Spending more time filming at home or a studio and need something to level up your shots? Take a look at the review of this motorized slider, which may be a good addition to your kit!
It's the start of a new year, so it seems like a good time to review what is working for us and what could be improved going forward. That's why I was really excited to review this YC Onion Hot Dog Motorized Slider 3.0, not because of its great name, but because it's a relatively simple tool that even photographers and videographers who are fairly inexperienced in creating good quality movement clips, like myself, can use with no problems.
Sliders come in all materials and sizes and are generally used to create those smooth movement shots that are not always that easy to produce with just a camera or with a handheld gimbal. You may not own a gimbal at all or have a need for it, but you may benefit from something that can help you create simple movement clips. For example, it can be used for stock shots to create clips of simple scenes or products, it can also be used for YouTube and other tutorial videos if you are presenting a piece of equipment, creating a scenic shot of a building, and many other uses. Essentially, the slider is exactly what its name describes: it's a tool that will slide your camera or phone from one side to another at varying angles.
This YC Onion Hot Dog Motorized Slider 3.0 is retailing for $389.99 and:
- Is 80cm in length
- Made out of high-quality aluminum alloy and carbon fiber making it lighter and easier to carry
- Has a large diameter disc compatible with a variety of ball heads
- Can fit DSLR and smaller cameras, DV recorders, and mobile phones, also can be interlinked with gimbals to add more dimension to your footage
- Has multiple 1/4" and 3/8" screw holes on both sides and the middle
- Features a spirit level to better balance
- Has rosette support legs, which are adjustable depending on your shooting environment
- Can be run either through a free mobile app YC Onion, compatible with iOS and Android, which connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, or can be run offline
- Currently, the app supports connection with Weebill Lab, Weebill-S, Crane M2, and DJ Ronin-S (for the latter you need to use YC Onion base bracket), with more compatible stabilizers to be added in the future
- Powered by using an external F550/F750/F950 battery or through a power bank connected with a Type-C cable
- Supports 20 kg horizontal payload
- Has the following functions: manual or motorized parallel, panorama, and follow focus, which are displayed in the video below
My review copy of the slider arrived in a black carry case, along with the instructions and USB Type-C cable, but did not come with a battery. As someone who has not set up a slider before, I understandably so relied on the instruction manual that came with it to learn more about how to set it up and how to use it. The instructions outlined a product overview, how to download the app, how to power the slider, what each line on the screen means, and how to set up a starting point and finish point, depending on how long you want your movement to be.
You won't find a description of how to actually set up your slider in the manual, and you will need to scan the QR code provided to head over to YouTube, where you will find a variety of short videos showcasing or explaining certain features, including setting up. It would be great to have a basic graphic in the manual to show users how to set the slider up because although nowadays most of us have smartphones and access to the internet, it's not always the case.
When you scan the QR code in the manual, it takes you to the overall YouTube channel of Onion YC, which has many videos explaining particular features of products so you will need to dig around to find the right video. Once I learned how to set it up, the rest of the process was mostly a breeze. To make it easier for you, I recorded a simple video that shows how I set up the slider.
The slider legs seem to hold the slider well in different angles, and they can be adjusted individually. If you want to use your slider on a tripod, be careful when you change the angle of the slider to be anything but straight, because depending on the weight distribution and the sturdiness of your tripod, it may tilt if not secured. You will need to use your own ball head unless you purchase it along with the slider.
My review copy of the slider did not contain a battery, so to power my slider, I had to connect it to a power source with the cable. You can either use a battery pack, or if you have a longer cable, you can simply connect it to a wall plug if you are working indoors. Either way, you have to keep an eye on your cables to make sure when the slider starts going it doesn't pull anything or get tangled up.
The slider quickly pairs with the app, which is a pleasant surprise. You can set the slider endpoints either manually or with the app; I found both ways equally simple to set up. Also, you can adjust the speed either on the app or manually on the slider with the dial knob. The slider has a few function buttons, and depending on which one you press or hold, you can switch modes, pause, or start which means you can perform a lot without the app. I found this useful because the app itself is quite basic, and I imagine new features will be released in the near future to make it more user-friendly, but it also crashed on me whenever I tried to adjust one particular setting.
So, if you prefer to work offline, you can do so, but if you want to access more in-depth features, such as working with gimbals, you'll need to use the app to link the two devices. In the video below, you can see a demonstration of the slider working with a gimbal. I actually preferred working offline mostly when testing this out, because you can adjust enough on the slider itself using dials or buttons.
To adjust the slider to change from a parallel slide to a panorama or follow focus, you simply loosen the knobs that control the direction the slider moves your device and tighten again to set it. It may just take a moment to set up the position and distance of your slider away from your scene or subject to ensure that when the slider hits the middle, the focus and composition are exactly how you want it to be. You will also need to adjust the angle of your camera. I did this by doing a few mock runs and paused when the slider is in the middle (on the slider itself you can do so by pressing the speed adjustment dial) to ensure my focus was set how I wanted it to be.
There were moments where I somehow miscommunicated with the slider and it did not allow me to adjust the speed or, for some reason, although the endpoints A and B were set, it seemingly bypassed them and kept going. This only occurred a few times, though. In regards to the movement itself, you will notice that when it starts going, there is a second or two at the start of the movement where the slider picks up the chosen speed; just make sure you don't have a crucial part of the shot at the very start of the movement but a second down the line. Although the slider primarily produced smooth movement, there were a couple of times when it did not. I wasn't quite sure what might have caused it, but a couple of times, I noticed it become uneven. This may have been down to something not being correctly tightened.
You can see some of my recorded test footage below:
The slider does produce a slight humming noise, which may be picked up by a microphone if it is close. It's not very loud, but it is a noise nevertheless. It should be noted that even if you don't have any other additional equipment to use, such as gimbals, or you don't want to use an app, you can still make use of the primary functions of this slider and make the most of it. Additional features, such as time-lapse shooting, can be handy for nature or city photographers, but I doubt it would be the main incentive for purchasing a slider.
What I Liked
- Once you see the tutorial, it is very easy to set up.
- Works with an app or offline.
- Supports a multitude of devices and has numerous screw holes for a variety of setups.
- Easily change between parallel, panorama, or follow focus modes.
- Although quite large, it is not overly heavy.
- Comes in a carry case.
- It falls in a more affordable price bracket compared to other motorized sliders of this size.
What Could Be Improved
- I would prefer the slider to have an inbuilt battery that is charged with the provided USB cable.
- It would be beneficial to have a section in the manual for setting up the slider or have a QR code that directly leads to a full setup video from taking it out of the package to using it. The official videos did not actually show an updated setup video for this particular version of the slider.
- For inexperienced users, it would be useful to view a variety of ways that the slider can be arranged and attached to tripods and other accessories instead of guessing.
- It could be more user-friendly to store the slider back in the bag with the power/battery module still attached so you don't have to set it up the next time you take it out. However, the foam board in the carry case does not permit this, and you have to remove the module from the belt before putting it back in the case.
All in all, this motorized slider is fairly user-friendly with a few minor glitches from time to time. It's simple to set it up, and you can operate it offline without having to connect to the app unless you want to and you want to use more advanced features, such as connecting it to a gimbal to use in conjunction. As someone who only does videography as a hobby with occasional stock or client footage, I think using a slider instantly increases the quality of your footage without necessarily needing to resort to stabilizers. Hot Dog slider falls in a relatively affordable price bracket, which could suit budget-conscious creators.
It can be used for a very wide range of footage types, making it a useful tool that won't just sit in your office gathering dust after you have used it once. If you want to get yours, you can purchase it here.