Getting that Hollywood "look" is a goal that many wedding videographers who are employing a cinematic style in their shooting are trying to achieve. Some are achieving it through smooth moving shots using a stabilizer device such as a Glidecam or Steadicam or creating shots with shallow depth of field with the help of 35mm adapters and, more recently, video-capable DSLRs such as the Canon 5D Mark II. Making our work look more like big-budget movies is one of the ways the industry is battling the stigma that wedding video looks "cheesy."
But what if you don't want the hassle of flying a Glidecam or Steadicam or having to throw on a vest that can get you mistaken for a SWAT team member? What if you just don't have the budget for investing in 35mm lenses? What can you use to get that cinematic look without having to spend a lot of money and with a device that's portable enough for you to carry around during a wedding?
A shot used in many of the movies and TV shows that we watch today is called the dolly shot. As many videographers know, the camera rig is placed on tracks (along with the camera operator) and is pushed by an assistant moving the camera from side to side or forward. But imagine having to set up something like that, let's say, in one of the church aisles so that we can dolly along with the bride and her father as they make their entrance. First, we wouldn't have the time. Second, it would just look so darn ridiculous!
Enter the Glidetrack
Enter the Glidetrack, a portable and very affordable dolly system that can be used quickly and easily to add the "wow" factor into any production. Its design is simple: a single rail that has a carriage mount for
your camera that slides smoothly as you push it. The Glidetrack (www.glidetrack.com) is created and sold by Alastair Brown of A Brown Digital Video in Paisley, Scotland. The Glidetrack site boasts "Minimum Hassle, Maximum Impact!" Having used it since late fall of last year in both weddings and concept video productions, I strongly agree with that assessment. It has become my weapon of choice in the battle against boring, stagnant shots.
At first look, the Glidetrack resembles a capital "I" in shape, the ends being feet for the rail to hover above the ground if laid on the floor. They also serve as weights to keep the rail from slipping while pushing
the camera in the desired direction. The Glidetrack can also be easily laid on top of a table, between chairs, or wherever it may fit (I recently used it between rocks at a beach wedding).
The rail also has a center-threaded hole for placing on top of a tripod or, in my case, a quick-release plate (more on configurations later). The carriage mount uses maintenance-free, self-lubricating aluminum bearings, but for a someone like me who's not much of a gearhead, that just means it runs smoothly and quietly without having to oil it between uses.
Other Glidetracks, Other Sliders
The version I have was the only one available at the time I purchased it. Since then, two others have been introduced to broaden the product line. The differences are found in the length of the rails and weight. Currently I have the original, dubbed the Glidetrack SD, 1 meter in length and weighing 2.5 kg (that's 3.28' and 5.5 lbs. for those of us in the U.S.). The other two are the Glidetrack Compact (half the size of the SD, designed for ultraportability, and small enough to fit easily in a gym bag) and the Glidetrack HD, which boasts a heavy-duty rail and larger feet. The HD is built for heavier cameras such as the Sony EX1 or cameras that have 35mm adapters and matte boxes, and it weighs a whopping 4.4 kg (9.7 lbs.). U.S. and Canadian customers will have to invest $280 for the Compact, $320 for the SD, or $475 for the HD (plus $25 shipping).
There are other "sliders" available to consumers and professionals, but the Glidetrack is the most affordable and has solid, industrial-grade construction. Speaking to colleagues who have ordered the Glidetrack from Alastair Brown, each has received their Glidetrack within 3 days (including myself). The Glidetrack's creator is also open to any questions regarding the use of the product, and the website has sample videos to show its use in various productions, including same-day edits by three-time EventDV 25 honoree Jason Magbanua.
Setup and Shooting
The beauty of the Glidetrack is in the shots that can be achieved with simple camera movements. You definitely get a lot of "bang for your buck" with this device, and it will quickly become your favorite toy to bring to the playground. Setup is quick and easy right out of the shipping container. All you have to do is bolt on the feet. The carriage mount is open to either adding a quick-release plate or placing a good fluid head to give the added dimension of tilts and pans to your Glidetrack shot, which is what I did using a Manfrotto 501HDV head.
Beyond moving from side to side at different speeds, there are many possibilities while using the Glidetrack with a fluid head (panning while moving left to right, tilting upward while pushing forward, etc.). You are literally spoiled by the number of choices you have as the Glidetrack opens up an avenue of creativity that was previously limited by the movement of your body or using a tripod or monopod.
Recently, I discovered that by adding a quick-release plate to the bottom of the rail (instead of threading it directly onto a tripod), you have the freedom to go from a floor-level shot to a high-mounted tripod shot within seconds. This is great for the ceremony and the run-and-gun style used to get creative shots for a cinematic-style wedding video or the variety of images needed for a same-day edit. Unlike dolly tracks and systems used by big budget movies, setup and movement is easy. Just snap in the Glidetrack, lift up your tripod, and reposition.
Creative shots using the Glidetrack are not limited to sliding on the rail. With two fluid heads (one on the Glidetrack and one on the tripod with the assistance of a quick-release plate), you now have a whole host of extra possibilities for simulated "crane" shots when sliding the camera to one end of the rail and then rotating the Glidetrack. Combine that with a tilt and pan and you can create smooth-moving shots without the trouble of rolling in heavy equipment and the assistance of a crew.
Getting ‘Wow' Shots
Some of the tips for creating those "wow" shots when using the Glidetrack are probably things you already do while using a camera handheld. With the Glidetrack, however, the movement is now smoother
and more consistent, and it's easily repeated to get the perfect timing.
Some of the best uses for the Glidetrack are found composing the shot with objects in the foreground while your subject is in the distance. With very subtle movement, objects closer to the camera move quicker while the viewer focuses on what's going on further into the shot.
Jen & Matt | Same Day Edit | Oceanside, CA from Red 5 Studios on Vimeo.
This is great for revealing the vastness of a church versus a stagnant wide shot and for adding delicate movement during readings, speeches, or other moments that would otherwise be dull and boring. The Glidetrack can also be used with the new Canon 5D fitted with macro lenses to get incredible-looking detail shots of rings, flowers, and other items.
The Glidetrack in the Field
Here at Red 5 Studios, we've also utilized the Glidetrack in our concept video productions, most recently in our spoof of the television superhero drama Heroes. After studying the show, I took note of the many dolly shots used in the scenes we would be imitating. Using the Glidetrack on this film resulted in adding production value and an epic feel to our shots.
HEROES from Red 5 Studios on Vimeo.
At Re:Frame Austin, Bruce Patterson of Cloud Nine Creative, Inc. brought out the 18" Glidecam Compact for attendees to use at a hands-on event appropriately called The Shootout. Brian Press of Impressive Creations used the lightweight Glidetrack Compact during The Shootout (in which all attendees and speakers went down to Austin's 6th Street to shoot two models and experiment with different gear) and created a 2-minute clip that was shown the next day on the larger-than-life screen of the Alamo Drafthouse theater (Re:Frame Austin's primary venue). The moving images were beautiful and showed the range of shots that can be achieved with such a simple tool. Oh, and it was Brian's first time using it.
The Glidetrack is an awesome tool to add to your arsenal when trying to get that shot that will dazzle the audience. It's a great investment and comes highly recommended.
Loyd Calomay (loyd at red5studios.net) runs Orange County, CA-based Red 5 Studios with his wife, Hazel. Best-known for their same-day edits and Hollywood spoof concept films, Red 5 won a 2008 WEVA CEA Silver and 2007 4EVER Group AAA Ruby in the Concept Video category. Loyd will present seminars at Re:Frame San Francisco and In[Focus] 2010.