Handheld gimbals are not new anymore, and the release of the DJI Osmo moves the handheld gimbal into the next generation. Ever since we grabbed our small phantom drone, turned it on, and held on to it, moving around the location to get that “steadicam” effect, it was clear a new market (or call it a new tool for the videographer) was opening up.
Several years ago, we here at SFilms in Dallas purchased a relatively cheap powered gimbal (sold by a US distributor, but clearly made in China). It required a GoPro, but we used the device constantly in our corporate videos. It was taken on road tours for a corporate retail client of ours, for internal communications, and we used it on construction sites and other places as well. And it fell apart. We had to take screws from one side, to fill in ones lost on the other. But using the GoPro gave us some flexibility.
Now DJI, maker of the phantom line of drones, has taken the gimbal and camera used on their Inspire drone, and stuck it on a stick. Although I’ve had a history of disappointment with DJI (five times, their drones have simply fallen from the sky), there’s no where for this handheld gimbal to fall. So here’s my rundown:
First, I ordered it, and it came with a few senseless accessories. A selfie stick? You can’t use that with the gimbal. A cool pouch… but the gimbal already comes with a form fitting “miniature guitar” case. So the pouch was unnecessary. What I quickly learned is that a battery or two would have been an ideal accessory.
After unboxing, I connected it up. For someone new to DJI’s app, it will be fairly confusing at first. But I’ve had some experience, so I was able to get it working quickly. The construction of the gimbal is pretty solid and well made. The holder for the iphone or whatever you want to use as a monitor is very well designed and thought out. I use a lot of ipads and iphones etc and I drop them a bunch so I use hard core cases. That makes it difficult to mount onto things, but this holder is flexible enough to hold the iphone with the Lifeproof case.
The First Gig– Corporate Video Event in Ballroom
Then came the first big gig to use it on. Here’s where I learned a lot. The gimbal’s battery is a pretty quick burn. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to charge, but I jumped online and ordered some backup batteries. I also ordered an ipod touch. Using my phone works well, but I was in the middle of text conversations with clients on my phone and using it for the gimbal became problematic. A cheap ipod will fix that.
The gig was a corporate event inside a ballroom. I quickly changed settings via my iphone. The image was slightly better than my GoPro Hero 4. But, as expected, not as good as the Canon C100 Mark II we were using as well. I experimented with the slow motion settings as well as the 2.7k and 4k resolutions.
Although the Osmo is a great tool for BRoll, it does have some limitations– not great for a quick cold start. Connecting the app can take crucial seconds when you rea
lly want to grab that handshake the CEO is giving the top sales writer. You can just start shooting in the blind. About one out of every five startups, my iphone does not recognize the Osmo’s wifi and I have to restart it. And the camera lists to port. I’m guessing this is because the iphone sits on the left side of the stick and so I think I start tilting left. But reversing it sometimes doesn’t work. So some of the footage is not level. And double-clicking the trigger (which centers it) doesn’t have any effect on the level.
It was easy to get used to it because it operates similar to the cheap chinese one I’ve been using. You rotate one way and the camera follows. That’s how you drive it. The thumb switch for manually moving the camera is not a great feature while shooting. Factory setting is way to fast, so I slowed it down in the settings and use my wrist to turn the stick which will pan the camera smoother than the thumb switch.
In spite of the limitations, overall I really like it. It will be a great tool in our arsenal for corporate video production here in Dallas. If anyone has comments, I’d love to hear them.