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A Complete Videography Gimbal Guide and DJI RS 2 Review

A Complete Videography Gimbal Guide and DJI RS 2 Review

 

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.

 

What is a gimbal?

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.

 

How Do Gimbals Work?

 

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.

 

  • Tilt: The tilt axis is the motion of moving the camera up and down. This feature can be used to follow an object as it moves up and down e.g. following a leaf as it falls to the ground.
  • Pan: The pan axis is the motion of moving the camera left and right. Most often this feature is used to follow an object as it moves from left to right e.g. a car travelling across a track.
  • Roll: Roll axis is the motion of moving the camera horizontally. Most often it is used to correct an issue as a result of the video not being level with the horizon.

 

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.

 

What’s The Difference: Gimbals vs Steadicams

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.

Do I need a gimbal?

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.

Benefits of using a gimbal:

  • Gimbals are much quicker and easier to set up than a Steadicam
  • Gimbals are lightweight and easy to transport
  • Gimbals allow you to film continuous sequences in one shot
  • Gimbals allow you to effortlessly change the direction of your camera, which can cut down on your shooting time
  • Gimbals are compatible with a range of camera accessories including microphones and mobile devices
  • Gimbals are much cheaper than Steadicams and allow you to create high quality stabilised footage at an affordable price

 

How To Set Up A Gimbal

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.

Mounting a Camera

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. 

 

Balancing a Camera

  1. Balance the vertical tilt by locating the unlock/lock trigger on the axis and slide it to the unlocked position while holding the camera's weight so that it doesn’t fall. As you begin to release the weight you may feel the camera start to tip. If it is falling, loosen the tilt access and move the camera back and relock. Test the balance again by starting to release the camera. If the camera is still titling keep readjusting until you find the balance point where it stays level. One of the three axes should now be balanced.
  2. Then unlock the depth tilt axis this time balancing the camera from side to side. The camera is balanced when it floats in space with the smallest gesture causing it to orbit. If the camera is still off-balance, keep readjusting until you find the centre of gravity. Two of the three axes should now be balanced.
  3. Pick up the gimbal which should still be turned off and point it forward like a torch. Unlock and balance the pan axis so that the camera stays where it is and doesn’t tilt. Keep readjusting until all 3 axes are balanced.
  4. Now place the gimbal back on the table and whilst holding it turn it on. The gimbal will need a few seconds to test its sensors and motors and will let you know if it is stabilised or not. If it is unable to balance, you will need to repeat the steps above.

 

Watch this Gimbal Guide video for more information

 

Operating a Gimbal: Shooting Tips

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:

  • Gimbals are not perfect at accounting for up and down motion caused by the camera operator when walking so it's important to bend your knees when you walk and lower your centre of gravity to achieve smoother shots.
  • Shooting slow motion, at high frame rates, makes the footage even smoother, as does enabling internal stabilization on a lens.
  • Don’t move too quickly when filming as the footage may you feel dizzy
  • Practice shooting for varying lengths of time to see how long you can hold the gimbal before feeling too fatigued.
  • Planning what kind of shots you want to achieve ahead of the shoot will save you a lot of time and will ensure you capture everything you need on the day.
  • Most importantly, have fun and experiment. Gimbals are an amazing bit of kit and can help you achieve some really cool shots.

 

DJI RS 2 Review

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. 

 

How did you set up the gimbal?

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.

 

What was the DJI RS 2 like to operate?

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.

 

Pros of the DJI RS 2

  • The DJI RS 2 was really easy to use and very intuitive and light, which enabled me to get some really cool moving shots.
  • The battery life on the DJI RS 2 was amazing and I was never once concerned that I’d run out of battery. The battery level was indicated by 4 green lights on the bottom of the handle so you could see how much was left.
  • The fold-out stand feature was great because it made it easy to put the camera down. If it didn't have a stand, I'd probably have to take the camera out every time I needed to put it down.
  • It was surprisingly light and didn’t get any arm ache even though I was holding it for the majority of the day.

 

Cons of the DJI RS 2

  • Turning around corners could have been a little more responsive but I do think this would have been improved with time and practice.
  • I had to walk quite softly and with bent knees in order to account for bumps when walking, though I believe this is the same for all gimbals. In addition, the footage was much smoother than it would have been having I not used the gimbal.

 

Would you use the DJI RS 2 Again?

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.

 

Watch the SEO Works office tour that was filmed using the DJI RS 2

 

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.

 

by Harrison Cameras on 21/02/2022

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