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indiSLIDERmini Portable Dolly Review

Reviewed by Ron Risman -- October / November 2009

Video Demonstration and Review




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IndiSystem's indiSLIDERmini Review

Description

The indiSLIDERmini is a low-cost, 24"-wide portable dolly system designed for videographer's and cinematographer's. While there have been other low-cost sliders on the market, none have been priced under $250, let alone $100. This is exactly what intrigued me about the indiSLIDERmini.



A portable slider is designed to offer the videographer another option in their bag of tricks to enhance the overall production value of their final product. The slider has become very popular among indie filmmakers and event cinematographer's as it makes it very easy to create what is often referred to as a "reveal shot," where the camera is positioned close behind an object then smoothly slid over to reveal a more expansive view. For example, a scene starts with the camera recording a tight shot of a marble column inside a church, and then smoothly slides horizontally to reveal a bride/groom getting married.

These types of moves are often used as transitions between scenes and can also be used to create some stunning visuals when used low to the ground.

A portable slider is the sibling to the professional dolly, used for tracking shots in motion pictures. These portable 'dollies' are much quicker to set up and use, but due to their shorter 24" - 36" length, are more often used to create a subtle 3D effect or reveal-style shots. The indiSLIDERmini offers a 24" wide track making it very portable. In fact, it will easily fit on the side of many camera roller bags, inside a tripod bag, and even will fit inside most suitcases.

The big thing that sets the indiSLIDERmini apart from some of the other low-cost options on the market is the price. With a starting price of $99, the indiSLIDERmini is the most affordable slider for prosumer or HDSLR camera's. Other competing models, such as the Glidetrack, typically start at around $350 - $400 U.S. I am not normally a price-only buyer, since I believe that you often get what you pay for, however I have been impressed by the overall quality of the indiSLIDERmini.
  • The track length is 24", which may not sound like much, but when used appropriately will create a look that you'll swear was shot using a longer track. This is also the ideal length for single tripod use, making it quick and easy to set up. See some video examples near the bottom of this review.

  • The track offers 3/8" and 1/4-20" mounting screws for easy mounting to a tripod QR plate or directly to the tripod legs. Unlike longer tracks, you won't need a tripod on each end to keep it stable.

  • The track itself is very sturdy, which means it won't flex when used with a heavier gear (within reason).

Quick-Release Mount

The camera mount on the indiSLiDERmini is round with an inner removable 'puck' that can be attached to the tripod mount of your camera or to a tripod's QR plate. The puck is held in place on the slider by tightening a screw on the rear of the slider mount. I have two issues with this design. The first is that when the camera is sitting on the slider mount the tightening screw is a little tricky to get at. The other concern I have with this style mount is that it really isn't 'locked in' and would make me question whether it would hold my camera with a heavier lens if I were to tilt the track down just a little bit.

Two Configurations

The indiSLIDERmini is available in two configurations. The standard configuration, which at the time of this reviews sells for $99, is designed to mount onto tripod legs or tripod head, while the "deluxe" version, which sells for $169, also includes attachable metal feet and a pistol style ball head.

The attachable metal feet allow the deluxe version to be used on any flat surface (ground, floor, table, etc.) and is great for getting low-angle shots, close-ups of items on a table, and more. The pistol style ball-head, which I did not get a chance to review, makes it easy to angle and rotate the camera to different positions for more creative slide effects.

You can attach any your own tripod head to the indiSLIDERmini, however I found that ball heads work the best since video heads typically have a handle that will likely limit the angle since the handle may quickly come in contact either with the track itself or the ground (or table) is you're using it in those positions. The ball head that they include in the Deluxe version seems to have a slightly higher stance, which should greatly reduce or eliminate any interference when positioning the angle of the camera.

Slider Head "Wobble"

While the slider glides smoothly across the track, the slider head isn't snug against the track, which means that it can easily wobble fore/aft on the track if you're not careful. When I first noticed this wobble I wrote the product off in my mind as "so close, but yet so far." After additional testing I discovered that this slight fore/aft wobble could easily be controlled by placing my hand around the base of the slider head, instead of trying to hold the camera itself during the slide. Now, as long as I slide the head down the track while keeping slight pressure on the back of the base using my thumb, the head won't tilt forward or 'wobble' during the slide. Once I realized this simple workaround I started to see the value in the product - and the resulting test clips were coming out great. I can't imagine that it would take much for indiSystem to tighten this up, though I don't know for sure if they had to do it this way in order to make it slide smoother.

I also later learned, fter watching online video's of more expansive slider systems, that holding the slide head by its base is the preferred way of doing it.

Video created using the indiSLIDERmini

Conclusion

While the indiSLIDERmini may not be the professional's choice due it's tolerance issue that I mentioned, I think it's the ideal choice for many filmmakers and videographer's who are on a more restrictive budget or who have other places that they would also like to spend their money - fast lenses, fluid tripod head, steadicams, Z-Finder, extra batteries, memory cards, shoulder rig, etc.

This product is most likely aimed at the new cinematographer who is now using digital 35mm camera's like the EOS 7D or 5D Mark II. Speaking as someone who has dived head first into cinematography, I can tell you that the cost of acquiring the right gear can be very very expensive - so when an affordable product comes along that provides me the opportunity to add additional production value to my films, I am more than thrilled.

In the past year I have easily spent over $6,000 on camera's alone not including faster lenses, extra li-ion batteries, wireless lavaliere mic system, shoe-mounted microphone, Steadicam Merlin, carbon fiber tripod, and most recently a Zacuto Z-finder. The cost of gear alone is staggering so I welcome a $99 slider than can easily fit into my luggage when traveling or attached to the side of my roller bag while out in the field. I am sure that I will upgrade to a more professional slider system at some point, but for now how can I pass up a $99 slider that does the trick. FYI. indiSystem does make a pro slider, called the indiSLIDERpro that starts at a very reasonable $399 and comes in 24" and 36" lengths. price.

More Information

You can purchase the new indiSLIDERmini directly from indifocus.com


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