The FedEx man visited this week with a package from Cinevate in Canada, the Pegasus Heavy Lifter linear tracking system for my Sony EX-1. If you read this blog, you know I built my own DIY dolly last summer out of plywood and rollerblade wheels. It gets the job done but is very cumbersome to travel with. I need something relatively compact that can add some panache to my camera movements. That is just the sort of thing that a linear tracking system, or “slider,” is designed to accomplish. Most of the models on the market share the same design, some sort of carriage that moves on rails, to which you attach your tripod head and camera. You then attach the rails to a tripod or grip stand. Of course, you can also set the device directly on the floor for ground level shots.
I investigated the DIY and commercial options and chose the Cinevate product. From what I saw on the web, the commercial items fell into two categories: items I could make myself at less cost if I had the time, or fantastically expensive professional cinematography rigs. The Heavy Lifter appeared to be neither a fancy DIY project nor something marketed to a production company with ultra-deep pockets. A couple of emails and phone calls to Cinevate’s customer service line convinced me I would be selecting something to suit my needs.
This is a good point to mention that Cinevate’s customer service is really outstanding. They answer email promptly. They answer the phone. The owner, Dennis Wood, is very active on message boards answering peoples’ questions. This is also a good place to mention that I’m what many would consider a “serious hobbiest,” not a working pro. I shoot video for personal enjoyment and as an adjunct to my day job as an educator. I paid full price for the product and my motivation for reviewing it is purely practical: I couldn’t find many reviews of it when I was researching linear tracking devices.
Ok, onto the Heavy Lifter. First thing: it’s heavy. In a good way. This is a solid piece of precision machined hardware consisting of a carriage ( I chose the one with a 100 mm bowl to accept my tripod head), two end pieces and metal rods over which the carriage slides. The end pieces serve two functions: in one orientation, they act as feet; flipped over, there are holes to accept quick-release plates, and just about anything else that has a thread on it. It is versatile. You can mount it on tripods or C-stands or place it directly on the floor or table top. This is not the type of slider that mounts by its center on one tripod.
Fit and finish are outstanding. The device features tool-free assembly. The rods-which are available in various lengths- slide through the carriage. You then attach the end pieces, which secure with the twist of a knob. That’s it, you’re ready to drop your existing tripod head into the bowl and start shooting.
Here is my Sachtler DV-8 sitting in the bowl.
The lever sitting just above the Cinevate logo is a friction brake. It’s pretty good but I wouldn’t position my rig with one end of the slider way up in the air or the effects of gravity and the weight of the tripod head and camera will overcome the friction! You may notice the collar underneath the bowl. That is the attachment knob for the tripod head. It is not in the way when the device is up on stands but it is too long to sit the rig on a table top. I’ll need to get a lower-profile thumbscrew from the hardware store for table top use.
Here is the carriage sitting on the rails
I’m fond of my DV 8 head and did not want to have to carry another head with me, but you can use just about any head you want with this system. They sell the Heavy Lifter as a flush mount and they have adapters for the bowl. Here is how I chose to support it for a test: tripod on one side, boom stand on the other.
I found the stand easier to use since the brass stud is removable and can be screwed into the Heavy Lifter’s end plates and then attached to the stand. It was a bit clunky trying to screw the tripod-legs and all- into the other end. As such, there may be an advantage to using two tripods for support, each with its own quick release plate.
The carriage slides smoothly. In fact, if you are not paying attention and have the rig on an incline it will slide away from you. On some video web forums there are comments about sliders making noise. The Heavy Lifter is not silent; indeed, I haven’t seen any slider marketed as being completely silent. I think there are easy ways to mitigate the sound of the carriage sliding on the rails. Have a look at this,
In summary, it’s a well-made functional piece of equipment from a company with outstanding customer service. It is portable, sets up quickly and provides silky smooth moves.