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Glidetrack Shooter Review

Review by Ron Risman -- December 2009


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Glidetrack Shooter SD Portable Slider Review

Description

The Glidetrack Shooter SD is both a portable slider (mini dolly) and a compact shoulder support. This new dual-function slider allows you to get smooth reveal / slide shots on a tripod, table or at ground level and then quickly becomes a shoulder support just by pivoting the front handles into position - all this without ever removing the camera from the Glidetrack. The Glidetrack Shooter was designed for use with virtually any lightweight camcorder or video-capable DSLR (HDSLR).

Breaking it down!


The Glidetrack Shooter is made up of a short metal track that is just shy of 20" in length, a sliding carriage that sits on the track and will accept a tripod plate or head with either 1/4"-20 or 3/8" mounts; a wide and flat rear leg that widens the stance of the Glidetrack to offer stability when used on the ground or table; front hand grips that are easily pivoted into position; a detachable center handle (not shown here) for one-hand shoulder use; and a thin shoulder pad on the underside of the track for extra shoulder comfort.

The adjustable front hand grips are also used to help level the Glidetrack when shooting on uneven surfaces, a feature that is lacking on most affordable sliders.

Basically, Glidetrack has taken their popular Glidetrack HD and SD slider and turned them into a dual-function device, while only adding about £25 to the price ($35-$40 U.S.). A very small premium when you consider that even inexpensive shoulder rigs start at $200-$300.

The total length of the Glidetrack Shooter is just 20.5", making it a great travel companion. While this is not a long slider, a properly positioned & timed slide will appear to be much longer in length when viewed back. The shorter track also makes it very stable when performing slides on a tripod, even a lighter weight carbon fiber tripod. This means you can keep the heavy duty aluminum tripod at home.


The Review

Before writing this review I spent about 10 days getting to know the Glidetrack Shooter SD. If you're an avid reader of Cameratown, you'll know that I just finished reviewing the inexpensive indiSLIDERmini about a month ago and loved its value proposition. While its carriage had a bit of wobble, it could be controlled with the hand that was doing the slide, and at $99 was a bargain for anyone looking to add an inexpensive portable slider to their gear bag. While the new Glidetrack Shooter is more expensive, its value proposition is actually greater than even the $99 indiSLIDERmini, since it doubles as a shoulder rig and also offers better controlled slides (no wobble).

The Glidetrack Shooter was delivered well wrapped and pre-assembled. The only thing I needed to do was to mount my own camera plate or tripod head to the carriage. Glidetrack recommends keeping the camera as close to the carriage as possible since it keeps the center of gravity lower and keeps the DSLR's LCD screen close to eye level when using it as a shoulder support. The Bogen/Manfrotto 701HDV and a 577QR plate were suggested but I found that the Sunpak Grip Action ball head I already had in house worked great. It is taller than Glidetrack recommends, and while a shorter head would probably be smarter had no issues with its height - even when used as a shoulder support.

One of the problems I have had with lower-profile heads on a slider is accessibility. When using a low-profile ball head, the base of the camera is often so close to the track that getting my hand in between to loosen or tighten the head becomes tricky. If I use a video head, like the recommended 701HDV or similar model, inevitably the pan & tilt handle gets in the way of the track. The Sunpak pistol grip ball head is only 1.25" taller than the HDV and its pistol-style design means there isn't a long extension arm that could get in the way. The drawback to the Sunpak pistol grip is that you can't really pan & slide simultaneously, though when the Glidetrack is mounted on a tripod you can pan or tilt the tripod's head while doing the slide. All in all I was very pleased with the performance of the Sunpak Pistol grip on the Glidetrack and the Glidetrack handled the extra height without issue.

Shoulder Support

Two handed operation using both front handles for extra stability.


Using the Glidetrack Shooter as a shoulder rig is as easy as pivoting the front handles down, sliding the camera to the front part of the track and locking it down, then placing the Glidetrack on your shoulder, allowing the shoulder pad to sit comfortably between you and the track.

While the Glidetrack works surprisingly well to stabilize your footage in run 'n' gun situations, it wasn't designed to replace a conventional (and more expensive) shoulder rig. First, it lacks any counter weight, meaning that your arms will bear most of the weight of your DSLR, lens, and anything else attached. Second, since the Glidetrack doesn't use an industry standard rod system, there are currently no provisions for adding accessories such as a matte box or external monitor, and lastly, since the track is straight, the LCD viewfinder on the back of the camera is not positioned in front of you, though positioning the camera at a slight angle away from you corrects for this. While testing the Glidetrack Shooter SD I used the shoulder rig with both the LCDVF loupe and the Zacuto Z-Finder loupe without any issues or strain.

Using the Glidetrack Shooter SD as a shoulder support will allow you to get grab shots that you might have missed if you had to set up the tripod first. It will allow you to be mobile while providing good stabilization, something that is VERY important with the rolling shutter issues that plague today's CMOS-based hybrid DSLR's. If you find yourself needing to support your camera for long periods or if you need to attach an external monitor, audio accessories, or a matte box then you may need to bite the bullet and purchase a dedicated shoulder rig, but until then the Glidetrack will provide excellent, if basic, shoulder support.

Glidetrack Shooter with Center Handle
One-hand operation using attachable center handle, leaving the other hand free to pull focus.


Glidetrack also includes a detachable screw-on handle that mounts in the center, between the two pivoting handle/legs. This center handle makes one-hand use possible, leaving the other hand free to manually pull focus. It is a great addition to the package, but in the future I would love to see a solution that could pivot and fold under the track so that it's available when needed and close-by when not. I'm one of those people that tend to lose anything removable, if it can't be attached to something. Even without the center handle I found that I could cross one of my arms under the front platform, between the two handles, to shoot one handed (see photo below).

12/15/2009 Update: I just discovered that while I'm not using the handle I could screw it into the same front hole, but from the top. This way, it wouldn't get lost while traveling, and is easily removed and pocketed when I'm out using the Glidetrack Shooter as a slider.


Crossing arm between handles for one-handed operation


I also want to drive home the convenience of being able to keep the camera on the Glidetrack when going from shoulder, to slider, to tripod. Last weekend I spent the day walking and filming along part of the Freedom Trail in Boston. My camera stayed mounted to the Glidetrack all day and the Glidetrack stayed connected to the tripod, except for a few times when I wanted to get ground-level slides. I even used it as a shoulder rig while keeping the tripod attached (see photo below). Whenever I walked from one location to another I just closed the tripod legs, put the Glidetrack over my shoulder, and held onto the tripod legs - my shoulder bearing the weight of the camera, making it a perfect way to travel with all three items.


In this photo I was shooting using the Glidetrack on my shoulder (backwards) while the attached tripod was braced near my body for extra support. This image was grabbed from a video frame that was taken by Keith Tharp of Champion Photo, LLC.


When we got to Faneuil Hall I set up the tripod to record a street musician. The camera was locked into the Glidetrack, which was connected to the tripod. While watching the musician it dawned on me that the camera was already set-up to do a slide, so I softly loosed the locking screw and started to slowly slide the camera across the track. It was great to have that convenience.

Slider
First and foremost, the Glidetrack Shooter is a portable dolly (a.k.a. slider) and one that is based on the very popular Glidetrack SD & HD sliders. There are also two versions of the Glidetrack Shooter, the SD and the HD. The main difference between the two is the SD is made with 10mm rails 40mm apart, and the HD is made with 16mm rails 60mm apart. Both versions are the same length, but the HD version has broader feet. Glidetrack sent me the Glidetrack Shooter SD version to review, which seems like the perfect choice for hybrid DSLR's, but for those using heavier cameras or 35mm adapters, you might want to consider going with the stronger and wider-stance 'HD' version.



The most important aspect of any slider is the smoothness of the slide, and the Glidetrack performed flawlessly. Horizontal and incline slides were very smooth with just a hint of resistance. If you plan to capture audio with the camera's built-in microphone I should note that there is some friction noise when doing a slide, but in most cases you would likely be adding in audio after the fact (music, voice over, or captured audio from a remote recorder). When the glidetrack arrived, it included a note explaining how to realign the bearings of the carriage if it wasn't sliding smoothly. No technical knowledge is needed to do this, its just a matter of putting pressure on one side of the slide carriage itself after loosening the four carriage screws. The one sent seemed to slide smoothly right out of the box, but I went through this exercise anyway not knowing whether or not I would see a difference. It didn't, but it's nice to know it's an easy fix if this does happen. I have now been using the Glidetrack for about 10 days in a variety of weather conditions and have not had any issues.

The one thing I've learned while using the Glidetrack Shooter is that water is NOT a slider's best friend. While shooting in Boston it rained lightly the entire day until it turned to snow during the evening hours. Water on the track increases resistance making slides less consistent from start to finish. When this happened I usually just re-did the slide using a little bit more speed and also wiped the track down from time to time using a micro-fiber cloth. It's also possible that the cold weather (36 degrees) was affecting the slide rather than the rain, but either way there is a solution - use silicon spray to rub down each side of the track with a soft cloth. Others have successfully used Lemon Pledge furniture polish, but silicon spray is probably a smarter option as it helps to protect the rubber parts from drying out, while making the track super slick. Just be careful not to get any on your hands if you plan to handle your camera equipment.

Unlike the indiSLIDERmini that I previously reviewed, the Glidetrack slides smoothly even if the camera & lens combination weren't center balanced. While it is always advisable to do slides with your hand on the actual carriage, the Glidetrack was still smooth even when I opted to control the slide using the pistol grip instead of the carriage.

The handles that help to turn the Glidetrack Shooter into a shoulder support can also be used when using it as a slider. If you place the Glidetrack on uneven ground you can pivot one or both legs independently to help balance the slider. You can also use these front handles / legs to create an elevated floor or table slide toward or away from a subject. This is ideal for capturing floor standing objects such as plants and pets or tabletop slides for flowers, gift boxes, lamps, etc.



For those who have used previous Glidetrack models, the new Glidetrack Shooter features a new carriage lock, providing a way to keep the camera stationary when carrying it from shot to shot.

Shorter, Portable Track Length
Many might doubt that the effect a short 20" slide can have, but there are a few ways of making your slides appear much longer.
  • Position the camera and glidetrack so that the beginning of the slide starts behind a post or column or some other foreground object. Then slide to reveal the rest of the scene.
  • For wide landscapes where there may be no foreground objects, place the Glidetrack low to the ground to do the slide. The part of the ground closest to the camera will help create the illusion of faster and longer motion, for the same reason as above. It creates a very nice 3D effect.
  • Similar to the first suggestion, glide across or through nearby objects to reveal the scene behind it. This can be achieved by gliding across a nearby railing or gliding forward or backwards through an opening.
  • Slower slides also allow the overall effect to naturally last longer, but the slide should still follow one of the principle suggestions above.



I put this quick video together to demonstrate different slides using the Glidetrack Shooter SD. I left the original sound recorded by the camera.


A portable slider / dolly is not designed to track large subjects, the way a track & dolly system would. Instead the focus is on portability and providing a means to capture short dolly-style shots while on the go - something not possible with larger, professional systems.

If there is one thing I would change about the Glidetrack it would be to make the feet taller by about an inch. This would allow you to keep a wider variety of quick release mounts attached to the bottom of the Glidetrack for easy tripod mount & dismounts. As it is now, some QR plates are too tall, forcing you to remove them when placing the Glidetrack on the ground or on a table.

Here is a short trailer I created from my day filming in Boston. The Glidetrack Shooter SD was used for all slide movies in this video. Glidetrack shots appear at the following locations: 18 seconds, 23 seconds, 35 seconds, 48 seconds, 54 - 1:18 seconds, 1:27 seconds, 1:34 seconds, 1:50 - 1:54 seconds, 2:03 seconds, 2:13 seconds, 2:25 seconds, 3:01 seconds, 3:42 seconds. There were also a few shots that looked like pulls that were actually done in post production (1:43 seconds, 1:57 seconds, 2:19 seconds) and not with the Glidetrack.



Conclusion
The HD video capabilities found in many of today's DSLR's have only been available since late 2008, yet in this short time, an entirely new market has developed. These new camera's combined with tools like the Glidetrack Shooter are putting the power and creativity of professional filmmaking into the hands of up & coming cinematographers. Everyone from event videographer's to motion picture studios have taken note of the flexibility, image quality, and power these affordable HD camera's offer and are quickly looking for solutions to enhance stability and overall production values.

While there will always be high-end solutions for those with that type of budget, it is great to see companies like Glidetrack coming out with affordable solutions that are truly useful day-in and day-out. The Glidetrack Shooter SD & HD represent a smart and thoughtful upgrade from the original SD & HD models. By adding pivoting handles that also act as adjustable legs, as well as a small shoulder pad, Glidetrack has helped their product stand out from the pack by giving it two uses for the price of one. Glidetrack is sold overseas for £199 (Shooter SD) and £299 (Shooter HD), which translates to U.S. dollars to about $325 (Shooter SD) and $490 (Shooter HD). Shipping to the states is around $29.

Despite the less than stellar weather that I dealt with during the review period, the Glidetrack Shooter SD performed exceptionally well. While the 20" length is a bit short, it has the advantage of extreme portability and stability when used on top of a lightweight carbon fiber tripod. As mentioned in the review, you would never know by looking at the final video that the track was only 20" in length, especially when you use foreground objects to help give the appearance of a longer slide. The shorter length also makes it a breeze to fit in your luggage when traveling.

For those new to cinematography, the choices of what to buy can be overwhelming. Sure a slider adds a great look to any production, but a shoulder support is something you might use more often. With the Glidetrack Shooter SD or HD you can kill two birds with one stone. The slider produces excellent visual results, and the ability to use it as a shoulder support will keep your shots steady in those run 'n' gun situations. The fact that it is priced below that of most shoulder rigs only helps the decision.

While I would like to see a fold-away center handle, taller legs, and maybe even a curved shoulder pad added to the Glidetrack Shooter, the product does what it's intended to do and does it very well. For $325 you get both a high-quality slider and a decent shoulder support in one. That combination makes the Glidetrack Shooter one of the best values on the market and is one of the first products you should consider adding to your HDSLR purchase if you want to go beyond shaky handheld video.

You can get more information on the Glidetrack Shooter by visiting Glidetrack.com

Photo Gallery


Glidetrack rails and carriage


Rear foot and shoulder pad


Underside of rails and carriage


Pivoting Handles - slider / flat position


Pivoting Handles - shoulder / incline position

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