Review: Digital Juice Slyder Dolly
"It's amazing what adding a little motion brings to the production value of a video - far more than you'd ever imagine."
When shooting video for producing a promo for your church, the most common thing to do is put your camera up on a tripod to get nice, steady footage. Adding a little motion to your shots can bring your production up to a new level—watch any movie or TV commercial and you’ll see that many of the shots have the camera moving slowly to add some depth to the shot. But just shooting handheld also adds a lot of unwanted and distracting camera movement to the shot as well.Digital Juice makes a few products to help you add motion to your shots while retaining a stable camera, and in this review we’re taking a look at one of them: the Digital Juice Slyder Dolly.The Slyder Dolly is a rail system with a mounting plate that glides along the rails. Accessories are available that attach to the mounting plate, providing a system to mount your camera. There’s a ball head for mounting a smaller camera such as a DSLR; there’s also a hi-hat for mounting either a 75mm or 100mm video head to give you more tripod-like flexibility in panning and tilting the camera while moving it along the dolly. And the plate has numerous mounting holes that would accommodate almost anything you’d want to attach to it, such as articulating arms, lighting fixtures or an external monitor.The rail system, available in both 40- and 64-inch lengths, can be mounted on a tripod via the tripod’s video head (40-inch version only), C-stands, positioned on top of a table or between two tables, or placed directly on the ground or other structures. Optional leveling legs let you position it on uneven surfaces as well.Dolly systems have been around for a while, and there are numerous videos out on YouTube that show how to build such a system. Where the Slyder Dolly is different is that the platform is mounted to the track in such a way that the platform can’t come off the dolly. This lets you get not only the more typical horizontal shots on a level set of rails, but also lets you put the Slyder Dolly at an angle, or even almost vertical, to get shots that you might otherwise need a jib for. The mounting plate also has a brake system, enabling you to lock it down to prevent it from moving.Upon unpacking the system, I was impressed with the construction of the Slyder Dolly. It’s extremely well built, sturdy, and feels like a piece of gear that could last you a lifetime. There wasn’t much for an instruction manual, but it’s not a complicated piece of gear, and was easy to figure out how the various pieces work together.My first use was to attach the Slyder Dolly to two C stands. The C stand mounts are very similar to tripod head mounting systems, with a top plate that can be removed from the mount and attached to the underside of the Slyder Dolly with one mounting screw. The mount slips over the top of the C stand and tightens down with a sturdy set screw, much like any other piece of equipment you’d attach to a C stand. Attach the mounts to the C stands, and then slide the plates that you attached to the rail system onto the mounts and lock them down.I attached the ball head mount to the mounting plate with the one mounting screw and a hex key, and put my Canon 60D on it to see what it would do. (It’s worth noting that Digital Juice also sells a mounting adapter that lets you attach accessories like the ball head without dealing with a screw and hex key from underneath the mounting plate.) The camera movement was solid and smooth for normal movement along the track, and enabled very nice motion shots. After playing with it this way for a little while, I then shifted things around and set one C stand at its tallest height, leaving the other as short as possible, putting the dolly at about a 45-degree incline. With the ball-head mounting system attached at the appropriate orientation, the camera could remain level, and a rising/descending dolly shot was easily and effectively obtained. The brake system kept the mounting plate securely in place when not in use, even at this angle.