Gimbal Video Stability that Works
When using a standard video camera, I’m sure you have seen that if you are not able to mount it to a motionless mounting point, the picture is all over the place and the resultant quality is very poor.
Have you ever wondered why our eyes are able to see such a stable and focused picture? Surely our eyes are like a video camera requiring a stable platform for our brains to produce a good quality, focused picture?
Its incredible how our bodies are designed and the design of the inner ear when paired with the muscles that control the eyes is exactly where the answer lies. The system that allows our brains to produce a perfect picture from a constantly moving platform(Our heads) is called the vestibular system. This sensory systems’ primary task is to coordinate movement with balance while maintaining the appropriate spacial orientation in relation to our surroundings.
There are 2 primary movements that are measured by this system namely rotational and translational movement. The vestibular system has 2 corresponding subsystems namely the semicircular canals system(rotational movements) and the otoliths system (linear/translational movements). The information received from these 2 systems is connected to both the muscles of the eyes and the muscles tasked with maintaining balance. This entire system working as a unit is called the vestibulo-ocular reflex which is essential in producing the perfect picture that one sees.
Our world is a 3 dimensional one that requires a 3 dimensional solution to produce a clear picture. This has been provided in the form of 3 semicircular canals in each labyrinth of the ears which are arranged at approx. 90 deg to each other in addition to being filled with fluid. The movement of the fluid in these canals and the way the fluid pushes on the cupula (structure able to sense both electrical signals and mechanical pressure changes), then tells the brain how the head is moving and how to respond to that movement.
To illustrate how this works, when you turn your head to the right, the cupula will sense that there is movement in the semicircular canal and will immediately send a signal to the muscles that control the eyes to push on the left and pull on the right side of the eyes. The movement of the muscles will correspond with the pressure experienced by the cupula and will enable your eyes to track the target you are focused on. The system of stabilization that we take for granted is actually quite intricate and delicate to produce such amazing results.
Applied Biology Lesson:
I am sure many of you are wondering what a biology lesson such as this has to do with travel gadgets or accessories. Well science often turns to nature for answers to problems & challenges and this branch of science is called Biomimicry. Examples of this can be seen all around us such as the wings on a commercial airlines where it has been found that the fins found on a some whales and the upturn of an albatross’ wings decrease drag and increase the efficiency in water and the air respectively. This was included in modern aircraft design and the results were the same as those observed in nature. So why not apply this sort of science to photography…..
Social media has prompted a number of amazing developments and one of them is the showcasing of some really talented people by means of amateur photography and video creation. Instagram has made celebrities of people that only a few years ago would have had no chance of showcasing their talents to such a broad audience. In addition to this, never before has there been such a focused drive to start creating professional looking videos and photos while avoiding the enormous costs that are usually associated with this industry.
So the problem I described in the introduction is an enormous challenge as the creating of good quality photographs and video has always been too expensive for the average person. The demand for cheaper and compact specialized equipment aimed at social media platform uploads has been solved by the science of Biomimicry. The gimbal is a hand held device that provides stability to a camera while shooting a video or movement based photography. The gimbal has been designed in much the same way that our inner ears function by combining electronic sensors with movement tracking camera lens technology. When tracking a target while filming(drone footage or hand held), the unit will move the camera in the opposite direction to the persons’ movement thus enabling the camera to stay focused on target in the same way your eyes move in relation to your head as described above.
Regardless of what brand you purchase, the integration of the mechanical and electronic components is largely the same. The gimbal uses 2 electrical server motors to provide the smooth precise movement required for the video to appear smooth and focused. Sensors in the hand mounting alert the unit to movement and these move the server motors in turn. Obviously the gimbal is not able to account for massive movements but under normal situations such as driving, running or walking, this will provide adequate stability.
These accessories have camera function buttons available for thumb activation and control. Start/stop recording, zooming and other functions can be activated using your thumb so you can have the other hand free with all key functions being controlled by only one hand.
Gimbals are manufactured with an on-board battery which powers the server motors and on-board electronics required to keep the unit stable while not draining the camera or smart phone while these are connected to it. The batteries last a very long time, depending on the manufacturer, reviews by customers confirm batteries lasting from several hours to many days on a single charge.
There are some key considerations when purchasing a gimbal and most important of these is the suitability of the gimbal to the application. The design of a gimbal meant for a large DSLR Camera would be a lot more robust than for one meant for say a light weight action camera or smart phone. Some cameras are so heavy that they require a two handed gimbal on account of the increased weight and range of movement.
While most of us will not need such an elaborate rig, these are available for the serious photographer. Its important when purchasing a gimbal to check the software compatibility together with the plug connection provided with the rig. Some manufacturers include the software for both android and IOS users, others offer two different models to accommodate the variations in software. It is also therefore logical to check the plug in capabilities as the plug needs to match the port of the camera or smartphone.
Its very simple really, if you want to produce stable, great quality videos, you need a stable platform to enable the camera to take the best quality footage possible. The gimbal should be a standard in your travel kit next to your spare battery power pack and your selfie stick.
Very good quality rigs are available for a relatively modest investment. If you are still debating whether or not to purchase such a rig, the results might not have been so apparent in qualities up to 1080 pixel quality however when you start producing videos of 4k quality, the difference will be quickly become apparent.
I hope you enjoyed the article and good luck shooting some awesome videos.