Sometimes we may want to use a smooth tracking shot in a video; that is, one in which the camera moves smoothly along a preplanned trajectory. The resultant shot adds a fluid, visually-interesting motion to a static scene or allows a smooth tracking shot of someone or something that is moving.
A “dolly” is used by professional filmmakers to capture this type of shot but is often an elaborate contraption and too expensive for the average scientist videographer. What is needed is something that is relatively inexpensive, small and portable, and can be used in a laboratory or other setting in which we might be filming.
There are a few lightweight dollies on the market for those of us shooting video with our Smartphone, GoPro, or other small camera. The ones I’ve seen are fairly similar to each other in size and function (but with some design feature differences). In this review, I take a look at a lightweight dolly made by iStabilizer ($59.95). Watch the video below to see how it works and the results of some real-world tests.
As you can see, the dolly is an inexpensive way to get some interesting tracking shots, but works well only on a smooth surface. It is well-made with solid components and should hold up under all but the roughest handling. I like the flexibility and the modular construction, allowing replacement of any parts that break (or if you want to modify something). The poor performance on rough or uneven surfaces is a negative, especially if you primarily film outdoors in a variety of environments. However, if your intent is to film mostly indoors in a laboratory or other facility, for example, where you can work on a table or a smooth floor, then this dolly would be an inexpensive choice.
A tracking shot can add a professional touch to your next science video. The iStabilizer dolly can help you accomplish this.
Are you interested in learning more techniques like this? If so, check out The Scientist Videographer eBook, which is an electronic guidebook packed with information, tips, and tutorials and designed for the 21st century scientist, teacher, and student. For more information, visit this page.