The biggest difference between still photography and motion-picture production is camera movement. When camera moves are performed well, they not only boost your film’s production value, but they also can elevate a scene artistically. For narrative films, dolly moves are the most common and professional-looking. The only problem for indie filmmakers is that most camera dollies are inaccessible. They’re expensive to own or rent and take time to set up, not to mention you’ll typically have to add an extra crew member.
A less expensive and more efficient way for a single shooter to obtain professional-looking camera movement is Digital Juice’s Slyder Dolly, a portable, linear-sliding, mini-dolly tracking system that lets you create short, yet smooth dolly shots without the hassle of setting up a dolly and track. The Slyder Dolly comes in two lengths, 40 inches (7 pounds) and 64 inches (10 pounds), and is solidly constructed from high-grade aluminum with integrated rails and an anodized body finish.
I tested the 64-inch version with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and the dolly was, indeed, lightweight and simple to use. Also, because the dolly is in one piece with no moving parts, there was no assembly necessary. I was pretty much up and running moments after taking the Slyder Dolly out of the box and mounting my camera to the plate.
The Slyder Dolly’s Trolley Plate is where you mount your camera, which can handle rigs weighing up to 30 pounds. The plate contains a number of threaded holes to accommodate camera mounts, tripod ballheads, high hats or quick-release plates. You also have room on the trolley plate to mount additional camera accessories like an LCD monitor, articulating arm, etc. For more precise pressure adjustment, the trolley plate has a brake knob to control moves from cameras of different weight classes.
You also can mount your tripod’s ballhead to the Slyder Dolly’s High Hat Kit accessory (sold separately), which gives you the ability to perform pans and tilts while moving the camera. The high hat can take a 100mm or 75mm ballhead when using the optional adapter ring. If you don’t own a tripod head, a good accessory to pick up is a Giottos ballhead with quick-release plate that mounts directly to the trolley plate. With the Giottos ballhead, you can use a number of camera plates without detaching the ballhead from the Slyder Dolly.
In terms of operation, the Slyder Dolly can be used on nearly any surface and mounted to any angle. Along the underside of the Slyder Dolly are multiple 3⁄8- and 1⁄4-inch holes for mount-
ing on vertical and horizontal surfaces, and you also can shoot straight down using the underside of the dolly.
If you’re on an uneven surface like rocky terrain, one essential accessory is the Slyder Dolly’s adjustable leveling legs, which let you balance your camera for a steady shot. If you want to perform a vertical or diagonal move, you can mount the Slyder Dolly on a C-stand with a C-stand adapter kit to obtain any angle.
Movement of the dolly is accomplished by precision-sealed bearings so application of lubricants or sprays isn’t recommended. Unlike some of Kessler Crane’s popular camera sliders, the Slyder Dolly doesn’t contain a crank handle or belt drive to move the camera. Although camera movement was smooth, I detected some track noise on fast camera moves, but noise was minimal for slow moves. Also, since it doesn’t have a motordrive, it’s designed strictly for manual use for motion capture. Motorized belt drives are primarily used for time-lapse.
The 40-inch Slyder Dolly costs $599; the 64-inch Slyder Dolly costs $899. At the moment, both dollies are on sale for $499 and $799, respectively, and both include a Deluxe Carry Bag. If you’re a low-budget filmmaker looking to up your game, the Slyder Dolly is a great solution.