A slider is a simple rail with a camera mount that allows you to get a smooth dolly effect in your motion shots. This small device creates a sophisticated effect and immediately gives your project an added level of visual interest. Even a relatively short rail of three or four feet can create a fantastic shot. You can change the angle of the rail for diagonal moves and even close to vertical, but they’re best suited for more horizontal motion. To properly work in the vertical axis, what you need is a jib or a crane. The only problem with jibs has been that they’re usually large, heavy, difficult to transport and require an assistant—until now.
Seeing the opportunity presented by the DSLR filmmaking revolution, manufacturers have started to make smaller and lighter jibs that are designed specifically for these lightweight cameras. If you’ve seen any kind of behind-the-scenes footage from a film production, you’ve probably seen a jib or a crane of some kind. Looking like a long boom mounted asymmetrically on a big tripod, the unit has a camera on one end and a counterbalance system on the other. Essentially, it’s a simple lever with the tripod acting as the fulcrum. The longer the lever and the heavier the camera, the more counterbalance weight you need. For Hollywood movies that are shot with big, traditional movie cameras, the whole system has to be huge and extremely heavy. For us as DSLR filmmakers, things can come way down in scale.
For all of its apparent simplicity, there’s one especially critical aspect to a jib that makes it less suitable for DIYers who might want to try building one with parts from the local Home Depot. The camera has to pivot to keep the framing consistent as you move the jib up and down. For example, let’s say you’re a wedding shooter and you’re doing a little video segment for the client. You want to start the shot framed up from eye level as the couple kisses, and with the camera mounted on the jib, you’ll raise the camera to get more of an overhead perspective. As the camera moves up, it also moves back a little, so you’ll also be backing off slightly, which shows more of the surroundings. It’s not a big move. The camera will move up about three feet. If the camera doesn’t pivot, instead of keeping the bride and groom in the frame, you’ll end up with the camera pointed skyward. That pivot mechanism is critical, and it’s best left to the manufacturers.
We mentioned that the bigger the camera, the bigger the jib system has to be. For the smaller jibs we address in this article, a DSLR with a moderately sized lens is the sweet spot. If you’re using a big telephoto (like a 300mm ƒ/4 or larger), that large, heavy lens, even on the relatively small DSLR, may require a bigger, more heavy-duty jib system.
As with most equipment, there’s a lot of variety in available jib sizes. We’re focusing on jibs that are suitable for DSLR users and are relatively lightweight and portable. By portable, we mean a range from airline travel-ready up to fitting in the trunk of a car or small SUV.
Jibs are pretty simple tools, and with a little practice, a novice can quickly become good at using one smoothly. Some jibs can be motorized, which is a particularly nice feature for doing smooth and repeatable moves. Also, if you’re going to do any time-lapse work, a motor is a necessity.
Here are a few selected examples of what’s available.
Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler
Kessler is well known as an innovator in gear for DSLR filmmakers. The company makes several jibs in different sizes. The Pocket Jib Traveler is the company’s newest and most portable jib. It collapses down to 27 inches in length and weighs 5.5 pounds. Kessler designed the jib to be ultralight and packable for any shooting endeavor. It has drag control and locks, and because of its unique folding mechanism, the Pocket Jib Traveler doesn’t need to be taken apart for travel. You can attach a camera rig that weighs up to 10 pounds to the jib. For a DSLR shooter, that’s sufficient for most situations. As with any jib, the Pocket Jib Traveler needs a weight for counterbalance. The unit has a sliding, extending rail for the counterbalance, which helps minimize the actual amount of weight you need to use. The jib has 3?8-16 and 1?4-20 mounting options, allowing attachment to any tripod. www.kesslercrane.com
DitoGear’s MiniJib is great for working in small spaces. It’s available with arm lengths of 1.0 and 1.5 meters, and can handle up to 7.5 kg for motorized operation and 15.4 kg for manual operation. You can use it three ways: motorized with the OmniHead; manually with the MiniJib Manual Operation add-on; or manually mounted on sliders, dollies and other supports. The MiniJib can be used with any of DitoGear’s Motion controllers, from the battlefield-tested OmniController to the state-of-the-art multiaxis wireless Evolution. www.ditogear.com
Libec Swift Jib50
Libec’s Swift Jib50 features a telescopic arm that can extend 35.5 inches or slide back 12 inches toward the rear. This allows higher angles than other Libec jib arms. Maximum payloads are 22 pounds at full extension (75 inches), 33 pounds at 57-inch extension and 44 pounds at minimum extension (39.5 inches). The unit itself weighs 36.1 pounds. It’s available alone or in a kit with a tripod and dolly. Ideal for budget-limited, small-crew projects, the Swift Jib50 is easy to operate from the rear or for delicate camera work from the front. www.libecsales.com
Carbon XL 10
The light and versatile Carbon XL 10 can become a camera crane, camera jib, dolly with track, motorized time-lapse track, car mount, zero-gravity head, remote-control camera and motorized rotating platform, all from a single kit of components. All Angle Balance requires less counterweight, while Aim and Shoot Controls make it easy to adjust the pan and tilt of the camera when it’s located remotely at the end of the crane arm. Designed specifically for airline travel and difficult-to-access locations requiring hand-carrying, the carbon-fiber system weighs just 50 pounds (100 pounds including cases). www.Carbon-XL.com
Cinevate Axis Jib
Featuring a single-tube design, Cinevate’s Axis Jib sets up quickly and provides strong, solid support for up to 50 pounds—anything from a Canon EOS 5D Mark III to a fully loaded ARRI ALEXA. The four-foot arm produces a seven-foot vertical arc. Dry-erase marker rings and a removable magnetic marker provide good repeatability of movements. The Jib’s 100mm bowl indexes at 90°, has pan and tilt locks, and supports underslung vertical- and horizontal-mounted heads. The fully enclosed structure provides maintenance-free o