Camera Stabilizer: A Clear, Comprehensive Guide for Newbies

a lady operating a camera stabilizer

A firm grasp of all important camera stabilizer aspects, helps you shoot quality, engaging videos.

You can say to yourself, "I get it. I know what this gear is for. And I know—that by practice—I can use it well."



First, I'd like to tell you what this article is not about.

  • This is not a review of specific brands of camera stabilizers: Those devices come and go. What's hot and popular now, easily gets outdated. Because gear manufacturers constantly produce, new stabilizer models to sell.

  • And I'm not trying to sell you any particular camera stabilizer: So, this is not a sales web page.



Here's what I'm providing you, instead...

A comprehensive educational resource about camera stabilizer.

I'm giving you "evergreen"—almost timeless info—about what you need to understand and learn, about camera stabilizers. And this includes...

  • What camera stabilizer really is.

  • What role do camera stabilizers play, in your video creation.

  • What different forms of camera stabilizer you can use, and how they differ from each other.

  • Why would you want to use, a specific camera stabilizer device.

  • How each of these devices, can help you shoot quality videos, and make engaging video presentations.


I'm also letting you know...

  • Other ways of stabilizing your shots—without using a dedicated camera stabilizer.

  • The times when you'd rather not stabilize your shots. Why you would decide so. And what you're going to do then.

Now, let's get started. :-)

CONTENTS

BASICS

What is the meaning of camera stabilizer?

> What is camera stabilization?
> What device is used to stabilize a video camera?
> What does a camera stabilizer do?


What is the purpose of using a video stabilizer?
How does a camera stabilizer work?
What's the best camera stabilizer?

> Do you realize how hard that question is?
> Why do you want to know?
>> 1. Do you want to buy the best camera stabilizer, if not now, maybe in the future?
>> 2. Are you simply curious about the answer to that question?
> I'm clarifying these things because...
>> If you intend to buy the best camera stabilizer in the future...
>> If you're researching about the best possible camera stabilizer...
>> If you're simply curious about the answer to the question...
> Some specifics you might see yourself in
>> Specific situation 1
>> Specific situation 2
>> Specific situation 3
>> Specific situation 4
> We cannot simply give one answer to that one tricky question...


CONTEXT

Image stabilization and camera stabilizer

> What image stabilization is
> Means of image stabilization
>> 1. Stabilizing the image, inside the lens
>> 2. Stabilizing the image, inside the camera body
>> 3. Stabilizing the image, from outside the camera body
>> 4. Stabilizing the image, in video editing software
> So, how is image stabilization related to a camera stabilizer?


CAMERA STABILIZING DEVICES

Camera stabilizer types

> Camera stabilizer types - according to the result you want for your shot
> Camera stabilizer types - according to your source of energy, for operating the device
> Camera stabilizer types - according to the way you control the device


The steadicam-style stabilizer

> What is a steadicam stabilizer?
>> What kind of shot is a steadicam good for?
> Who invented Steadicam?
>> When was the Steadicam invented?
> Why is Steadicam used?
>> Why is Steadicam used - Practical reasons
>> Why is Steadicam used - Expressive or communicative purposes
> What was the first movie to use Steadicam?
> What does a Steadicam operator do?
> How does Steadicam work?
>> How does a handheld steadicam-style stabilizer work?


The electronic or motorized gimbal

> What is a gimbal?
> What does a gimbal stabilizer do?
> Why is it called a gimbal?
> What is the purpose of a gimbal?
> Are camera gimbals worth it?
>> Who needs a gimbal?
>> When should you not use a gimbal?
>> How to use gimbal so that it is worth it?
> How does a gimbal work?
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - Relies mainly on electronics for video stabilization
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - Has crucial parts that work together
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - Like it has a mind of its own
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - Shot correction happens so fast
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - The common 3-axis gimbal
>> How gimbal stabilizer works - What about the 2-axis gimbal
> How do I choose a gimbal?
>> 1. Consider first if you really need a gimbal.
>> 2. Consider what kind of camera you have.
>> 3. Consider also what lenses you have, if you have an interchangeable-lens camera.
>> 4. Consider your camera setup, and what that setup is for.
>> 5. Consider the combined weight of your camera, lenses, and other attachments that a gimbal has to carry.


Drone

> What exactly is a drone?
> What are drones capable of?
> Why drone is important—especially in video production?
> Why is it called a drone?
> Who invented drone?
> When drone was invented
> Do drones require license?
> Is it illegal to use a drone?
> How drone works
>> How does a drone gimbal work?
>> How drone camera works


Camera stabilizer vs Gimbal - some clarifications

> Steadicam vs gimbal… Glidecam vs gimbal... Flycam vs Steadicam


STABILIZING SMARTPHONE

What is a smartphone stabilizer?

> What is a smartphone gimbal?
>> Do I need a gimbal for my phone?


How do I stabilize my phone camera?

> Stabilize your phone camera, just as you stabilize other video cameras.
> Improvise.
> Fully zoom out on your subject.
> Hold your phone with both hands.
> Get more creative by combining tools.
> Can I use selfie stick as stabilizer?


STABILIZING MINIMAL MOTION

Stabilizing slight movements without camera stabilizer

> What is stabilizer in DSLR?


Camera lens stabilizer - using the image stabilizer inside the lens

> What is the stabilizer on camera lens?
>> What does IS stand for in digital cameras?


Is image stabilization necessary for video?

> Camera stabilizer on or off - when shooting videos
> Does image stabilization affect video quality?


"Image stabilizer on lens or camera body?"

GENERAL HOW-TOS

Prepare a camera stabilizer and practice using it before shooting

> How to set up and balance a camera stabilizer
>> Setting up and balancing a handheld steadicam-like stabilizer
>> Setting up and balancing a motorized gimbal


Using a camera stabilizing device during the shoot

> How to use a camera stabilizer
> Camera stabilizer tips


Camera stabilizer DIY—Alternative ways of stabilizing your camera

> How can I stabilize my camera without stabilizer?
>> Using camera strap as stabilizer
>> Can I use a tripod as a stabilizer
>> How to use tripod as stabilizer
>> Using monopod and camera strap as shoulder rig
>> Using garter string and tripod plate to stabilize camera movement


Stabilizing your shots in post-production

> What is Warp Stabilizer?
> Camera stabilizer in DaVinci Resolve
>> Stabilizing shots in the Cut Page
>> Stabilizing shots in the Edit Page


"Shaky camera" - when you choose not to use a camera stabilizer

> What is shaky camera?
> What is the purpose of a shaky camera?
> When would you want to use the shaky camera film technique?
> How do you do the shaky camera effect?
>> How do you know when camera shake is too much?


Camera Stabilizer: Conclusion

What is the meaning of camera stabilizer?


Or simply, What is camera stabilizer? What does it refer to?

Previously, whenever I heard the phrase, "camera stabilizer", I admit that my impression was... it only refers to the gear that you use, together with your video camera, in order to execute smooth tracking shots.

What is a tracking shot in film?

If you're the cinematographer, or director of photography, of a certain movie, you execute a tracking shot, in order to smoothly follow the action of your subject. You do that by moving your camera as well... either sideways, forward, or backward.

Usually, you get smooth camera movements...

  • by attaching your camera to a movable cart, and executing your desired camera moves, or

  • by mounting your camera on a special hand-held device, that keeps your camera stable while you're moving it.

But "camera stabilizer" doesn't refer only to dollies and steadicam-style stabilizers... tools that may come to mind at first. According to dictionary.com, to "stabilize" means...

  1. to hold something firm.

  2. to prevent something from fluctuating.

  3. to keep the equilibrium stable.

If any device can do at least one of these functions for your video camera, that device can fall under the category of camera stabilizers. But to keep things simple for now...

A camera stabilizer is any video production tool, that can help you make your camera stable from the outside, while you're shooting.

And that's the key phrase, "from the outside". Impliedly, there's other means of stabilizing your shots, other than doing it from "outside" the camera body.

What is camera stabilization?

Camera stabilization is both...

  • an act, and
  • a technique.

"Act"... Because, it is simply your act of stabilizing your camera, while you're shooting.

"Technique"... Because, it is also one of the techniques of making your shot stable, as you record it with your video camera. (Camera stabilization is actually under the umbrella of, "image stabilization", which we'll touch on later.)



There are 3 situations where you, the solo video creator, will do this "act" of stabilizing any camera that you use, to record footage...

  1. When you put your camera in a stationary position.

  2. When you move your camera to create tracking shots.

  3. When you want to do something in-between these first 2 situations... that is, when you want to make minor, or near-zero, camera movements.

What device is used to stabilize a video camera?

There are many devices actually. Different camera stabilizing tools have been invented for video production and filmmaking industries, and even for enthusiasts and hobbyists. But to give you some ideas, here's a quick list...

  • Dolly
a dolly
  • Steadicam
a steadicam-style stabilizer
  • Gimbal
a motorized or electronic gimbal
  • Tripod
a tripod
  • Monopod
a monopod
  • Shoulder mount
a shoulder mount
  • Improvised or DIY ("do-it-yourself") versions of these devices



And if I'm going to categorize them according to specific shooting situation, here they are...

"When you put your camera in a stationary position."

  • tripod


"When you move your camera to create tracking shots."

  • dolly
  • steadicam
  • gimbal


"When you want to make minor, or near-zero, camera movements."

  • monopod
  • shoulder mount

Your bare hands are your own free camera stabilizer.

Maybe you don't have yet any device that can stabilize a video camera. But if you do, sometimes, you may just want to hold your camera while shooting, right? Since it's you, you have your own unique ways of doing that.

But however you hold your camera, you surely want to come up with usable shots. So inevitably, your hands—and your arms—really function as your camera stabilizer.

a lady firmly holding a DSLR camera while shooting video

Yes, you may not be able to record absolutely stable footage, only with your bare hands, just like what a camera on a tripod can do. But depending on your skill and stamina, you can execute stable enough shots, which contain usable—even artistic—small camera movements.

We'll talk more about camera stabilizing devices, later in this article.

What does a camera stabilizer do?

Those devices I mentioned earlier, what can they do?

By now it's pretty obvious...

Depending on the specific stabilizing device that you have, that camera stabilizer will do one of the following...

  1. Hold your video camera securely, while you're shooting from a stationary position.
  2. Keep your video camera from wobbling or fluctuating, when you're making minor camera moves.
  3. Give your video camera a nice counterbalance, that will allow you to execute smooth, or fluid tracking shots.

What is the purpose of using a video stabilizer?


Some say, "to stabilize the camera", mentioning the root word "stabilize" to express the purpose. ;-)

Others say, "to prevent camera shake", a very common thing you'll hear. Well, it might look like the purpose—or, the WHY—of using a video camera stabilizer. But if you'll take a closer look, "preventing camera shake" refers to WHAT a camera stabilizer can do.

Remember what I said earlier about the things that a video stabilizer does? There are three, and one of them is, "keep your video camera from wobbling or fluctuating". Wobble and fluctuation already include "camera shake".

So when we say, "prevent shake", it's merely WHAT a camera stabilizer does. Not necessarily WHY we use one—or, our purpose.

Because...

Our purpose is the very outcome that we desire. The "WHY we do, WHAT we do".

Purpose is the end result that you hope to happen, when you do something, or use something.

So let's take it from here, and answer this question, "What is the purpose of using a video camera stabilizer?"

It is...

To make it easy and pleasurable for our viewers, to look at our shots, and see what those shots are conveying to them.

So this is about giving our audience quality viewing experience... in the form of well-thought-out shots, well executed with camera stabilizers.


How does a camera stabilizer work?


Well, it depends on a specific camera stabilizer.

Remember what I told you earlier?...

  • That the term, "camera stabilizer", doesn't only refer to a steadycam, a glidecam, or a gimbal?
  • That there are other devices we don't normally think of as camera stabilizers, but they do stabilize the camera?

So, let's agree, once and for all, that "camera stabilizer" is a general term. And, "How does a camera stabilizer work?", is a general question.

And here's my general answer...

If you look closely at camera stabilizers that you happen to use, you'll notice that their parts—mechanical, electronic, or both—work together in holding and supporting your video camera.

You can liken these parts, to the parts of your legs—the muscles, the tendons, the joints, the bones—that help each other,...

human legs as analogy for how camera stabilizers work

... so that when you stand, walk, or run, it's going to be a coordinated movement. Camera stabilizers work like that.

The parts of a camera stabilizer work together, to help you avoid camera movements that look jerky, crazy, or hesitating. Which you don't intend to be recorded in your shots. Right?

Because shots that contain irregular camera motion, can make your audience feel dizzy or confused. And they take away from your audience's quality viewing experience.

So, that's how camera stabilizers work, in general. There are specific forms of camera stabilizer, that we'll talk about later, as to how they work.


What's the best camera stabilizer?


Do you realize how hard that question is?

It sounds simple but it's tricky to answer. ;-)

Different people will give different answers. And those who are asking that question, have different reasons for doing so.

Since you're the one asking me, "What's the best camera stabilizer?", my question to you is...

Why do you want to know?

Just clarifying. :-)

1. Do you want to buy the best camera stabilizer, if not now, maybe in the future?

Because if that's your intent, I'm clarifying it further...

a) Are you buying it because you just don't want to be left behind? You don't like the feeling that others have the so-called, "best camera stabilizer", but you don't?

Or...

b) Are you looking for the best camera stabilizer, for your specific needs and situation? I mean, the best one for you, regardless of what others say is the best?

And if buying one in the future is not your intent...

2. Are you simply curious about the answer to that question?

You just want to know?

Just researching?

I'm clarifying these things because...

Sometimes, people may have doubts about the thing they're asking about. There are things connected to their question, that they also need to be clear about.

So, I'll try to address your possible reasons for asking about, "the best camera stabilizer".

And we'll have several answers to that one tricky question, "What is the best camera stabilizer?".

If you intend to buy the best camera stabilizer in the future...

... just because you don't like the feeling that some already have it, but you don't...

You may be suffering from FOMO—or, "the fear of missing out".  Always motivated by the fear of being left behind by others.

I can tell you, it's not a good place to be in.

It's okay if you want to know the latest video-making trends, or fads. And it's okay if you check on what gear others have, and consider to be "the best".

Just remember to have a pair of cautious eyes, and see things from healthy perspectives. One of which relates to this next point...

If you're researching about the best possible camera stabilizer...

... for your specific needs and situation, regardless of what others say is "the best"...

I'm seeing a person in front of me, who's thinking sensibly. :-)

Good for you. Because you know that what's best for others, may not be the best for you.

If you're simply curious about the answer to the question...

... "What's the best camera stabilizer?"...

Maybe you're thinking of using one in the future.

If so, remember that, "best", doesn't mean, "most popular" or "most fashionable". It means, "most useful" or "most helpful".

what

This becomes clear, if we see video camera stabilizers as... "tools" to be used. Not as... "toys" to be collected.

And the best tool for you is one that's "most useful", or "most helpful", for your specific needs and situation.



That's the "big picture" guide. Now, here are...

Some "specifics" you might see yourself in

Specific situation 1

If...

  • You have a tripod.
  • You shoot with it. Frequently.
  • You've recorded loads of "non-moving" shots, since the day you shot videos on a tripod.
  • You now want some shots in "fluid motion" included in your future works.
  • You see the need to record shots that follow your subjects smoothly.

Then...

... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is a steadicam-style stabilizer. (Others call it, "glidecam", "gimbal", or "steady cam".)



But now, you have two kinds of steadicam-style stabilizer to choose from:

  1. Classic hand-held... It has mechanical parts that keep your camera unaffected, by your movement. But, it's still in your hands, how this device balances your shot.
  2. Battery-powered... It has electronic parts run by batteries. Yes, you hold this device as you move and shoot. But, it does most of the stabilization. Not you.



So, which one do you choose? Which one is best for you?

Well, it really depends on you.

If...

  • You don't want to exert much effort, balancing your camera.
  • You don't mind spending a little more, for that extra comfort.
  • You just want your shots to be stabilized automatically, as you walk or run.

Then...

... choose the battery-powered, steadicam-style stabilizer.


However, if...

  • You want more "manual" control, when stabilizing a moving shot.
  • You want the fulfillment of knowing, it's mainly you, who's causing the resulting shot. Not the tool.
  • For you, it's more about human skill, than automation.

Then...

... choose the classic hand-held, steadicam-style stabilizer.

There are advantages, if you own first the "classic hand-held" type, and practice using it,... before you decide to own the "battery-powered" type, if you really need to.

  1. The classic hand-held, steadicam-style stabilizer, can be cheaper.
  2. It doesn't require batteries. Which means, you won't have to buy them (and recharge them, again and again).
  3. More importantly, dying batteries will never turn out to be a problem, in the middle of your shoot.
  4. Consequently, you can use the "classic hand-held" type anytime, almost anywhere. (Provided, you really want to go out and shoot. ;-) )

Yes, using it requires practice. But, you'll develop the fundamental skill, of executing "fluid motion" shots. Or shall I say, you'll have that skill "installed" into your brain.

And if that happens, you can take on any type of steadicam-style stabilizer...

  • motorized (the "battery-powered"), or
  • non-motorized (the "classic hand-held").

Well...

It's like, learning first how to drive a car with manual transmission, before trying to drive one with automatic transmission. :-)

Specific situation 2

If...

  • You've gotten tired of always shooting handheld.
  • The only camera support system you have is... your arms, forearms, and hands.
  • You badly need a tool, to further stabilize your shots.

Then...

... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is a tripod.

Yes, a tripod. It's a form of camera stabilizer, remember? What it offers you is super steady shots—in "stationary" positions.

Specific situation 3

If...

  • You mainly want to shoot brief moments. Not to record long speeches. (In other words, you favor "short takes" over "long recordings".)
  • Your biggest tendency is to go to one place, shoot quickly, and then go to another place, and shoot again quickly. (Others call it the "run-and-gun" approach.)
  • You want to lessen the discomfort felt by your arms and back muscles, when you're shooting this way.


Then...

... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is either a shoulder mount, or a monopod.

Specific situation 4

If...

  • You really need to record videos from a higher altitude, to get wider establishing shots.
  • For some reasons, you'll do this more often than not. (Maybe you're a traveler, or a nature lover, who wants to capture memories using aerial photography.)
  • You're going to do this just for fun, and you won't mind spending extra money for this recreation.

Then...

... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is a small, lightweight, low-cost drone.

Important!

I'm only talking about using this drone, just for fun or recreation.

Not for making money.

Because, depending on your country, there are restrictions and regulations you need to observe, if you'll use a drone for commercial purposes.

I'm not saying you can do whatever you want with your recreational drone—like flying it anywhere, or at anytime. You still need to follow some rules to ensure that you're flying it safely and legally.

Also, if you notice, I suggest "small", "lightweight", "low-cost" drone. Well, you know  "low-cost" already. And "small" means portable, or easy to set up. But "lightweight" is a slightly different story...

... A lightweight drone could mean lesser damage—or harm—if it crashes accidentally. Of course, we don't want it to happen, ever. ;-)

As you can see,...

We cannot simply give one answer to that one tricky question...

... "What's the best camera stabilizer?"

If we try to, our answer may just be a sweeping statement, ignoring people's different situations, needs, and preferences.



To find your best camera stabilizer, you really need to know, what will help you the most in your "real world". One that can be of "real" service to you. Because if you're practical...

... You won't decide impulsively—wasting your resources on what you don't need.


Image stabilization and camera stabilizer


the relationship between image stabilization and camera stabilizing devices

What is the connection between, "image stabilization"... and... a "camera stabilizer"?

To answer that, we need to know first...

What image stabilization is

Well, it's about making the image captured by your video camera, as clear as possible.

One thing that really messes with the clarity of visuals—or footage—that we get with our cameras, is the unintended camera shake.

It causes jitter.

And that's what image stabilization tries to correct. Or, at least, lessen.



There are several ways of stabilizing images, recorded by video cameras.

  1. Stabilizing the image, "inside the lens".
  2. Stabilizing the image, "inside the camera body".
  3. Stabilizing the image, "from outside the camera body".
  4. Stabilizing the image, "in video editing software".

Means of image stabilization

several ways of stabilizing shots

1. Stabilizing the image, inside the lens

This is "image stabilization" happening inside the camera lens, as you're shooting video.

I won't examine in detail how it happens. I'll just say—some parts of the camera lens already stabilize your image, before the camera records it. This is also known as, "lens-based" image stabilization.

If you heard of, "Vibration Reduction (VR)", and "Image Stabilizer (IS)", they are examples of, "lens-based" image stabilization.

2. Stabilizing the image, inside the camera body

This time, the camera body you use for filming, does the image stabilization.

If you move your camera while recording, some mechanism inside the camera body, will compensate for that movement. This is also called, "in-camera-body" image stabilization.

3. Stabilizing the image, from outside the camera body

So, we've talked about two ways of stabilizing images internally—[1] "inside the lens", and [2] "inside the camera body".

Now, we're talking about stabilizing our shots, by stabilizing the camera externally.

This is what we call, "camera stabilization". Or when we use one of those devices, like the steadicam-style stabilizer, to make our images stable.

4. Stabilizing the image, in video editing software

The first 3 means of image stabilization happen, when you're shooting videos. Or during production phase.

But this one is about stabilizing your shots, when you edit your videos. Or during post-production.

Sometimes, after a video shoot, we still end up with images that may be a bit shaky, and we want to correct them. We can do that, by using the image stabilization feature, available in some non-linear video editing programs.

So, how is image stabilization related to a camera stabilizer?

In a word, "camera stabilizer" belongs to the big picture context we call, "image stabilization".

When you're stabilizing a video camera, what you're really doing is stabilizing the image you're capturing. In other words, to stabilize the camera is to stabilize your image.

And as you saw earlier, "camera stabilization" is one of the means of "image stabilization".

So, a camera stabilizer is a tool for doing image stabilization.


Camera stabilizer types


Earlier in this article, we already mentioned some camera stabilizer devices, like…

  • the tripod,
  • the dolly,
  • the steadicam,
  • the gimbal,
  • the monopod, and
  • the shoulder mount.

Now, for us to better understand these devices, there are different ways of categorizing them. And so, we have the types of camera stabilizers.

Camera stabilizer types - according to the result you want for your shot

types of devices that stabilize the camera, as to the result you want for your shot

1. You don’t want your shot to move, only the subject in the frame (camera stabilizer for static shots).

For that, you use…

… a tripod.



2. You want your video camera to follow the action of your subject (camera stabilizer for tracking shots).

You can use either…

… a dolly,

… a steadicam, or

… a gimbal.



3. You want to allow some minor, but stabilized camera motion for your shot (camera stabilizer for minimal camera movements).

For that to happen, you can use…

… a shoulder mount, or

… a monopod.

Camera stabilizer types - according to your source of energy, for operating the device

types of devices that stabilize the camera, as to the source of energy, for operating the device

1. Camera stabilizer powered by pure human strength. Especially the strength of your arms, back, and legs.

Examples include…

… classic steadicam-style stabilizers,

… dolly (or DIY versions of it), and

… shoulder mount.



2. Camera stabilizer powered by battery and human strength.

Like…

… the electronic or motorized gimbal.



3. Camera stabilizer powered solely by batteries.

Example of it is…

… the drone.

Camera stabilizer types - according to the way you control the device

types of devices that stabilize the camera, as to the way you control the device

1. By holding the device with your bare hands (handheld camera stabilizer).

You usually do this with lightweight cameras, and lightweight stabilizers. Like…

… a handheld gimbal,

… a small mechanical video stabilizer, such as the steadicam-style device, and

… a small dolly.



2. By wearing a vest that supports the camera (camera stabilizer with body harness).

You can see this form of device in big budget productions, like Hollywood feature film making.

Because high-end productions typically use large and expensive cameras, cinematographers need to use…

… camera stabilizers with vest and arm…

… to support these really heavy cinema and video cameras.



3. By using a remote control (remote-controlled camera stabilizer).

For example, you use a remote control when you operate and fly…

… a drone with integrated gimbal and camera.



Now, we’re going to tackle in detail, some very common forms of camera stabilizer…


The steadicam-style stabilizer


a collapsable steadicam

What is a steadicam stabilizer?

People use the terms “steadicam” and “steadycam” interchangeably, but they mean the same thing. The keyword is “steady”. And “steadi” is just another way people spell it.

Basically, a steadicam stabilizer is a light handheld device, for light video cameras.

You’ll find that you’ll normally use a steadicam, when you want to follow your subject’s action. Or, when you want to record smooth tracking shots.

The key thing we need to bear in mind about steadicam—or, “steadycam”—is this...

... It is a “mechanical stabilizer”.

Meaning, you don’t need to use batteries, in order to stabilize your video. A steadicam stabilizer is...

  • non-electronic, and
  • non-motorized.




So…

What kind of shot is a steadicam good for?

Any moving shot on uneven surfaces—like rough roads, stairways, hills, etc... In whatever direction of your camera movement... And whenever you want it.

That’s the advantage that any steadicam-style stabilizer has, over a dolly.

You simply cannot execute a smooth, tracking shot with a dolly, on uneven terrain. A dolly will only give you steady motion shots, on smooth surfaces. And an expensive dolly—like the one used in feature filmmaking—will require you to set up dolly tracks, similar to a railway.

Who invented Steadicam?

Garrett Brown, who is an American, invented the Steadicam.

“Steadicam” is really a camera stabilizer brand name. But over the years, the word has become synonymous with any similar device, that can mechanically keep your movement apart from the camera.

Garrett saw the need to film moving camera shots, without the shake or wobble. Even when the camera operator is walking on uneven, and rough surfaces.

That led him to make the Steadicam. Although he said, “I wasn’t enthralled with the idea of professionally inventing.”

When was the Steadicam invented?

It is said that Garrett invented the Steadicam in 1974. At first, he called it the “Brown Stabilizer”.

But Cinema Products Corporation bought his invention, and officially named it the “Steadicam”.

Why is Steadicam used?

There are, at least, 2 main reasons that I know, why video shooters and video creators would want to use a Steadicam…

  1. practical reasons
  2. expressive or communicative purposes

Why is Steadicam used - Practical reasons

These are your most obvious reasons for using a steadicam stabilizer...

  • You want to avoid shakes, jolts, or unintentional jumpy shots, that may irritate your viewers. You don't want them to feel dizzy, watching your video.

  • You want to achieve smooth tracking shots. Even when you're walking on rough surfaces, or uneven ground.

Why is Steadicam used - Expressive or communicative purposes

These are going to be your very personal reasons.

It means, when you use a steadicam, it’s going to be dictated by your interpretation of subjects, and your style. Somehow, you hope to evoke some feelings, or thoughts in your audience.

You may want to use a steadicam to do the following examples…

  • You create a point-of-view (POV) shot of your character, who's walking while seeing things around him. Here, you want to show your audience what your character is seeing.

  • Instead of giving your audience a series of fast cuts—or, montage—to reveal key details one by one, you shoot just 1 long take—a long tracking shot that slowly unveils those story details.

Tip:

Use any steadicam-style stabilizer to really convey, or suggest an idea to your viewers.

Use it mindfully.

What was the first movie to use Steadicam?

It was “Bound for Glory”, which the American audience first saw on December 5, 1976.

It’s a biographical film—or “biopic”—that features the musician-songwriter, Woody Guthrie.

Here’s the first ever steadicam shot that moviegoers saw in a film…

The “Bound for Glory” steadicam shot.

The “Bound for Glory” steadicam shot.

The film was directed by Hal Ashby. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, won the “Academy Award for Best Cinematography”. Steadicam operator-inventor Garrett Brown, was the one who executed that shot.

What does a Steadicam operator do?

It depends on the working environment, the size of the production team, and the skill level of the steadicam operator.



If you’re going to work as a steadicam operator, in a big production team—say, in a film production set—here's some of your tasks…

  • You work closely with the director, the cinematographer (or director of photography), and the on-camera talents—like the actors and actresses.

  • You set up the Steadicam system. So that it works optimally with the cinema or video camera, that you’ll attach to it.

  • You wear a mechanical vest with arm that carries the camera, and the monitor that you’ll look at, as you operate the steadicam.

  • You execute the required camera movements stated in the shot list—like following the action of your subject, and other tracking shots.

  • You work in different environments, whether in studios or outdoors. And you work in different genres—like, narrative, documentary, sports, entertainment events, reality TV, etc.



But, if you’re in a small team, or you’re a solo video creator—who’s also going to operate the steadicam, here's some things you need to bear in mind…

  • You don’t have to own that expensive Steadicam brand of camera stabilizer. You just need to borrow, or own, a similar functioning device—that is, a steadicam-style stabilizer. This is for small, lightweight cameras that you’ll typically use.

  • If you’re a newbie, using a handheld mechanical stabilizer, will feel like a challenge. Because muscles in your arms, legs, and back have to gain stamina by practice. So practice, and in no time, you’re a good steadicam operator.

  • Make sure you have a purpose when you use a steadicam. It should help tell the story. So, consider how your steadicam shots will affect your audience.

How does Steadicam work?

The original “Steadicam” brand was designed mainly for heavy cameras used in big productions, with big budgets.

Because of that, the Steadicam operator needed to wear a mechanical vest, to support the big heavy camera, and the monitor attached to it. And so, the shooter-steadicam operator might look like a cyborg. ;-)

The basic parts of that Steadicam are…

  • the vest,
  • the arm, and
  • the camera sled.

The vest is connected to an adjustable arm. That arm is attached to the camera sled. And the camera sled carries the video or cinema camera, and other equipment.

basic parts of the original Steadicam

The purpose of the vest is to keep the Steadicam operator from getting tired so easily. If you are that person wearing the vest, you feel that the weight of the camera stabilizer—and other equipment it supports—is allocated to your shoulders and waist.

Also, wearing the Steadicam system makes you feel you’re really in charge, as you’re executing camera movements. You have the strong sense of grasp and control of your tools. Because, it’s not only your hands that hold the device, but your upper body as well.



However, you need to know that the original Steadicam brand—which has a vest and an elastic arm—may not be for someone who’s just starting out. Unless, you really want to become a Steadicam operator in big productions. And you have the money to buy a Steadicam system, and want to practice with it. ;-)

There are simpler versions of the Steadicam—those that are handheld. For a beginner, a handheld steadicam-style stabilizer may be enough, and more suitable.

So…

How does a handheld steadicam-style stabilizer work?

First, it is intended mainly for lightweight cameras, that everyday people may have. We simply don’t want to own, bulky broadcast studio cameras, for no reason at all.

Holding a camera stabilizer—with a small, lightweight camera on top—for reasonable amount of time, is fine.

Second, any handheld steadicam-style stabilizer, has a simpler design. No need to wear a mechanical vest, connected to a mechanical elastic arm. You still look like human, not half-robot half-human... or cyborg. ;-)

However, since you’re holding the device with your bare hands, your arms are carrying all the weight. Which means... your hands, arms, and even your back, get tired soon. Especially, if you’re new to using a handheld steadicam.

Lastly, a handheld steadicam has a gimbal handle. It helps you do smooth camera motion—say, when you’re walking and following your subject.



Whether you use the original Steadicam brand and design, or any handheld steadicam-style stabilizer—whatever brand it may be, you get the same benefits…

Less limitation. Some forms of dolly need tracks, just to stabilize the camera and the resulting shots. With a steadicam, you don’t need tracks, and you’re not limited by the direction of those tracks. To execute a tracking shot, just walk.

More freedom. On ground level, wherever the action takes place, you can follow the action with a steadicam. No need to set up anything—except the stabilizer itself, the camera, and perhaps, an external mic.

Faster execution. Unlike narrative fiction, where every moment is normally planned and orchestrated, real life moments are unpredictable. Using a steadicam lets you respond quickly, and do the needed camera movements, to capture those moments. Also, you can easily improvise shots—something you’ll find yourself doing more often for docus, and other non-fiction work.


The electronic or motorized gimbal


an electronic gimbal supporting a DSLR camera

What is a gimbal?

The word “gimbal” has meanings and applications... in the “early dry compass”... in the “navigation system of ships and submarines”... and in the “mounting for rocket engines”.

But…

… we’re not going to talk about “gimbal” in those contexts.

We’re defining “gimbal” here, only in the context of shooting videos.



Also, we’ll focus on the handheld electronic, or motorized gimbal…

… Because it’s the type of gimbal, that’s suitable for everyday people, hobbyists, and beginners, who want to include smooth motion in their videos.



So, what is this gimbal?

It's a form of camera stabilizer that depends on battery power, to run its motors and sensors. It has a camera support that can pivot—or, rotate—in these directions…

  1. up and down (or “tilt”)
  2. left and right (or “pan”)
  3. off-center angles (or “Dutch tilt”)



Because cameras differ in size, gimbals also differ in size…

… So there are small gimbals for small cameras, like smartphones and action cameras (such as GoPro). And there are big gimbals for bigger cameras, like mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Note that, in general, a handheld electronic gimbal, is lighter than a mechanical stabilizer, that's used in a big film production. Big studios typically use big motion picture cameras, which the handheld gimbals couldn’t support enough.

What does a gimbal stabilizer do?

Here's some things a motorized gimbal can do for you…

  • However you hold a gimbal, it keeps your camera upright and level.

  • With the help of its sensors, a gimbal quickly responds to how you move it.

  • And it neutralizes vibrations caused by your sudden movement, in a different direction.

  • A gimbal gives your shots a smooth quality, making you think a gimbal has its own brain.

  • An electronic gimbal also gives you a sense of stability. When wind blows on the gimbal, or when you stop walking while holding it, your camera remains steady.

  • A gimbal can still offer you stabilized footage, even when you use it while riding a moving vehicle—like motorcycle, car, or speed boat.

  • And, if a gimbal can do that in less favorable conditions, how much more in ordinary situations—like when you’re just walking while shooting?

Why is it called a gimbal?

The word “gimbal” is simply a short name for, “motorized gimbal camera stabilizer”—or, “electronic gimbal camera stabilizer”.

And that’s all you need to know, when it comes to video shooting.



But, if you want to know more, here’s some additional—but trivial info…

According to, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (in print), the word “gimbals” refers to “self-adjusting bearings to keep articles horizontal”.

Also, in that same book, “gimbals” is a variant of the term “gimmal”, which means “joints”.

What is the purpose of a gimbal?

"Why use a gimbal stabilizer?" "What is a gimbal used for?"

The purpose of a gimbal, is like a coin with 2 sides. Or better yet, like a two-edged sword. Meaning, when you use a gimbal, there are 2 effects on 2 different people…

  1. The effect of gimbal shots… on human audience.

  2. The effect on you… the video creator… when shooting with a gimbal.

The first effect, relates to your audience’s viewing experience.

The second one, concerns your own gimbal user experience.



So the first “side”—or “edge”—of a gimbal’s purpose is…

To make your viewers experience pleasing, and smooth camera motion.

The thing is, your audience can't tell, whether you used a motorized gimbal, or a mechanical stabilizer. How pleasing your camera movements to audience's eyes, depends on how well you operate whichever device.

So, when it comes to our human audience, the purpose of a gimbal, is just the same as, the purpose of a mechanical stabilizer.

Now, here’s the second “side”—or “edge”—of a gimbal’s purpose, in relation to you—the shooter…

To make it easier and more comfortable for you, to stabilize your shots. By sparing you from using so much muscular and mental energy.

Remember... when you use a mechanical stabilizer, like the steadicam, everything you do to stabilize your shots is manual.

But when you use a gimbal, you get help from its sensors and motors.

Are camera gimbals worth it?

a camera gimbal with stand

Or, "Is it worth getting a gimbal"?

For you to answer it sincerely, you need to be really honest with yourself.

Because that’s the way it is.



Your answer depends on, at least, 3 things…

  1. the type of work you’re planning to do—or have to do

  2. the camera shot style that your work—or video project—naturally requires

  3. how you prefer to work as a video creator-shooter

So...

Who needs a gimbal?

mind map of shooters who really need a gimbal

There are types of video creators-shooters, who could honestly say “Yes” to, "Is it worth getting a gimbal?"

1. The smartphone-based video content creator

You're such a person if…

  • You depend heavily on mobile phones—like iPhone or Android—to record videos. Or…

  • You shoot with your smartphone, to upload videos to social media—like Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok. Or…

  • You have a social media channel or page, where you upload many smartphone videos.

You carry your phone, almost—if not—all the time. For you, it's your best and most accessible video camera. A gimbal for smartphones, in your case, will help you execute tracking shots smoothly.

Compared to a gimbal for bigger and heavier cameras, you'll find that a smartphone gimbal is cheaper. And so, more affordable.



2. The on-the-go video content creator

This is you if…

  • You travel often.

  • You love videography and adventure trips, and combine these 2 hobbies.

Because you love to travel, you prefer to carry light and portable things, like a small point-and-shoot camera—or a mirrorless camera.

Since you enjoy shooting videos while traveling, you can see it's practical to use a gimbal, together with your camera. Gimbal's electronics will help stabilize your shots, almost anywhere.



3. The vlogger (or, video blogger)

You're a vlogger who needs a gimbal if…

  • You shoot a lot of selfie videos, while walking and making commentaries.

  • Like the “on-the-go” content creator, you favor small cameras.

Because you take handheld, walking shots, it’s natural for you to want to smoothen those shots. So that your audience won’t get dizzy watching your videos.

A gimbal designed for small, lightweight cameras, is going to be an attractive solution for you.



4. The promising professional videographer

You're an up-and-coming pro videographer if…

  • You’re seriously learning about, and gaining skills in, video production.

  • You’re passionate about cinema, and cinematic language.

  • You aspire to land a job—or make it your career—as a pro videographer someday.

Perhaps, you may not be that confident yet, to handle a manually-operated camera stabilizer—like the steadicam. So you want to practice and learn, first, filming smooth motion using a gimbal.

But maybe—for more ease of use and comfort—you'd settle for a gimbal, eventually. Even if it means, you need to buy an expensive gimbal for your big, heavy video camera.



5. The run-and-gun video shooter

You're most likely this kind of shooter if…

  • You love this particular mode of filming—moving fast... carrying the fewest production tools possible... and flowing almost like water, from one shooting angle to another.

  • You shoot many real-life subjects, events, or situations. Or, you shoot documentaries.

  • You shoot mostly in uncontrolled environments. You don’t have much control over your subjects, the people, the happenings. You’re not operating in a Hollywood-like studio, which is a controlled environment.

  • You don’t want to bother securing permits, just to capture some simple shots you need for your project.

Since you don’t want to bring too much equipment for the shoot, you pick up tools that won’t hinder your footwork. Tools that let you quickly execute motion shots.

So, you may favor using an electronic gimbal.

It doesn’t mean, you’re unskilled at handling, the manually-operated steadicam stabilizer.

It simply means, you opt to work in a certain fashion—the “run-and-gun” style. Or, what others call, “the guerilla style of filmmaking”. To you, it’s very practical to shoot this way, because of the uncontrolled environments you’re in.



6. The action-sports-wildlife shooter

You're an action, sports, or wildlife shooter if…

  • Most of the times, you record videos of fast-moving subjects. They could be people who do skateboarding, biking, motorcycling, etc.

  • Your hobby is to record your own "point of view" —or, POV—shots, while performing some fast action, like cycling.

  • You happen to be working in the sports field, as a sports videographer. Or, you're lucky enough to become a wildlife videographer.

These are some of the situations, where using a gimbal just makes sense.

The electronics and the automatic feature in a gimbal, will make your shooting life easier. You’ll be able to focus more on filming your video content.

Of course, the gimbal size will depend on your camera. A small action cam—like Go Pro—will only need a small gimbal. But, a big professional cinema camera, will need a larger gimbal, to cancel the camera shakes.

When should you not use a gimbal?

There are situations where owning a gimbal may not be worth it. And, if you already own one, there are times when it’s not worth using it.

- If all you want is to shoot or record some decent videos.

If that’s the case, perhaps what you just need is a tripod, a monopod, or a steady pair of hands.

Buying a gimbal might be excessive in your case. It’s better if you invest your money in something else, that will truly serve a clear production purpose.

If you can’t clearly see what you’ll use the gimbal for, maybe you don’t need it… yet.



- When you’re just after the smooth and pretty look a gimbal can give your shots, so you’re overusing it.

In this case, you already own a gimbal, but you’re mindlessly using it—you’re using it for all your shots.

You’re somehow convinced, that good-looking shots is all you need to show your audience. But that's not the case.



- When your circumstance demands you to be discreet when shooting.

Let's say you’re using a large motorized gimbal for a big video camera, when shooting documentaries. These tools attract too much attention from people around you. (I like to call it, “the swashbuckler effect”.)

In a controlled studio environment, it doesn’t matter. Everyone in the production team knows, you have to use the bulky gear. It’s in the production plan, and in the shooting script.

But, in uncontrolled environments, you usually have to make yourself less noticeable. Even though people know you’re shooting some video.



- If you can’t see how a cinematic gimbal shot that you’d love to do, will relate to other shots in the video presentation.

As a video creator, your ultimate goal is to present your human audience a story that resonates with them.

If your smooth gimbal shots contribute nothing to the story, (Wait, you have a story to tell, right? ;-) )… then those shots could appear isolated, or irrelevant to your audience.

A smooth motion shot made with a gimbal, is just one of the many ingredients you put together, to form a coherent presentation.

How to use gimbal so that it is worth it

tips for using a gimbal

Here's some tips to make owning and using a gimbal, really beneficial and enjoyable…

- Plan your shots before you shoot.

If a particular video project won’t need gimbal shots, then don’t bring a gimbal. Carrying it all the time during the shoot soon gets tiring. And you may accidentally leave it somewhere.

Is there some motivation from the story, to record smooth camera motion? Does the proposed video require you to capture clean tracking shots, of fast-moving subjects? Then, bring and use your gimbal.



- Prepare the gimbal.

You don’t want to miss crucial moments when covering an event. And you don’t want to slow down a video shoot, just because you’re constantly adjusting and fine-tuning your gimbal.

So, don’t let a tool that’s supposed to help you, get in the way of content creation and storytelling.



- Make efficient use of gimbal's battery power.

You’ll want to use your gimbal as long as possible, during your shoot.

What you don’t want is, when you still have camera movements to do, you can’t do them anymore. Simply because your gimbal ran out of power.

Gimbal’s battery drains faster than it should, when gimbal's motor works so hard. It works so hard, when compensating for a shaking camera, mounted on a poorly balanced gimbal.

So, to save battery power, make sure to set up your gimbal properly, so that its motor works efficiently.



- Use gimbal in combo with other tools you may have.

Camera stabilizer devices, and other video production gear, are tools for conveying your thoughts, and expressing your feelings through video.

You may have a gimbal. But, if you also have other stabilizers, one of them may help you better execute needed shots.

A slider, or an improvised dolly, can do things similar to what a gimbal can do. And there could be subtle differences in the effects, that these video stabilizers can give. You’ll learn more about this by practice.

The point is…

… The story or content, and your take on it, will help you decide which tools at your disposal, you’re going to use.

And one day, you may find yourself using production tools, in combination with each other. It’s like combining different ingredients, to cook and serve good food.

How does a gimbal work?

First thing you need to know is... when videographers talk about gimbal, they usually refer to the 3-axis camera gimbal.

To them, this type of gimbal is so reliable, that they get stable shots in different circumstances. Even in conditions that can really make the camera wobble. That’s why the 3-axis gimbal is so common.

So, how does it work?

How gimbal stabilizer works - Relies mainly on electronics for video stabilization

The gimbal keeps your camera on an upright and balanced position, by electronic means for the most part.

You're not the only one who tries to improve your shots. When your gimbal notices jerks or shakes, it corrects them. So you end up recording smooth and stable footage.

How gimbal stabilizer works - Has crucial parts that work together

A gimbal has…

  • electronics,
  • sensors, and
  • motors

… that work together to stabilize your shots.

Those parts work so well and silently. Which means, you get clean sound. Because the camera’s mic doesn’t pick up any noise, from the gimbal’s motors.

How gimbal stabilizer works - Like it has a mind of its own

A gimbal works like it has a brain of its own, because of its built-in computer software. This software interprets what you’re doing with the gimbal. Like…

  • when you’re shooting with it, and
  • when you’re pushing its buttons, to give commands, on how it should respond to your movements.

In a way, this electronic “brain” can sense…

  • if you’re making intentional camera moves, or
  • if the movement is something that the gimbal should counteract.

The software, then, tells the motors how to move, to stabilize your shot.

How gimbal stabilizer works - Shot correction happens so fast

The way a gimbal counterbalances the jolts, happens so quickly.

And when you review the recorded shot, your eyes may not even notice, that the “correction” has happened.

How gimbal stabilizer works - The common 3-axis gimbal

Again, we’re talking about the 3-axis camera gimbal. Many videographers want it, because of its strong capacity to stabilize shots, in different situations.

By the way, "axis" is the center where something rotates around.

On a 3-axis gimbal, there are sensors that assess what’s going on, on the 3 different axes.



So, what are the 3 axes?

1. Pitch axis

  • It is where the up and down rotation of the camera happens.
  • It is when you tilt the camera up or down.

Note about the following images...

For the sake of clarity, I use a human head, as an analogy for a camera mounted on a gimbal. So, the direction of the head's movement, corresponds to that of a camera on a gimbal.

pitch axis analogy



2. Yaw axis

  • It is where the side to side rotation of the camera happens.
  • It is when you pan the camera from left to right, or from right to left.
yaw axis analogy



3. Roll axis

  • It is where the clockwise—and the counterclockwise—rotation of the camera happens.
  • Imagine you rotate the camera from landscape to portrait, or the other way around. That’s the "roll" motion.
  • If there’s some disturbance in the “roll” axis, the gimbal will make an effort, to level the shot with the horizon.
roll axis analogy

How gimbal stabilizer works - What about the 2-axis gimbal

Another type of gimbal is the 2-axis gimbal.

Unlike the 3-axis gimbal, the 2-axis motorized gimbal only affects…

  1. the pitch axis—the up and down rotation of the camera, and
  2. the roll axis—the clockwise, and the counterclockwise, rotation of the camera.

It’s not the business of a 2-axis gimbal, to manage the panning motion—or the ”yaw”.

So, when you use a 2-axis gimbal, it’s up to you to do the panning on purpose. And you need to do it well.

How do I choose a gimbal?

Here's some pointers you can look at…

  1. Consider first if you really need a gimbal.

  2. Consider what kind of camera you have.

  3. Consider also what lenses you have, if you have an interchangeable-lens camera.

  4. Consider your camera setup, and what that setup is for.

  5. Consider the combined weight of your camera, lenses, and other attachments that a gimbal has to carry.

Okay, let’s talk about them one by one…

1. Consider first if you really need a gimbal.

So, why do you need one?

If your reason is not to have toys—or, an additional toy to gear collection... that’s good.

And if your goal is, really, to serve some storytelling or production needs… that’s even better!

  • Those camera movements you want to perform with a gimbal, will they help tell the story?

  • Do you want a gimbal because you could see, how it will help convey your thoughts, or express moods through your shots?

  • Will you use the gimbal more often than not? (This one concerns practicality. You’re getting a gimbal, not to use it for just 1 video shoot.)

Word of advice…

Using a gimbal can be very addictive. You may be tempted to use it all the time, and all your shots end up having camera movements.

Too much camera motion may bore—even distract—your audience.

Why?

Because, somehow, they can sense the pointlessness, and lack of variety of shots. So, use a gimbal sensibly.

2. Consider what kind of camera you have.

Which camera do you have?

  • A smartphone?
  • An action camera?
  • A mirrorless camera?
  • A DSLR?



Because, there are different types of gimbals, for different types of cameras. So there are…

  • gimbals for smartphones—like iPhone and Android
  • gimbals for action cameras—like GoPro
  • gimbals for mirrorless cameras
  • gimbals for DSLRs and other bigger, heavier video cameras.

3. Consider also what lenses you have, if you have an interchangeable-lens camera.

What is an interchangeable-lens camera?

It's a type of camera that allows you to use several lenses, other than the kit lens.

Examples of this camera include…

  • the mirrorless camera,
  • the DSLR camera, and
  • the entry-level cinema camera.



When choosing a gimbal, you have to consider also the lenses, in addition to the camera body.

Why?

Because, if you have several lenses that you can attach to camera body, you now have several camera body-lens combinations. These combos have different combined weights.

You need a gimbal that can support the weight of your camera body-lens combos.



So, the right gimbal for an interchangeable-lens camera, will depend on…

  1. the camera body.
  2. the lenses that you can attach to that camera body—like kit lens and ultra wide-angle lens. And
  3. on the weight of each camera body-lens combination—if you have more than one lens.

4. Consider your camera setup, and what that setup is for.

Your choice of gimbal also depends on your camera setup, and the kind of video you’ll create, using that setup.



Setup for casual use

This is for people who just want to keep their treasured memories, in form of video. They're recording videos mainly for fun. Videos they create include family videos, travel videos, and other fun stuff.

They commonly use small, lightweight cameras—like smartphones, action cams, and point-and-shoot cameras. And it follows that their setups are for those types of cameras.

So, most likely, they’ll pick out gimbals designed for…

  • smartphones,
  • action cameras, and
  • other small point-and-shoot cameras.



Setup for video blogging (or, vlogging)

People who commonly use this setup, maintain social media channels. They're more serious, than those who record videos just for fun.

Some vloggers use point-and-shoot cameras. But others use bigger or more capable cameras—like the mirrorless cam.

Their videos usually contain commentaries. So, they opt to use a setup that combines a camera, and an external microphone.

Let's say you have a mirrorless cam and an external mic. And you'd like to do vlogs while walking and making commentaries. You may get a gimbal designed for mirrorless cameras.



Setup for entry-level professional videography

This setup is not necessarily only for people, who shoot paid projects.

It can also be for enthusiasts—those who are serious in learning more about cinema, and video production. They want to make videos that have professional look, feel, and presentation.

For that purpose, they may also use mirrorless cameras. Or, they may prefer larger cameras—like DSLRs, and entry-level professional cinema, and video cameras.

Therefore, they're more inclined to choose gimbals, that can handle these heavier camera setups. Like...

  • the DSLR camera setup, and
  • the entry-level pro videocam setup.

5. Consider the combined weight of your camera, lenses, and other attachments that a gimbal has to carry.

The “combined weight” I’m referring to, is the maximum payload—or, the maximum weight that a gimbal can support.

You have to consider that because… different gimbals have different maximum payload capacities.

Here’s some rough guide…

  1. A gimbal with maximum payload capacity of about 0.22 kilograms, can carry a smartphone.

  2. A gimbal with maximum payload capacity of about 1.8 kilograms, can support a small action camera, a mirrorless camera, or even a lightweight DSLR.

  3. A gimbal with maximum payload capacity of about 3.2 kilograms, can carry a camera setup for professional use. The camera body may have a moderately heavy zoom lens, and an external microphone.

Drone


a flying drone

What exactly is a drone?

A drone is an aircraft that you can…

  • remotely control, or
  • launch so that it flies autonomously—meaning, without you always controlling it.

You may view it as a robot that can fly, without a human pilot on board.



The formal term for the drone is, “unmanned aerial vehicle” (or, UAV).

The only reason, this intelligent machine can fly autonomously is this—a human on the ground has programmed flight plans, in the drone's system.

Moreover, drones have a long relationship with the military. But drones have also found their way, and usefulness to civilians.



This unmanned aerial vehicle is both complex and simple.

"Complex"... because a drone is the result of putting together very technical things—including computer, artificial intelligence, physics, camera, etc.

"Simple"... because a civilian—or, an everyday person—who uses a drone, finds that its user interface is relatively plain. It feels like you’re just using a video game controller. Not manipulating a jet plane's control panel.

A hobbyist commonly uses a drone called, "the quadcopter".

A quadcopter is a helicopter that has four rotors. That's why it's also known as, “quadrotor helicopter”.

What are drones capable of?

1. A drone can fly at different distances.

Even a hobby drone can go as far as 3 miles away, from the person who controls it.

But, a more advanced drone can travel beyond that. It can hover so high above the land, that people underneath that drone couldn't easily notice it.



2. Drones can sense their surroundings, and calculate how they'll move in space.

Therefore, they can avoid obstacles.

To do that, drones use some obstacle avoidance technology. They use sensors and detectors, that enable them to pass through tight spaces... safely.



3. Drones can reach locations accurately.

They’re able to do that, with the help of Global Positioning System—or, GPS—and the programmed flights, set by the drone operator.



4. Drones can capture high resolution videos, and very detailed images—giving you beautiful and amazing perspectives from above.

Depending on a drone’s model, it can shoot high definition—or, HD—videos, like 1080p. Other models can shoot ultra high definition—or, UHD—videos, like 4K.

More advanced UAVs even use infrared, that’s useful for shooting at night, and for detecting heat that humans and objects give off.



5. Drones can help humans do things more efficiently, and safely.

Because of drone’s capabilities—which become better and more powerful, as technology progresses—humans have found excellent uses of drones.

Drones are not only for military purposes, but for recreational and commercial purposes, as well.

These UAVs help in video coverage, film making, and aerial photography. Even in surveillance, rescue, and giving public service announcements—especially during pandemic.

Why drone is important—especially in video production?

a lady flying a drone

Engaging.

Using a drone, and viewing the output of using it, are both engaging.

As humans, we love to see how birds see the world, from high above. We want to experience that unique viewpoint.

Shooting a drone video is engaging. That feel of piloting an aircraft in space, while you're standing on the ground, is unique. You get to see things, you don’t normally see in your everyday life.

And the resulting video is compelling to watch. Drone footage—like aerial shots of happenings on the ground—can really engage you and your audience.



Low-cost.

Shooting videos using a drone is very cheap, compared to renting a helicopter to film aerial shots.

Big film studios can afford costly helicopter, or airplane shots.

But for indie film makers, amateurs, and beginners, that highly sought-after aerial video, is more doable using a drone. It's a low-cost solution to recording aerial shots.



Easy and efficient to use.

A drone may be an advanced tool. But an everyday person can still find it easy to learn to operate. In fact, more and more civilians are owning and using drones, for video making.

One motivation to learn how to fly a drone, is the efficiency it brings. It does the job in less time, with lesser effort. How easy it is, to get an establishing shot with a drone?



Versatile.

  • A drone is more versatile in navigating space, than a helicopter and other manned aircraft. Therefore, it's more helpful in videography.
  • A drone is small enough to move through a tight space, while recording video.

A drone can fly so low, just above the ground. So you can get that fascinating, low-angle tracking shot.



Practical in many ways.

The drone has applications in military, non-military, and creative fields. Here's some examples…

1. Military-related use: war coverage

We’re not going to talk about drones for warfare—those that carry weapons, like missiles.

We’re just talking about using drones, to record videos of war happenings—that is, war reporting. With drones, journalists can safely cover a war, without risking their own lives, just to get close to the action.

2. Non-military use: filmmaking

Some filmmakers use drones, as tools for expressing their visions. Drones enable them to show their viewers, alternative viewpoints of this world.

3. Non-military use: journalism

“Drone journalism” now exists.

Drones can provide aerial footage for news agencies, and TV programs. A sample footage is a live video feed from a drone, covering the traffic situation in an area.

4. Non-military use: aerial photography

You can also use a drone to take aerial photographs. And you may want to use those photographs, in two ways…

  • as stand-alone photographs—This is your collection of creative photos.
  • as still images you'll incorporate into your video—This is part of your multimedia approach to creating audio-visual presentations.

5. Fun, clever use: drone video selfie

Who doesn’t know what a selfie is? ;-)

With a drone, you can get video selfies—alone, or with family and friends.

One obvious difference is you’re not going to use a selfie stick. But the joysticks of your drone’s remote controller.

Why is it called a drone?

“Drone” didn’t mean "UAV"—or “unmanned aerial vehicle”, in the past.

“Drone” originally meant a male honeybee

  • That doesn’t have a sting.
  • That doesn’t work to get pollen or nectar.
  • That only mates with the queen bee.

“Drone” also meant a monotonous buzzing, or humming sound. Just like what you can hear from the bees.



The British used a radio-controlled aircraft, called “Queen Bee”, sometime in 1935. It's an unpiloted flying machine, used as object for target practice.

Somehow, the name “Queen Bee” led to the use of “drone” to also mean…

… an aircraft without a pilot on board.



And think about it...

A typical drone we fly nowadays, really sound like the buzzing of a bee—or “drone”. This may have stimulated people to give “drone” a different meaning.

Today, we use the words “drone” and “unmanned aerial vehicle” interchangeably.



We normally use the word “drone” to mean, the quadcopter used by hobbyists.

But, when we hear “UAV” or “unmanned aerial vehicle”, we sense some formality in the term. It feels like, “UAV” is more associated with drones used by government.

Also, some say DRONE is an acronym—which stands for “Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment”.

Who invented drone?

Aerospace engineer Abraham Karem is considered to be the drone inventor.

He was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1937.

But, in 1951, his family moved to Israel where he grew up. There, he graduated from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, as an aeronautical engineer.

Abraham relocated to US, in the 70s, where he built “Albatross”—his first drone.

His undying love for aeronautics, enabled him to make a better drone called, “Amber”.

Later on, “Amber” became Abraham’s basis for developing the “Predator” drone.



Know that the forms of drone Abraham made, were not yet quadcopters. Instead, they were drones having fixed wings—like the “Predator” drone.

image of a



So you may ask, “Who invented the quadcopter drone specifically?”

a flying quadcopter drone

To answer that, consider that there those who are trying to constantly improve, and evolve this unmanned aerial vehicle. So, there are several sources of drones.

And it’s hard to say, who the real inventor of the quadcopter drone is. But our takeaway is this...

Technology progresses, because humans have the insatiable hunger to create or invent.

Machines that we know today—like quadcopter drones—are likely to get even better, and more sophisticated in the future.

When drone was invented

Inventor Abraham Karem is most known for the “Predator” drone. It’s because this UAV carried weapons. It’s a warfare drone.

He and the United States, produced the “Predator”, in 1996.



However, some say that the first UAV existed earlier than 1996. And that's the “Queen Bee”—which others consider to be the first modern drone. It appeared in 1935.



Now, notice that we’ve been talking about military drones. But how about drones that civilians and ordinary people use?

Well, there are few important milestones in history, regarding drones for civilian and consumer use…

- In 2006, US Government permitted the use of drones, to help in rescue and relief operations.

Drones with thermal cameras aided in search operations—by reading the heat signatures of people from afar, who needed to be rescued.

Also, many companies were developing drones, to better suit the needs of consumers and businesses, near this period of time.

- In 2010, smartphones gained the capacity to control drones.

Parrot—a French drone maker—released the small quadcopter drone for the consumer. You just needed an app on your smartphone, to fly that thing.

- In 2013, consumers became strongly interested in drones, with built-in cameras.

It's when DJI company brought out their Phantom drone series. Many video enthusiasts, then, set out to fly their drones, to capture aerial shots.

Do drones require license?

It depends on where you are in the world. So, what country are you in?

Click here to see the directory of drone laws and regulations in different countries, plus in different states in US.

First, it is important to know why a drone license is necessary.

Basically, it is for safety of the airspace.

Okay, let’s take United States as an example…



The US has Federal Aviation Administration—or, FAA.

Let's say you’re in the US, and you want to fly your drone for “business” purposes. If you want to earn money using your drone, the FAA requires you to get a drone license.

The “Part 107 Certificate” from the FAA is the commercial drone pilot’s license. If you don't have it, yet you're operating your drone commercially, you’re doing something illegal...

… And heavy fines await you.

However, if you just want to fly your drone for “fun” or recreation, the FAA lets you do that. Even if you don’t have a drone license.

But, there are 3 things the FAA tells you to do…

  1. Register your drone with them.

  2. Put the registration number on the body of your drone, clear enough to be seen.

  3. Bring with you your proof of registration with the FAA, every time you operate your drone.

But beware…

The FAA doesn’t allow you to use your recreational drone’s footage—or photos—to advertise, or promote a business. Even if you don’t get directly paid.

And remember also that in the US, both…

  • commercial, and
  • recreational

… drones, need to be registered with the FAA.

Is it illegal to use a drone?

Again, the answer to this question depends on where you are in the world, and what are the rules in that country.

Here’s another resource—a way for you to visually check the legality of using drones, in different countries.

Note also, there are 2 types of drone laws you need to know, depending on what you want to do with your drone…

  1. recreational drone laws

  2. commercial drone laws




Let’s use US again as an example…

In the US, it is legal to fly a drone. But, you need to comply with the drone regulations.

Also, there are specific activities that you cannot use your drone for…

For example, you can’t use your drone for hunting wildlife. That’s illegal in 45 out of 50 states in the US.

In addition, even disturbing wildlife by flying your drone, is not permitted by the FAA… especially at national parks.

Another thing is, you shouldn’t fly your drone in a way that hinders other aircraft—like airplanes and helicopters. That’s a big no-no! Imagine people's safety inside those aerial vehicles.

How drone works?

If we are to study how a drone works, it will involve 3 things…

  1. the drone’s capacity to fly,
  2. the drone’s capacity to stabilize your shots, and
  3. the drone’s capacity to shoot videos and images.



First, let’s talk about the drone’s capacity to fly

A drone can fly because of…

  • the physical parts that make up the drone itself, and
  • the drone’s control system and navigation.



A drone is usually made of light materials, so it can easily cruise. Its propellers lift it from the ground.

The common drone that we know moves vertically—meaning,...

  • it can take off vertically, and
  • it can land vertically.



Now, the drone’s control system and navigation are a bit more sophisticated.

Since you’re on the ground, you have a remote control for your drone. That controller normally uses a smartphone, to wirelessly connect to the drone that you operate.

But the drone is not a merely remote-controlled machine. Remember, it has some degree of autonomy. You don’t have to manually control it all the time.

You can also set a flight route for your drone, so that when it flies, it stabilizes itself. It can do that because it's equipped with GPS technology.



Now, let’s move on to the drone’s capacity to stabilize your shots

How does a drone gimbal work?

The drone gimbal is the camera stabilizer of the drone. It is what enables the drone to give you stable shots, even though the drone is flying.

The drone gimbal cancels any vibrations, just like the handheld gimbal. The result is the camera records motion, that's smooth and pleasing to the eyes.



Try watching a drone footage. Especially the part where…

  • the drone takes off,
  • travels first near the ground, then
  • slowly reaches higher altitudes.

You get the effect that you’re watching a steadicam shot. And then, it feels like the steadicam operator is also floating through space.



A drone gimbal has a part that holds the camera. It also has sensors and motors that keep the camera stable, resulting in smooth shots.

You’ve heard about the 3-axis gimbal, right?

That’s the kind of gimbal that the common drone has. A drone gimbal has 3 motors—very essential for taking professional-looking aerial videos, and photos.

If you wish to own a drone, you may want to choose a drone with built-in gimbal and camera.

Why?

Because your video creation life will be easier. The parts of such a drone are already matched with each other. The drone will just fly, shoot videos, and stabilize your shots optimally, as you operate the drone.



Finally, let’s talk about the drone’s capacity to shoot videos and images

How drone camera works?

A quadcopter—or the drone that has 4 rotors—has an integrated camera located at the drone's center.

In a nutshell, this camera works, when the drone receives signal from the remote control you're operating. You can tell the camera to record videos and take photos. You can also adjust the drone camera settings, using the remote control.



Now, here's some key details of what’s happening…

  • The remote control has two joysticks, like those you see on a video game controller. You communicate with the drone, and its camera, using those joysticks.

  • A recreational drone may use WiFi for that communication. But, a more professional drone may use other frequencies, which are stronger in signal and more reliable.

  • You see what the drone camera sees, from the smartphone attached to the remote control. This is because the drone transmits its camera's “live” 1st person view, to the device you’re holding.

  • When you see the video live feed, you feel like you’re riding the drone, though you’re really not. You’re just standing on the ground.

  • You can adjust camera exposure, zoom, and other features—depending on how advanced the drone you’re flying.

  • To shoot videos or pictures, you simply push the designated button on the remote control.

  • The drone’s motherboard receives your signal, and tells the drone camera to capture your desired image—motion or still.

Camera stabilizer vs Gimbal - some clarifications


What is the difference between a gimbal and a stabilizer?

Strictly speaking, “camera stabilizer” is a general term, while “gimbal” is something specific.

Why is that?

If you remember our earlier discussion, we’ve learned that,…

“A camera stabilizer is any video production tool, that can help you make your camera stable from the outside, while you're shooting.”

So, “camera stabilizer” can mean any of those video-stabilizing tools or devices… so it’s a general term.

On the other hand, “gimbal” is just one of the many specific forms of camera stabilizer.

Other forms include…

  • the tripod
  • the monopod
  • the shoulder mount
  • the dolly
  • the slider
  • the crane, and
  • the drone.



However, some people mean something else when they say “camera stabilizer”. To them, it’s equivalent to the mechanical type of stabilizer, like the steadicam.

If that’s what you also mean, I have a different answer for you, regarding “the difference between a gimbal and a stabilizer”...

A mechanical stabilizer—like the steadicam—is basically non-motorized or non-electronic. No need for you to use batteries to stabilize your shots.

When you use a mechanical camera stabilizer, you’ll feel deeply engaged mentally and physically, in executing your shots.

Why?

Because you rely a lot on your brain and muscles, to smoothen your shots. You can’t rely on some form of automation.

For you, it’s a fully manual task.

Using a mechanical stabilizer encourages you, to really put your thought and energy in what you do. It’s one reason why you see this type of camera stabilizer used in big productions. Aside from the fact that mechanical stabilizers can support bigger, and heavier cameras.



On the other hand, a gimbal has sensors and motors that consume battery power. It relies heavily on electronics, and offers some level of automatic camera stabilization.

Which means, a gimbal can make the life of a total newbie easier.

My only advice about using a gimbal is this…

“Don’t wing it.”

The automatic balancing of the camera is there, but please, do prepare. Look closely at how you’ll frame your shots. Care about the story, and see how your gimbal shots fit the context that the story provides.

Operating a gimbal can be very addictive. But not all shots have to be executed with a gimbal.

Also, a gimbal may not be sturdy enough to carry and support bigger and heavier cameras, unlike the mechanical camera stabilizer. That’s why you’ll see a lot of small cameras and smartphones mounted on gimbals, used by hobbyists.

Steadicam vs gimbal… Glidecam vs gimbal... Flycam vs Steadicam

Now, what is the difference between Steadicam, Glidecam, Flycam, and gimbal?

The quick answer is the “Steadicam”, the “Glidecam”, and the “Flycam” are actually brand names of camera stabilizer.

And “gimbal” is just a common name for one of the many forms of camera stabilizer.

Now, those three brands mainly refer to mechanical stabilizers. While gimbal, as you already know, is motorized and electronic.

Of course, other brands of camera stabilizer exist. Those companies design and manufacture their own versions of camera stabilizer, both for hobbyists and professionals.


What is a smartphone stabilizer?


a steady smartphone

Smartphone stabilizer is any device that makes your phone’s body steady from the outside, while you're shooting videos.

There are different devices that can stabilize your smartphone. Examples include...

  • the tripod,
  • the monopod,
  • the handheld steadicam-style stabilizer for cell phones, and
  • the smartphone gimbal.

If you notice, these devices are similar to those that you use with bigger and heavier cameras.



A smartphone stabilizer can solve your common problems of unwanted and unintended shaky videos, recorded with your cell phone.

If you do some tracking shots—by walking, running, or riding a bike—and use a smartphone stabilizer…

  • You prevent camera shake.
  • You get calm and polished camera motion.

What is a smartphone gimbal?

a girl holding a smartphone gimbal

Smartphone gimbal is a motorized gimbal, specifically designed for mobile phone video shooting—or videography. It's an electronic handheld camera stabilizer, that works well with your iPhone or Android device—especially when you're doing tracking shots.

Again, it's just one of the smartphone stabilizers, at your disposal.



Perhaps your main camera—or, only camera—for shooting videos is your cell phone, and you shoot many videos with it. You may find that using a smartphone gimbal, really helps you shoot, in different situations.

You may have a pair of steady hands that can minimize unintentional camera shakes. But, after a while, your hands and arms get tired. This is where a handheld smartphone gimbal, comes to your rescue.

You don't just get steady footage. You also get smooth and pleasing camera motion, that looks like it's been shot by a pro. ;-)

Do I need a gimbal for my phone?

It depends on the shots you want to create using your smartphone. Here's some points to consider...

  • Are you going to do a lot of camera movements—like walking while recording videos—just like what a vlogger does?

  • Are you going to do a lot of tracking shots of your subjects? You do tracking shots when you follow your subjects, while they're doing something important, or interesting.

  • Is your cell phone your only tool—or at least—one of your main tools for filming?

  • Are you serious about using your phone, to shoot narrative and cinematic stuff—like short films?



Now, here's some video-related tasks that can benefit from using a smartphone gimbal...

General Mobile Phone Videography

A phone may have some image stabilization feature. But sometimes, we make abrupt or fast movements, when shooting videos. In this case, the phone's image stabilization feature may not be enough.

A smartphone gimbal solves this problem.

Here's some tip...

The only time you allow camera shake to be present in your shot, is when you intentionally do it.

You heard it right. When you have a good reason to do so—say, you want a shot to mimic what someone sees, when a ball hits her head. In cinema, this is called a point-of-view shot.

But most of your phone camera movements, will benefit from being corrected, and enhanced by a smartphone gimbal.



Travel and Adventure Videos

Do you travel often, and do video selfies that feature your commentaries about your trip?

A smartphone gimbal will help you a lot—especially when you’re walking, while making those commentaries.

Plus, your cell phone is light, and your gimbal is light. So you have a lightweight setup, and you can travel light. :-)

Crystal Clear Photos for Video Editing

You can also use a smartphone gimbal, to capture clearer and crisper photographs. You may want to include them in post-production editing of your video presentation.

This reminds me of what documentary filmmakers also do. They also include in video editing some relevant pictures, that help tell their stories. They don't just shoot videos.

A smartphone gimbal does a great job of keeping the phone still, in the face of moderately strong winds. And that feature alone, helps you take crystal clear images.



Live Video Streaming

Do you have a social media account—like a Facebook page, or a Youtube channel—that you'd like to upload videos to? Regularly?

You can also do live video streaming.

A way to do it is to mount your phone on a smartphone gimbal. Then, do a selfie video, while making commentaries about where you are, and what's happening important or interesting in your place.

Your phone needs to be connected, of course, to the internet, for you to do this.



So, do you think you need a gimbal for your phone? I’ll leave you with this thought…

your cell phone + smartphone gimbal + your basic shooting skills = secure feeling you'll still get smooth and pleasing shots


How do I stabilize my phone camera?


Or, how do you shoot steady video on an iPhone, or Android device?

Here's some ways to do it…

  1. Stabilize your phone camera, just as you stabilize other video cameras.
  2. Improvise.
  3. Fully zoom out on your subject.
  4. Hold your phone with both hands.
  5. Get more creative by combining tools.

Now, let’s discuss them one by one…

Stabilize your phone camera, just as you stabilize other video cameras.

How?

If you want your phone camera to be in a firm, stationary position...

… mount your phone on a tripod.

If you want to use your phone to film tracking shots...

… attach it to a handheld mechanical stabilizer, or to a motorized gimbal.

(There are camera stabilizers specifically made for iPhone and Android devices—like the smartphone gimbal.)

If you want to do something in between—that is, to allow minimal but stabilized camera movements...

… put your cell phone on a monopod.

Improvise.

Use objects you already have—or, can borrow. And repurpose them, as camera stabilizer devices, for your smartphone. Here are some ideas...

The use of wheel chair.

  1. Find a way to securely attach your phone to a wheel chair. (For example, mount first your phone on a tripod. Then, securely place that tripod on a wheel chair.)
  2. Then, use the wheel chair as an improvised dolly, to do tracking shots on smooth surfaces—or level terrain.

Tripod on a carpet.

  1. Mount your phone on a tripod.
  2. Then, put the tripod on a carpet, which is spread on the floor.
  3. Tap the video record icon on your phone's screen, to start recording.
  4. Finally, slowly and gently pull the tripod away, or toward the subject you're filming. That's your camera movement.

Fully zoom out on your subject.

fully zooming out using a smartphone

If you zoom in on your subject, and do some camera movements, that will magnify even the slightest shake you accidentally make.

Fully zooming out on your subject doesn't stabilize your shot. It only helps minimize the effect of camera shake on your shot.

And anything that helps stabilize our footage is good. :-)

PS: An exception to this tip on not zooming in on the subject, is when you mount your smartphone on a tripod. Specifically, if you want to record a "static shot"—that is, a shot that doesn't have camera movement.

Hold your phone with both hands.

shooting video with a smartphone

Perhaps, you can shoot handheld with just one hand. But it helps greatly, if you use two hands, and make it a habit.

Why?

  1. You have firmer grip of your phone, that makes it more stable.
  2. Your phone won't easily fall to the ground, if someone or something accidentally hits your hands.

So, two hands are better than one. ;-)

Practice doing slight camera movements only, when shooting handheld. No abrupt gestures please—unless you intend to do so, as a way to tell a story.

Also, let your chest—or abdomen—support your elbows, when you're shooting handheld. Doing so helps make your shots stable.

a lady shooting video with a smartphone

Get more creative by combining tools.

You can combine tools, to create a needed specific camera stabilization effect.

For example,...

smartphone gimbal + monopod = jib or crane-like shots

  1. Mount your phone on a smartphone gimbal.
  2. Next, attach the gimbal's bottom to the monopod head. You do this via the screw on the monopod plate, that matches the gimbal's bottom.
  3. Then, extend the monopod leg, and tap the video record button on your phone.
  4. Finally, firmly hold the monopod, and do the crane-like shots that your video presentation needs.

Can I use selfie stick as stabilizer?

Oh, yes! You can use it...

  • As a monopod.
  • As a support for handheld shooting.
  • And in combination with a tripod, for static overhead shots.



If your selfie stick is extendable that it can touch the ground, you can use it as a monopod.

a lady using a selfie stick as monopod



If not, you can still use the selfie stick, as a support for your handheld shooting.

a lady using a selfie stick, as support for handheld shooting

How?...

  1. Attach the selfie stick to the phone holder. You do this via the screw on the selfie stick, that matches the bottom of your phone holder.
  2. Then, securely attach your phone to the phone holder.
  3. Finally, extend the selfie stick, and let its bottom press on your abdomen—while shooting handheld.



Now, for the selfie stick-tripod combo, for static overhead shots...

  1. Attach the bottom of the selfie stick to the tripod head, via the screw on the tripod plate.
  2. Next, mount the tripod plate on the tripod head—with tripod legs already extended, and standing on the ground.
  3. Then, securely attach your phone to the phone holder, which is already mounted on the selfie stick.
  4. Now, extend the selfie stick to your desired length, and make adjustments to frame your static overhead shot well.
  5. Finally, start recording.

Stabilizing slight movements without camera stabilizer


This is about you trying to correct, or smoothen, some minimal camera motions—without using any camera stabilizer device yet.

And I'm talking about "while you're shooting".

Not when you're done shooting. And then trying to correct your footage inside an editing app, or software.



But what causes those minimal camera movements?

Well, those slight movements happen mostly—and naturally—when you're shooting handheld.

Sometimes, you may want to use slightly shaky shots in your video. Intentionally. Because they suit your video's story, mood, or style.

Other times, you want to correct the slight camera shake right away, as you're shooting.



So, why not use a camera stabilizer at once, to correct or smoothen those minimal camera shakes?

There are 2 reasons...

  1. Those camera shakes may be very insignificant, to call for the use of a camera stabilizer device. And...
  2. There are other ways of correcting them.



What are other ways of correcting, or smoothening, those minimal camera shakes—without using a camera stabilizer?

One way is to use the stabilizer available in your DSLR, if you're using such a camera for filming.

What is stabilizer in DSLR?

Depending on camera brand and model, a DSLR can have...

  1. a stabilizer in the camera lens, or
  2. a stabilizer in the camera body.

Any of the 2 types of stabilizer can help correct—or, smoothen—minor camera shakes.

Those 2 stabilizer types can enhance pictures you're taking, and videos you're recording—since many DSLRs can shoot both.

So, both stabilizers inside the lens, and inside the body of a DSLR camera, function as video stabilizers—when in video mode.

There are mirrorless camera models, that also have "inside-the-camera body" stabilization, aside from some DSLRs.

Using these mirrorless cameras can also correct, or smoothen, minimal camera shakes—without using any camera stabilizer device yet.


Camera lens stabilizer - using the image stabilizer inside the lens


We learned that using the "stabilizer in the lens" of a DSLR—or other interchangeable-lens camera—is a way to stabilize slight camera movements.

"Interchangeable-lens camera" is a camera that can use several lenses, other than the kit lens that comes with the camera.

I emphasize, though, you'll benefit from this way, if you're committing minimal camera shakes. Only.

I don't recommend it for cleaning up huge camera wobbles. For that, you have to use a camera stabilizer device—like a steadicam, or a gimbal.

What is the stabilizer on camera lens?

You may have seen a lens with a switch on its side—a stabilizer "on-off" switch. Like this one...

the IS on/off switch on a zoom lens

The stabilizer switch on a zoom lens.

That's the switch that accesses the inside parts of a lens, which help stabilize your shots.

Turn it on, start shooting handheld, and that stabilizer compensates for minimal camera shakes, you may be making.

What does IS stand for in digital cameras?

The "IS" you see on digital cameras—specifically, on some lenses—simply means...

... Image Stabilizer, or Image Stabilization.

Others call it "Optical Stabilizer"—OS, or "Vibration Reduction"—VR.



I'm not going to talk about too much technical stuff about it. Because we're video creators, not camera repair technicians. So, just note that...

  • First, not all lenses have this technology.

  • But, if a lens has IS feature, something inside that lens is fighting any shake, that the camera and lens are experiencing.

  • This lens-based image stabilization enhances your shot. Even before the camera body records it.

Is image stabilization necessary for video?


In a way... "Yes".

Let me explain a little...

Camera and lens makers designed Image Stabilization, originally for shooting still images.

But video shooters discovered, that IS also enhances camera motion. Again, I'm reminding you that this feature, only helps correct very minor camera shakes.

So, image stabilization is necessary—if you shoot videos with your bare hands. And need to smoothen some minimal camera shakes.

Camera stabilizer on or off - when shooting videos

There are times when you need to turn on the Image Stabilizer on the lens. And there are times, you may want to turn it off.

So, when do you turn it on?

You switch on the IS on the lens, when you're shooting handheld. You want the image stabilizer inside the lens, to compensate for minimal camera shakes you may be making.

Even when your DSLR, or mirrorless camera, is mounted on a monopod, turning on the stabilizer also enhances your shots. Especially, when you're using a telephoto lens—like a 70—200mm lens, or a 55—250mm lens.

Telephoto lenses—or, lenses with "long focal lengths"—tend to exaggerate, or magnify shakiness. But with IS turned on, you minimize the shake.

Note that the lens has to have this IS feature, because not all lenses have it.



When do you turn off this stabilizer feature of the lens?

Basically, you switch IS off, when a very secure camera stabilizer—like a well-designed tripod—already supports your camera. The IS won't help anyway.

Some video shooters suggest that, it's better to turn off IS, even when you're panning on a tripod.

Why?

Because the basic IS mechanism inside the lens, will just mess up your panning, and make your recorded video look somewhat odd. So, turn off the IS—unless the lens has a dedicated IS for panning, or horizontal movement.



What if your camera body and lens with IS feature, are attached to a steadicam, or a gimbal?

Well, opinions among video shooters are divided...

  1. Some say they just let the IS feature of the lens work with the gimbal, or the steadicam. So they switch it on.
  2. Others say they turn it off, for some reason. They don't want Image Stabilizer, to interfere with the workings of the gimbal, or the steadicam.

I have a wide angle lens without IS feature, "Vibration Reduction", or "Optical Stabilizer". My experience is that, using it together with my DSLR and a steadicam-style stabilizer, I have no problem stabilizing my shots.

If you have a lens with IS, a motorized gimbal, or a mechanical stabilizer, my advice to you is this...

...Test. See for yourself.

  • Try shooting videos with the IS turned on.
  • Then, try shooting videos with the IS turned off.
  • Compare the resulting shots.

Not all camera bodies, and lenses with IS feature, are the same.

Does image stabilization affect video quality?

Yes, IS affects video quality—or the look of the shots. That's why a video shooter has to use it properly.

Again, you can use the IS feature of the lens, to compensate for minimal camera shakes. But, you cannot use it, to cure drastic camera disturbances.

You'll notice more the benefit of the lens' Image Stabilizer...

  • When you're shooting handheld.

  • When your setup combines this lens with IS, a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, and a monopod.

  • When you're using a telephoto lens with IS. Whether you shoot handheld, or mount your camera on a monopod, you can really see shot improvement with IS turned on.

"Image stabilizer on lens or camera body?"


We've talked about using the Image Stabilizer—or IS—on lens.

But, there's another way of stabilizing your shots—that is, using the camera body's image stabilization feature. This is called, "In-Body Image Stabilization"—or IBIS.

If you're using it, the stabilization happens inside the camera body. Some mirrorless cameras have the IBIS feature.

IBIS can also help you shoot, and record smooth handheld videos, just like lenses with IS.



Now, as to the question, “Image stabilizer on lens or camera body?”…

Honestly, whichever you have, just use it. Some people say, the best tool is the one you already have. In this case, what they say rings true, as well.



What if you have both—(1) a camera body with IBIS, and (2) a lens with IS? Do you turn on the image stabilizers of both the camera body and the lens, when shooting? Or you use one of them only?

Good questions.

My opinion is, I'll only use one of them. I don't want a scenario, where the camera's IBIS and the lens' IS, seem to fight each other. It's like letting 2 persons drive the same car, and hit the same brakes.

Other shooters say, they avoid switching on the camera's IBIS and the lens' IS, at the same time. Because they don't get smooth results, if both are turned on, when shooting handheld and doing camera movements.



Now, here's some guidelines for you to consider...

1. If you're shooting handheld, using a wide angle or a telephoto lens with IS:

Just use one type of image stabilization. You either turn on your camera's IBIS and turn off your lens' IS, or vice-versa.



2. If you're shooting on a tripod, using a wide angle or a telephoto lens with IS, and doing panning or tilting:

Turn off both your camera's IBIS and your lens' IS. A well-built and robust tripod—particularly one with fluid head—is secure enough to stabilize your footage.

Turning on the camera's IBIS, or the lens' IS, can make the resulting video look weird. The frame looks unsteady, and there's some delay when the camera is being panned or tilted.



3. If you're shooting on a tripod, using a telephoto lens with IS, and you won't do panning and tilting:

Turn on both the camera's IBIS, and the lens' IS. This helps you achieve really static shots.

In a static—or, "locked-off"—shot, the frame is securely fixed or totally undisturbed. But it can contain movement—such as moving people, animals, vehicles, and the like.



4. If you're shooting on a monopod, using a wide angle or a telephoto lens with IS:

Use only one type of image stabilization. You either turn on your camera's IBIS and turn off your lens' IS, or do the other way around.


Prepare a camera stabilizer and practice using it before shooting


It is sensible to prepare a camera stabilizer, and practice using it first—before you can use it well, in real-world situations.

An average person simply cannot learn, develop, and refine the needed skills overnight. It takes time…

  • Time you need to invest in rehearsing how to prepare, and operate a camera stabilizer.
  • Time away from your "real-world" video shoot, and coverage.

How to set up and balance a camera stabilizer

Practice setting up and balancing a camera stabilizer.

There are 2 main stabilizing devices that video shooters use, to execute camera movements...

  1. the handheld steadicam-like stabilizer (mechanical), and
  2. the motorized gimbal (electronic)

We're not going to talk about how to set up and balance, specific brands of camera stabilizers. Because there's so many. We'll only talk about some guiding principles, that will help you set up and balance a camera stabilizer—regardless of brand.

Setting up and balancing a handheld steadicam-like stabilizer

1. Decide on the very camera setup you'll actually use during filming.

A basic setup could just be a smartphone, an action cam, a small camcorder—or any camera with built-in lens and mic.

However, an interchangeable-lens camera, may not be that basic at all.

So, if yours is a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or a cinema camera, take away any unnecessary weight. Remove the lens cap, the camera strap, and the lens hood—if you opt not to use it when shooting.



2. Attach your camera to the base plate of your handheld steadicam stabilizer.

Then, attach the base plate to the stabilizer itself. Make sure that the camera, the base plate, and the steadicam are securely connected as one.

Tighten enough what needs to be tightened—depending on the design, of your mechanical handheld stabilizer.



3. Balance your camera so that it stays center.

It shouldn't lean forwards, or backwards too much. And it shouldn't lean to the left, or to the right too much, as well.

Make incremental adjustments to the stabilizer, as you do this.



4. Check if the counterweight is sufficient.

There are several designs of mechanical camera stabilizer counterweight. But regardless of the counterweight's form, we want to see that the stabilizer's bottom is neither too heavy, nor too light.

To check this, raise the counterweight platform horizontally, then release it so it drops.

If it takes about 2 seconds, before the counterweight platform reaches the vertical position—the counterweight is just enough.

If it doesn't, just do incremental adjustments, until you achieve that 2-second drop time.



5. Do a quick test.

Hold the handle of your steadicam stabilizer.

While you're firmly holding it, move your arm forward and backward.

Stretch your arm again horizontally and move it to the left, then to the right.

If the camera stays level, your handheld mechanical stabilizer is ready to use.

Setting up and balancing a motorized gimbal

1. Keep your setup to the minimum.

Include just the basic camera itself. Or maybe, the camera and a small external mic mounted on it.

Remove the lens cap, the camera strap, and the lens hood—just like what you do, when setting up a handheld mechanical stabilizer.



2. Choose your camera and lens combination, and stick with it—when using an interchangeable lens camera.

Why?

Because different lenses have different weights.

Let's say you settled for a lens to attach to a DSLR, or a mirrorless camera body. And you set up the gimbal. But then, you replaced that lens on a whim with a different one.

You now have to set up your gimbal again—making the needed adjustments and fine tunings. Which could be a hassle.



3. Securely mount your camera on the gimbal plate.

But, make sure not to overwind anything, when doing so. Because...

... You don't want cracks on your camera, or on your gimbal.



4. Balance your camera, by making gimbal adjustments—one axis at a time.

On a 3-axis gimbal, the first axis is where the tilting, or the up and down rotation of the camera happens. This is called the "pitch axis".

The second is where the panning, or the side to side rotation of the camera happens. This is called the "yaw axis".

And the third axis is where the clockwise, or counterclockwise rotation of the camera happens. This is called the "roll axis".

What you want to achieve is this—the camera stays level, even if you move it into whatever position.



5. Make some markings on your gimbal, by using a pen or pieces of tape.

Those marks will serve as your reference points. They'll help you easily and quickly assemble, and disassemble your gimbal.

Do you own, or have access to a specific brand and model, of a camera stabilizer? Would you like to know more about setting up and balancing that particular device? Please refer to your brand’s user manual, or any product demo that the brand may offer.


Using a camera stabilizing device during the shoot


Sometimes, the story or script for a proposed video, will tell you the need for some camera movements—especially tracking shots.

It means, you need to be able to handle and operate a camera stabilizer device, in the actual shoot. That skill applies whether you’re shooting events or documentaries—or more structured pieces, like narrative short films or music videos.

How to use a camera stabilizer

a lady demonstrating how to properly hold a steadicam-style stabilizer when shooting

When you're handling a mechanical camera stabilizer, like the steadicam, there are 2 things you're actually doing, at the same time...

  1. Your stronger hand is firmly holding the stabilizer's handle. (In my case, my "stronger hand", is my right hand.)

  2. Your other hand is gently touching the stabilizer column, just below the handle. (In my case, my "other hand", is my left hand. But I only use my index finger and thumb, to gently touch the stabilizer column.)

You're doing #1, to support the overall weight of your camera stabilizer setup. And it's not just your stronger hand and arm that carry that weight. But your back and leg muscles as well.

a right hand firmly holding the steadicam's handle



You're doing #2, to steer the stabilizer column—to guide what your camera's lens will look at. Remember, you're not tightly holding the stabilizer column with your left hand—if you're right-handed. You're only touching it lightly with your index finger and thumb, to help your camera record smooth motion.

how to steer the stabilizer column with your left hand's index finger and thumb



However, when you're operating an electronic gimbal, it's a different story…

Let’s say your gimbal is properly set up and balanced. You may just have to hold the gimbal handle with one hand. Maybe two hands, depending on the gimbal’s brand and model.

The gimbal handle usually has some buttons that you can press, to control gimbal movements.

Using a motorized gimbal can feel like some artificial intelligence—or AI—is helping you control, and enhance camera movements. There's some automation involved when you're operating it.

It's a different experience compared to using a handheld mechanical stabilizer, which you operate manually.

Camera stabilizer tips

Here's some advice on using a camera stabilizer device—like a steadicam, or a gimbal...

- Relax if your camera setup feels a bit heavy, after you included what's essential in your setup—say, an external mic.

A reasonably heavy load, or extra weight, can help make your shots more stable.

The only drawback is your arms and hands—even your back muscles—get tired faster, after shooting for some time.

So, make sure your use of camera stabilizer really serves some purpose. It will keep you from overusing your “reasonably” heavy setup.



- Use a wide angle lens, instead of a telephoto lens, when using an interchangeable-lens camera—like DSLR, or mirrorless camera.

Why?

Because the wide field of view of a wide angle lens, won't magnify disturbances in camera movements—as a telephoto lens does.

Wide angle lens mitigates the effect of camera shake.

It means, your viewers will perceive enhanced camera motion, when using a wide angle lens—like 18-55mm, or 17-50mm lens.



- Be mindful of your lens focusing, when executing tracking shots—like walking to follow your subject.

You want your subject to stay in focus.

Set your camera to manual focus, instead of using auto focus. Be the one to decide where your lens focuses on—not the camera.

This tip is especially true, when you're using a mirrorless camera, a DSLR, or a cinema camera.



- Avoid very "shallow depth of field"—or narrow focus, when doing tracking shots.

"Depth of field" is related to lens focusing. It is how much of the image is clear or in focus, and how much of it is blurred.

The lens might lose focus of your subject as you move, if your lens focusing is very "narrow"—or "shallow".

So, you'd want "large depth of field"—or deep focus. It means, a larger area of the image will be clear, or in focus—including the subject you're following.

You'll have narrow focus, if you set your lens aperture to f/2.8. But, you'll get deep focus, if you set your lens aperture to f/5.6 or f/8.



- Decide how near to—or, far from—your subject you're going to be.

It will also help you keep your subject in focus, when you're executing tracking shots. So...

"How do you walk—or run—with a camera stabilizer?"

Maintain your decided distance, when you walk to follow your subject—say, a walking person.

Look at your camera's monitor to keep good shot composition.

Pay attention to your environment, at the same time. Because you don't want any accidents.

Avoid moving your body up and down repeatedly, when you walk or run. Because your body's unintended vertical movement, is going to be recorded by the camera.

You only want to move horizontally with your stabilizer—whether you walk forward, backward, or sideways. Video shooters call it, "the ninja walk".


Camera stabilizer DIY—Alternative ways of stabilizing your camera


What if you don't have a dedicated camera stabilizer—yet—for enhancing, or smoothening camera motions you want to do?

Well, to others, this isn't just a "what if" scenario. To them, it's already a reality.

So, are there alternative ways of stabilizing your camera movements?

I'm giving you the following thoughts, to clarify what I mean by "camera stabilizer DIY"...

"camera stabilizer" + "DIY"

camera stabilizer = a tool you use to stabilize your camera "from the outside"—meaning, from outside the camera body.

So, this is not camera stabilization "inside the camera body", or "inside the lens".

DIY = "do it yourself"; something you do yourself on your own initiative.

How can I stabilize my camera without stabilizer?

Here, we'll only focus and talk about some free, alternative ways of stabilizing camera movements—using what you may already have.

We're not going to talk about buying some raw materials, and making your own camera stabilizer device.

Why?

Because, honestly, it's better and more convenient to buy a low-cost, ready-made, but properly designed stabilizer. Not everyone wants to go through the hassle of sourcing materials, and building a camera stabilizer by trial and error.

Using camera strap as stabilizer

Most likely, you also got a camera strap, when you bought your camera. The strap can be your best friend, because it's always there, to help you quickly stabilize your camera.

It's so handy. :-)

Here's some ways of using the camera strap as camera stabilizer...

1. Camera strap around your neck.

a lady wearing a camera strap around her neck to stabilize the camera
  • Wear the camera strap around your neck.

  • Make sure that strap length matches the length of your arms. Not too long, not too short. And your eyes can clearly and comfortably see the camera screen.

  • Hold the camera in a manner that you're pulling it away from you. But not too tight, to avoid hurting the back of your neck. This will help you record stable shots.

  • With your arms extended, pulling the camera strap tight enough, start shooting and doing camera movements—like panning and tilting.



2. Camera strap hanging on your shoulder, like a sling bag.

a lady hanging the camera strap on her shoulder, like a sling bag, to support the camera
  • This method is similar to, "camera strap around your neck". But this time, you're wearing the camera and its strap, like a sling bag.

  • Position your camera to the front.

  • Hold the camera, pulling it away from you.

  • Start shooting and executing camera movements.



3. Stepping on the camera strap.

a lady stepping on the camera strap to stabilize the camera
  • This technique helps stabilize your shots, from a low angle.

  • Step on the camera strap with one foot, while holding the camera with both hands.

  • Pull the camera upwards and start shooting.



4. Hanging your camera and lens on the strap.

a lady hanging the camera and lens on the strap, to stabilize her footage
  • This method works better, if you apply it to a fairly heavy camera—like a DSLR with wide angle zoom lens. Because the heavier the weight of camera-lens combination, the better the stabilization.

  • You'll find it easier to use this technique, if your camera has a swiveling screen. Because you can see your framing well, while making your shots.
another angle of a lady hanging the camera and lens on the strap, to stabilize her shot; we can see the swiveling screen
  • For better and realistic results, I recommend this technique, only if you're going to do minimal camera movements. Such as small slider-like, or crane-like movements. I don't recommend this for extended walking and running shots—like when using a steadicam, or a gimbal.

  • To use this method, both ends of the camera strap need to be attached to the camera body. Then, wrap the middle of the strap under the lens.

  • Ensure that camera strap is not touching the lens focus ring. Because you don't want the strap to interfere with focusing, when you're shooting.

  • Now, carry your camera like a hand bag. Press the record button, and start shooting. Remember—"minimal camera movements", only.

Can I use a tripod as a stabilizer?

Yes. That's my quick answer. :-)

But, we'll only talk about alternative ways of using the tripod, as camera stabilizer. Ways that are more sensible, more effective, and easier to do, in the real world.

How to use tripod as stabilizer

1. Use tripod as a monopod.

a lady using the tripod as monopod

This is what I love about the monopod...

I only have to adjust one leg—just one leg—and I can go on shooting my subject from different angles.

What a huge time saver!

I can even incorporate minimal camera movements, and my monopod shots still look great. Very convenient to use.

In other words, a monopod helps a lot when shooting real life events. When you cannot afford to miss capturing precious life moments.

But, what if you don't have a monopod, and what you have is a tripod? Can you use tripod as a monopod?

Yes. Here's how...

  • Extend only one tripod leg, all the way.

  • Keep the other 2 legs collapsed, or closed up.
a tripod with only the 2 legs collapsed
  • Use that one extended tripod leg as a monopod, when shooting. Treat the other 2 legs, as if they don't exist.

  • Now, you only have one leg to adjust—say, when you want to shoot from a low angle.



2. Use tripod and camera strap as shoulder rig.

When you watch news on TV, do you notice those raw, unpretentious, but still decent-looking handheld shots?

Those shots usually result from carrying a big, heavy broadcast camera. The camera operator puts the videocam on his—or her shoulder, and moves to where the action is happening, while shooting.

You can also get that similar resulting look. Even though, you're using a relatively lighter camera—like a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or a small camcorder.

But how?

  • By mounting your camera on a tripod.
  • And using that tripod and the camera strap as shoulder rig.



There are 2 ways of using a tripod and a camera strap as shoulder rig...

Version 1 : All 3 tripod legs on just one shoulder.

a lady using a tripod as shoulder rig, with all 3 tripod legs on just one shoulder

This tripod-camera strap combination as shoulder rig, is easy to set up. Especially when you're shooting events. Here's how...

  • Collapse all 3 tripod legs.

  • Place the 3 tripod legs on your right shoulder—if you're right-handed. (Or, on your left shoulder—if you're left-handed.)

  • Hang the camera strap from your neck. Position the camera in a way that you can clearly, and comfortably see the screen. Adjust the strap length as you do this.

  • Now, all 3 tripod legs are resting on your shoulder. Next, pull the camera away from you with your 2 hands, without hurting the back of your neck.
another angle of a lady using a tripod as shoulder rig, with all 3 tripod legs on just one shoulder
  • Then, start shooting.



Version 2: 2 tripod legs on both shoulders.

a lady using the tripod as shoulder rig, with 2 tripod legs on both her shoulders

This is not as easy to set up as "version 1". But, "version 2" is better for your shoulders, because of the equally distributed weight of tripod legs.

I prefer to use version 2 of tripod-camera strap as shoulder rig, when shooting in more controlled environments—like in studios. I also like using "version 2", when shooting more structured presentations—say, a scripted short film, or a music video.

Here's how to do "version 2" of using a tripod and a camera strap, as shoulder rig...

  • Collapse all tripod legs, but place the 2 legs on your left and right shoulders (as shown in the picture above).

  • Hang the camera strap from your neck. Position the camera in a way that you can clearly, and comfortably see the screen. Adjust the strap length as you do this.

  • Now, the 2 tripod legs are resting on your shoulders. Next, press the "record" button.

  • Then, hold the one remaining tripod leg with your 2 hands. Pull it firmly away from you, without hurting the back of your neck.
another angle of a lady using the tripod as shoulder rig, with 2 tripod legs on both her shoulders; she's holding the 1 remaining tripod leg with both hands
  • Start shooting.

Tip: If your lens has Image Stabilization—or, IS—turn it off. If your camera has in-body image stabilization—or, IBIS—turn it off as well.

Why?

You'll get a more natural, rawer, and more documentary feel to your shoulder rig shots.



3. Use tripod like a dolly, or to get dolly-like shots.

a lady using the tripod like a dolly

I'd like to emphasize, "dolly-like". Because this alternative way of using a tripod, only gives a look similar to the authentic dolly shot.

A dolly shot is a smooth sideways, forward, or backward movement of the camera. A cinematographer uses a cart with wheels—or something that moves on a rail track—to do a dolly shot.

With a real dolly, you can get the look of a camera moving fluently, along a straight line.

But, using a tripod as a dolly, gives you a look where the camera rises a little, and then moves downward.

So how do use a tripod like a dolly?

Mount your camera on a standing tripod.

Position the tripod legs, in a way that one leg is directly pointing towards you.

Hold that one tripod leg, and carefully do some "dolly in" and "dolly out" shots. (You "dolly in", when you push the tripod forward. You "dolly out", when you pull the tripod toward you.)



4. Use tripod and blanket as slider.

a lady using a tripod and a blanket as slider

I prefer to do this technique...

  • indoors,
  • on a smooth floor, and
  • in a controlled environment.

Why?

To easily execute and get the slider effect. Here's how to do it...

  • Place a blanket on a smooth floor.

  • Place the tripod on that blanket, and mount your camera on the tripod.

  • Consider how you'll film your subject, using this technique. Know the start and the end of your improvised slider shot.

  • Press the "record" button, and slowly pull the blanket across the floor, to do your slider-like shot.
another angle of a lady using a tripod and a blanket as slider

Using monopod and camera strap as shoulder rig

a lady using a monopod and a camera strap as shoulder rig

This technique is similar—in fact—almost identical with, "using tripod and camera strap as shoulder rig".

The only difference? You got it—we're using monopod, instead of tripod.

Note: This works if your monopod has a tilt head.

a monopod with tilt head

The tilt head allows you to use the monopod as shoulder rig.

So, how do we use monopod and camera strap as shoulder rig?...

  • Mount your camera on the monopod's tilt head.

  • Collapse the monopod leg.

  • Hang the camera strap from your neck. Then, place the monopod leg on your right shoulder—if you're right-handed. (Or, on your left shoulder—if you're left-handed.)

  • Adjust the tilt head to position the camera, in a way that you can clearly, and comfortably see the screen. Adjust the strap length, as you do this.

  • Now, the monopod leg is resting on your shoulder. Next, pull the camera away from you with your 2 hands, without hurting the back of your neck.

  • Start shooting.

Using garter string and tripod plate to stabilize camera movement

a lady using a garter string to stabilize her camera

A garter string can come in handy, as another form of camera stabilizer, when you're already using a tripod.

How?

Remember that to use a tripod, you need to attach the tripod plate under the camera body. So you can mount the camera on a tripod.

But...

This alternative way of stabilizing camera movements will only need...

  1. the tripod plate already attached to camera body, and
  2. a garter string.

Here's how to do it...

  • Simply insert the garter string into the ring of the plate screw.
a garter string being inserted into the ring of a tripod plate
  • Now, how you use the garter string and the tripod plate, will depend on the camera movement you want to do.

  • Let's say you want some crane-like motion. To do it, step on both ends of the garter string.
stepping on both ends of the garter string
  • Press the record button.
  • To do a "crane up" shot, slowly pull the camera up while filming your subject. (Doing this will stretch the garter string, of course. So, try to do this at a consistent speed.)
  • Now, try to do the opposite—a "crane down" shot. With the garter string already stretched, slowly let the camera be pulled down by the garter string, while filming your subject. (Again, try to do this at a consistent speed.)

Stabilizing your shots in post-production


"Can you stabilize video in post?"

Yes.

However, I prefer to do "stabilization in editing" as my last resort. Meaning, I try to make the stabilization right—as much as possible—during video shoot, or coverage.

And, if I still have some shortcomings, that's the time I'll try to correct a shaky video in post.

This approach compels me to really think about a shot, before I execute it.



"How do you stabilize a shot in the post?"

You use a video editing software that has some feature—or, functionality—to stabilize shaky footage.

What is Warp Stabilizer?

Warp Stabilizer is a functionality in a video editing software, intended to cure small irregular camera movements, already recorded with the shot.

In other words, Warp Stabilizer is your camera stabilizer in post production.

However, please notice what I said... "small irregular camera movements"... So, if the camera shake is only...

  • minor, and
  • due to shooting handheld while you're moving slowly,

... Warp Stabilizer can cure that.

However, extreme camera shakes caused by running, or moving abruptly, are a different story.

People who say, "Warp Stabilizer makes it worse", are probably expecting too much from it. Or, relying so much on post-production, to fix lousily executed shots—which a mindful shooter wouldn't do in the first place.

By the way, "Warp Stabilizer" is actually the name of that shot-enhancing feature in Adobe Premiere Pro. But, this editing software isn't free, and Adobe only offers it by subscription.

If you like Adobe Premiere Pro, and you have concerns such as, "Where is Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro?" Or, "How do you use Warp Stabilizer?" Or, "How to stabilize video in Premiere Pro"...

... click here to know more from Adobe itself.



But, if you're asking, "how to stabilize video for free" in post-production, check out this next discussion...

Camera stabilizer in DaVinci Resolve

"Does DaVinci Resolve have Warp Stabilizer?" Or, "Is there a stabilizer in DaVinci Resolve?"

Yes, Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve, has its own version of "Warp Stabilizer".



Resolve has a free version, that’s more than enough for the needs of someone, who’s just starting out in making videos. This free version is a very powerful, and very capable video editing software.

Yes, Resolve's free version has video stabilization feature.



So, "how do I stabilize video in DaVinci Resolve?

There are 2 places in Resolve, where you can stabilize your shots...

  1. in the Cut Page, and
  2. in the Edit Page.

Think of a "page" as a mini software inside DaVinci Resolve.

The Cut Page is the easier-to-use video editor in Resolve. When you open DaVinci Resolve, it goes to the Cut Page by default.

davinci resolve cut page icon



On the other hand, the Edit Page is the more advanced video editor. You can go to this page, by clicking on the Edit Page icon.

davinci resolve edit page icon

You can edit either on the Cut Page, or on the Edit Page. In fact, you can switch between the 2, while working on the same project.

Also, you can stabilize your footage either on the Cut Page, or on the Edit Page.

Stabilizing shots in the Cut Page

Here's how you can stabilize your shots, in DaVinci Resolve's Cut page...

  • Make sure you're on the shot in the timeline that you want to stabilize. Then, click on the "Tools" icon.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page Tools icon

  • This panel opens.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page panel opens

  • Click on the "Stabilization" icon.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page

  • Click on the "Stabilize" button, if you want to use the default setting. This setting already works so well.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page

  • Beside the "Stabilize" button is a drop down menu. You can also choose from the list: "Perspective", "Similarity", and "Translation". Think of them as different camera stabilizers inside Resolve. Choose one, then click on the "Stabilize" button.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page drop down menu

  • There's also a toggle switch that allows you to see the shot, with and without the stabilization effect. Just click on that, and play the video.
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page toggle switch

  • If you're not happy with the result, you can click on the reset button. From the drop down menu, choose another "camera stabilizer" mode. Click on the "Stabilize" button again, and play the video. If you like what you see, you're done stabilizing your shot in post. :-)
DaVinci Resolve's Cut page reset button

Stabilizing shots in the Edit Page

Here's how you can stabilize your shots, in DaVinci Resolve's Edit page...

  • Make sure you're on the shot in the timeline that you want to stabilize. Then, click on the "Inspector" icon.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Inspector icon

  • This area will show.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Inspector area

  • But, to have a better view of the "Inspector", click on the "Expand" button.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Expand button

  • Now, you get a better view of the "Inspector" settings. Next, click on the "Stabilization" button.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Stabilization button

  • Inside the "Stabilization" adjustment, click on the "Stabilize" button, if you want to use the default setting. This setting already works so well.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Stabilize button

  • But, if you're not happy with the result, you can click on the reset button opposite the "Stabilization" on/off switch.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page reset button

  • Start making your own adjustments, by choosing another camera stabilizer mode from the drop down menu. The modes include "Perspective", "Similarity", and "Translation". Think of them as different camera stabilizers inside DaVinci Resolve.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page drop down menu

  • Then, make your fine tuning by moving on to "Camera Lock", "Zoom", "Cropping Ratio", "Smooth", and "Strength". Adjust these settings one by one. See the effect by clicking on the "Stabilize" button, and playing that particular shot in the timeline. (By the way, "Mode", "Cropping Ratio", "Smooth", and "Strength" have their own specific reset buttons.)
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page fine tuning controls for stabilization

  • NOTE: If you tick the checkbox right next to "Camera Lock", you’ll disable "Cropping Ratio", "Smooth", and "Strength" settings. It means, the shot you're stabilizing will become a "locked shot"—that is, a shot without any camera motion at all. It's a shot made by mounting your camera on a stationary tripod, and just pressing the record button.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Camera Lock

  • If you like the result of your adjustments and fine tuning, click on the "Stabilize" button.
DaVinci Resolve's Edit page Stabilize button

"Shaky camera" - when you choose not to use a camera stabilizer


Time may come when smooth camera movements, and super stable shots, are not what you want. And so, you'll prefer not to stabilize some of your shots.

But why?

Because you may find yourself wanting, or needing, the opposite—shots created with a shaky camera.

What is exactly a "shaky camera"? Why would you want some of your shots to be shaky? When are you going to need shaky camera shots? And is there a proper way of doing them?

Let's find out...

What is shaky camera?

To understand what "shaky camera" is, let's look at it both from...

  • your audience's eyes, and
  • your perspective as video creator.



To your audience's eyes, a shaky camera is footage that not only looks unstable, but feels intrusive as well. That's the "shaky camera effect" on human viewers.

Now, that could be bad—or good. But, it really depends on why you want "shaky camera", and how you're going to use it.



To your point of view as video creator, shaky camera is a film technique at your disposal.

Yes, you may use it whenever and however you want. But, bear in mind—you're giving your viewers the look and feel, of unsteady handheld shot, on purpose.

So...

What is the purpose of a shaky camera?

The purpose is to suggest a thought—or, make an impression—in the minds of your audience. The "thought" or "impression" could be one of the following...

  1. Something is happening spontaneously—like a news coverage, which carries an impromptu feel to it.

  2. Something is happening intensely—like fights or accidents, which can evoke panic.

  3. How one character in your video is experiencing something—like the subjective 1st person point of view, or POV shots, in a narrative film.

In other words, you want to communicate an idea inside people's minds, when you use the "shaky camera film technique".

When would you want to use the shaky camera film technique?

There are times when you're more likely to use "shaky camera"...

- When you're shooting a news event, or a documentary.

Real life events are sometimes unpredictable, and moments worth capturing just happen.

When you really need to document them, sometimes you just can't fully avoid recording the video, without some camera shake. It's only natural. And it's better to capture an important life moment that way, than to miss it.

Also, camera shake gives a raw feel to your news, or documentary video.



- When you're making a fictional short film, that has some action scenes in the story.

It's when the story, or script, contains scenes that naturally call for the use of "shaky camera".

Examples include chase and fight scenes. Also, the subjective 1st person point of view of a character—especially when that person is experiencing some trouble.



- When you have no device dedicated to smoothening camera movements, and very limited time to shoot what you need.

Let's say you have those production limitations. However, your intent is—still—to produce a decent video.

You'll be compelled to shoot handheld, most of the time. Which, in turn, allows you to shoot faster and use the shaky camera technique.

It may be a raw shooting style, but it gets the job done.



Now, here's when you might consider, NOT to use the shaky camera film technique...

- When your only reason for using "shaky camera" is pure style. Even though, you have some camera stabilizers to use.

Why? Is it bad to use the shaky camera technique, purely for stylistic reasons?

Not at all—if your main reason for creating a video is to satisfy your own production taste. That is, if you'll make that video just for yourself.

But, if you're concerned with making a video that connects with your audience, you'll use style to serve the story. Because the story is what your viewers relate to.

The story—or, content—dictates the style—or, the way of shooting, like the "shaky camera film technique". In other words, the style follows the story.

How do you do the shaky camera effect?

There are, at least, 3 key things you need to keep in mind—if you want to execute the "shaky camera effect"...

  1. The shaky camera effect is all about the viewing experience of your human audience.
  2. How they experience the shaky camera effect, when you give it to them, is crucial.
  3. The way you use "shaky camera", directly affects their reactions to it.



So, how do you treat the shaky camera effect?

Treat it like a spice for the food, that you're cooking or preparing. You need just the right amount of spice.

People who'll watch your video need to feel, that your use of this effect is just enough. And the intensity of the effect has to feel natural.

Your use of "shaky camera" should enhance chosen story moments, like a spice that enhances the taste of food.



How does it translate to the actual use of the shaky camera effect?

  • Avoid using "shaky camera" throughout the entire video.

  • Carefully choose those moments in your presentation, where you'll use the effect.

  • Make your shaky camera shots—or, series of shots—short.



Why?

Remember what I said earlier—"the shaky camera effect is all about the viewing experience of your human audience"? Your audience will complain, if there are so many shaky camera shots in your presentation. And if the shakiness is so intense and distracting.

To understand this, you simply need to be in their cinema seats, and review your video from their perspective. Then ask yourself, "How do I feel about all those lengthy shaky camera shots?" Be honest about your answer.



So, how do you execute the shaky camera effect?

  1. Shoot handheld. Your body's natural movements—like walking—will create small camera shakes.

  2. You can also create that handheld shot look, by using a shoulder rig of any form. This lets you better control the shake, when you move while shooting.

  3. You may also add the camera shake effect in post. The steps on how you'll do this, of course, will depend on the specific video editing software you'll use.

How do you know when camera shake is too much?

I already hinted about this earlier...

"Your audience will complain, if there are so many shaky camera shots in your presentation. And if the shakiness is so intense and distracting."

And I also said...

"You simply need to be in their cinema seats, and review your video from their perspective..."

That's how you know if camera shake is too much. You imagine how audience would react and feel about, all the shaky camera shots in your video. And that's empathy.

  • When you watch your video presentation, do the shakes really communicate ideas—or suggest some mood—in your mind? Or they feel like randomly executed and pointless?

  • If the camera shakes do say something, or suggest some mood, are they tolerable enough to watch? Or they make you feel dizzy?

Empathy seems like a rare human quality nowadays. But, it's simply a skill that video creators can practice, and develop—if they want to.



Do you wonder why someone would overuse an effect, like "shaky camera"? What do you think?

To me, if I'm overusing an effect—like "shaky camera"—it's because I became self-absorbed. I became obsessed with whether or not, I could use the effect in my video.

I should—instead—focus on the story or content, which is what viewers care about and relate to. If I see opportunities for "camera shake", to really add to or enhance the content, then I use the effect.


Camera Stabilizer: Conclusion


So, there you go. Your go-to guide to understanding and learning, the all important points about camera stabilizer.

Refer to this in-depth—but simplified—educational resource, whenever you have questions about camera stabilizer. And may this article help you use, different stabilizing devices—for making quality shots, and engaging video presentations.