 3200K versions. The 1 x 1–foot model is just under an inch thick, and Zacuto plans to offer more panel sizes in the future. The PlaZma Light can be powered by AC or a battery. It’s one of the pricier items on our list, but since it looks like a great lighting option for still shots too, you might want to splurge. Available fall 2013.
Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler
For high-angle views and any shots that require smooth, sweeping camera motion, a jib is indispensable. As its name suggests, this jib is designed to be easy to carry for location shoots. It’s also easy to handle and, as jibs go, fairly affordable. Weighing just 5.5 pounds, the Pocket Jib Traveler can be collapsed down to a 27-inch length to fit in a bag, but when mounted on a tripod, it still gives you a circular travel distance of 72 inches and supports up to 10 pounds of camera. Unlike many jibs, this one doesn’t need to be taken apart for carrying—you just collapse the sections together. That makes it both convenient to carry and quick to set up. Its sliding weight bar lets you make fine adjustments to the jib balance, and drag is easily adjustable with a small lever. You can use the counterweights that Kessler designed for use with the Pocket Jib Traveler, or if you don’t want to haul them to a location, simply use sandbags or whatever other type of counterweight that’s handy and can be attached to the end of the jib with a carabiner or hook.
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