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.
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...
I'm also letting you know...
Now, let's get started. :-)
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.
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...
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...
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.
Camera stabilization is both...
"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...
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...
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."
"When you move your camera to create tracking shots."
"When you want to make minor, or near-zero, camera movements."
We'll talk more about camera stabilizing devices, later in this article.
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...
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.
So let's take it from here, and answer this question, "What is the purpose of using a video camera stabilizer?"
So this is about giving our audience quality viewing experience... in the form of well-thought-out shots, well executed with camera stabilizers.
Well, it depends on a specific camera stabilizer.
Remember what I told you earlier?...
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,...
... so that when you stand, walk, or run, it's going to be a coordinated movement. Camera stabilizers work like that.
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.
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...
Just clarifying. :-)
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?
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...
You just want to know?
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?".
... 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...
... 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.
... "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".
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...
... 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:
So, which one do you choose? Which one is best for you?
Well, it really depends on you.
... choose the battery-powered, steadicam-style stabilizer.
... choose the classic hand-held, steadicam-style stabilizer.
... 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.
... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is either a shoulder mount, or a monopod.
... the best possible camera stabilizer for you, is a small, lightweight, low-cost drone.
As you can see,...
... "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.
What is the connection between, "image stabilization"... and... a "camera stabilizer"?
To answer that, we need to know first...
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.
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.
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.
So, we've talked about two ways of stabilizing images internally— "inside the lens", and  "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.
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.
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.
Earlier in this article, we already mentioned some camera stabilizer devices, like…
Now, for us to better understand these devices, there are different ways of categorizing them. And so, we have the types of camera stabilizers.
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.
1. Camera stabilizer powered by pure human strength. Especially the strength of your arms, back, and legs.
… classic steadicam-style stabilizers,
… dolly (or DIY versions of it), and
… shoulder mount.
2. Camera stabilizer powered by battery and human strength.
… the electronic or motorized gimbal.
3. Camera stabilizer powered solely by batteries.
Example of it is…
… the drone.
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…
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...
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.
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.”
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”.
There are, at least, 2 main reasons that I know, why video shooters and video creators would want to use a Steadicam…
These are your most obvious reasons for using a steadicam stabilizer...
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…
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 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.
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…
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…
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 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.
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.
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 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”.
… 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…
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.
Here's some things a motorized gimbal can do for you…
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”.
"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…
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.
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.
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…
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 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
A gimbal has…
… 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.
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…
In a way, this electronic “brain” can sense…
The software, then, tells the motors how to move, to stabilize your shot.
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.
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
2. Yaw axis
3. Roll axis
Another type of gimbal is the 2-axis gimbal.
Unlike the 3-axis gimbal, the 2-axis motorized gimbal only affects…
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.
Here's some pointers you can look at…
Okay, let’s talk about them one by one…
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!
Which camera do you have?
Because, there are different types of gimbals, for different types of cameras. So there are…
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…
When choosing a gimbal, you have to consider also the lenses, in addition to the camera body.
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…
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…
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 “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…
A drone is an aircraft that you can…
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”.
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.
“Drone” didn’t mean "UAV"—or “unmanned aerial vehicle”, in the past.
“Drone” originally meant a male honeybee…
“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”.
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.
So you may ask, “Who invented the quadcopter drone specifically?”
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.
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.
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…
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…
… drones, need to be registered with the FAA.
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…
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.
If we are to study how a drone works, it will involve 3 things…
First, let’s talk about the drone’s capacity to fly…
A drone can fly because of…
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,...
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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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...
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…
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. ;-)
It depends on the shots you want to create using your smartphone. Here's some points to consider...
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
Or, how do you shoot steady video on an iPhone, or Android device?
Here's some ways to do it…
Now, let’s discuss them one by one…
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.
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.
Tripod on a carpet.
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. :-)
Perhaps, you can shoot handheld with just one hand. But it helps greatly, if you use two hands, and make it a habit.
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.
You can combine tools, to create a needed specific camera stabilization effect.
smartphone gimbal + monopod = jib or crane-like shots
Oh, yes! You can use it...
If your selfie stick is extendable that it can touch the ground, you can use it as a monopod.
If not, you can still use the selfie stick, as a support for your handheld shooting.
Now, for the selfie stick-tripod combo, for static overhead shots...
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...
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.
Depending on camera brand and model, a DSLR can have...
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.
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.
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.
You may have seen a lens with a switch on its side—a stabilizer "on-off" switch. Like this one...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
Not all camera bodies, and lenses with IS feature, are the same.
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...
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?
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.
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…
Practice setting up and balancing a camera stabilizer.
There are 2 main stabilizing devices that video shooters use, to execute camera movements...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you're handling a mechanical camera stabilizer, like the steadicam, there are 2 things you're actually doing, at the same time...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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?
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.
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.
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.
2. Camera strap hanging on your shoulder, like a sling bag.
3. Stepping on the camera strap.
4. Hanging your camera and lens on the strap.
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.
1. Use tripod as a 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...
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.
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.
This tripod-camera strap combination as shoulder rig, is easy to set up. Especially when you're shooting events. Here's how...
Version 2: 2 tripod legs on both 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...
3. Use tripod like a dolly, or to get dolly-like shots.
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.
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.
I prefer to do this technique...
To easily execute and get the slider effect. Here's how to do it...
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.
The tilt head allows you to use the monopod as shoulder rig.
So, how do we use monopod and camera strap as shoulder rig?...
A garter string can come in handy, as another form of camera stabilizer, when you're already using a tripod.
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.
This alternative way of stabilizing camera movements will only need...
Here's how to do it...
"Can you stabilize video in post?"
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.
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...
... Warp Stabilizer can cure that.
However, extreme camera shakes caused by running, or moving abruptly, are a different story.
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...
"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...
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.
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.
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.
Here's how you can stabilize your shots, in DaVinci Resolve's Cut page...
Here's how you can stabilize your shots, in DaVinci Resolve's Edit page...
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.
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...
To understand what "shaky camera" is, let's look at it both from...
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.
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...
In other words, you want to communicate an idea inside people's minds, when you 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.
There are, at least, 3 key things you need to keep in mind—if you want to execute the "shaky camera effect"...
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.