Do filmmakers need to use a handheld gimbal to make their films? This is a question and a video we’ve been wanting to make for a while and it has been made possible by Per Gear.
They have sent us over the Zhiyun Crane Plus to help answer that question.
Just to start off, we are not going to go into detail about how to set up the Zhiyun Crane Plus. There are lots of other great videos on YouTube that do that. We’ve linked to a video we like in the description below.
There are 3 key tips we have learned about using a handheld gimbal. The first is, spend time balancing and unbalancing the gimbal.
This will help you learn how it works, and the process of setting it up will become quicker which is key on set. The more balanced the gimbal is, the steadier the shot will be.
The second tip is, practice operating it before you use it on a film. A handheld gimbal like the Zhiyun Crane Plus will do 90% of the work, but the other 10% is up to you.
Walk around with it, follow a subject, and review the footage. We did this when we first got the gimbal by recording a whole Film Look video.
Which you can find here.
The 3rd tip is for when you are preparing to use a gimbal on a film. Block out the scene and walk through the camera movement with your actor or a stand-in. Also, add t-marks so you know where you need to hit.
Right! Let's test the gimbal to see when it can help improve a shot.
We have set up 3 different shots you might find in a film and will be versing the gimbal up against shooting the same shot handheld and on a tripod to see which one works best.
First, let's start off with a simple walk and talk. Our character is on the phone to his local pizza shop ordering a pizza.
This is not really a dramatic scene so by using the gimbal we can walk in front of the actor and capture the whole scene in one take.
Capturing this shot on a shoulder rig gives you a very similar shot, but you do have more camera shake, which would be perfect if our character is angry because his pizza is late, as it would link the feelings of the character to the style of shooting.
Shooting this shot on a tripod limits your movement. You can have your character walk towards the camera from a distance like we did.
You could also use this to your advantage and deliver the key lines of dialogue to your audience when your character is at their closest point to the camera.
You can achieve these walk and talk shots using these 3 different methods, but the gimbal gives you the ability to achieve all 3. Next, let's shoot a chase scene with the gimbal.
Jimmy 9 Fingers is being chased by the police as he has just robbed a shop.
The start of the gimbal shot is steady but as soon as we wanted to pan quickly to keep up with the movement of our character, the gimbal could not keep up with the speed of the motion.
By using the shoulder rig, the camera operator could quickly whip pan and follow the actor.
The footage does have camera shake, but we think this works well as it, again, links the style of shooting to the motivation of the character; fast, on edge, and scrambling down the stairs.
We did record a shot with the gimbal which worked, but we had to simplify it, and instead, used the gimbal like a crane, which is another advantage of the handheld gimbal.
Finally, we shot the scene on a tripod and covered it from a few different angles. This allowed us to bring up the pace of the scene and capture reaction shots of our character.
We do think it is possible to capture this shot on a gimbal, but it may require more crew to help keep focus and equipment like handles which attach to the gimbal.
The biggest limitation of using a handheld gimbal with this type of shot, is that we don’t have the ability to pan the camera quick enough, but someone who is operating the camera on a shoulder rig or tripod can easily keep up, as there is no fighting with the technology.
The final shot is simple; our character has just finished making a cup of tea. They walk over to the table, sit down, and are shocked by something they read on their phone.
It was difficult to keep this shot level when filming it on the shoulder rig, which is one of the main advantages of using the gimbal.
Filming this shot on a tripod, again, limits our movement, but the same story is being told.
If we had planned to shoot this shot on a tripod from the start, it would have saved us time as operating the gimbal took time to get the movement right.
These are just a few examples of how you can use a gimbal to capture shots for your film. We previously made a video about using the gimbal to capture a motivated camera move called “coming to a halt”, where our character and camera meet each other during a dramatic moment.
If you want to check out that video you can find it here or in the description below.
When we started to use the Zhiyun Crane Plus we were surprised how many new creative ways it allows you to move the camera and how accessible it is.
There is a learning curve, but it does not take much time before you can capture smooth looking footage.
So should you buy a gimbal to use on your productions? You will have a lot of fun using one and it is another tool which will open up new cinematic possibilities which you may not have thought about before using one.
If you’ve had a gimbal in your shopping basket for a while we would definitely recommend getting one.
It can't be used to shoot everything and the camera movement should always be dictated by the drama that is unravelling in your scene.
Sometimes a tripod or a handheld camera will be better, so it’s about using the right tool for the job.
Thanks, again to Pergear for sending over the gimbal, it made it possible to make this video.
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