We are going to get back to our tripod and head review series in the next few weeks but before we do that we have a few other products to review that we got well before Photokina 2016 and the one we shall look at today is a motorized slider by the Illinois based company Pro Media Gear.
Since we started reviewing products here on LensVid around two and a half years ago and even more so since we started working on our vegan food channel a few months ago, finding ways to add production value to our videos has become increasingly important. One of the most versatile accessories that we tested and are still using extensively in this respect is the Syrp Genie mini which allows us to create smooth continuous turning movement with our camera – or – even more useful for some of our product filming – rotating the product itself.
The next step is being able to move the camera forwards and backwards. We tested our first slider on LensVid about a year and a half ago – it was the square slider by the Korean manufacturer com.PACT. To be honest the slider that we got was not really ready for the market, however the Pro Media Gear slider that we are going to look at today is something completely different and by far one of our favorite accessories of 2016.
Pro Media Gear DUO 24″ Motorized Slider – Our favorite accessory of 2016?
As usual we wrote down our impressions in a number of short points:
- Build quality and materials – The Pro Media Gear slider is possibly one of the most well built accessories that we have ever used. It is curved out of a large single aluminium block, making it extremely robust (you can see in the video how a man can hang from the slider – part of a video Pro Media Gear released).
Extremely high build quality – made in the U.S.
- Design – the Pro Media Gear slider has a very special dual sided design (that is why the slider is called Duo). One side of the slider is straight while the other side is curved. Although this isn’t the first slider to implement this design it is the only motorized unit that we know of that can do this and certainly the only one that can change from one side to the next with the motor part in a matter of seconds (you can see us doing this in the video – with a little practice you can do it in well under a minute – and you do not need any tools).
Both curved and straight slider in one – very easy to change
- The slider has well over a dozen 1/4″ 20 threads spread across the entire body, legs and the carriage for connecting accessories and basically anything you might want. There are also 4 bubble levels – 2 on the sides and 2 on the carriage.
4 bubble levels and over a dozen 1/4″ 20 mounts (plus 3/8″ in the center)
- The carriage itself is large and very sturdy like the rest of the slider, it has two knobs – one for locking the carriage in place and the other for connecting the carriage to the slider. By opening this knob you can remove the entire carriage – for example in order to put it on the other side of the slider.
- The legs of the slider are really nice. They are also made of aluminium and they have a very convenient large rubber locks. Once you open the lock you can turn the leg to the other side – simple, but quite ingenious actually. Besides that you can also fold the legs completely for transport. You also get an extra 1/4″ 20 screw which can replace the 3/8″ screw in the middle of the carriage as well as an Allen key which sits with magnets on one of the legs – we never had a need to use it.
- Usage – Using the Pro Media Gear slider is very simple. When we first got the unit and we took it from the very nice padded carrying case it came in, even without reading the instructions (who reads instructions anyway right?) we were able to connect the motor to the carriage and motor in under a minute. When you compare this to many of the much more complex motorized slider systems currently on the market, you can see how this can be a huge advantage.
- After you connect the motor and the controller and put in 3 AA batteries inside the controller (it is not very convenient as the opening is too small but good Enloop batteries lasted us for a very long time), turn the controller on and choose a mode. You can pick a timelapse mode for which you will need to get a shutter release cable which is right for your specific camera model, a loop mode and a video mode. The timelapse mode (which we didn’t use since we didn’t get a cable with our slider) allows you to control the length of the jump and the time between jumps. The loop mode will simply go back and forth at a determined speed and the video mode will move at a determined speed and will be blocked by the sides of the slider.
- What we liked about the controller is the simple ability to control the speed – from very fast movement (which is kind of noisy and a bit shaky) to very slow (and silent) movement. This type of slow movement is important as you can accelerate the video in post and get very smooth movement (at least for stationery subjects).
- Possible improvements – Although we find the slider to be fantastic overall – there are a couple of things that we would be very happy if Pro Media Gear will add or improve in the future. The simplest one is just to sell the controller unit with an arm that you can connect on the side and won’t spin (there are actually two tiny holes next to the 1/4″ 20 hole in the sides of the slider so this should be easy to design) – we might still prefer our solution with a small cheese plate, 2 quick releases and a simple ball head, but it might look a bit too “DIY” for most people (plus it makes the slider a bit longer and harder to put in the case).
Our DIY solution for holding the controller
- Another small improvement we showed in the video but didn’t really mention is rubber coating on the top of the carriage – we used a piece of cork – it isn’t very attractive but it prevents the bottom of the ballhead from scratching the top of the carriage.
A bit less obvious might be to integrate a much stronger motor that will allow a full size DSLR to be moved vertically in a steep angle without a problem – something that you can’t really do with the existing motor (the carriage with our DSLR kept falling at anything above a few degrees of vertical slope). This needs to be done in a way that will not harm the ability to perform slow, accurate movement and might not be super simple to accomplish.
- We would also like to see a wireless module added to the package as an option. We really love what Syrp has done with the app for the Genie mini (see our review here) and we would like to see a similar app by Pro Media Gear that will allow users to control the slider and program precise controlling functions such as stopping in a pre-determined position and starting after a certain amount of time for example.
Finally we would like to see a version where the batteries are placed with the motor – in this way and with a wireless unit we will be able to have a cable free motorized slider – from our experience although the cable is long enough it can sometimes get entangled during the movement of the slider.
Very easy to use controller – a good wireless module option would make this even better
At the end of the day, over the past 3 months we really learned to appreciate the pro media gear motorized slider. Actually we can’t see ourselves without it even for one video – the ability to shoot a smooth and consistent sliding motion quickly every time – the first time – is now a part of our workflow for every video that we make.
The Pro Media Gear 24″ slider isn’t exactly inexpensive – the slider itself cost $700 with another $550 for the motor and controller and an extra $50 for the Pro Media Gear clamp (a really useful accessory in our opinion by the way which lets you connect the slider very very quickly and securely on both sides), so you are looking at around $1300 in total, but in our opinion the quality and added production value that you will be getting for your money is extremely high.
If you are a professional video shooter and you need a super robust quick and easy to setup and use motorized slider with both a straight and curved options – we can highly recommend the Pro Media Gear sliders – we feel that the 24″ is more than enough (we would actually like to see 12″ or 15″ option as well) but Pro Media Gear does offer longer options up to 48″ if you need them.
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