Whether you’re an aspiring videographer or a professional filmmaker you’ve probably experienced the difficulty of trying to achieve smooth and vibration-free footage when using a camera alone. Enter the gimbal! Gimbals are exceptional devices that will completely transform the way you film and the footage that you are able to capture. Read our complete videography gimbal guide and DJI RS 2 review and find out what a gimbal is, how it works, how to set one up and so much more.
A gimbal is a tool that uses motors and intelligent sensors to support and stabilise a camera in order to film footage that is effortlessly and continuously smooth even when on the move.
When it comes to filming a subject, stability and range of motion is imperative to nailing the shot. This is where the gimbal comes in. The gimbal allows the camera to adjust and stabilise accounting for any unwanted bumps and vibrations. A handheld 3 axis gimbal makes use of brushless motors to adjust the camera position, this includes tilt, pan and roll.
Using a gimbal will ensure that the tilt, pan and roll are smooth and vibration free. In order for this to work the 3 axis gimbal will make use of its Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to translate commands made by the camera operator into movement responses while utilising its three different brushless motors to level the camera. The gimbal then uses a number of sensors and motors to pinpoint any sudden or unwanted motions and instantly cancels them out to create footage that is jolt free and flowing.
The technology that powers the gimbal is housed in a circuit board known as the controller. The controller contains a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS), which respond to movement by sending electrical impulses translating the exact force and direction. The controller ensures that the motors keep the camera stabilised by sending commands numerous times per second. These commands are what keep the camera level and the gimbal itself smooth and vibration free.
The Steadicam is a wearable camera stabilising system that isolates the camera operator's movement and makes the footage look smooth and controlled, whereas a gimbal is a stabilising tool that a camera is attached to and the sensors and motors in the gimbal stabilise the camera in order to create smooth footage.
While a gimbal is a handheld, the Steadicam is traditionally attached to the camera operator either by a vest or some kind of wearable device. A Steadicam maintains its position by balancing and weighing its arm to the camera operator so that the camera will float in front of the operator allowing them to control the pan and tilt of the lens with their free hands. A gimbal needs to be held by both hands and uses sensors and motors to cancel out small motions and bumps, stabilising the movements made by the operator. Though the gimbal is held by both hands, the pan and tilt of the lens can be managed by fingertip controls.
Though Steadicams and gimbals do similar jobs, each has its pros and cons. For example, Steadicams cost significantly more than gimbals. This is not to say that the Steadicam is necessarily superior to the gimbal, just that the Steadicam combines the stabiliser and camera in one, whereas the gimbal is a stabilising tool that a camera is then attached to.
One thing that the gimbal doesn’t account for as well as the Steadicam is the up and down motion caused when the camera operator walks. Though the gimbal does create smoother footage compared to if a gimbal wasn’t used, the camera operator is still required to walk softly with bent knees for an even smoother transition.
As the gimbal needs to be held with two hands it can be quite tiring to film over a long period of time, whereas the Steadicam is attached to the operator's torso enabling them to film for much longer. That being said, cameras are now smaller and lighter than ever making the gimbal much more versatile than the Steadicam in terms of transporting to different locations and filming on varying terrains.
Both the gimbal and the Steadicam are excellent for videography. The Steadicam may be better suited for filming over longer periods of time such as feature-length films and movies whereas the gimbal may be better suited for shorter periods of time such as promotional videos and advertisements.
If you’re a budding or professional videographer who knows that it's fundamental to have excellent video quality, you should probably add a gimbal to your kit. Without one, handheld video can be very hit and miss, leaving you limited in the movements you can make and the type of shots you can capture. Chances are you will also end up with shaky footage unless that’s what you’re after.
Whilst you could use a tripod to film smooth footage, a tripod can’t offer the same speed and versatility as a gimbal, especially if you want to produce steady footage that follows the subject rather than keeping the camera in one place. For this reason, many wildlife and sports videographers choose to use a gimbal to stabilise their camera and track moving subjects.
Now that you know what a gimbal is, how a gimbal works, the difference between a gimbal and stabiliser and the benefits of using a gimbal, let’s take a look at how to operate one.
Most 3 axis cameras each have their own systems for mounting and balancing but they all follow the same basic principles. Assemble the gimbal, lock the axis and use the foot attachment to place it upright on a table. Then remove any excess weight from the camera such as lens attachments and mount the camera on a mounting plate while keeping the centre of gravity as close as possible to the centre of the mounting plate. Once mounted, insert the plate and camera into the gimbal.
Here we’ll take a look at how to get the best results from using a gimbal. While we recommend going and experimenting with the gimbal to see what results you can achieve we’ve also put together some of our top shooting tips:
We can’t talk about using a gimbal without taking a look at one in action. We tasked local videographer George Finney with testing out the DJI RS 2 gimbal. Check out this office tour of the SEO Works and review below.
I’d never used a gimbal before but balancing it was pretty straightforward and it took roughly half an hour to set up. I unlocked all the moving parts with the unlock buttons then worked through each axis to make sure the camera stayed upright. I also found it helpful to follow a video I found online. The gimbal was already pretty balanced when I took it out of the box so it only needed a few adjustments. What was really useful was the foot stand that opens up into four legs. This really helped with stability when balancing the camera and it doubled as a useful grip when filming.
The DJI RS 2 was really easy to operate and the stabilisation enabled me to get some really amazing shots that would have just been impossible to achieve without the gimbal. I also liked that you could connect it to your phone. The only thing I would say is that getting it to stay pointing in a straight line was challenging at times. That being said, I think there were settings that would allow me to lock off a couple of axes if I’d have more time to play with them. In addition, turning around corners sometimes proved troublesome because the camera wouldn’t turn without a bit of a jerk. However, the DJI RS 2 does have a joystick to combat this problem and I think I would have gotten the hang of this given more time and practice.
Absolutely! The DJI RS 2 was really great to use and I’d love to get my hands on it again to see what else I can create and experiment more with connecting it to my phone.
We hope that you found our complete videography gimbal guide and DJI RS 2 review useful and now have a better understanding of what a gimbal is and how to use one. Check out our range of gimbal stabilisers today and get shooting your next video.