It’s 5.54 AM. 2nd January 2017. I’ve been awake since 02.31 AM. I’ve just fired up the Nespresso machine. Tonight, for no apparent reason, it’s been one of those nights that I just couldn’t sleep, and given that it’s *that* time of year I’ve spent a good part of the night pondering things, and thinking about what I want to do this year.
We all do it around New Year – set new goals, targets and challenges for ourselves. And for some reason, being awake all night has made me want to share a long-winded story about something I want to do this year and why I’ve made a very specific purchase in order to achieve it. What can I say, I’m nothing but an oddball, and perhaps I just find writing this out gets it out of my head so I can fill the space it leaves with more nonsense ramblings – so bear with me. 🙂
For years now, I’ve wanted to make a creative break into video. And I use the term ‘video’ as opposed to filmmaking or cinematography. I’m not a writer, or storyteller in that way. But I’ve long wanted to create video with my camera since I got my 5DMkII some years ago (replaced in 2015 by the MkIII).
Now those of you who know me personally will know that in my day job, part of that is creating video – and so it’s not new to me at all – but I’ve yet to really dabble with it in my personal creative work. Most of what I create for work is interview/’talking head’ videos that are for internal communication purposes with our staff.
I’ve wanted to bring better production value to those videos for a long time, and I’ve tried to do that quite a bit this year – getting better at recording audio, starting to bring in multiple camera angles, and just generally taking more time to do things to get a better end product. I’ve spent quite a bit of time learning new bits of stuff through the course of the year – bits of colour correction, editing etc. I’m getting there, slow but sure.
But there’s one thing that has always eluded me in video. That’s camera movement. And it’s the one thing that I’ve long struggled to create well – to the point I’ve never really pushed myself to try to create it properly, because when I do – I’ve ended up with rubbish that frustrates me and far too often, I walk away disappointed.
I’ve spent countless hours looking at motion gear for filmmakers – jibs to dollies, sliders to glidecams, gimbals to timelapse gizmos. I’ve even bought a few bits of kit to try. But nothing has really worked for me, to the point that there’s a really rubbish slider and a glidecam kit sitting in the cupboard doing absolutely nothing. Without knowing I can create movement (and that it’ll look good) – I just can’t get motivated or know where to start.
The biggest problem for me is practicality. I don’t drive. Which means for something to be used regularly, it needs to be portable and, easy (and ideally quick) to set up. Carrying an extra case for equipment beyond a camera bag and a tripod really isn’t an option for me. I can’t rely on the availability of a willing driver or extra pair of hands every time I want to go out and shoot some video. A four foot slider that I need a tripod at either end for and takes twenty minutes to set up for every shot just won’t work for me.
So for several weeks I researched countless options on how I can get some motion – even just a little bit – into some video – but to get it reliably, in a way I could work with singlehandedly and not need support or people to help me achieve it. Endless reviews read, unboxings and YouTube demos watched.
Eventually, enter (independently of each other) Edelkrone and Chase Jarvis. Let’s start with the former.
Some time back, I had discovered the Edelkrone SliderPLUS. A fantastically well designed slider to give movement in a much more compact package than normal, with additional modules that could provide motorised panning, tilting and timelapse options. When I found it, and looked at the price, I was pretty taken aback – it wasn’t necessarily that it was out of my price range – but it was an awful lot to throw at something until I was sure I was committed to that path.
But by chance, in my current search, I had come across a new product on the Edelkrone site – the SliderONE and Motion Module. A six-inch, app controlled portable slider. Battery operated, pocket sized and kinda cute. Because that’s also important, right?
But it’s a very small amount of motion – is it enough? Is it quiet? Could I use it easily for my own work and also use it to bring a bit of visual interest to those work interview shoots? And the price – it’s still not exactly.. cheap. There’s a real lack of demonstration videos out there – it’s a very new product, and most people who ordered the device have only begun to receive it in recent weeks. So I thought I’d keep it on the radar for a while, and keep looking.
Enter Chase Jarvis, who did absolutely nothing. Again, those who know me, will know I’ve followed Chase’s posts and goings on for many years. One of the world’s leading photographers, creative teachers and I guess – inspirational speakers (though I’m not sure he goes out and does speeches – but he shares so much of his thoughts and experiences via social media, it’s effectively the same).
So what did Chase do? Well, like I said. Nothing. Chase left something in my head that has stuck since he launched a project in 2009 called The Best Camera. He launched a mobile photography app, a book and an online community centered around mobile (phone) photography on the iPhone. The app and site have since closed, and he told the story about what happened, and why the project failed only recently here.
I quote from Chase’s site:
“I’ve always been a firm believer that the gear is less important than people think. When you realize what a photograph really is, all the technological stuff starts to fade away. Photographs are not about megapixels or dynamic range, but stories and moments. Taking snapshots to inform my commercial work, I quickly realized, the best camera is the one that’s with you.”
So what does that have to do with Edelkrone? Nothing directly, but the ‘mantra’ of the whole Best Camera thing is in that last sentence. The best camera is the one that’s with you.
The best camera motion tool is the one that’s with you.
All of a sudden, the SliderONE didn’t just look a tempting toy; it made sense. Everything else didn’t any more.
If I want to bring a bit of motion into my creative work, I want to have a tool to help me do it that doesn’t get in the way, cause me to think “can I really be bothered with all this hassle”, something that can live in my bag, all the time and just be ready to help me shoot compelling content. It needs to be unobtrusive, and not mean a change in routine, or special considerations (like weird, hard to find batteries or needs an unusual tripod mount).
My own needs are very different from others. I’m sure this wouldn’t be the product for everyone. But it has given me a whole list of ideas and shots I know I could get now with so much less hassle. I’ve started to think of things I can use it for around some of the familiar places I shoot, things I can do with it for work and some interview projects I want to work on to bring up my own skills – to see if I can bring some of these ideas to life.
Sometimes, you need something that can give you a creative kick-start. I feel I’ve long lost my inspiration to shoot on the city streets in the way I used to – but having the option there for moving images now means I just might get out there again to see what I can create in a different way.
So, you’re probably wondering (if you haven’t fallen asleep already) – what has all this got to do with a floral macro, which is the header image for this post? One of the other things that drew me to SliderONE besides it’s tiny size is the potential to bring movement to macro shots. If you watch the Edelkrone promo video, there’s a fantastic shot of a bundle of spaghetti. I can think of so many little macro things to do with this gizmo. I’ll just have to go and buy a bunch of flowers just to play!
So will this be the only slider I ever buy? I doubt that very much. Chances are high I’ll get another one of those highly impractical bigger sliders further down the line – but for now, to kickstart me – this is (almost) enough for now.
Only two things I regret about hitting the order button. One – I have an agonising three week wait for dispatch. And two – I really should have pushed the boat out further and ordered their FlexTilt Head 2 at the same time.
Maybe next time, Edelkrone. I watch and wait.