Camera movement for indie filmmakers has always been restrictive, mainly due to budget constraints and a lack of crew. But with the arrival of the DSLR revolution, a number of innovative camera sliders from Cinevate, Kessler, Matthews and others have helped low-budget shooters capture dynamic moving or time-lapse shots. Recently, Libec joined the slider pool with the release of ALLEX, a unique tripod system that lets you pan, tilt and slide. Libec mainly manufactures tripods and heads for professional video camera systems, but the Japanese company also builds pedestals, jib arms and remote heads for filmmakers. With the ALLEX, Libec has an advantage over most camera support companies in that they produce individual tools that are built to work together.Libec sent over a review unit of their new ALLEX S Kit tripod system, which I used in the office with a Canon EOS 70D, as well as a Sony RX10. The ALLEX S Kit consists of a dual 75mm ball/flat-base head ALLEX H, an 800mm, 30-inch-long slider ALLEX S and a 75mm bowl tripod ALLEX T. Although you can purchase each accessory separately, the ALLEX S Kit is the one that will give you the most options in capturing a moving shot. After playing around with the ALLEX for a day, I found it to be a solid and simple system that will greatly appeal to indie filmmakers, especially DSLR filmmakers.
The ALLEX H head has a one-touch attachment and release, and is also equipped with a 3⁄8" spare screw and LED bubble level. The fluid head has a payload of 9 pounds, weighs only 2.9 pounds and includes a panhandle. It’s a solid, "no-frills" fluid head that will get the job done in terms of pans and tilts. I would probably just use a DSLR with the head instead of a larger camcorder, especially when used with the slider. Dual-head specification is also available for both 75mm ball diameter and flat-based tripods, which can be mounted on sliders, skater dollies and other gear.
The ALLEX S slider measures 30 inches and contains legs (with leg-lock knobs), a slider platform, brake knob, leveler and friction knob for different camera weights. It has a 33-pound payload. For smooth movement, the slider contains eight ball bearings applied with specific grease, which are installed to the slider platform. The ball bearings are positioned on the rail top at an angle on both sides, which helps eliminate shakiness during slides. The friction knob lets you do proper weight adjustment for smooth movement.
The ALLEX T tripod weighs only 5.5 pounds, and because of its new leg stoppers, it has more rigidity than Libec’s other compact systems. It also contains a mid-level spreader, with the Libec DL-2B dolly as an optional accessory.
Putting together the ALLEX S Kit was super-easy and very straightforward. When mounting your camera to the fluid head, it’s important to know that you need to press the attachment & release button and pull the plate straight out from the side, rather than sliding it out from the rear of the head. It took me awhile to figure this out.
There’s a bowl clamp that you use to mount the slider on the 75mm ball diameter tripod. Once your head is mounted to the slider, you’re pretty much good to go. Panning and tilting while attached to the slider is supersmooth, which I credit to the fluid head. Once the brake knob is released on the slider, horizontal moves are smooth. I did notice that on the unit I was testing, I didn’t apply any pressure to the friction knob, and there was still some drag. I fixed this by using the supplied hexagon wrench that controls the ball bearings’ friction against the slider rail.
One criticism of the system is that because of the lightweight tripod legs, I found that when sliding from one end of the slider to the other quickly, the tripod sometimes would shake or almost tip over, ruining a shot. The only way I was able to fix this was by keeping one foot on one of the tripod legs or by having an assistant hold down the tripod while performing an end-to-end tracking shot. If there was a ground spreader for the tripod system, you could alleviate this problem by placing a sandbag on the spreader, but the system only offers a mid-level spreader. Libec’s solution is mounting your tripod on their DL-2B dolly.
What’s great about the ALLEX S Kit is that you can always quickly take the slider off the tripod and use it as a tabletop slider. You can also balance the slider on a couple of Apple Boxes if you need additional height. The slider legs can be adjusted and balanced quite easily. They quickly fold for storage in the included padded case.
Plus, with the ALLEX S Kit, if you have an additional ALLEX H 75mm bowl/flat-base head, you can create vertical and diagonal moves by adjusting the base fluid head to whatever angle you’re looking for. (Since I didn’t have an additional head, I wasn’t able to do this.)
It’s important to remember that the ALLEX S Kit doesn’t have motion-control features, so you won’t be able to make repeatable moves nor capture moving time-lapse shots.
The ALLEX S Kit tripod system is a terrific one if you’re primarily capturing shots with a DSLR or compact camcorder. Although a camera like the Canon EOS C300 is well under 9 pounds, it’s probably safer to stick with smaller cameras due to the weight of the system. But, overall, the ALLEX S Kit is easy to set up, simple to use, and for its low price point of $784, it offers probably the most bang for your buck in the industry as a full slider/tripod system.
The ALLEX system is sure to be a hit with all types of filmmakers. With this price point, the ALLEX becomes an essential piece of gear, especially for event shooters. Why not become the Steven Spielberg of wedding shooters?
For more information on the ALLEX system, visit www.libecsales.com.