Around these parts, I’m known as the Kickstarter addict or at least it’s step one to admit it. Today we have a special review for you of a successful product that came from the crowdfunding forest of toys. CineSkates is that product and it is a part of the Cinetics system. The goal and purpose of CineSkates, in case you’re not familiar, is to give you smooth video pans in any direction.
I took a trip out to the Salton Sea and put the CineSkates system to the test. Let’s see how the scenes turn out in the review.
For the review I am going to focus on the parts made by Cinetics instead of going into detail on the Joby products. I’ll review the complete system and how it works together instead.
Above is a video created with a Nikon D800 on the Cineskates followed by behind the scenes footage of it in action.
Pros and Cons
- When it’s good, it’s great
- Perfect amount of resistance
- Made of plastic, but well built
- More compact than a traditional slider
- If there is the smallest pebble the system will show the bump
- Complete system is close to rail slider costs
- You’ll have to plan ahead for the runway
Nikon D800 for footage
Nikon D600 for behind the scenes
CineSkates System which consists of:
- CineSkate wheels
- Gorillapod Focus
- Ballhead X
Specs taken from the Cinetics website.
CineSkates™ are a set of three wheels that quickly attach to a tripod and enable filmmakers to capture fluid, moving video footage without lugging heavy gear. CineSkates with Focus can support cameras up to 2.3kg (5 lbs). Use CineSkates for:
Arcing, tracking and panning video
Gliding over objects or just above a surface
Time-lapse and stop motion using the ruler-marked wheels
SkatePlate™ is a frame for products with Cinetics Connect, like CineSkates and CineSquid. It has a retractable quick-set-up design that can support the heaviest cameras. SkatePlate attaches to CineSkates to increase the weight capacity to 5kg (11 lbs).
GorillaPod Focus™ is a flexible tripod with aluminum construction. It supports camera weighing up to 5kg (11 lbs).
Ballhead X™ is a solid ball mount with an Arca style quick-release plate. It supports camera weighing up to 5kg (11 lbs).
The main focus and feature of this particular system is the CineSkate wheels. These wheels are essentially branded hard skateboard wheels with bones bearings. These bearings are well known and my favorite from my skateboard days for being really smooth and fast. Cinetics chose them for these reasons along with the fact that a lot of sliders out there use the exact same ones because of their reliability. The wheels also have ruler marks on them for making precise movements.
The part that holds the whole kit together like glue is the SkatePlate.This part is what the wheels snap to as well as the focus clamps. Without this guy aligning wheels would be much more difficult for a couple of reasons. Without the SkatePlate, the GorrillaPod’s legs would have a mind of their own and would require frequent readjustments. Another is found on the plate itself where there are markings to help align the wheels.
The Focus Clamps are the next step up the ladder and these little fellas snap the GorrillaPod to the SkatePlate. On each of the clamps there is a little lever that can twist open and close to allow you to feed each one a leg of the tripod. These have the ability to clamp down hard on the gorilla’s foot and so far one has yet to release its prisoner.
I actually don’t have any major complaints with the build quality of the system. The wheels are no different than traditional ones that I am used to. Like those, the markings on the outside do eventually wear off after a long period of use so these markings may eventually fade.
Cinetics doesn’t specifically say, but I will tell you that the SkatePlate is made out of strong durable plastic. Along with the plastic frame, there are metal screws that tighten the three legs at the desired position. With the 11 pound limit of the system I doubt that anything will test the craftsmanship of the base.
The Focus Clamps were the one part that put a bit of fear in me. This is mainly due to my own use of possibly over-tightening the lever. I have cranked down on them and have yet to have any sort of issue. It’s not a weakness of the clamp, but something worth mentioning is how the clamp and wheels attach to the SkatePlate. Both of these essentially snap onto the plate by force. At first, you may question it, but so far I’ve only had one occurrence where a wheel detached by pressing it at an odd angle. Other than that, everything has stayed put and held up well under the weight.
In real use, setting up the system is the most time consuming process which isn’t long at all. The most frustrating part is putting up with the fussy legs of the GorillaPod which acts like an infant getting clothed. You really have to work one foot at a time, placing each in and cranking it tight. The legs don’t seem to want to bend in the direction you want and will only subdue after some force. Some advice would be to try to put the clamps on the feet first instead of trying to reach all the way to each corner of the plate.
Once the tripod is in place make sure your clamps and wheels are snapped into place. From here the only hurdle remaining is to make sure your wheels are all perfectly straight. Judging the direction with your eyes may not be enough as each shot was trial and error for me. Sometimes the slightest misdirection would cause a wheel to drag behind. Use the markers!
As a part of the system, the Ballhead X did a good job of holding the camera weight and making easy adjustments. It’s crucial that whatever ballhead you use with the CineSkates has the ability to rotate on a horizontal plane. This allows you to point the camera in the direction you want while your wheels go in another. I also found it easier to leave the wheels perfectly straight and adjusting the ballhead angle for each shot.
I started with some cardboard that I brought along on the trip but gave it up after a few uses. A piece of wood that I found was found amongst the remains of the house was obviously much more stable. So the fact that you have to keep in mind is that the CineSkates system requires a near perfect platform to roll along. Small pebbles aren’t the wheels’ only enemy, even “large” grains of sand would cause jitters in the video. We have to remember that this footage isn’t final and small hiccups are easily correctable in Final Cut X or other editing suites.
Upfront I’m going to tell you that the system that I tested retails for $330 and that’s some serious money. If we were to ignore the Joby products (GorillaPod and Ballhead X) the price comes down to $200. For that more attractive price you are getting the SkatePlate, Focus Clamps and the wheels. If you could find a good deal on a GorrillaPod and use an existing ballhead it’s a whole other story. If you wanted a slightly unwieldy setup you can skip the SkatePlate and save another $50 which comes down to $150.
I have been eyeing some cheap lower end sliders in the same price range of this system. These of course have their own limitations, being cheap and a set amount of space to slide to name a couple. In a deathmatch between the two I would put my money on a tie due to their opposite strengths and weaknesses. The slider will be smooth and already have a supported base to move along but is cumbersome to carry and limited in reach. The Cinetics system if given a smooth runway can roll forever and is insanely portable. The catch with this system comes down to make sure you’re not shooting a dirt fight scene or anything near the boardwalk.
The best of both of these options would make for the ideal frankenslider but unfortunately that’s not an option. So the real best case scenario would include both a slider and a Cinetics system. Although there are tons of different generic and big brand sliders available, there is only one Cinetics. On their website, they have a suction cups add on, a clamp system and a motorized one for timelapses. Investing in Cinetics may be a high startup cost but once you are invested, the different kits become affordable and a great solution for many production needs.
If you are in the market for something that complements a slider, this is the product for you. Head over to their website for more information and their hilarious promo videos.
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