There are few things that can boost your video production more than adding a smooth camera movement. One tool that every filmmaker needs to utilize from time to time is a camera crane. Recently we had the chance to test and use the Kessler Crane Pocket Jib Traveler, and I am convinced that it is one of the most portable and easy to use camera cranes on the market today.
From November 2014 to March 2015, Lee Morris and I traveled around the world twice to film a new tutorial with landscape photographer Elia Locardi. This soon to be released tutorial was by far the most ambitious project we have ever worked on. Spanning over seven countries and five continents, Elia had laid out an impressive list of locations to serve as his classroom; this adventure was literally a landscape photographer's dream tour. Since we were traveling to so many exotic countries, Lee and I knew we had to raise the bar on this production in a big way. The question was, "What video gear should we bring without breaking our weight limits or our backs?"
The kind folks over at Kessler Crane suggested we try one of their lightweight jibs, specifically the Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler. The Fstoppers studio has been no stranger to a few other cranes in the past, so I can speak for both Lee and I when I say we were not very excited with the idea of carrying around another heavy metal apparatus just to get a few specialty video clips. Our previous jibs were extremely heavy, required over 10 pounds in counterweights, weren't quick to assemble, and were always the longest bag in all of our luggage. In my mind, bringing a crane for this project was looking like a no-go.
When the box from Kessler arrived at our door, I was shocked at how little the entire package weighed. The entire crane and case weigh less than 6 pounds, and the overall length of the jib all packed up is less than 28 inches. Compared to our other cranes and even our other sliders, this jib is surprisingly small and easy to carry. What is so nice about this crane compared to other less travel-friendly jibs is it can easily extend to over 70 inches. This added reach lets your camera move even further and gives you more options when deciding how much movement you want in your final shot. Fully extended, the jib can handle a camera and lens that weighs 10 pounds or so which makes it perfect for most DSLR applications.
As Lee demonstrates in the video above, the biggest strength of this crane is not just that it weighs so little but that it can be assembled extremely easily and quickly. You can literally unpack this crane from the case and have it up and running in about 90 seconds. Since we were flying on many airlines that had very strict weight limits, we wound up using a spare Nikon D810 camera as the counterweight which worked out perfectly. Normally I would procrastinate setting up a crane shot, but I found myself actually wanting to film more and more with this crane simply because it was so easy to use.
Since Lee and I are primarily still photographers, we do not own super heavy-duty tripods for our video work. We simply try to make due with what we use with our DSLR cameras. I'm happy to say though this crane worked exceptionally well with our standard Manfrotto 055XPROB legs and Manfrotto 502HD Fluid Head (avoid the new Manfrotto MT190CX legs at all cost; they failed us time and time again). We were able to get super smooth shots in the winter conditions of Iceland, the muddy roads of Cambodia, and the rocky terrain of New Zealand. The whole setup was even lightweight enough to carry around the busy streets of Hong Kong and Singapore for a few clips of the city. I would have never attempted to walk around a city with our previous full-length cranes for any reason!
I'm going to spare you all the super geeky technical specs of this crane, but if you want to read about that sort of thing head over to Kessler Crane's Pocket Jib Traveler web page. If you are in the market for a super lightweight and portable pocket jib you really can't go wrong with this product. Obviously if you need to hoist a $50,000 video camera that weights 20 pounds, then this probably isn't for you, but for the average DSLR user who is shooting professionally or just dabbling in video, the Pocket Jib Traveler is a no brainer.