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Have you ever wanted to take your video camera off of the tripod for certain footage but were disappointed by the unsteady results?
If this style of videography is something you like to do, you would enjoy the benefits of using a gimbal as your camera support. A handheld gimbal opens you up to smooth and steady video footage when filming off of your tripod.
What Is a Gimbal?
The simplest description of a gimbal is a pivoted support that allows movement of an object about an axis. Photographically, a gimbal mount puts the axis at the nodal point of the lens.
How does a gimbal work for stabilization? What makes a gimbal work for stabilizing are motors. A gyroscope or a computerized version of one controls the motors which apply force internally in one direction or the other to counteract the movement applied externally.
With the camera and lens mounted properly, these motorized corrections dampen most motion. So the end result is that the object suspended in the gimbal mount resists motion. This smooths out the handheld jerkiness we are all prone to.
Why Use a Gimbal?
The number one reason for a videographer using a gimbal is to allow smooth, jerkiness-free handheld video. Our video tripods and sliders are fantastic tools, we should use them as often as we can for superior video.
But when we want to take our camera and follow action, we either will use a dolly or a stabilizing gimbal if we want smooth video. Since a dolly is limited to ether having a smooth surface to roll on or a track, a gimbal becomes a great option for putting our camera in motion.
A smooth recording from a gimbal is much more viewable than when we hold the camera in our hands without any stabilization. That’s one of the biggest advantages of a gimbal in our videography, making it smooth.
How to Use a Gimbal
Instructions are pretty basic so we’ll also include some gimbal tips and tricks. To get the best benefits of using a gimbal, you’ll need to be careful to mount the camera and lens properly.
An important tip is to be sure to have the axis of the gimbal be matched to the nodal point of the lens. That way, the motion cancelation is centered on the optical center of the lens. Another tip is that, even though the motion is being dampened, you still want to use personal steadying techniques to minimize what excess motion the gimbal needs to stabilize.
Depending on the style of the gimbal, you may also want to limit how much weight you mount to it. Some optional accessories to consider if available are shoulder mounts and hand grips for two hands. A follow focus system is another great add on for your stabilizing gimbal mount.
Affordable Gimbals for Videography
Perhaps you’ve seen professional Steadicam operators at sports events or working with major picture studios and thought how cool it would be to have one for your own videography.
Well, Steadicam is actually the brand name of a sophisticated piece of equipment that takes some specific skills to operate correctly. Just like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke, or Kodak, the brand name has pretty much become a catch-all descriptor for all similar products, but it is important to note the distinction.
A Steadicam can cost upwards of $50,000 or you could hire a Steadicam operator out of your video budget, but few of us have that type of budget to work with. Thankfully, there are excellent gimbals that we can afford and learn to use within their limitations to gain the benefits of using a gimbal for our own work. Some of them are really very good and highly capable videography accessories.
E-Image Horizon Pro by Ikan
One of my favorite sources for high quality video accessories is Ikan. They design and make their own equipment so you can get extremely high quality videography accessories for very low prices compared to other brands. Ikan makes a handheld gimbal that provides all the benefits of using a gimbal at a very reasonable price, the E-Image Horizon Pro.
It is about 3.5 pounds of aircraft-quality aluminum and is rated as capable of holding 7 pounds of camera and lens, so it is lightweight enough to be comfortably held and can handle your mirrorless or DSLR camera and lens. It uses rechargeable lithium ion batteries which are capable of holding a charge for up to 16 hours of operation.
The mounting arms are angled so that you have an unobstructed view of the camera viewscreen while you’re recording video. It uses a quick release mounting system, has options for extra handles, rotates through a full 360 degrees, and has an option for a follow focus control.
The price is very budget friendly, around the same as a very good video light or a moderate aperture prime lens. Which is par for the course when dealing with video accessories from Ikan.
Benefits of Using a Gimbal
The benefits of using a gimbal are that your video productions will be more watchable and look more professional. Handheld video without the jerkiness and shakiness we’re prone to when shooting off of our tripod or other mount.
This smoothness will translate into viewers being more comfortable when watching our videos, more likely to subscribe to or stay on our YouTube channel, and will please our paying clients resulting in referrals and repeat business. So, as you can see, there are some great benefits of using a gimbal for our video productions.