When I first started incorporating DSLR video into my photography business, I quickly realized that having smooth movement was paramount in creating great footage. In our quest to find the perfect DSLR slider, the Fstoppers team was excited with the announcement of the Redrock Micro's One Man Crew. But would this be the end all be all for sliders...we put it to the test.
For those who may not be familiar with the motion world, there are several different ways to create smooth movement with video. A while back we did our review on the popular Steadicam Merlin vs the Flycam 500 which covers floating type movements. In this mini review, we will be looking at the Redrock Micro One Man Crew which is basically a motorized slider. Unlike Steadicams, sliders allow linear sliding movements that can add a huge production value to video shots that might not otherwise be that exciting with just a simple camera on a tripod.
Since this isn't a full review, I'm going to leave a lot of the details to the unboxing video above. After having the One Man Crew for a few days now, I want to highlight just a few of the features I like and some of the features I think it is missing. We hope to have a more thorough review once we run the unit through its paces over the next few weeks.
What is great
Size and Weight: Here at the Fstoppers studio, we've tested our fair share of sliders offered by all the major manufacturers. Any slider is expected to be pretty clunky; they are all a big hung of metal. The Redrock Micro's One Man Crew is really nice because not only is it light weight, but it's also pretty compact compared to its non motorized competitors. Weighing in at just over 14 pounds, the One Man Crew is pretty easy to carry and setup. With a length of 46", it also provides a good bit of distance for the camera to travel. So while it is bigger than any other slider we've tested, it is not significantly larger even with a complete motor system.
Easy to Use: The total time from unboxing to filming the video above was literally 60 mins. As complicated as laser calibration and framing limits may sound, the OMC is super intuitive to use. Even if you took the 5 minutes to read the included manual, I have no doubt any photographer/videographer could have this unit up and running within a few minutes. The laser calibration is extremely easy to use with a single button activation. The speed dial is rotary which is very nice and makes fine tuning your speed very simple. Perhaps my favorite feature is the quick mounting tilt head which connects to your camera to the movement sled. I would recommended adding a quick release to the head and camera so you can remove your DSLR quickly.
Quietness: Anytime you have moving parts and motors you run the risk of introducing unwanted noise into your audio feed. Luckily the OMC is extremely quite. Obviously this setup is primarily meant for your second camera or "B roll" but you could easily mic up your subject with this unit near the microphone and not have any noticeable degradation in your audio track.
Price: At $1495, I could make the argument that this is one of the most reasonably priced sliders on the market. Sure there are sliders at a fraction of the cost or even some DIY options, but in my experience those units never offer perfectly smooth results. I don't even want to know what a similar dolly setup would cost if you wanted to go the "proper" route and those alternatives are definitely not as quick and compact as the OMC.
What could be improved
Speed: As mentioned in the unboxing video, this unit does not move the camera very quickly. If you use a telephoto lens you can get great shots where the background is moving nicely behind your subject. The effect might even be too strong at level 10 with a telephoto lens. But if you change your lens to a wide angle, you will probably be disappointed in the speed of this unit. We haven't tested a super wide angle lens such as the Nikkor 14-24 (which might help if you can place your camera extremely close to your subject), but with the Nikkor 24-70 lens this unit almost doesn't seem worth the effort.
SPEED UPDATE: After receiving an email from Redrocks Micro, I'm happy to report that you actually can make the OMC move faster and slower. Our unit did not come with the updated documentation but there are now 4 modes you can access during the power boot. The four modes are Interview, Dolly, Dolly Fast, and Timelapse. Interview is the default mode that we tested in the video. Timelapse allows you to slow the movement down to an impressive 8 hours for a single complete pass. I've played around with Dolly Fast which allows the carriage to move MUCH faster.
However, there do seem to be some drawbacks when running the unit faster. The first is the noise. The Dolly Fast setting simply seems too loud to allow you to record clean audio especially in a quiet environment. I'll have to do some tests to see how fast the unit can go without our mics picking up the motor but don't expect the motor noise to go unnoticed.
The second problem we will have to test more thoroughly is camera stabilization. When using faster speeds, the OMC tends to show some jerky motions. I believe the cause of this is the camera is so top heavy that when enough momentum is added every little bounce or stutter becomes greatly exaggerated. The cameras we tested all had vertical grips so maybe we could gain smoother motion by decreasing the profile of the camera or using a smaller tilt head that allowed a lower center of gravity.
These new speed settings are great news if you are shooting timelapse (video or stills), non interview b footage, or anything not requiring audio. With so many lens options, it will take us some time to find the sweet spot in terms of increased speed vs motor noise and camera stability, but this is a HUGE feature that we are glad was included in the final release.
Limited Functionality: After playing with this unit for a few days, it's pretty apparent that this piece of gear is designed for one purpose only: consistent motion B-roll for interviews. The movement is simply too slow to really replace your existing slider, and since the OMC has a parabolic path, you may still desire the linear movement that traditional sliders offer. It would be amazing if this unit could also straighten its path and offer linear motorized movements as well. I could see where a build in intervalometer would be HUGE for the timelapse photographers who want to take a series of photos over a long period of time. This setup seems perfect for those amazing slight movement timelapses we often feature on Fstoppers, but unfortunately even at the slowest speed, the camera will complete a full movement in less than 4 minutes. So while it might be too slow for wide angle video, it is also too fast for slow moving timelapse.
The Redrock Micro One Man Crew parabolic slider is pretty much in a class by itself. If you are looking for a way to systematically get great interview footage that looks super professional, this product really cannot be beat. Sure it has some sort comings, and unfortunately it doesn't completely replace the need for a regular linear slider; but at the end of the day it is still a pretty cool little gadget. As I said in the unboxing video, I have no doubt this product will be used on every future Fstoppers production that has interviews, but it probably won't be making to to my weddings or other casual video shoots. I really hope Redrocks offers something in the future that can cover both interviews and standard motorized slider shots all in a single package. But for the time being, this is a killer product for anyone wanting a simple solution to a multi-video camera setup.