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Compound Eye

The many facets of science photography

Thrifty Thursday: Army Ants Filmed on a Budget

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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.

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

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