The slider is a new form of a dolly type piece of filmmaking equipment. While dollys are complicated, often heavy, pieces of equipment, sliders have come into popularity thanks to the advent of smaller, lightweight digital cameras.
A camera slider consists of a metal base with two rails. A carriage sits atop and rides along these rails. Oftentimes, wheels are used under the carriage to ensure smooth movement with little friction. When properly constructed, the sliders offer perfectly balanced friction, quiet operation, a wide stance and no oil is ever needed to keep it running smoothly.
This new piece of filmmaking equipment has some distinct advantages over a typical dolly, whether an expensive studio dolly or a skateboard dolly. The biggest plus is that it is small and lightweight. You don’t need to purchase, build and lay the track for the dolly to ride along. All you have to do to get the camera slider ready to work with is to attach it to your tripod.
Another advantage to using a camera slider is the options available to you. When working with a dolly, you are usually restricted to the size and bulk of the dolly. However, with a camera slider, you will set it up on the tripod or, if you want, lay it across ground, on a counter or any other level surface. This gives you numerous options for the height and distance of your shots using the slider.
Now, the biggest disadvantage to the camera slider is that it is meant for short shots. If you plan on utilizing an extremely long dolly shot, covering a lot of space, the camera slider is not for you. In those cases, it is better to lay the tracks and prepare to move the large dolly around the room for your shot. However, for small shots of around 30 seconds of less, the camera slider will work great.
It is also important to know that most camera sliders are short, usually four to five feet in length, so you are limited to how long of a shot you can do. You can attach two or more sliders together but there is less chance to smooth movement as you go from one to the next. Also, the slider is so close to the camera that only side-to-side movements are recommended because when moving back and forth along a track, the slider will be seen from the camera’s lens.
However, regardless of these limitations, if you need some movement from your shots, the camera slider is a great alternative. When shooting anything on a budget, there is not always time to stop and lay the tracks for the dolly shot. However, you can get your movement done in quick time using a camera slider, which takes mere minutes to set up.