You can find plenty of home-remedied DIY sliders that use anything from a skateboard to PVC piping; however none of those solutions are good enough regarding smooth, repeatable sliding motion and, perhaps most importantly, to be used in front of a client. So, my goal was to build something that could begin rivaling the very sweet Cinevate Atlas 10 slider without carrying the Cinevate’s hefty price tag of over $800 for the 35″ model with all terrain legs. Surely we can do better!
However, with that being said; if you are looking for a very professional and wickedly smooth slide, then don’t hesitate on the Atlas 10 if you’ve got the bank to be able to support it. If you have the time, call up Cinevate and talk to some of the engineers there; they are a great bunch of people and might even give you a discount on your purchase…
The reason sliders are often so expensive is because, in order to get silky smooth motion, even at very low speeds, the parts need to be precision machined. If you don’t know what precision machined is, suffice it to say it equals $$$. So, the first step in building this professional slider is to find someone who builds these sliders for industrial uses. After several days of searching, and going back and forth between several companies, I finally settled on LM76. They offer plenty of precision engineered rail solutions: anything from linear bearings to profile rail guides. However, if we want to achieve near zero friction motion, we need to go after something with bearings; so in the end I settled on the OSG Speed Demon.
You can buy several sizes of the slider; the size you should get will depend on the weight and size of the camera you will be mounting on it – the heavier and taller the camera, the more moment-force you are going to put on the axis around the direction of motion. I went with the OSG-30 as well as with a 48″ length; the nice thing about buying directly from the manufacturer is that you can specify exactly the length of rail you want. In the end, I spent $244 for a 48″ OSG-30 slider.
After you get your slider, you’ll want to adjust the tension of the cam bearings to your liking. As you’re looking down onto the top of the guide block, you’ll notice two of the bearings are attached to a circular eccentric insert.
You’ll first want to loosen the black grub screws, then rotate the insert so that it fits snugly onto the rail; then hand re-tighten the grub screws. If the guide block is too wobbly, then you’ll want to make sure the cams fit even more snugly onto the rail. This is where the biggest weakness of this design comes up: the looser you make the cams onto the rail, the smoother and silkier the motion is; however, then you’ll get a little bit of wobble in the block. The tighter you go, the less wobble but the less smooth the motion will be at very low speeds. So, adjust to your liking!
We are already well on our way to getting a nice slider, even if all we’ve done is buy the thing. The first thing you’ll want to do is remove the black end caps on the guide block which contain the spring loaded sponges that apply some sort of lubricating oil. These will make starting and stopping of the guide block MUCH smoother. Next, we have to modify the guide block so that we can mount some sort of video head, in our case we will be mounting the Manfrotto 501HDV. This head has a 3/8″-16 thread for mounting, so that’s what we will have to drill and thread into our guide block. It’s a pretty straight forward process, so I won’t go into detail here, just make sure that you drill all the way through the guide block and that you thread all the way through because, as you can see, there is a gap in the middle of the block.
We now need some method of stabilizing the slider with legs, for that I went to 80/20 Inc. If you aren’t familiar their products, think of them as an industrial erector set. Companies all over the world will build everything from complete assembly lines to work carts out of this stuff; it’s like Legos for adults! The best part about it, is that you can build almost anything you can imagine; so it’s perfectly suited for our legs. Here is the parts list I purchased for $87:
Take each of the 24″ extrusion pieces and cut a piece of about 10-12″; then, using the joining plate, put the two pieces together into a T shape.
Next, take two of the corner gussets and attach them on the opposite side of the joining plate; position them wide enough so that the rail of the slider can fit in between the gussets. If you want, you can then glue some sort of rubber bumper on the gusset; you can buy these for a few dollars at Home Depot.
Next, drill and thread holes for the feet at both ends of the top of the T shape and add the square black end caps.
One of the legs is now complete, you’ll want to repeat the same process again for the other leg. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to mount the legs to the beam of the slider. You can simply use the already existent holes in the beam as well as the 80/20 nuts you bought. Simply pass two bolts through the beam, loosely add the nuts, and then slide the leg on.
You’ve now got a beautiful new slider!
These few videos show some of the beautiful sliding motion you can get out of this thing, I hope you enjoy!