Home New Models Cameras News Deals Video Reviews Firmware Manuals Free Software Rebates Shopping


 




Z-Cage

DitoGear OmniSlider Video / Time-Lapse Dolly Review

Ron Risman, May, 2012




Please Rate This Review!
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Introduction

The DitoGear OmniSlider is a professional motion dolly (aka slider) capable of real-time camera moves, repeatable camera moves, motion recording with playback, slow-motion playback, time-lapse motion control, as well as stop-motion control. Without having to switch out motors, the OmniSlider will allow you to change speeds on the fly to suit your production needs. It can move 1 meter in just 3.7 seconds or it can move as slowly as 1m in 1.5 years (in time-lapse mode). It was also designed to handle the weight of professional cameras as well as lighter weight DSLR's. How much weight? How about 154lbs when moving horizontally and 33lbs when moving vertically.

Video Overview

Out of the Box

Truthfully, the unit came to me in several shipments and since it was a review loaner it was not sent directly from the company. Because of this I cannot speak for the out of box experience. I can tell you that the OmniSlider comes shipped with the following items:
  • The OmniSlider "Slider"
  • OmniSlider Controller w/ built-in camera intervalometer
  • 110/220V power supply
  • 12V/14Ah gel type battery
  • 12V Battery charger (dedicated for 8Ah-14Ah batteries, full charge of the kit battery in 8h)
  • Convenient battery soft cases with fuse and power cable
  • (2) 3/8" threaded tripod adapter plates (already attached)
  • Camera adapter plate (3/8" bolt, already attached)
  • A set of keys
  • Controller to slider signal cable
  • Built-in intervalometer to camera cable (Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and RED are supported)

The DitoGear OmniSlider is the second motion controlled (MOCO) dolly that I have had the opportunity to review. The difference between the OmniSlider and the previously reviewed Stage Zero dolly from Dynamic Perception is its precision; ability to do repetitive video dolly moves; ability to carry gear up to 154 lbs (75kg); and price.

Camera Plate

For those that don't know what a MOCO dolly is, think of it as a train track for cameras. The "tracks" or rails come in various lengths and a camera platform sits on top of this rail to move the camera down the track. The purpose is to allow a smooth and consistent camera moves when recording video, time-lapse or stop motion sequences.

The OmniSlider offers high-end features at a mid-range price and should appeal to anyone looking to add production value to their films. The dolly is one of very few on the market that feature the ability to record a motion sequences= in order to repeat that sequence over and over again, perfectly and accurately each time. This repeatability is key for special effects, motion tracking, compositing and rotoscoping. The OmniSlider can record moves up to 80 seconds in length and will keep the most recent sequence in memory even after disconnecting power.

Here are some simple examples to show how the ability to repeat the same motion sequence over and over again can help you create some high-end effects.

  • Combine Live Action with Time-lapse Sequences
    Capture a motion time-lapse sequence and then use the exact dolly move using the live video mode to record you talking in front of a green screen. In post, you can easily replace the green screen with the time-lapse clip to create the effect that you're talking live in front of a time-lapse scene. FOX news in Connecticut used this trick in their most recent promo spots - where their news anchors are live on the set, yet the newsroom was zipping around at breakneck speed.

  • Layer Multiple Video Tracks Over Each Other
    Have the camera slide slowly across the room while multiple versions of yourself interact with each other. This is achieved by recording yourself in different areas of the scene with each repeated move. In post, you layer the tracks on the timeline and cross cut or dissolve from one track to the other. A quick garbage mask can be used to keep the layers below visible in the areas where your twin(s) are positioned. The result will be a video sequence where there are multiple versions of yourself in the scene at the same time, This trick is used in Hollywood all the time to create the illusion of a twin.

Dollies come in all sizes - from compact systems that make great travel companions to large ones that are best left for use in the studio or on a set. While the DitoGear OmniSlider would be considered a portable dolly system, the 1.5meter version that I tested is best when your use involves local travel. DitoGear does make a sturdy travel case for the dolly, but the shear weight of the system and it's side-weighted design will make lugging this to your destination a two-person job. Fortunately, you can order the OmniSlider in shorter lengths, something you should highly consider if you're thinking of traveling with it to capture time-lapses or video on location.

The DitoGear OmniSlider is both sturdy and weather resistant and puts the design of most other MOCO systems to shame. The track is both super slim and strong, as is the small camera platform. Together this dolly supports a remarkable 154lbs (75kg) horizontally and 33lbs (15kg) vertically, besting all other systems in its class.

The motor housing is attached to the right side of the dolly track and houses all connections for powering the rig, attaching the remote control, and triggering your camera for time-lapse or stop-motion sequences. The housing uses strong and weather resistant BNC-style connections, though I found it a chore to use the screw style locking mechanism to attach / detach the cables to the unit. This was made more difficult than it should have been due the lack of spacing between the connection ports, making it difficult to get my fingers in there to loosen or tighten the connectors.

Remote Control

OmniController

The dolly is controlled by a large handheld remote controller with an easy to read backlit-LCD display. The remote features two knobs for controlling speed & dampening and a joystick for navigating the menus.

The menu system is very simple to navigate, though I do wish the remote had a dedicated "back" button to help to speed up the process of going back to the previous screen. As it is now you have to constantly move the cursor to the bottom "back" menu option every time I needed to go back to the previous screen. Even if you don't read the manual you'll have no problem figuring out how to navigate and use the various dolly options:

Video Menu

In the video menu you have the option of controlling the dolly using the joystick on the controller in either "Free Ride," "High Precision," or "Motion Record" modes.
  • Free Ride
    The Free Ride mode offers a fast way of getting the camera from one end of the track to the other, but this mode shouldn't be used for demanding live video applications due to motor noise at the faster speeds and a slight vibration that will show up in video with all but the widest lenses.

  • High Precision
    As its name implies this is the mode to use when precision live-video movements are required. The fastest setting in the high precision mode is much slower than in free ride mode. Sound is greatly dampened in this mode and can be used in live video sequences, as long as care is taken with the placement of microphones.

  • Motion Recording
    This mode allows you to record up to 80 seconds of motion and dampening to be played back over and over again as needed. This gives you repeatable moves that will allow you to do compositing and rotoscoping effects in post. Recorded motion can be played back in slow-motion, real time, over a longer duration for time-lapse, or frame-by-frame for stop-motion recording.

  • Time-Lapse Menu
    While many of you will purchase the OmniSlider for the live video functionality, another segment of the market will want it for its time-lapse functionality – and the DitoGear OmniSlider delivers the goods in this arena as well.

  • Continuous
    If your time-lapse is using shutter speeds faster than 1/20th or 1/30th of a second then continuous mode is the mode to use. As the carriage moves down the track, the built-in intervalometer will trigger your camera at the intervals you set without the carriage stopping before each shot.

  • Drive-Shoot-Drive (aka Shoot-move-shoot)
    This mode is best used when shooting longer exposure time-lapse sequences (stars at night, moonrises and sunrises, etc.). The carriage will stop, wait for the camera to trigger, and then move to the next position, before taking the next picture (and so on).

  • Stop Motion
    The stop-motion option gives you control over movement distance after each shot, as well as total shots to be captured. I did not actually test this mode, but I am assuming it's sort of manual version of the drive-shoot-drive mode.

Settings Menu

  • Calibration
    Whenever you turn on the OmniSlider it will self calibrate, however if the carriage isn't in the home position when you first turn it on, you'll want to manually calibrate the slider. It's quick and easy, just select Calibrate from the settings menu and return the carriage to its home position.

    Calibration is important as it lets the dolly know exactly where the carriage is which allows it to do repeatable dolly moves.

  • Length
    The OmniSlider is available in different sizes and this menu lets you tell the system how long of a track you're using. This is an important setting to use as it allows the motor to know where the end of the track is. If you select an incorrect length the motor will either stop before reaching the end of the track or will try to continue past the end of the track. This can't happen with the OmniSlider but a loud alarm will sound when the dolly touches the end of the track and it will stop automatically.

  • Mirror
    The mirror option allows you to control whether the movement of your dolly should be ‘mirrored'. Often times you may end up setting the dolly up with the motor to your left instead of to your right. When this happens you'll end up seeing the carriage move in the opposite direction of your joystick. Instead of being forced to get used to this annoyance – DitoGear has kindly supplied an option to correct for it – using the mirror menu option.

  • Controlled Device
    Another menu option I didn't get to test. This option allows you to control other devices connected to the OmniSlider. In this menu setting you're telling the OmniSlider which device you want to control with the handheld joystick.

  • Backlight
    Set the duration of the LCD backlight on the remote control. A short duration is recommended as the screen is so bright at night that its glow may actually show in your long exposures – if subjects are close enough to the controller. I made it a point to use the controller with my back turned to the scene when shooting at night.

  • Memory Banks
    The OmniSlider also features a 5-bank memory that will send the slider to any 5 points along the track that you set into memory. This is ideal for motion effects and anytime you want the dolly to move between two pre-set points without having to use the entire length of track. I would find this particularly useful during interviews where I can add a bit of short motion and then repeat it for each interviewee.

  • Performance
    The OmniSlider uses a dedicated motor that can handle speeds ranging from snails pace (1 meter in 450 days in time-lapse mode) to the speed of a rabbit (1 meter in 3.85 seconds). Competing systems in this price range require the purchase of additional motors to offer the speed flexibility that is built into the OmniSlider It's this flexibility that allows you to use the dolly for both video and time-lapse recording.

    The dolly supports shoot-move-shoot, manual, and continuous motion when capturing time-lapses or stop motion animations, and the system features an integrated intervalometer for controlling various DSLR cameras, just make sure to order the cable or cables needed for your camera.

Built like a tank

Unfortunately a system that is built like a tank often weighs like a tank and this would be my main gripe with this version (1.5m) of the dolly. I love the length of the track but its difficult to travel with, especially when traveling by plane. The motor is offset to one end of the track, making the weight offset and clumsy to carry. If you plan on traveling with the dolly I would highly recommend purchasing the hard travel case that DitoGear offers and I would also recommend a shorter track length.

Track LengthsTrack Length

The OmniSlider can be ordered with tracks that range from 3.28 feet (1.0m) to 8.2 feet (2.5m) with a few sizes in between.
  • 3.28 feet (1.0 meter)
  • 4.92 feet (1.5 meters)
  • 6.56 feet (2.0 meters)
  • 8.20 feet (2.5 meters)
The only time I would recommend the two longest track lengths would be for in-studio use. If travel is involved you'll find that the shorter tracks will make the dolly much more manageable to transport.

Power

Connections The OmniSlider is shipped with a 12v lead acid battery with gel electrolyte. This battery, while heavy, works better in extreme temperatures and is more resistant to shock and vibration compared to standard lead acid batteries. Thanks to the gel electrolyte the battery doesn't have to be used in an upright position and is maintenance-free, since the gel will not evaporate or leak.

The battery is shipped in a nylon carrying bag with a nylon shoulder strap. A cable connects the red & black leads to a fuse which is attached to a cable that feeds through a hole on the side of the carrying bag. The cord is tied into a loop on the inside of the bag to prevent the external cord from pulling on the fuse of 12v connectors.

I truthfully have no idea how long the battery will last, but I will tell you that I shot at least 4 time-lapse sequences lasting 3/4 hours each and the battery meter is still reading 3/4 full. I would have used the dolly more during the time that I had the test unit, but since the review unit was shipped without the battery charger I opted not to take it on location knowing that I had no way to charge it – if the battery didn't last. Of course, knowing now how long the battery actually lasts, I would have definitely used it more

Because of the special BNC-style waterproof connectors I wasn't able to connect just any 12v battery. I would love to see other, lighter battery options DitoGear does offer a smaller, lighter 7Ah battery pack that offers half the capacity. I would also love to see a cable included that would allow the connection of a wider variety of batteries, but their reduced sized battery should do the trick for most travel applications. It would make traveling with the kits a lot easier. (Airline security don't love to see a 12v lead-acid battery as part of your luggage (checked or carry-on).

Two Versions (Stepper vs. Servo)

Along with the different track lengths. DitoGear offers two versions of the OmniSlider - a stepper version and a servo version. Stepper & Servo refer to the type of motor that the OmniSlider uses. Stepper motors offer high-performance at a lower cost than a servo motor, but the servo version offers vibration-free operation, faster speeds, lower noise levels, and 0.1mm precision with full motion repeatability. The servo motor also offers the ability to carry larger payloads and also uses less power, allowing for up to 48 hours of continuous operation in time-lapse mode. Users who opt for the stepper version can always upgrade at a later date to the server unit

Here are some stats:

Product Servo Unit Stepper Unit
Max Speed 1m / 3.85s 1m / 8s
1m / 3.85s (1)
Min Speed 1m / 450 days 1m / 450 days
Workload (Horizontal operation) 70 kg up to 30 kg
Workload (Vertical operation) 12 kg
15 kg (2)
3.5 kg
Power Consumption (Stand-by mode) 0.2 A 0.8 A
Power Consumption
(Horizontal operation, diagonal or vertical operation downwards)
0.2 A 1.8 A
Power Consumption (Vertical operation, upwards) 1.5 - 3.5 A 2.2 A
Safe operation on power cutoff Yes No
Smooth operation for realtime filming Yes No (3)
Usable for macro shooting Yes No (3)
Usable for sound recording on a set Yes (4) No
Positioning precision 0.12 mm 0.12 mm
V2 Controller & Firmware Yes Yes
Internal motor controller anti-overload protection
w/ reset button on a chassis
Yes No
Motor fan Yes (5) No

Complete System

When purchasing a professional product it's important to know that you are buying a system that will grow as your needs grow, and DitoGear won't let you down. They continue to introduce products that will allow your use of the OmniSlider to grow as your needs grow. The new OmniHead offers complete pan & tilt with a full 360-degree rotation on both axes and can be used with video, time-lapse, and stop-motion operation. It also offers the same repeatability as the slider and is housed in a weatherproof enclosure.

Another add-on is the DitoGear LensDrive, which can be used to automatically pull focus or zoom during your motion or time-lapse sequences. As you get serious about your time-lapse and motion sequences this is will be a must-have product.

DitoGear has also recently partnered with DragonFrame and Dzed Systems to create a new add-on called the DragonBridge. DragonBridge allows you to control all DitoGear products (up to 8 axes) from within the Dragonframe software, which uses a keyframe-based interface to control a wide range of features. Dragonframe is stop-motion animation software used industry wide for creating stop-motion animations.

A few Issues

There were a few things that weren't perfect with the OmniSlider. The Speed Damping (RAMP) dial on the OmniController stopped working after my first use. I tried disconnecting all cables and reconnecting them in the order recommended: controller cable, camera cable, then power cable, but the knob continued to do nothing. I haven't heard of anyone else with this problem so I am assuming it's limited to the review loaner I was sent. The other quibble I had is that the OmniSlider seemed to always need to be reminded which length track I was using. I don't know whether it resets every time I unplug the system or whether it reset with each calibration, either way I felt I needed to remind the system too often about the track length.

In the Box

The OmniSlider ships with the OmniSlider track, the handheld OmniController with built-in intervalometer, a 110/220v AC power supply, a 12v/14Ah Gel type battery with 12v battery charger, case for battery with fuse and power cable, Two 3/8" threaded tripod adapter plates (already installed), 3/8" camera adapter plate (already installed), set of keys, cable to connect specific camera to the slider for time-lapse control.

Review Conclusion

It's no secret that I have loved using the OmniSlider. Its simplicity, versatility, and sturdy, water resistant design makes it ideal for the work I do. While I enjoyed using the system they sent me to review I wouldn't purchase the length they sent. Instead I would opt for the shorter 1.0m version, and would also configure the system to use the smaller, lighter 7Ah battery pack.

Thanks to its versatile motor, the OmniSlider can be used a wide-variety of situations. If you want slow, subtle movements in real-time the OmniSlider is up to the task. If you need to move the camera from end-to-end in just a few seconds the OmniSlider is up to the task. If you want to film a time-lapse sequence over a few hours or over a multi-day period the OmniSlider (and 12v battery) is up to the task. If you want to create stop-motion movies with slow, precise camera moves the OmniSlider is up to the task. If you want to film a scene using the same actor in different roles, the repeatabability of the OmniSlider makes this a reality. How about combining a live scene and time-lapse with the identical camera movements. Easy - just create a time-lapse sequence using motion recording, set up a green screen, and record the live foreground using the same dolly movement (via motion playback). In post, combine the two sequences to create this effect.

I also want to mention that the review unit they sent to me included the DitoGear Support Feet Pro. These are optional feet that are really a must have and something I wish that DitoGear included as standard. Without the optional feet you're forced to use the OmniSlider on a table or with tripods. The support feet allow you to get the OmniSlider low to the ground, a position often used for time-lapses.

Links

Disclosure
The DitoGear OmniSlider was loaned to use by DitoGear for us to test and share our findings. Our reviews are based on what we discover during our time with the product and are never swayed by who sent us the gear to review. While we are very thankful to have manufacturers willing to send us their products to review, we know that it's our readers that keep our site going. Our goal is to make the information in our reviews helpful to our readers by reporting the positives and negatives that we uncover during our time with the product.
 
Copyright @2003-2014 Cameratown.com. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use
All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any form or medium without the
express written permission of Cameratown.com is prohibited.
Please email me with your suggestions or comments.