With motorized handheld gimbals being as revolutionary as they are, we’ve put together a list of 15 moves to use in your movies, commercials, music videos, and other projects. Allowing for stabilized motion capture, gimbals have totally changed what can be done on a budget. Gimbals are even being used in press conferences and nature documentaries. Part Two of the popular Planet Earth nature series is shot highly cinematic, and the difference is clearly seen when compared to Part One. The filmmakers behind the series explain that they incorporated gimbal technology into the second production. They built gimbal-stabilized cameras into their helicopters, and they used handheld gimbals on the ground wherever they could.
At a fairly affordable cost, gimbals allow a single operator to do what previously required a huge Steadicam or other heavy equipment, in many cases with multiple assistants.
A gimbal can be used for nearly every shot of your movie, including opening establishing shots. And with many gimbals supporting lens motors, you can also choose to shift focus and zoom in and out during operation.
Let’s get into the list.
1. The Handoff
Your subject is running toward the window of a house. You’re running behind the subject, gimbal in hand. As they climb through the window into the house, a second operator stands waiting for you by the window, on the inside. As you come near, you hand off the gimbal, and the second operator then continues on indoors. What you get is continuous, smooth motion in an unbroken chain. The same can be done running up hills and other locations.
2. Squeezing through Tight Spaces
A gimbal can fit between tree branches, under the hood of a car, through a car window, and in other tight spaces. Imagine the visual quality of approaching an exotic-looking tree, and instead of stopping, you keep going, squeezing through the hanging branches. You can similarly approach a car and fit the gimbal through the car window, capturing the interior without a break in motion. Or, you can hand off the gimbal through the window to an operator waiting on the opposite side. The latter can then proceed with the shot. An extension rod attached to the bottom of the gimbal can help with the handoff in this case.
3. The Classic Push-In
This move mimics a dolly shot. The idea is to move the gimbal steadily forward, such as when walking straight toward a subject. It can be performed by walking or by moving your hands forward as you stand in place. It can be used to capture moving or stationary subjects. You can hold your gimbal vertically or inclined, whichever is more comfortable, as long as the camera is directed at the subject.
4. The Classic Pull-Out
Same as the push-in, but in reverse. One great shot to try with this move is walking backward as the subject is walking toward the camera. Both the subject and camera will be moving in the same direction at a steady pace.
5. The Reveal
Move the gimbal from side to side, vertically, or even diagonally in a straight line from behind an obstruction. Move it past the obstruction to reveal your subject. The obstruction can be a bush, a huge beach stone, or a wall, for some examples. The obstruction itself can be a visually appealing prop.
6. Underslung Push-In / Pull-Out
Push in or pull out, but with the gimbal in low mode, sweeping the ground as you walk, or move the gimbal with your hands. Since you’re doing filming from a low angle, this move provides a grand view of the subject. For example, the underslung push-in is great for introducing a house in real estate videos by starting at the driveway and moving in on the house.
7. Moving Car Shot
Instead of using a car mount, just hold a gimbal in your hands as you sit in the passenger seat. You can point it out the passenger window, or stick it entirely out of the window, or attach a polarizing filter to the camera and point the gimbal at the front windshield. If there’s space in the car, you can mount the gimbal on a mini tripod and hold the tripod down on that space. Feel free to pan, tilt, or roll with the gimbal joystick. Shots from a moving vehicle can be edited into emotional scenes with music in the background.
8. Push-In + Tilt Up / Down
Same as a classic push-in, but upon approaching the subject, you tilt toward the subject using the gimbal joystick. If you push in at a low angle, then tilt up, and if at a normal or high angle, tilt down.
9. Pull Out + Tilt Up / Down
Same as the previous move but reversed. It provides particularly cinematic results when pulling out at a high angle and tilting down. To do this, stand behind the subject, hold the gimbal overhead, and pull out while tilting down.
10. The Profile Shot
When you hold a gimbal stationary in your hands, it still stabilizes itself to compensate for the slight natural movement of your hands. When you capture a static shot like this, you still get a touch of motion in the shot. If you shoot a close-up or medium close-up this way, that slight motion provides for a dreamy look, especially when you slow it down a bit in editing.
11. Establishing Jib + Pan
Holding the gimbal overhead, jib down and at the same time pan in the direction of your subject. Add-on extension rods will let you hold the gimbal like a real jib. A second operator might be needed to pan remotely from the gimbal app if you add extensions. This move also looks great when walking backward during the jib and pan motion.
12. Freestyle Closeup
The results of this move require many cuts in editing. Freestyle is simply hovering around your subject at a close distance and pushing in and out as you wish. You can push in on the face, on the keys the subject places on the table, and so on. Bending your knees, you can move up and down to shoot at different-height angles. Setting the camera to autofocus can be helpful with this move, but shifting focus can be even better at such close angles.
13. Freestyle Wide—An Action Scene, Start to Finish
A single operator can creatively shoot an entire action scene. For example, in the case of a half-court basketball game, you can capture everyone in a wide shot, running with the players, pushing in on a dunk, and so on, without stopping recording even once. After editing everything together coherently, you have yourself a smooth, stable video of the entire game and its highlights.
With the gimbal set to keep the subject in the center of the frame, circulate around the subject 180 degrees, or even a full 360 degrees. What you get is a smooth, orbiting motion. The parallax works well in normal and low mode. It’s best performed at a distance from the subject, not too close. The subject can be stationary, such as a car, or in motion.
15. Motion Time-Lapse
Many gimbals allow you to set a travel route along the pan, tilt, and roll axes for time-lapse capture. This capability lets you capture the skies, the city, or whatever else you want in rich-looking, smooth-moving time-lapse sessions.
That will be all for this installment. If you want to see gimbals in action, you should check out the following video put together by the B&H Video Team.
On a related note, for most gimbals, additional accessories are also available that can be attached, to allow for more personalized operation. Besides the extension rods already mentioned, there are various add-on handles and monitor mounts. The additional handles enable you to hold the gimbal more firmly with two hands, in some cases.