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Thrifty Thursday: Army Ants Filmed on a Budget

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs movies taken with equipment costing less than $500.

[Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 - $241; Glidetrack shooter - $276]

I often fill the Thrifty Thursday slot with still photographs from my trusty Panasonic digicam. As much as I like the camera for snapshots, though, I actually bought it for video. This clip was edited down from about 15 minutes of footage of Eciton burchellii army ants returning from a raid.

I first attempted to film these ants with my heavier and more expensive Canon 7D dSLR. It didn’t work. The 7D was too cumbersome to maneuver easily around the excitable army ants, and in many places there simply wasn’t enough light to have any reasonable depth of field. The nimble digicam, on the other hand, gave plenty of focal depth even in dimmer light. I was impressed.

The bit where the camera slides along a tree root covered with running ants was done with the incredible Glidetrack shooter. I highly, highly recommend the Glidetrack. The ability to glide smoothly through a scene can transform any project into a professional-looking video, even if you’re filming only with a consumer point-and-shoot.

Looking at current equipment prices, I’m a few dollars over $500 for this one.  In my defense, I purchased my Glidetrack shooter for only $150 a couple years back. This must have been before everyone realized just what an amazing bargain it was.

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Jambe 12:51 pm 10/20/2011

    Nicely done! The Glidetrack looks like a nice investment.

    Link to this

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