A slider is a stiff rail or track that most modern videographers think they must have. Often, it sticks out between three and six feet and seems clumsy at any size. It is awkward to carry and time-consuming to assemble in a field in which every second counts. They are needless and can be counterproductive. There is a certain mindset that makes people crave these and similar gizmos, and many videographers feel compelled to join the wave and sport them, even if it means investing in miniatures that are less obtrusive, but clumsy to the mind’s visual spirit nonetheless.
One of the best videographers I knew several decades ago worked with a cheap consumer video camera, used a small light, and for interviews used an old microphone connected by a tired intermittent wire. By many standards he was not a pro. He knew nothing at all about light, and what he thought he knew about technical stuff was mostly wrong. But he had heart! For years we crossed paths in more religious circles where video was not fully approved and whatever studio hired me was skipped for video. Or maybe I was asked to recommend what some called “a jacket and hat,” or an invisible video man.
I am very passionate about everything I do. At an event there is nothing I believe in more than the importance of having one person in charge of stills and video. But he was little more than a man with a phone, or the closest thing to gear at a phone’s size 25 years ago.
What I liked about his shooting style was that he had a knack for knowing what was about to happen between people. I always say that I am not there to get what is happening, but what is about to happen — not the scheduled key moments, but the great human interactions missed by most photographers and videographers.
And he was surprisingly great that way, I suspect because he was a people person who loved what he was doing. Better gear certainly would have helped, and most anyone had better gear than he did. They had better lenses and more camera controls, and they did editing, for which he was not being paid nor had the time to do after working a full-time job.
He would have loved better camera lights and sound, but he’d have no use for a slider — and neither should you — at your simcha.
Cameras the size of a fist meet or exceed the old massive professional machines, and that portability and dexterity serve not only as a rationale to take it easy and charge less, but to say more and show more of what is important while charging for skills, not simplicity. It is actually more difficult to use today’s popular digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras than to use the big shoulder mounted cameras, because they are designed to be “played,” not to be “set.”
For years I have spoken about camera ergonomics and the tremendous limitations of the recently adopted and currently utilized video cameras. But there is no more use in complaining or any chance of going back. Pretty much the same limitations still exist. The few who have the right experience to know this can make it work to visually tell what needs to be told.
Perhaps in a few more years, more sophisticated lenses will be developed that will give today’s popular DSLR cameras the optical capabilities that shoulder-mounted cameras used to have. Though few, if any, DSLR-trained users will bring the understanding needed to make the most of such lenses, eventually a few will want to experiment and will have the desire to work harder to do the magic that most can’t achieve.
Few videographers know this because most are gear-based, not heart-based. As cameras got smaller, videographers became convinced that they would not look professional and were all too eager to add on attachments like stabilizing brackets, larger batteries, wider lights, and big, externally mounted monitors.
It was inevitable that manufacturers would come up with new gear to sell to videographers who love the small cameras yet find them hard to play.
A slider is a track that keeps the camera moving smoothly in a perfectly straight line. You might wonder how that is different from a tripod. If you try sliding a tripod you will immediately realize that with three wheels on the ground attached to large heavy legs, there is nothing keeping it moving straight and the slightest bump will wiggle the view. Sounds like a slider is essential? No!
A slider is used in those shots you see of cakes moving, the vantage point of the gown in the bridal room changing, or the place card table “sliding” across your view. It is rarely used in scenes with moving people. Those scenes need to be on point. They are specific — of specific moments, take up specific distances, and are in specific spaces. It takes a few extra moments to position a slider and you must know the content and its distance for what you will want in focus during the slide.
If the action is important, movement is often a distraction. If the moment cannot be missed, you cannot take even a second more to adjust the slider. If anything blocks the slider’s placement left or right, that is a problem. When someone moves to block the camera as it is sliding, your shot is ruined!
You lose the time to mount and unmount the camera, as well as your mobility in all other directions. Worse, that slider, like any piece of gear, has the potential to distract your total mental focus and ability to feel with your heart. Mastery of some gear, such as an additional light or a tricky lens, eventually enhances the emotion you will be able to sculpt with your craft. The slider’s whole claim to being is to add personality and excitement to static shots or to shots that need camera movement to be more interesting. But, interestingly, it makes all its shots look similar in a way that gets old and uninteresting.
The view of a moving camera can strengthen a shot. Skilled shooters can do this by hand, and they can do it in any direction with little effort, no delay, and plenty of heartfelt excitement. They can do it often, constantly, and as the moment strikes without any added weight or investment in clumsy gear for your guests to bump into. Unlike a slider, they can do it so subtly that you would not even notice it, being so transfixed with the content that such videographers can acquire with heart, mind, and a mind’s eye on the impending action. All while the rest are looking down at their gear, thinking of and worrying about even more controls, knobs, and settings, and missing great stuff they don’t know they are missing.
Rabenko Photography & Video Arts is located at 1053 Broadway in Woodmere. To learn more, contact Gary@Rabenko.com, 1-888-RABENKO, 888-722-3656, or visit Rabenko.com.