In 2011 I was hand holding a Sony NX-70 camera shooting and moving fast, for ten hours down a river canyon in Tasmania. I was filming an expedition team and I kept thinking there has to be a better way to get smoother more dynamic shots while moving over unstable terrain.
I had two months to figure it out, before I left to film in Ecuador. A few people were experimenting with servo systems, but they were still in the early days of getting them to work well. I needed something that worked like an iso-elastic arm, but could endure the environments I shoot in. I found the Glidecam HD-2000 and I have stayed with it even as servo-movi systems have matured. Here’s why.
- It’s a simple system with one moving part, the ball bearings inside the gimbal.
- I treat it with liquid silicon about twice a year.
- It breaks down into three pieces and packs away in my backpack.
- I’m able to transport it easily on the plane, through customs as well as into dense jungle.
- It operates mechanically. I don’t need a power source.
- This allows me to trek out into remote areas, self-contained, where I can capture my subject in unique environments.
- It’s light, at xx lbs. with a 5D and a 14mm lens and top mic.
- I am able to film on this system continually for hours at a time, day after day.
- With a few days practice it operates easily.
- Arm strength will come quickly and once you have the light touch down your shots will smooth out.
- I can get it wet, freeze it, drop it into the water, and it’s excellent for carrying your camera around.
- There’s not much that can be damaged on this rig. I’ve had some epic falls with it.
I’ve been able to take my glidecam into all kinds of environments and weather; filming across scree fields, running along the base of the Eiger, cross rivers in Alaska, and chasing ultra runners at 19,000 feet.
The best way to use the HD-2000 is with a mid-size camera and a wide lens. I run a 5D MII with a 14-24mm and Rode top mic. Although, I am currently moving to a camera with a flip LCD monitor so I can better visualize what I’m shooting.
Balance of the glidecam system is critical. Place everything on the cam that you will be using to film and take everything off that you won’t use, such as a lens cap. Then you balance the system by the various adjustments to find the centre of gravity. Once you get this dialled in it seldom needs adjustment in the field. If you do need to adjust balance in the field, it’s fairly easy.
With a little strength training you can hold this system up all day long. I lock in my handle arm and let the iso-elastic movement free flow from my shoulder joint and upper carriage. My other hand very gently holds the glidecam main shaft with my finger tips. This hand does not hold up the glidecam, it is used for micro movements which are additive to the macro movements of the main handle arm. Working in unison you can get very fluid “gliding” movement over nearly any terrain. I will often flip the glidecam upside down holding the bottom weights to get interesting shots at the surface of the water or ground, moving dynamically through kayaks or rocks with the subject.
The HD-2000 is a durable, low maintenance rig that can go anywhere with you. If you’re like me, and get way out there, then you want a rig that can go there with you and give you silky footage. The glidecam is the only thing that will go as hard as you will for the shot.
Article published in association with 1iOpen Productions. ‘The Crew’ is a weekly web series that goes behind the scenes of the 1iOpen Productions film crew as they travel around, filming adventurous people in extreme locations. For all episodes to date, visit the YouTube Channel and subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.