No need to be an expert to realize that the time-lapse technique has gone through a revolution. Mostly due to DSLR cameras but also because of motorized sliders that have made multiple amazing camera movements possible.
During the past two years I have worked with different models of sliders, many of them very expensive, but none seemed to have the features I`ve been seeking for in this tool. That is why until now I have been working with a Kietacam video slider – perhaps one of the most robust in the market on which I have adapted my own motor and controller.
But after the same brand released its new motorized slider – the Xlidercam-M – I could not resist testing it. I will explain why and its advantages over other sliders being offered in the market.
Design and construction.
This is an important point because the durability and robustness of the equipment is really relevant. Many brands use rails ordered from third manufacturers on which the DC motors are then adapted. Kietacam have chosen their own design with a robust rail with friction operation that guarantees smooth movements.
The transmission is made with two powerful and accurate stepper motors, which move the car by using a belt. Definitely a top level system that helps to prevent unwanted surprises.
For those unfamiliar with the Xlidercam-M, you need to know that it has two axes – this means that you have two engines that allow both movement along the carriage and the panning of the camera, up to 180 º.
Electronics and control.
These are the things in which the Xlidercam-M really succeeds. Unlike other brands, Kietacam designs their own electronics – a special machine with all exclusive components for accomplishing the best results.
The controller is made using a tablet with Android that connects to the slider via Bluetooth. While at first this option seemed a little risky, after several working sessions it has proven to have great potential and is easy to use. With Xlidercam-M there is no need to do the calculations of speed, interval, distance and time. Just enter the interval you’ve chosen, the length of the final video, and it will make all the necessary calculations. All that using just a separate application with a simple interface. Who has not been lost on the menu of the arduino? It simply keeps failing.
I must also mention that once the order has been sent with the tablet to Xlidercam-M, you can turn off the tablet, the Xlidercam-M already has all the tasks and will not stop working until finished with the time-lapse. Bravo Kietacam!
The Xlidercam-M could be one of the sliders with the most features in the market, many of them totally unique. Perhaps the first to note is that this slider can be used for both video and time-lapse, that’s something of vital importance to many of us who work in both disciplines. There are only a few other sliders like Xlidercam-M that can move its rail both in a few seconds or up to several hours. Why? Because of the difficulty of implementing motors with such precision and even more because of the complexity controlling them. With many sliders we have to choose one engine for video and one for time-lapse and change them depending on the application.
The Xlidercam-M has one very interesting feature – mixing time-lapse and video by repeating the same shot at different speeds. This is done with high precision, enabling easy integration into After Effects for example.
The feature list is long and it would take many pages to describe all of them. But I must emphasize the 3D option (you do not need two cameras for time-lapse 3D). Also the HDR option by 3 shots at different exposures, or a choice between “move, shoot, move”, ideal for long exposures, or continuous movement, which will provide a beautiful and natural “motion blur ” effect. Oh, and don`t forget the stop-motion option, a big plus for animation productions.
Due to the powerful electronics of the Xlidercam-M, its consumption of energy is quite high, 1 amp per hour depending on the manufacturer. This means it needs high-capacity batteries. If you want it to last the whole day it will need at least 7 or 8 amps. While Kietacam recommends what is called Boosters, because of its size and weight, it is not suitable for people like me who spend one third of their lives in airport terminals and planes.
One option is to use a 12v lead acid battery, there are ones from 4 to 12 amps. I’m working on adapting a lipo battery, which has great power and storage capacity, and is also very light.
This is something that Kietacam is also studying and has given a promise to offer it in their catalog.
So far in this post all I have mentioned are the advantages, but let’s also take a look at the cons.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the overall weight. Compared to other sliders it is a bit heavy, yes. But its reliability and performance isn’t comparable to anything else offered in the market.
But if I had to highlight a point where Kietacam should make a bigger effort it would be the integrated head. It has a rather limited mobility and I think that it would be much more versatile when they would include a thread on the base where the head of the ball is installed.
Controlling the Xlidercam-M via iPad or iPhone would also be desirable but unfortunately Apple does not provide this option. So I can not blame Kietacam for it.
There seem to be many options out there but when you look carefully what is offered in the market of motorised sliders you soon realize that most of them have either poor construction, performance or high price. On the contrary the Xlidercam-M has a robust and reliable design, many of the most advanced features, and is easy to use thanks to its application for android.
It is not the cheapest in the market, but you won’t find another two-axis slider that enables video, time-lapse, 3D, HDR, continuous move, stop motion, and is controlled by a tablet for less than the cost of the Xlidercam- M.
Here is Kietacam´s website: www.kietacam.com