Camera kits

Ronin & MōVI Gimbals – all you need to know

Introduction

This is definitely the time of the Gimbal.  

Ever since the incredibly stable images produced from the first MōVI 10 system went viral in 2013 from an operator doing his best to unseat the camera, the word Gimbal has entered into the vernacular of the filmmaker.  Steadicams had been around for a long time but you had to have a trained operator – so if you couldn’t afford a Steadicam, then it was clear that you needed to hire a Gimbal. (You still need training to use and balance a Gimbal effectively but they are much quicker to master).

This article explains the benefits and limitations of using these Gimbal systems and provides essential information if you want to use one in production and was completely revised in October 2019 to reflect the recent developments and changing production methodologies of gimbal technology.

It is worth mentioning that Gimbals are NOT the panacea of steady shot systems and as such, are not a replacement to the Steadicam.  Steadicams are still the preferred tool for supporting long takes, have a higher payload capability and offer great versatility.  Their design means that operators can hold them for longer durations and are still the preferred system for top-end Dramas, Features and long takes.  Saying that though, modern Gimbal systems offer even greater versatility, especially with the increasing range of support vests and systems – more on this later.

The Gimbal systems developed from the model radio control aircraft technology (RC) originally, using many of the same parts and rather unsatisfactory connectors for DC power and control systems and as a result, the original systems were rather flimsy and more consumer than professional – a far cry from the solid Broadcast and Film grip systems and Steadicam Vests that we were all accustomed too but all have now reached a level of sophistication that the reliability and operation is much more dependable, so they have reached widespread acceptance as regular production tools.

All of these systems have improved, as did the aerial drone systems that they evolved from, with MōVI developing the much improved MōVI M15 and later MōVI Pro, each of which offered greater payload capacity and also greatly improved remote control interface.  However, in our opinion the undisputed winner though is the drone manufacturer, DJI, who released the popular DJI Ronin Gimbal which VMI converted to the extension arm system and more recently the greatly superior Ronin 2 plus lighter-weight Ronin MX and single-handed operation Ronin SThis range is now been expanded to also include a built-in 4K camera head on a stabilised handle to feature the micro-compact Ronin Osmo X3 and high spec Osmo X5R with on-board 4K RAW capture.  There is now a gimble solution for all productions!

VMI carry all of these systems, as they do slightly different things and are best suited to differing applications, though of late, since DJI systems have proven to offer the greatest reliability, we have chosen to only stock the Ronin systems.   

How to power the Rig and the Camera is an important consideration

The original DJI Ronin, at 4.2kg, was heavier than the MōVI Pro, however the benefit was that it was exceptionally easy to balance and master and offered exceptional affordability and specification.  Whilst camera systems longer than the Canon C300 could not be balanced on the original system, VMI modified the Ronin with a long arm modification (DJI Ronin Extension-arm Gimbal system, which both increased the payload capacity to 11kg from the original 7.25kg and also allowed longer camera setups to be balanced such as Sony F7, F5, F55 and/or Angenieux short zooms as well, so this became our standard Ronin model to hire out.

The MōVI Pro at 2.5kg offered a 13kg payload capacity and was able to balance quite long camera configurations and incorporate the unique Mimic remote camera operation which proved very popular. 

However, over time, clients found that using the on-board Gimbal batteries to both power the gimbal, camera setup and peripherals was a much more convenient way of working and by this time the Ronin 2 had come out using batteries which were 2.3x more powerful than the MoVI batteries , as these had a capacity of 4,200mAh vs 1,800mAh, so the benefit of working in this manner with the Ronin 2 was clear and VMI stopped offering the MoVI models as a result. 

There were however many more reasons that the Ronin 2 gimbal became so popular.  The R-2 was a complete redesign which improved on the installation and adjustment of Ronin 1.  The motors were more than 4 times stronger than the original Ronin1 and DJI claimed that the system could be used in gusts up to 75mph (100kph).  It could also support longer camera setups and large payloads of up to 30lb (14kg), so suitable for large and small cameras enabling steadicam-type shots on a carbon-fibre framed system.  Also, the Ronin 2 was designed with integrated multiple 12V D-tap outputs as powering the camera was inherently part of its design, which our clients loved.  As always, this additional payload and battery capacity meant that it was also appreciably heavier to operate, so using a support system like the Readyrig or Easyrig became an essential accessory - more on this later.

Not everyone needs a massive payload to be used in the wind.

However, not everyone needs a large elaborate camera system to be used in a hurricane, so for this reason, DJI released the DJI Ronin-M, which had a similar 2-handed operation but was perfectly designed for camera setups of up to 4.5kg, so ideal for a Canon C200 with DSLR lenses, as opposed to a Sony F-55 with Angenieux film zoom lens.

Worth also mentioning that DSLR cameras have increased in specification and performance, so the early Ikan EC1 Beholder systems were improved by the release of the DJI Ronin-S.  Think of this as a single handed DSLR gimble on a stick.  Remarkably easy to setup and use and surprisingly effective. Also, since DSLRs are so good at shooting a shallow depth of field and noone likes out of focus images, VMI provide a thumb operated remote focus as part of the Ronin S system as standard.

Gimbal Systems are versatile

Unlike Steadicams, Gimbal system can be used by multiple operators by transferring them during the shot.  They can be passed from one floor of a building to another, transferred through windows and doorways and even down manholes!  

The built-in ‘majestic modes’ allow the system to pan simply by pointing the rig in a given direction and this subtle control is fully programmable on both systems. (This is a trade-marked MōVI term but the Ronin offers a similar program).

If required, they can be configured in different ways in a matter of minutes and work suitcase mode (sideways, Ronin only), upside down to gain height, or close to the floor.  They can be controlled either using a thumbwheel controller (Ronin) or remote control (RC controller (Ronin) or MōVI Controller (Movi Pro only)) for a separate operator to control the pan/tilt function.  The MoVI Pro system incorporates a unique Mimic operation whereby an operators movements on a steering wheel are repliciated to a camera head - more on this later.

Both Freefly and DJI now produce a handwheels control for traditionally trained operators.  Whilst not everyone can use these, they offer tremendously smooth and accurate control for those who do.  VMI don't yet stock the Master Wheels remote systems as yet.

It is worth mentioning that these setups can be configured extremely quickly (minutes), compared with Steadicam, which takes substantially longer to reconfigure from high mode to low mode for example.

They can be used as remote heads and both the MōVI Pro, Ronin-2 and also DJI Ronin can be mounted to tripods (upside down) as a stabilising device, or indeed, on a crane/jib as an inexpensive stabilised remote head, though control is not as refined as professional custom-designed systems, like the Libra and Flighthead.  The Movi Pro requires the Freefly Toad in the Hole quick release mount for this application.

 

 

 

 

Want to use the Ronin/Gimbal as a remote head?  use VMI's Gimble Tipod/Jib/Crane Mount Frame

We were increasingly being asked to use Ronins and MoVIs as remote heads, to be mounted either on a dolly or on tripod head and at the time, no such frame existed, so we designed our own MōVI Pro Gimbal Tripod/Jib/Crane Mount Frame, specifically for this purpose.

Once mounted, the gimbal-mounted camera can be remotely controlled using either the MōVI Mimic controller or Freefly MōVI Controller.

The system is capable of being mounted in overslung or underslung operation with 100mm or 150mm Bowl and connects to the MōVI utilising the the Toad-In-The-Hole quick release mount system.

 

 

 

 

 

Gimbals are Hard Work to use, no? - not with the right support!

All of these systems are operated with your arms in front of you, supporting a Gimbal plus camera system, so they are extremely arduous to use (save money in the gym!).

Gimbal systems when fully configured are very heavy and you will need to rest after a long take and we have scrutinised all of the various options on offer and offer a range of vests for you to use.

The real benefit is that the majority of the weight is transferred from your arms and shoulders to your hips and torso, so with the weight removed, you can instead concentrate on operating the gimbal, rather than concern yourself with just being able to hold it.

They are sufficiently easy to use, that extremely long takes are possible and operators have been known to operate with a gimbal all day.

We carry three basic models.

Ready Rig

The Ready Rig is an excellent fully featured stabilising vest for Gimbals and can support up to 14kg (30lb).  What is clever is that it features a clever universal fitting mechanism making it suitable for all systems and will make operation of a Gimbal system far less arduous for the operator and can be used either for low angle shots or above the operator's head.

Note that if you are using the MoVI Pro which uses a MoVI Pro Ring design, then you will need to accessorise your Ready Rig with a CineMilled Spindle Pair for them to be used together, whilst still being able to fit through a conventional doorway.

 

 

Easyrig Extension Arm

Since being developed in the 1990s by Johan Hellsten, a Swedish camera operator with a bad back, cameras have changed enormously in design and form factor.  Supporting a camera setup on a gimbal requires a substantial reach of the supporting arm, so VMI supply a specific version of the Easyrig, which we call an Easyrig Vario 5 Extension arm and which incorporates a 230mm arm extension to amply provide the space in front of the operator to support a gimbal comfortably and will support payloads of between 5kg and 17kg.

 

 

 

 

Easyrig Extension Arm with Flowcine Serene arm System

Walking produces and up and down movement which the viewer becomes aware of when the camera movements are damped, so the serene arm was developed to stabilise side to side errors in the same scenarios by counter pivoting around it’s center axis. At the same time you have full use of the Easyrig cord extension that will allow you to go from high to low mode while at the same time the Serene will take care of the vertical and side to side stabilisation adding two more stabilised axis to your existing system.  In short, when walking or running with a gimbal, then this combination makes your shots silky-smooth.

By fitting this to the extension arm version of the Easyrig, the weight of the entire unit is spread onto the operators body and the extension arm give additional space when working with larger form-factor cameras.

It is ideal for many other hand-held situations where stability is crucial and where the freedom to move is essential and smooth movement shots are required.

The extension arm version of the Easyrig Vario 5 with Flowcine attachment supports a 5-17kg payload capacity with an adjustment to vary the strength of support.  The extension arm makes it more suitable for gimbal type productions and Flowcine attachment dampens walking movement.

Other support strategies

Supporting a single-handed operation can be quite tiring for long takes and these lightweight gimbals are  too light to use any assisting devices such as Ready Rig.

Here is an interesting work-around that one of our clients designed recently.  By taking a regular cine saddle and 'wearing it' around the operator's neck, this creates a useful plaftofm from which to support a single-handed gimbal.  The idea was to create a means to support a single-handed  gimbal for a long shooting sequence.  It looks very promising!

 

 

 

 

 

Another approach is to use a Steadicam-type arrangement with a Zephr type vest.  This approach has become much less popular than in the past, since many more operators are choosing to use Easyrig and Readyrig type supports instead, so VMI no longer stock this device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stabilised Camera Systems.  Gimbals with built-in cameras

A recent innovation is to have a stabiliser system built into the camera design.  The DJI Osmo does just this and presents itself as a single handle with a 4K Zenmuse X3 or X5 camera on a 3-axis gimbal arm.

There are two variants of this camera design, the DJI Osmo X3 (or X3 PLUS) and DJI Osmo X5.  Both are 4K but the X5 has a Micro 4/3 sensor to give a shallower depth of field and allows 4K RAW record to on board SSDs.  As a consequence of the shallow depth of field apability of the X5, VMI supply this with an Osmo Focus wheel as standard, so that the operator can also pull focus of compatible Micro 4/3 lenses (Osmo X5 only).  Really neat.

Both models are very small, lightweight, easy to use and works really well.

To save money, the viewfinder is a mobile phone (VMI supply these as part of the kit).

 

Use Slimmed-Down Cameras

An important consideration is that you don’t have to have cameras like REDs or Canon C300IIs completely configured with side-handles and viewfinders.  The weight saving of leaving these non-essential bits out these will enable you to set up the system more easily and as a consequence, they will also be less effort to use too.

 

 

Learn to use a Gimbal before you use it

There used to be a widespread belief that whilst Steadicam systems needed a lot of bespoke training and practice, Gimbals were more like iPhones – intuitive to use and no training required… Sadly, this is not true!  Gimbals take practice to master, so give yourself time.

We at VMI have learned to set up these devices and have used them successfully based solely on the manufacturers training videos and have arrived at the conclusion that to be able to ‘fly’ these devices correctly, any training needs to be self-taught at an individual level as group sessions or an on-set technician will not be as involving or comprehensive as learning to balance and control these devices yourself.

In the same way that Steadicams tend to be owner/operator, these devices require practice both in set up and use that can only come from quiet ‘face time’ with the rig and the training videos. Equally because there are some build elements of these systems borrowed from the Model RC world, some of the components are not as robust as the professional imaging world would expect and again quiet practice time will be beneficial to the end user, especially not to cause any damage.

The two main attractions of these systems are unique camera positioning and a market perception of pricing (ie a lot cheaper than a Steadicam rig). By recommending to clients that they hire out the rig and all necessary support kit for at least one day before the shoot if they are a first time or inexperienced user in order to self-train.

Practice does make perfect and mastering setting up the balancing of the gimbal is an essential skill which only experience can help you to master.

VMI can support the market price perception of these devices without requiring additional on-set support or attend one of our training courses which are occasionally offered, or by attending a camera test and having some one-on-one guidance to how to set these up.  

It is very much the case with these (and any future similar) rigs that the onus is on the end user to become comfortable and proficient with the set up and operation, and that it is certainly not possible to pick up one up out of the box and be able to use it successfully with a bit of phone support from the rental company, so DO PRACTICE FIRST BEFORE YOUR SHOOT!

Also, due to the very nature of the shots and circumstances these devices will be working in, the client needs to understand this and take full responsibility for any loss of shooting time and any damage caused by inexperienced operation of the rig. This allows us to pass on a lower cost to the end user and provides timely training ahead of any prospective shoot.

 

Compatibility Issues

Early Gimbal system were not compatible with all lenses, since many PL lenses were too heavy to be fully supported.  This is still the case for some combinations when used with the Ronin Extension arm, though this model gave greater versatility of lens choice than the original model.  However, the Ronin 2 offers the greatest possible choice of camera setups and lenses and ought not to be a limiting factor affecting your choice of equipment, however it is fair to advise that you are well advised to test your combination with any of the gimbal models ahead of any planned shoot.

Also, it remains a fundamental truism that the lighter the setup, the easier the balancing is and the less arduous they are to use, so don’t fit and use unnecessary peripherals that you don’t need!

The larger Gimbals are less forgiving for very light cameras, so if you plan to shoot with a DSLR camera, then the Ronin S is the obvious choice, unless you plan to heavily accessorise it, in which case the Ronin MX or Ronin extension arm may be better suited to be able to cope with the additional payload requirement.

 

Essential Accessories

Once you have affixed and balanced a camera to a Gimbal system, then you are ready to shoot and don't need any other accessories but several accessories can make yours a better and more functional experience! 

All of these are optional but all are fully compatible and mounting points for these peripherals are provided for all VMI systems, so that you can choose them with confidence that they will work.

These include wireless follow focus systems, wireless video senders, external recorders, on-camera monitors and a floor stand rig.

- The TV Logic 5.6" monitor is the monitor of choice for these systems for its size and performance and bridge-mountings are provided to mount the monitor if you don't want use the camera's own LCD display.

- Instead of a small external monitor, you may wish instead to use a recorder with built-in monitor for both of these functions, such as Atomos Shogun or Convergent Odyssey 7Q recorders.

- Wireless Lens control systems allow a focus puller to operate focus and very lightweight systems such as the Tilta 2-axis Nucleus-M or Hocus Axis 1 LCS are amply suitable.

- You may want to have a Director's monitor and this must by design be wireless and VMI carry many wireless video links which can be supplied with a wide range of monitors but is not supplied with one as standard. 

- C stand with K clamp and sandbag is a very useful rig for resting the camera and device. The sandbag is necessary to drape on the arm of the C stand to counterbalance the weight of the device.   Trust me, you WILL be grateful to have a floor-mounted platform to rest the fully built rig during use if you don’t have a table top for the supplied holder.

 - Wireless video links.  These days, the ubiquitous Teradek Bolt Pro series have become the standard for all gimble productions, as the transmitters are very small and lightweight offer an impressive range with a high degree of dependability and reliability.  

 

Fully Accessorise Your Camera When Balancing… including removing the lens cap!

The balancing of the Gimbal system is an essential skill that you must master.  An ill-balanced unit will make the motors work too hard and drain your battery too much, prevent the unit from working properly and possibly burn the motors out, to mastering this skill is essential.  

An important note is that you will need to fully accessorise your camera with all peripherals before balancing. Even a memory card, lens cap or camera battery will be sufficient to unbalance the camera, so be clear as to how you want to use the camera and accessorise it fully ahead of the balance process to save you time!

 

Remotely Controlling of Gimbals

Mimic Remote Control

The MoVI Pro system introduced a completely unique way of controlling remote camera movements by copying or 'mimicing' human movements.

The MoVI Pro Gimbal systems include a MIMIC steering wheel control as part of the package to offer precise and natural control of the MōVI Pro.

Freefly’s innovative MIMIC technology allows the camera to automatically and intuitively follows users movements. MIMIC features a long range 2.4 GHz frequency hopping radio system that provides users access to MōVI Pro pointing control, status information, menus, and RED camera controls.  

This new MōVI Control method has no joysticks, knobs or wheels. Just tilt, pan or roll and the MōVI will follow. Move the MIMIC and the MōVI will follow. It's so instant and organic that operators can execute complex moving shots with precise framing after just minutes of practice.  The video on the video link shows how this intuitive, versatile and unique controller is.

Features:

 

Freefly MōVI Controller

The Freefly MōVI Controller is an option to remotely control MōVI gimbal systems and camera accessories in one unit (MōVI remote, focus unit) wirelessly.

Phone/tablet app is not needed when MōVI Controller is in use as it gives complete control over the whole rig.

The Freefly MōVI Controller makes remote operation much easier using a joystick operation for panning with simultaneous focus control to operate a remote follow focus unit, though VMI no longer stock this product.

 

 

GIMBALS IN DETAIL

DJI Ronin-2 (14kg payload)

The latest DJI Ronin 2, 3 Axis Gimbal System and in our view, also the best of all.  It is capable of handling a substantial payload of 30lb (14kg) so is basically compatible with almost all cameras and lens combinations with few limitations.

The motors on the Ronin 2 are very strong and whilst DJI claim that it can be used in gusts of up to 75mph, we have not tested this but you can absolutely use it on a moving vehicle with confidence.

Extremely Durable and High Build quality, being manufactured from carbon fibre

Powerful batteries with pre-loomed power distribution built into the chassis to avoid loose cables. 2 x 12V D-Tap (DJI refer to these as P-tap) power outlets to power camera and peripherals.

Designed for heavier build cameras.  If you are using smaller camera setups, then consider the Ronin extension arm, Ronin M or Ronin S systems.

The expandable frame means that longer camera setups are possible to include Amira and primes, or Alexa Mini and compact zoom lenses, which is difficult on other systems

It is remarkably easy to balance and unlike other systems, has a good tolerance to being roughly balanced, which is useful if a rapid setup is required.

Most important of all though are the quality of the batteries supplied.  We supply a kit of 6 batteries, which are 24V and really juicy, since the modern fashion is to load up the camera with wireless lens control, video sender, on-board LCD and the camera (plus potentially a zoom too) and then power the entire camera package AND gimbal off one battery power and unlike other systems, power distribution is integrated into the chasis.  For this reason alone, we favour the Ronin 2, since it can handle this with ease and supplying 6 x batteries in a kit means that you are unlikely to run out of power.

There is a built-in stand into the frame and powerful batteries to be able to power your camera and peripherals and The cage is also expandable and easy to balance, making setups easy and the case is not too large and facilitates easy transportation.

Setup and operation is both easy and elegant and this has rapidly become our most popular gimbal to hire.

However it is also the heaviest gimbal that we stock as well, so you are strongly recommended to also hire a support vest in order to operate it comfortably.

In common with the Ronin Extension Arm, the following modes of operation are possible:

The Ronin can be configured to work in multiple Modes of operation:

UNDERSLUNG MODE: The default gimbal operation is the Underslung mode. The camera can be comfortably held low to the ground, at chest level or anywhere in between. This mode is also used when the Ronin is suspended from a camera jib or crane.

UPRIGHT MODE:  Flip the gimbal over to bring the camera closer to eye level for a higher perspective without straining to lift it. Use this mode when sticking the Ronin out of a car’s sunroof or when trying to shoot over a crowd of people.

BRIEFCASE MODE: When a slimmer gimbal profile is needed, i.e. when moving through doorways or narrow paths, Briefcase mode is ideal. It allows the gimbal to be held to the side and close to the legs, much like a briefcase.

THUMBWHEEL CONTROL: In this mode, the operator can control the pan/tilt function using the thumbwheel control on the unit.  

RC CONTROL: In this mode, a remote operator can control the pan/tilt function using the radio control handset supplied with the unit.

Ronin Thumbwheel controller as standard

DJI Ronin Extension arm system (11kg payload)

The DJI Ronin Extension Arm system is a modified version of the DJI Ronin to increase its payload capacity to 11kg and permit longer cameras to be balanced and flown.

It is pre-wired with 2 x 12V D-Tap power outlets to enable you to power both the camera and its peripherals.

The power draw is quite low and you ought to achieve around 3 hours use per battery powering the Gimbal alone but if you power a hungry camera, with all of the wireless toys and monitor, then you might only expect 10 mins per battery change.

It is very easy to balance and unlike other systems, has a good tolerance to being roughly balanced, which is useful if a rapid setup is required.

We took the original design and modified it with an extension arm version, which allows the rig to accept longer bodies and allows you to use the following cameras:

 - Canon C300EF and C300PL Mk I & Mk II
 - Canon C200
 - Blackmagic camera
 - Alexa Mini
 - RED DSMC-2 Helium/Gemini etc with small prime
 - RED DSMC-2 Helium/Gemini etc with Optimo/Alura short zoom
 - Sony FS-100/FS 700
 - Sony FS-7 Mk I & MK II with small prime
 - Sony PMW-F5
 - Sony PMW-F55
 - RED EPIC with Optimo/Alura short zoom

Ronin Thumbwheel controller as standard

Additionally, we have modified all of our Ronin systems to incorporate the Thumbwheel controller as standard, which permits pan/tilt operation from the frame.

 - It is very easy to mount accessories (monitor, wireless transmitter, remote focus) with many supplied mounting points.
 - Can be used in tiniest spaces because of briefcase mode.
 - Can be used upside down in briefcase mode (image will have to be flipped in post!)
 - The Ronin can even be used on the Jib as a remote head using the radio control handset
 - Ronin payload - up to 7.3kg, which extends to 11kg with extention arm modification.

The Ronin is able to be set to work at an angle (roll) for creative purposes.

Important points about the DJI Ronin system

 

DJI Ronin M (4.5kg payload) 

The first thing that you notice about the DJI Ronin M Gimbal system is its High Build Quality.  All Ronins are extremely durable, as they are manufactured from Aircraft-grade aluminium and you notice at once that this elegantly made device has no loose cables at all.
Designed for smaller cameras and DSLR productio, it has a payload capacity of 4.5kg, compared to 7.2kg for the regular Ronin system. 

It works very well with the following cameras that we have tested:

- Sony A7s, Canon 5D Mk2 & Mk3 and all DSLR form factor cameras:
- Blackmagic camera

 

 

 

 

 

MōVI Pro (13kg payload)

The MōVI Pro is a totally redesigned 3 Axis Gimbal System designed to carry larger payloads than previous MoVI systems, so suitable for large and small cameras enabling Steadicam-type shots on carbon-fibre/aluminium frame and able to support upto a 13kg payload but equally well suited to balancing smaller cameras too.

Designed with brushless technology for refined use and improved from the previous MōVI M10 and M15 in every way, Freefly have listened to their users and solved all the niggling issues that surrounded the previous models and the results are quite superb.  

Operate using the MōVI Pro, the MōVI Ring Pro or the unique MIMIC controller - all are included in the price.

The attached video in the video tab introduces the capability better than any words can.

We expect this to rapidly become the de-facto choice on serious gimbal productions.  

MōVI Ring Pro

MōVI Ring Pro is designed to allow users to create content more quickly and effectively than ever before.  It features a built in stand for instant set down to allow users to rest between shots. The built in stand allows for quick setup and balancing without an accessory stand.  The built in stand allows users to execute remote head shots almost anywhere.  Simply set the MōVI Pro on the ground, table, etc and execute complex pan / tilt moves with ease.  

The MoVI Pro Gimbal systems include a MIMIC steering wheel control as part of the package to offer precise and natural control of the MōVI Pro.

Freefly’s innovative MIMIC technology allows the camera to automatically and intuitively follows users movements. MORE 

Additional MōVI Features:

Majestic Mode (Pan/Tilt)

Patent pending Majestic Mode allows for a single operator to intuitively control the pointing of the gimbal by moving the handles without compromising the stabilization of the image. The gimbal takes the operator's movements and intelligently converts them into stabilized pan and tilt movements. This allows for very low profile single operator setup and accurate framing in tight situations.

Translation Compensation

The system features patent pending translation compensation, whereby the system will automatically adjust the camera angle to maintain a consistent frame. This is useful in situations where the camera will be moving so fast that no human operator could possibly keep up. The MōVI can accurately adjust the frame hundreds of times per second to keep the subject in frame as the camera translates.

Live Wireless Tuning & Graphing

A next generation stabilized gimbal deserves a fast, intuitive and user friendly GUI (graphical user interface). The MōVI features a real-time bluetooth connection to the gimbal, which outputs all pertinent performance data and allows for live adjustment of any of the gimbal parameters.

Remote Firmware Updatable

The MōVI stabilized camera system is firmware updatable. When Freefly adds a new feature on Friday night, you can be shooting with it on Saturday morning. As the system is used in varying cinema applications, Freefly is constantly inventing new solutions for the rigors operators face in using the system to execute demanding shots.

Drift Free Horizon

The proprietary control algorithms developed for the MōVI utilize a very high accuracy GPS. This GPS allows for acceleration correction when the gimbal is used outdoors or has a GPS signal. This feature is useful when used on cars and helicopters where sustained extreme accelerational forces can cause non-GPS aided systems to drift.

Silent Drive

Capturing on-camera audio is no problem with the MōVI, as the system is virtually silent. Because the entire motor / drive system was designed in-house, we were able to reduce the noise frequency signature of the gimbal to a virtually inaudible level.

Shot Recorder

The system has the ability to record the exact camera position, height, pan, tilt and roll angle to assist the VFX team in post-production.

Custom Direct Drive Motors

High torque and lightweight are two attributes that don't usually go together. When we started to design the MōVI system, we knew that no off-the-shelf motor could deliver the performance needed, while keeping the weight low enough to allow the system to be mobile, portable and agile. Drawing on years of brushless motor design experience, Freefly was able to create a remarkably lightweight motor that still has enough torque to handle larger camera packages.

User Adjustable Shakey Cam

In some instances, camera movement / shake is a desirable aesthetic choice. The difficult part is quantifying the amount and type of 'shake' to effectively convey the emotion of the scene. The MōVI overcomes this limitation by allowing the user to define variable noise filters that mimic the user's movements. Being able to control the level of 'noise' is highly useful, as it can be difficult for a human operator to accurately maintain a consistent level of camera movement, especially while keeping a compelling frame. With the patent pending MōVI noise filter, the camera operator can focus on framing and the MōVI takes care of the rest consistently and repeatedly.

Attach to Jib/Crane

Attach to Jib/Crane with the Toad in the Hold Quick Release Mount or VMI MōVI Pro Gimbal Tripod/Jib/Crane Mount Frame

DJI Ronin-S - 3 axis DSLR Handheld Gimbal (3.6kg payload)

The DJI Ronin-S 3 Axis Gimbal version of the Ronin is smaller and lighter than the standard Ronin but larger and more sturdy than the Ronin-M and better suited to small DSLR and lightweight cameras.  As with other Ronin systems, It is a handheld 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal which enables steadicam-type shots on carbon-fibre/aluminium frame with brushless technology for refined use.

 

 

 

 

DJI OSMO X3

The OSMO X3 is a fully stabilised handheld 4K camera which actually includes the camera head and is small and light enough that it can be handheld by just one hand.  

It uses a three-axis stablizer that allows you to move the camera freely and still create very smooth shots.  The viewfinder is your an  iPhone  which VMI includes as standard and all batteries and mounts fit into a small convenient case.

DJI have integrated all the hardware together for camera and stabilisation which makes for a device which is incredibly easy to use and does not require balancing, as it does this itself, so there is effectively no downtime from taking in out of the box, switching it on and using it.  A great change from the past!

The camera can be controlled with one hand with all the controls just a thumb's reach away on the joystick and monitoring is via a smartphone using the OSMO App.  It has a really neat function whereby you can use your finger to touch the screen to make the camera pan to where you are pointing or you can use the integrated joystick.  Pressing the trigger 2 or 3 times has special functions including a ‘selfie mode’ and restore mode.  Very elegant. 

This version of the OSMO X3 is supplied with the 1/2.3" Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor, which achieves a 4K image size too!.  Field of view is 20mm (35m equivalent) giving a 94 degree viewing angle.  
4K (4096 x 2160) is available at 24 & 25p and UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) and also 2.7K at 24, 25 & 30p.

In HD though, it even can shot up to 120fps slow motion with full HD (1920x1080) available at 24, 25, 30 48, 50, 60 and 120p.  The footage is recorded onto a Micro SD card (supplied).
There's an Automatic Panorama mode for shooting 360 phots.  Just hold the OSMO above your head, hit the shutter release and the camera will rotate, capturing the image as it rotates, staying completely level.  The OSMO also features a timelapse mode.

Audio is recorded through an internal microphone - you have audio gain settings on the app allowing you adjust the sound levels.  There's also a standard 3.5mm mic port for plugging in a separate mic.

The battery lasts approximately one hour (6 hour standby) and 2 are supplied with the kit.  A full range of accessories are offered as standard.  including Extension Stick, Tripod, Bike Mount, Car Mount and Universal Mount.

 

DJI OSMO X5R

The OSMO X5 is a fully stabilised handheld 4K camera which actually includes the Zenmuse X5 camera head and is small and light enough that it can be handheld by just one hand.  
It uses a three-axis stablizer that allows you to move the camera freely and still create very smooth shots.  The viewfinder is a large Samsung phone which is supplied by VMI and all batteries and mounts fit into a small convenient case. The X5 version features an interchangeable lens mount and 2 x hard drives as well as card storage too.

DJI have integrated all the hardware together for camera and stabilisation which makes for a device which is incredibly easy to use and does not require balancing, as it does this itself, so there is effectively no downtime from taking in out of the box, switching it on and using it.  A great change from the past!

The camera can be controlled with one hand with all the controls just a thumb's reach away on the joystick and monitoring is via a smartphone using the OSMO App.  It has a really neat function whereby you can use your finger to touch the screen to make the camera pan to where you are pointing or you can use the integrated joystick.  Pressing the trigger 2 or 3 times has special functions including a ‘selfie mode’ and restore mode.  Very elegant. 

Interchangeable Lenses (Micro 4/3"

The Osmo X5 features a Micro 4/3 interchangeable lens mount and works well with very short 'pancake lenses' only.  Larger lenses will  fit but these are likely to be too large and heavy to work with the system.  Since this has a Micro 4/3" sensor, rather than 1/2" CMOS sensor of the X3 and GoPro type cameras, this camera gives a greater depth of field capability, so you may have to think about focus adjustment.  Happily, using MFT autofocus lenses allows for automatic focus control or manually focussing on the image of the phone with the clever app.  It will even do some focus mapping to help the operator.or auto via touch point and face recognition.

Sensor

This version of the OSMO X5 is supplied with the Micro 4/3" Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor, which achieves a 4K image size too!.  Field of view is 20mm (35m equivalent) giving a 94 degree viewing angle.  
4K (4096 x 2160) is available at 24 & 25p and UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) and also 2.7K at 24, 25 & 30p.

In HD though, it even can shot up to 120fps slow motion with full HD (1920x1080) available at 24, 25, 30 48, 50, 60 and 120p.  The footage is recorded onto a Micro SD card (supplied).
There's an Automatic Panorama mode for shooting 360 zhots.  Just hold the OSMO above your head, hit the shutter release and the camera will rotate, capturing the image as it rotates, staying completely level.  The OSMO also features a timelapse mode.

Audio is recorded through an internal microphone - you have audio gain settings on the app allowing you adjust the sound levels.  There's also a standard 3.5mm mic port for plugging in a separate mic.

The battery lasts approximately one hour (6 hour standby) and 2 are supplied with the kit.  A full range of accessories are offered as standard.  including Extension Stick, Tripod, Bike Mount, Car Mount and Universal Mount.

The Camera records to micro SD card especially for basic shooting or proxy recording, or alternatively you can record to the supplied SSDs for recording RAW..  (2 x SSDs supplied in the basic kit).

 

 

VMI Gimbal Training

VMI ocassionally runs Gimbal training courses which may offer a discount on your first hire.  Visit VMI Training for available courses.

 

 

Conclusion

These are very versatile systems which are an alternative to Steadicam but not a replacement to them.  

They have their own idiosyncratic advantages to make them suitable for particular applications and they are tremendously versatile for working in multiple setups and formats (suitcase mode, upside down, majestic, thumbwheel, radio control etc).

It is crucial to be adequately trained on them prior to use and to leave sufficient time for setup and break down.

Whilst they now have up to 13kg payload capacity, it remains a fundamental truism that the lighter the setup, the easier the balancing is and the less arduous they are to use, though the new IKAN single handed gimbals are suited to very light camera setups and so are correspondingly easier to operate too.

They afford very steady images with lots of shot variation and the differences between these systems is both subtle and subject to the preference of the operator.

Barry Bassett/Klim Jurevicius

Revised October 2019

 

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Andrew 2 years ago

This is a good article but i think it should adjust the bits on training. Steadicams had been around for a long time but you had to have a trained operator In conclusion... It is crucial to be adequately trained on them prior to use and to leave sufficient time for setup and break down. Also about it being for people who cannot afford to pay an actual camera operator, and get someone cheaper I'd not great either. But otherwise am informative article.

Jonathon Sendall 4 years ago

I tried the L'Aigle Exoskeleton and this is a fantastic option with a lot of the gimblas as it allows low down up to high shots with ease. I used one with a Helix for a number of hours without getting tired at all. Hope you guys get a few of the Exo's in for hire as I would definitely use it.

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