If you are new to camera stabilizers and gimbals or if you are planning to get a new one the video below should help you!
Gimbals have been around for a few years now and it seems like they are everywhere. But exactly that can make it quite difficult and confusing to know which one to buy or even when to use a stabilizer and what for.
Choosing a gimbal: Size matters!
There are plenty of gimbals out there who do one thing well: Stabilizing shaky camera motion in real-time. And that is probably also the main reason to use such a tool. The main questions you have to ask yourself are: Do I have multiple cameras that need to work with a specific gimbal or just one? Which features are really necessary? Is remote control via a mobile phone app important?
Every gimbal has a payload (weight) it can handle as well as a size of camera and lens that can fit. If you have a big cinema camera or camcorder and a small point-and-shoot camera it’s going to be impossible to find one gimbal that can deal with both. There are four categories of stabilizers: The small ones for smartphones or action cams, medium sized ones for point-and-shoots, DSLR and mirrorless gimbals and the very big setups with at least two handles that can carry heavy and big cinema cameras with plenty of gear and accessories.
If you want to use all features that the latest generation gimbals offer, your camera and phone needs to be compatible with the gimbal which you can usually check on the manufacturer’s website. Some gimbals offer face tracking, timelapse and hyperlapse options and custom settings like the Vertigo effect. Unless camera and phone are compatible these features can’t be used. This isn’t a big deal if you only want to get steady tracking shots, because the phone apps are not needed for that but if you want to use a specific feature you better make sure your gear is compatible.
Cool new tool: Use it in moderation!
If you are now thinking that you will never need a tripod again, you better think twice. Just like any other film tool a gimbal is also just that. There should always be a reason for its use. You wouldn’t shoot a whole video just with a slider or a jib (camera crane), right? I am mentioning this point specifically because there is currently an overuse of gimbal shots not just on social media but also on TV. The non-stop use can often be distracting and tiring for the audience to watch and can get boring very quickly. Just ask yourself: Is the gimbal’s motion improving the scene or is it rather distracting?
Using a gimbal: Plan your shots!
To get the best results it makes sense to plan a shot as far as that’s possible. If you have someone in front of the camera that you are following, choreograph the person’s walk and your own walking as well as the gimbal’s motion. Spontaneous or unplanned movements can lead to unwanted gimbal pans that won’t look very professional. If you have the chance and you notice something went wrong re-do the take until the scene looks pleasing.
Having a clear beginning and ending is another important thing to keep in mind when using a stabilizer. Whether you start and end with a slow movement or visually begin and finish the scene can hugely improve the shot.
Quick look: FeiyuTech AK4500
At the end of 2018 I tested the FeiyuTech AK4000 which is designed for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. It’s a good gimbal overall but I had some issues with vibrations which made the shots I captured unusable because the whole image looked shaky. A few other filmmakers I talked to had the same issues. Probably this is something that can be fixed with a Firmware update but I am not sure if Feiyu ever fixed this issue.
I decided to give the new AK4500 a try and to honest I was quite impressed. The vibration and jitter was no longer an issue. The battery life is also better which was another Thing that bothered me with the previous model. The main reason I wanted to use it was to see the additional grip that can be mounted onto the main handle. This turns the one-hand gimbal into a dual handling system which a prefer since using the Zhiyun Crane 3 Lab. The good thing about this design is that even though it has two handles it doesn’t take too much space and it’s just very comfortable to hold especially when having a long day of filming. The 2nd handle also has the same controls like the main grip and a small display as well as a follow focus.
Overall I enjoy using the AK4500 but I also need to say that if you want a similar dual handle system you should also take a look at the Zhiyun Crane 3 Lab which is shorter and has the 2nd grip as a non-removable one attached. Gimbals are a lot about personal filming preferences. That’s also why there are many different looking ones. To find out which one is for you I highly recommend trying out different ones at a local photo/film store to see which one is the right fit for your kind of filming.
Written by filmmaker Moritz Janisch on August 16, 2019