Tested: Slypod Pro, a smart video slider that works at any angle

SlyPod Pro tested

A slider is a handy tool for videographers that allows them to get smooth sideways footage while also emulating a dolly in allowing for forward and backward motion too. The Slypod Pro takes this a step further than most, adding in vertical motion also.

But it also has a completely different form factor to a conventional slider. Rather than a sled on rails, the Slypod looks exactly like a high-end monopod.

Background

There are sliders at every price level: at the low end, a short slider allowing very limited distance, moved manually; at the high end, a long slider allowing a lot of travel, with sophisticated motorized controls. (And for Hollywood filmmakers, dolly systems with rails and a team of people to push the moving camera system along them.)

But as useful as they are, sliders have a number of drawbacks. The longer ones are heavy and take up storage space, and for forward/backward shots, it can be tricky to keep the slider itself out of shot.

Additionally, not all sliders can offer vertical and horizontal motion, and those that can, don’t always work very well.

Enter the Slypod Pro

The rather odd name – which I always think should be Slydpod rather than Slypod – is because the company thinks of the device as a cross between a slider and a monopod.

That’s a fair description of the design and appearance of the device. I own a Manfrotto Xpro 500 monopod, which is an extendable monopod with three fold-out legs that let it stand upright tripod-style. Additionally, there is a lockable fluid base that allows you to tilt the monopod in any direction while it remains supported by its legs.

The Slypod Pro acts in much the same way. It too is extendable, it also has fold-out legs, and there’s a lockable fluid base for tilting. The difference is that the extension is motorized.

With the motorized extension, the Slypod is already a slider for vertical motion, up or down. But thanks to two tripod mounts on one side of the base section, you can also mount it sideways to turn it into a horizontal slider.

A flexible head allows you to mount the camera at any angle.

In this way, the device claims to be a good-value, all-in-one device for videographers. It combines a high-quality fluid-base monopod, which would typically cost around $300, with a good-quality motorized slider with a 56cm (22-inch) reach, which would typically cost $200-300. And because it’s made from carbon fiber, it’s a lot more portable than the combined devices would be.

Look and feel

I think the average photographer or videographer glancing at it would see a decent monopod and no more. It’s grey carbon fiber with red and white accents, with three fold-out aluminum legs at the base.

The only clue that it is anything more sophisticated is the ring LED at the base when switched on. (The accompanying app lets you choose the color.)

Slypod Pro specifications

The Skypod Pro is 65cm (25 inches) long when folded and with the legs removed, extending to a maximum length of 118cm (46 inches). It weighs 1460g (3.2 pounds). The maximum range of movement is 53cm (20.8 inches).

The maximum payload is 3.5Kg (7.7 pounds) in horizontal use and 6Kg (13.2 pounds) in vertical use. I tested with a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K with a Meike cine lens, and this was well within the horizontal weight limit.

There’s a built-in 3-axis pan-and-tilt head, so it’s pretty easy to adjust the camera for any orientation, whether vertical, horizontal, or angled. If you’re doing a lot of fast-paced angled shots, you might want to fit a ball-head mount, but for my use, I found the built-in one was fine. My only minor grumble is that the quick-release plate is a Swiss Arca rather than the Manfrotto plate on the earlier models.

Maximum speed is 4mm/second (0.16 inches/second), and minimum speed is 0.5mm/second (0.02 inches/second).

Battery life is said to be 90 minutes and charging time (via USB-C) four hours. This is not the type of device likely to be used for lengthy periods of time, but if you do expect to use it extensively, it can also be powered by a USB-C power bank.

Controls

For basic use, you can use the built-in buttons. More sophisticated use is via an iOS or Android app.

There are up and down buttons (labeled plus and minus), with single or multiple presses controlling the speed. However, this is limited to just three speeds, and app control is so beautifully simple that I can’t see myself ever using the buttons.

The app also lets you control some cameras via a cable connection for things like fully automatic moving time-lapses. My BMPCC 4K isn’t supported, so I wasn’t able to test this.

Additionally, if you have a compatible Moza gimbal (Mini-P, AirCross, Aircross2, Air2, or Air2S), then you can attach that to the Slypod and get combined control of both devices – which lets you get the kind of movements only previously available with some kind of crane setup.

In use

They say the average person uses 1-2% of the features offered by the Mac or PC apps they use, and I suspect the same is true here. The Moza Device app can do all kinds of clever things, but most of the time, I can’t see myself doing much more than the basics: setting the start and end points, setting the speed, and then holding down the up/extend and down/contract buttons. The only other features I expect to use on occasion are the auto-cycling back-and-forth and moving time-lapses.

The most obvious use for a slider is product shots. Such as, to pick a random example, videos of tech gadgets. Used in a studio-style setting, the Slypod offers plenty of movement. I used it to shoot a short video of a USB microphone, the review of which will follow.

Similarly, I was shooting a micro-short film and needed some kind of additional shot to break up two similar ones. I used the Slypod to shoot a relevant object – the lid of a wooden box – from above. The device made it extremely quick and easy to get a smooth shot.

But I also wanted to know whether it might prove useful when shooting people – be it a model showreel, music video, or short film. I tested this with a brief shoot with a model (actually a dancer, but no dancing on this occasion). It was a wet, windy, and cold day, so we could only shoot for a brief time without Yasmin freezing, but it was enough to answer the question: Yes, the Slypod definitely has uses when shooting people.

It can, for example, act as a pretty effective dolly: starting wide and closing in on someone. Ok, 53cm is a rather small movement by dolly standards, but it’s still a surprisingly useful range and one I could see myself using in short films. In one shot you’ll see in the video, I start with an out-of-focus head-and-shoulder shot and dolly in to a tight face shot as Yasmin turns her head, and I can see uses for that type of shot.

A huge advantage here over a conventional slider is that you never have to worry about the slider tracks being in-shot, as the camera is always ahead of the extending rod.

It’s great for reveal shots, as in the example where the camera begins behind the wall and moves horizontally left to show Yasmin leaning back against it.

Even in the brief time we had to experiment, I could see some creative shot possibilities, like the one where I start behind her and bring the camera over her shoulder to reveal her face. I suspect the longer you own it, the more ideas you’ll get.

Another thing I wanted to see was whether it might be suitable for interviews. A second camera with subtle movement can add visual interest, but you can’t have a noisy motor operating. The app offers a Silent mode to reduce noise, and I found that at anything up to 10% speed, it was almost completely inaudible, and you can go up to 40% with sound so minimal that it wouldn’t be an issue unless it was very close to a microphone. Above 40% speed, the sound starts to become an issue. You can set it to cycle back-and-forth, which would be ideal for a B-camera you can just set and forget.

Demo video

Here’s a video that combines a brief product shoot with some sample clips of Yasmin, illustrating some ways to use it when shooting people.

Strengths and weaknesses

For me, the main strength of the Slypod is that it’s an extremely flexible tool that is pretty portable. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s something you’d carry casually just in case, but it’s certainly no hardship to include it when you’re already carrying a tripod and full rig.

Weight limits, battery life, and minimum and maximum speeds all seem good, and silent mode at 40% speed pretty much lives up to the name.

I found that the main weakness is that it isn’t always 100% stable when using the full extension range in horizontal mode, even on a beefy tripod. That’s not too much of an issue if you own two tripods, as it has two tripod mounts for use in horizontal mode, so you can support it at both ends just as you would a conventional slider – but don’t believe the promo video, which shows it mounted on just one.

It stopped responding on a couple of occasions, and I had to reboot the app and reconnect. The company says the range is a surprisingly short two meters, but I did have it randomly disconnect even when stood next to it.

Slypod Pro pricing and conclusions

Slypod Pro is on Kickstarter, with early bird pricing of $499.

I’m generally wary of crowdfunded projects, as some of them fail to deliver, and a tiny minority are out-and-out frauds. But in this case, Moza has a solid track record, and the working product already exists, having been tested by me and other reviewers.

It is, as I say, a very flexible device which I can see being used in everything from product videos through music videos to films.

If you need both a good monopod and a motorized slider, then I’d say it’s pretty much a no-brainer to buy this instead. You get the convenience of one device instead of two, greater flexibility in use, and the advantage of not having a slider-rail in shot for dolly shots.

If you already have a monopod, as I do, then you have to think about whether the added benefits of the Slypod Pro outweigh the additional cost over a standard slider. That’s a decision only you can make, but personally, this is something I’m glad to have as part of my arsenal. I’ve so far used it for only one shot in a micro-short film, but am certain I’ll be using it in others.

Slypod Pro is currently available at Early Bird pricing of $499, after which it increases to $549. If you prefer to wait until it goes on retail sale after the campaign, the final price will be $599. Worldwide shipping is included, and the company is estimating delivery in May.

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