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  • Writer's pictureArbor Group

The Gimbal Changed Everything.

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

The power of integrating small high-torque motors with sophisticated motion sensors is the one of most fundamental changes that has happened to film making in years. We would argue it is nearly on a par with the transition from celluloid to digital.

It was but a few years ago that smooth-moving, cinematic shots were only achievable with the use of of dollies, cranes, and jibs. These platforms require lots of bodies and considerable setup time. Another popular option was the Steadicam, an excellent tool but only in specialized hands. While these platforms continue to be critical film making mainstays, particularly with heavier, high-end digital cinema cameras, there is a huge segment of work moving to these versatile devices. This trend is accelerating as the smaller ‘prosumer’ cameras increase in resolution, frame size and dynamic range.

A cameraman with a very modest budget can pull off Hollywood-caliber movements with one hand and a gimbal camera mount.

The gimbal is a device that allows a digital camera to rotate smoothly along several axes, usually three (pan, tilt and roll), stabilizing your camera and helping you to film fluid, smooth footage while you're on the move.

The gimbal uses an IMU (Internal Measuring Unit) to detect any sudden bumps or movements of the camera. These adverse motions are partially canceled out on the gimbal by powering the high-torque brushless motors in fractions of a second, keeping the camera stabilized.

The potential cinematic moves are numerous. The ‘follow,’ the ‘reverse follow,’ the ‘mini jib,’ ‘tracking,’ a ‘chest reveal,’ ‘foreground wipes,’ an ‘orbit,’ or even the ‘fake drone’ are just some of the moves. Of course, like all tools, the outcome is very much dependent on the skill and aesthetics of the user. “Give a camera to two people” and all that.

There are a huge array of models and manufacturers involved; Dji, Manfrotto, ZHIYUN, Sirui and Pilotfly, just to name a few.

Bottom line, these are fabulous tools but they do have limitations and it is not as easy as it looks. If you look at the on-line tutorials, they lead you to believe they are nearly weightless devices. If you are carrying the rig for extended periods, you will feel it.

One final admonishment: having purchased one, you’re going to be motivated to overuse it. Commercial or long format you’re still telling a story. The shot still has to be motivated.

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