If you are serious about filmmaking, you have probably come across camera gimbals. But how do you use this camera stabilizer, and how does it work exactly? Read on to learn about the answers.
When I am recording a video, it is really important to me that it is steady. After all, no one wants to watch shaky clips. However, achieving smooth and stabilized footage is difficult, especially when shooting handheld.
Fortunately, I learned about a super useful tool – the gimbal. It is a compact camera stabilizer that eliminates camera shake.
Below, I will further explain what a gimbal is and how it works. I will also share some tips on how to use a gimbal.
Finally, I will walk you through several factors to consider if you choose to buy one.
Read on to learn more about gimbals and how they can help you achieve smooth recording.
What Is a Gimbal?
Technically speaking, according to Wikipedia, a gimbal is a pivoted support that permits rotation of an object about an axis. Practically speaking, a gimbal is a special device that helps stabilize a moving camera. It often uses sensors and motors to assist in maintaining a smooth and stable shot without large equipment like a dolly track or a heavy steadicam. Hence, it helps you capture steady and smooth footage from your camera, even when you are moving.
A gimbal is especially a handy tool for professional videographers who need to minimize camera shakiness. It is also relatively affordable. Thus, there is no need to employ expensive and large Dolly systems or Steadicam rigs. Besides being expensive, these devices also use physical moving parts to ensure stable footage, which requires a highly skilled user to operate.
Basically, a gimbal is a compact camera stabilizing device that lets you achieve smooth footage.
How Does a Gimbal Work?
We have answered the question: “What is a gimbal?”, but you are probably wondering how it works exactly.
As previously mentioned, a gimbal uses intelligent sensors to keep the footage clean of noticeable shakiness. It does this by detecting any unwanted movement with the help of a camera mount and motion detectors.
After sensing movement, the gimbal utilizes software to control and counterbalance that movement in near real time. The result is stabilized footage because the pivots prevented the mounted camera from shaking.
Depending on the gimbal type, it can counteract up to three motions. These include the pitch, yaw, and roll axes.
The pitch axis, also known as tilt, refers to the up and down movement of a subject. It works well if you are trying to capture objects falling or a subject coming down the stairs.
Meanwhile, the yaw axis has to do with the left to right camera movement. It is ideal for recording objects moving horizontally.
Finally, the roll axis allows you to capture subjects from off-center or unleveled angles.
Thus, a gimbal can eliminate camera shake as much as possible.
But if you want to pan the camera deliberately, you might wonder how it will work. Fret not, though!
The gimbal technology is also advanced enough to know the difference between an intentional pan and an unwanted camera movement from handheld footage. The built-in software tells the motor the amount of counter balancing needed to keep footage stable.
All this processing occurs in a fraction of a second, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
How Do I Set Up a Gimbal?
If you want to take advantage of the several gimbal benefits, you must learn how to use a gimbal. If you are familiar with setting up tripods, you will find this very similar.
But before anything else, buy a device that supports your camera, whether a DSLR camera or your smartphone.
Once you ensure that your gimbal is a good match for your camera, you’ll still need to set it up properly. Usually, you can rely on the included manual instructions on how to attach your camera to the gimbal stabilizer.
First, you will need to loosen up the adjustment arms. Then, mount your camera on the base plate and screw it tightly. Ensure it is secure to prevent your camera from falling off the gimbal.
Once the camera is safely connected to the gimbal, proceed to calibrate weight distribution. Doing this is easier than it sounds by adjusting the pitch arms. For instance, when using a 3-axis gimbal, check that the camera is not tilting forward or backward nor rolling clockwise or counterclockwise. It needs to be solidly still just like if it was mounted on a tripod.
Now, turn on the video camera and the gimbal stabilizer itself. Once you start it, the camera should automatically adjust to ensure perfect balance.
Once perfectly balanced, you can now activate the gimbal functions. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for a detailed explanation of what each one does.
Each brand of gimbal has a series of buttons you must press if you want your video camera to do a particular action. Thus, it will take a bit of experimentation until you get some practice operating the gimbal.
Do You Need a Gimbal?
By now, you probably think a gimbal is pretty amazing. But still, you wonder if you really need a gimbal.
Well, the answer depends on the type of videos that you intend to shoot and the effects you want to achieve.
For instance, if you are filming yourself while walking, you will probably notice the camera shake once you are in the editing room. Sure, you can stabilize this shaky, handheld video through post-production. However, nothing beats having a smooth video from the get-go. You can use a gimbal to achieve stabilized videos.
A gimbal stabilizer can also provide more shooting options if you want to expand your creativity. Since you do not have to worry about camera shake, you can confidently record video even when running, going up a flight of stairs, following a moving subject, or filming a tracking shot.
Is It Worth Getting a Gimbal?
If you have decided that a gimbal will be necessary for your projects, you might still be thinking if it is worth getting one. After all, gimbals do not come cheap.
However, they are a considerable investment if you are into serious videography. A gimbal will help you achieve smooth and steady videos that make them look professional.
This camera stabilizer is also worth it if you often film outside. The chances are that you will have less control of your surroundings. And you probably are not allowed to set up equipment like lights and tripods. Fortunately, you can easily take out a handheld gimbal as it is small, discreet, and portable. Then, you can pack it up quickly after shooting.
How to Buy the Best Gimbals?
With so many gimbal brands available today, it can be difficult to choose the right product for you.
Fortunately, I will discuss some camera gimbal considerations you need to keep in mind before buying this stabilizer. Hopefully, by the end of this section, you will be more confident with your purchasing decision.
One of the first factors to consider when buying a gimbal is its weight. Avoid purchasing a device that weighs over two pounds.
Since you will be holding the gimbal with the camera mounted, your arms will tire quickly if you choose a heavy gimbal.
Look for a lightweight yet quality stabilizer. This device will let you hold the camera and gimbal for long periods, making it ideal for event videography.
Besides the gimbal’s weight, you must also consider its load capacity. It must be able to support the camera and lenses you plan to use.
The last thing you want is to buy the wrong gimbal that cannot handle your full-frame DSLR cameras or mirrorless cameras and zoom lens.
Fortunately, most manufacturers include the maximum capacity of their motorized gimbals for your awareness.
Gimbals use two types of batteries.
The first one is alkaline batteries that require regular changing. On the upside, they can last you long.
Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries are easy to find and inexpensive. They also allow you to recharge. However, they get out of power quickly.
Choosing between these two batteries will depend on your needs and preferences.
You must also ensure that whatever software the gimbal uses is compatible with your camera or computer. It will be easier to control the camera movement or start recording if you can use the same gimbal software on your phone or any mobile device.
The last thing to consider is the compatibility of the gimbal with other accessories. For instance, if you want to attach a light or tripod to your gimbal, it must allow these other accessories to be mounted on it.
What Are the Different Types of Gimbal?
There are two main types of gimbal depending on how many axes it stabilizes.
The first one is a 3-axis gimbal. As its name suggests, it can stabilize three axes, namely the tilt, pan, and roll. It gives you stabilized and smooth videos, even when you are moving a lot.
On the other hand, a 2-axis gimbal only stabilizes the pan and roll axis. It does not eliminate all unwanted camera shakes. However, it is lighter and eats up less battery.
It is up to you to choose which gimbal type best suits your needs and the level of stability you are looking for.
Gimbals vs. Steadicam: What Is the Difference?
It is difficult to discuss motorized gimbals without mentioning another type of stabilizer known as the Steadicam.
Steadicam refers to a mechanical stabilizer used by professional and Hollywood filmmakers for years. It features large counterweights, small counterweights, nuts, bolts, springs, and other components to reduce camera shake. It requires physical work to counterbalance the camera movements. Thus, Steadicam requires professional experts to operate.
On the other hand, a gimbal uses brushes, motors, and batteries that require charging. These moving elements automatically counteract camera shake with minimal physical work. All you need to do is mount the camera on the gimbal and activate its functions. However, a gimbal stabilizer is relatively small and compact. It can only handle action cameras, phones, and DSLRs.
Thus, professional film studios with large camera equipment still use mechanical stabilizers to correct unwanted camera shake.
What Are the Drawbacks of a Gimbal?
Just like any other tool, gimbals have their advantages and disadvantages. It is best to consider these to help you decide if this stabilizer is right for you.
The first downside of using a gimbal to shoot is it requires power. Make sure you have enough to last the duration of your video shoot.
A gimbal also has a learning curve. It takes time to find the right balance when mounting your camera, the controls, and the different modes of operation.
Furthermore, this motorized camera gimbal requires you to hold it with both hands while shooting. Doing so can strain your arms and shoulders, especially when taking video for long periods.
Finally, despite being relatively compact, it can still be difficult to transport and use in tight spaces compared to a small handheld rig.
To summarize, gimbals can correct unwanted camera shake by counterbalancing the movements using brushes and motors. It can help you achieve smooth and stabilized videos, which are ideal for professional shooting environments. All you have to do is mount the camera, calibrate it, and play with the functions.
I hope that this article helped you learn about all things gimbal. Pick up a gimbal for your GoPro and see what it can do for yourself!