One of the most distinct marks of good production value is smooth choreographed shots. The simple addition of a seemingly gliding or flying camera can dramatically increase the impact of a shot and scene. Rigs such as the classic Steadi-cam and now Glide Cam (and its cheaper knock-offs) are easily available to the masses of amaetuer and student filmmakers. I so happen to be lucky enough to have access to one of these wonder rigs and had the opportunity to spend a weekend learning how to use it.
The first I noticed with the off brand Glide Cam I was working with was how much easier it is to balance and tweak compared to the much more expensive, and cheaper built, Steadicam Merlin I had used before. Not only did I decently balance a camera within 30 minutes of picking it up I was able to tweak it on the fly to accommodate filters that would normally require rebalancing. After the ease of balance came the ease of use, relative to the Merlin. The rig allows for a much larger range of pivot with the gimbal handle separated from the top plate. Within a few minutes of me playing with it I could get a smooth tracking forward and backward shot. While more difficult, turning the rig and camera using gentle touches and inertia was also easier.
Having said those things, these counter balanced contraptions still have a very steep learning curve and the shots I did get with them definitely are nowhere Hollywood perfect. However the freedom I experience being able to walk and run with a camera and get a (decently) smooth shot was enlightening and invigorating. Creatively my mind is teeming with new ideas for shots.
Also, with infrared ideas fresh in my head, I managed to capture some infrared video! Using an old Canon 5D mkII and 17-40L lens with a 720nm filter I managed to just get a bright enough exposure for infrared black and white video, albeit with 360 shutter at f/4 ISO 3200. And I will say that while it looked awesome on the back LCD the image looks pretty noisy and mushy on a real monitor. Still a fun weekend nonetheless.