What's in this session?

  • Our preferred gimbal (1:12)
  • Move #1: Endless Dolly (2:41)
  • Move #2: Low To The Ground (4:35)
  • Move #3: Straight Up (5:47)
  • Move #4: Drone In A Car (7:23)
  • Move #5: Infinity Roll (9:02)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: A three-axis gimbal is a camera stabilizer that allows you to perfectly balance your video camera in order to capture buttery, smooth, and cinematic shots. Frankly, it’s an amazing video tool that wasn’t even accessible to churches just 10 years ago, but how do you use it best? In this podcast, you’ll learn five advanced gimbal maneuvers that we like to use every time we take out our camera.

Recording: Amen.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there. And welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’re going to get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: I am always impressed, Alex, by the rapid pace of technological advancements in the video camera world, and one of the examples of that is three-axis gimbals. Only a couple of years ago, three-axis gimbals were only available through extremely, extremely expensive cost or really poorly made knockoffs from across the sea. But now, leading companies like DJI are making gimbals that are wildly affordable and really accessible to almost every church. You can even use them on your phone on something like the Osmo.

Brady Shearer: And the gimbal that we’re using currently right now is the DJI Ronin-S. It’s a single handle three-axis gimbal, whereas the previous three-axis gimbals we’ve had have had multiple handles and are really bulky and heavy. And now what we have is this single handle gimbal that is extremely compact, it’s very reliable, it’s easy to balance, and it even has this cool little joystick on it so you can say, “Camera move up” or “right” or “left” or “down.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, and you can control it and program it through the DJI Ronin app, so it can do automated time lapse motion. It’s really cool and super versatile.

Brady Shearer: Gimbals are amazing tools, but they can also be a little bit gimmicky in that you can overly rely on them. You can just start taking your gimbal out for everything, and I have definitely fallen pray to this before where I put my camera on a gimbal. I’m like, “Look. I’m now like a professional movie maker,” because my camera will never shake.

Brady Shearer: And so in this episode, we wanted to talk about five moves that we kind of like to use. These are more advanced maneuvers with your gimbal, so if you’re already putting your camera on a gimbal, stabilizing it, and following people around, you might be thinking, “Well, what else can I do with a gimbal?” We want to talk about five advanced moves. If you’re listening to this episode, it might be one to watch because we’re going to have plenty of examples as well.

Alex Mills: Well, and these five specific moves will help you use your gimbal with more intention. Like you said, you’re just not going to be walking around following your subject all the time. You’re going to have five kind of go-to shots at, “Oh, I really want to do the Endless Dolly,” which is our first shot we’re going to talk about, and that way you can be shooting with a gimbal with more intention.

Brady Shearer: So move number one, like Alex said, the Endless Dolly. A dolly is basically this cart that you put on tracks, and this is used in big movie productions to get perfectly still tracking shots moving horizontally or vertically within the frame. You could also do this with a slider. Sliders are kind of a more affordable version of the dolly, so we have this mini three-foot slider.

Brady Shearer: But all of these physical items, whether it be a dolly or a slider, require transportation, and dollies are massive. And even sliders. I’ve tried to travel with my slider on the road before, and if it’s over three-and-a-half feet or something, it won’t even fit in your checked bags. And so what we’ve begun doing is using the DJI Ronin-S to create an endless dolly, one that isn’t constrained by the actual track of the dolly or slider. What you can do is you can lock the position of your camera on the Ronin, and then you can become the dolly yourself.

Brady Shearer: We were doing this a ton when we were traveling in Yosemite National Park, and we would just kind of hold the camera, and we’d move left and right. And as far as we’d want to go, the camera’s position is going to stay locked in place, and now you have this makeshift dolly that is not confined by any physical track.

Alex Mills: Yeah. There’s no more limitations. You don’t have a certain number of feet of track. Your feet are the tracks, and you can travel basically as far as you want. And this could really help get those elongated, really … you know those shots where you’re watching a movie, and you’re like, “How did they do this all in one shot? How is this even possible?”

Alex Mills: Well, now with these affordable gimbals, like the Ronin-S we’re talking about, you can do this yourself, and you can create those endless shots that seem nonsensical, like, “How is it possible to get this all in one shot?” Well, this is how.

Brady Shearer: What’s great about the Endless Dolly move is that it would require normally a ton of extra gear and a ton of extra transportation to get the gear where you need to go.

Brady Shearer: What’s cool about the second move is that it’s not just a replication or an easier version. This second move is pretty much only made possible with a gimbal. It’s the Low-to-the-Ground Shot, where you kind of flip the gimbal upside down, and instead of having the … If I’m holding my microphone, and my mic is the actual camera, and the handle of the mic is the handle of the gimbal, basically you flip it upside down and your camera is just inches hovering above the ground.

Brady Shearer: And what this allows you to do is create these very dynamic shots because your camera is so low to the ground, even if you’re using a wide lens or even if you’re using more zoomed in lens. Because you’re so close to the ground, the movement is that much more exaggerated. And really, if you have a cinema camera, it doesn’t matter if you have a steady cam, these types of moves are very, very difficult. But with a gimbal, you can just flip it upside down, put it low to the ground, you’re good to go.

Alex Mills: And we talk about making use of foreground elements in photography and videography all the time, kind of adding some motion to those shots. And again, we did this in Yosemite. We were just at the base of these gigantic rock faces, and without that foreground element of the ground, the blades of grass, it would have been hard to notice that there was any motion at all. But flip that gimbal down, get that camera really low to the ground, all of a sudden, this grass is this foreground element that is giving you all kinds of motion that you never could have achieved otherwise.

Brady Shearer: The third move we call the Travis Scott, aka the Straight Up, and what we like about this move is that another almost impossible move that you couldn’t create. We used to have the DJI Ronin-M, the DJI Ronin original, and we put our giant URSA Mini or even a Canon 5D on the Ronin, and you’d want to tilt it straight up-

Alex Mills: Right, you’d have to tilt your whole body back to do it.

Brady Shearer: What’s amazing about the joystick on the Ronin is … so again, we’re in Yosemite. This was the first time that we ever filmed with this, and so that’s why we kind of keep going back to that moment. And I’ve got the Blackmagic Pocket 4K, and it says that I have 0% battery left.

Brady Shearer: So I’m going back to the car to replace the batteries, and I’m walking through these really tall trees, and I was like, “Oh. I want to get one more shot.” And this would’ve take 20 minutes of setup or something with previous rigs that we’ve had. All I did was take the joystick. I point it straight up. It took three seconds to get the camera in place, and it’s perfectly stabilized because the Ronin-S is so reliable.

Brady Shearer: I hit record, and I get this beautiful-looking straight-up shot that would almost be impossible using any other rig, or at least really cumbersome, and we got it in a matter of moments before the battery died all because it’s so quick and easy to do these types of things.

Alex Mills: We did this same shot with the same technique a few weeks ago. We were shooting in Toronto, big metro city in Canada, and so same thing. You’re standing in the street in the midst of these gigantic skyscrapers, and so you just throw that camera straight up, and all of a sudden, you get this new perspective of the architecture and how big these buildings are. And like you said, just with the upward motion of that toggle, and you’re ready to shoot just within a few seconds.

Brady Shearer: Move number four, we call this Drone in a Car.

Alex Mills: Can you elaborate on that?

Brady Shearer: Who made these notes? Drone in the Car. So we’re in Yosemite, and you cannot take out your drone in a National Park. Of course, we want to obey those rules, so we’re driving through, and we had this Ronin-S, and we were like, “Well, what can we do here? Oh, I know. This car we have has a sun roof and regular windows.” And so Alex, with the Pocket 4K on the Ronin took off the sunroof and just kind of holding the gimbal out of the sunroof or out of the window of the car, and now we’re getting these really cool moving shots, fast movement.

Brady Shearer: And sure, it’s not exactly a drone, but it’s a drone in a car. We love to do this, basically, take the Ronin … or take the gimbal and pretty much anything you can do with the car, now you can move a lot more quickly than you would be able to if you were just using your feet. But what’s great about these light rigs is that they’re still going to stay stabilized.

Brady Shearer: It’s one thing to hold the gimbal inside the car. It’s another to hold it out in the sunroof going 50 miles an hour, and it’s still so stabilized. It was not knocking it off, which I kind of expected it to do. I was like Alex is going to hold this out. The camera’s going to immediately lose all of it’s ballast and start spinning around, and it didn’t.

Alex Mills: No, it handled it really well, and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K doesn’t have an articulating screen, and so it was kind of like I stuck the camera up there and just had to hope that we were going to have a good result. And when I brought the camera back in and went to play back, I was shocked with how stable the shots were in the wind. We faced it forwards against the wind, turned it around, faced it backwards with the wind, and the gimbal did well, and we got some really cool looking shots.

Brady Shearer: And then finally, move number five. This is going to be the most gimmicky shot the one that you want to use most sparingly, but when you do use it, it’s going to look real cool. We call this the Infinity Roll. You can put your gimbal, your Ronin-S, in what’s called flashlight mode where basically you hold the gimbal like a flashlight straight out, and then using the joystick, you can get your camera to articulate in a 360 degree pattern. Basically, this is the Inception shot where you’re looking straight ahead, and then suddenly the whole world is starting to turn, and it goes upside down.

Alex Mills: Just like in Stranger Things, the Upside Down, it’s kind of that same technique.

Brady Shearer: Yeah.

Alex Mills: It’s really, really cool.

Brady Shearer: We took one of these shots and made it into a social post where the caption was basically like, “It’s his upside down kingdom.” And you have this normal shot and then suddenly it starts turning around, and just a fun gimmicky shot. You don’t want to use it too often, but it really is unlike anything else you could create outside of the gimbal setup.

Brady Shearer: So five advanced gimbal maneuvers that you can try. Hopefully, the examples have proven helpful to show you what this could actually look like. Feel free to experiment and move beyond the simple tracking shots that a gimbal allows and try not to become overly reliant on the gimbal. It is just a tool. It is not the panacea for everything in the world of filmmaking.

Brady Shearer: And that’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Tools. We’ll see you next time.

Recording: Amen.



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