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Issue: July 1, 2012

Review: Glidetrack Hybrid HD

By: Erik Vlietinck
COMPANY: Glidetrack

PRODUCT: Hybrid HD

WEBSITE: www.glidetrack.com

PRICING: $553.84

It is common for moviemakers and video producers to use sliders with interviews and other scenes that show little action. The motion produced by slowly sliding the video camera along a rail adds visual interest and keeps viewers' attention focused on the story. With the number of DSLR filmmakers steadily growing, there is a need for cost-effective slider systems. Scottish company Glidetrack offers such a system. The Glidetrack Hybrid HD is suitable for medium-sized camcorders and DSLRs with video functionality. 

The Glidetrack Hybrid has four components:

- A sturdy anodized aluminum rail with 1/4- and 3/8-inch drillings in three different places
- A carriage with a combination of (special composite) plastic bearings and rollers, fitted with a 3/8-inch stud and a friction bolt
- Two support feet, one for each end of the rail
- Four adjustable rubberized ball feet (Dumbbells) that fit the support feet.

The Glidetrack has an open architecture. The carriage can be easily disassembled to remove dust, debris, lint, etc. Additionally, you can swap shorter rails for longer ones (Up to 2 meters on the Hybrid HD. Glidetrack also sells a system for heavier kit, with even longer and sturdier rails; and you can order custom systems as well).

As the entire Glidetrack system is made from aluminum, it can be cleaned on location — water is all it takes. One of my trials with the Glidetrack Hybrid HD involved shooting at ground level on a really dusty dirt road; we had to cover our mouth and nose to breathe comfortably. 

After about 15 minutes the carriage would start generating this grinding noise and a smooth glide proved to become increasingly harder. I took the carriage off the rail and flushed it in a bucket of water. As my toolbox lacked a hex screwdriver to open it and dry the components inside, I used a compressed air canister that I always carry with me to force most of the water out of the roller/bearings holders. The carriage performed as new — for the next quarter of an hour when it got dirty again.

In the past, there has been some criticism that sliders such as the Glidetrack Hybrid HD, which are based on the Igus system, were not as smooth as Kessler Crane sliders or other non-Igus systems. However, the newest Igus system on which the Glidetrack Hybrid HD is based, features a combination of rollers and bearings — hence the Hybrid name. I can’t say I ran into situations where the carriage would “hesitate” or get stuck, except in that one test when it got clogged up with too much dirt from the road. 

With all other tests I carried out, the Glidetrack Hybrid HD performed well and gave me a smooth slide. There is a performance curve, though. With a very lightweight Sony HVR-A1E, smoothness largely depends on muscle control. The slower I moved the carriage, the harder I found it to avoid “hesitating.” Using a Sony NEX-FS100EK with a Ninja field monitor/recorder mounted made continuous speed effortless; it’s the added weight that makes the carriage easier to slide at even speeds. Having seen the results of competing products I guess only a motor can guarantee a slide at perfectly even speed for very lightweight equipment. Unfortunately, Glidetrack doesn’t offer an optional motor for any of its systems. 

Still, even without the option of a motor, the Glidetrack Hybrid HD has a lot going for it. It is silent; practically no “swish” can be heard even when an audio recorder was placed right underneath the rail, and except for its silence and smooth operation, the Glidetrack Hybrid HD offers the ability to use it at different angles. 

The rubberized ball feet are a clever addition in that they allow the use of the Glidetrack Hybrid HD all by itself on uneven surfaces, hanging from its dumbbell-type feet vertically, and at various close-to-ground elevations. Furthermore, by mounting it on a suitable video tripod and head combination, the Glidetrack Hybrid HD can be used — out-of-the-box, without options to buy — as a small jib.

The Glidetrack Hybrid HD comes in various standard lengths. My test unit was the 29.50-inch long version. Compared to other products with roughly the same specifications, the Glidetrack Hybrid HD is competitively priced at $553.84.

There are only two things that I missed: an optional carrying bag and motorized belt accessory.