How to walk with a gimbal can be challenging to learn. Gimbals are amazing pieces of technology. They are fun to use, quite easy to figure out, and will expand your filmmaking style and the type of shots you acquire. A gimbal can help you capture some amazing videos, but it's not as easy as it looks. Getting smooth videos requires some additional skills such as using Ninja walk.
Many new gimbal users are quite surprised to find their videos are bobbing up and down when they walk using a gimbal. This is known as the swimming motion and is unpleasant to watch. It’s much better than not using a gimbal but could be smoother.
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A 3 axis gimbal is designed to smooth out or buffer the motion of the 3 axises but not the vertical motion. The motion of the camera moving up and down is not one of these axises.
3 Axis Gimbal
Tilting is moving up and down. This feature of a camera stabilizer is used to take a video of an object moving up and down or vice versa. Taking a video of a person going down and up the stairs or an object falling to the ground are good examples of the tilt axis.
Pan axis is the motion of moving the camera left and right. Most often this feature is used to follow an object as it moves from left to right or visa versa. Following a bike rider or a skier as it passes from left to right is an example of using pan.
Roll axis is the motion of moving the camera horizontally. Most often it is used to correct an issue as a result of the video not being level with the horizon.
So now that we understand a gimbal is designed to control the 3 axises, what can we do to minimize the bobbing up and down while we're walking. How does a 3-axis gimbal work.
How to Walk with a Gimbal?
Using a few simple tricks we can minimize or eliminate the bobbing up and down, swimming effect experienced by most new users of a DSLR or GoPro gimbal.
Walk Like a Ninja
The first step in getting the right walk for that smooth level shot is keeping your knees bent, your muscles tense, but moveable using them is your suspension now take a step forward and roll your foot gently from heel to the ball of your foot at the same time you're compensating for the small differences in height with your legs.
This will take some practice and feel weird at first but your videos will get smoother and smoother each time. There are many variations of this from going forward, backwards, sideway and over obstacles so it will take time to learn each of these.
Once you perfect this technique you can move onto the next one. Always use two hands to hold gimbal as fatigue will set in quicker with one and the shots will also be more stable.
Take Short Steps
This will come natural with doing the ninja walk but if you are walking while shooting a selfie video for your vlog remember to take short steps and try to not to move the gimbal up and down. Since you are not shooting a subject it would feel totally unnatural to walk with your knees bent. Walking slowly, stopping once in a while and turning around (rotating) is a great way to show your audience your location.
Tilt Handle Forward
I had heard that tilting the handle helps eliminate the vertical motion. I found that tilting the gimbal slightly forward help to calm some of the up-and-down motions of walking. I found it makes a much more noticeable difference when running. Be sure to use both hands to support the gimbal. It takes a bit of practice to run like a ninja when holding the gimbal with two hands.
Keep Gimbal Close to Chest
Keeping the gamble as close to your body as possible preferably your chest will minimize the vertical motion. holding the gimbal with two hands Locked to your chest as close as possible using the ninja walk technique works best.
Lock Elbows and Arms
Keeping your elbows and arms locked in one position while recording minimizes the vertical motion while walking. If you do need to move the camera around, plan the movement ahead of time and move slowly.
Use a Counter Weight
If your gimbal has a standard tripod mount available at the base of the handle you could add additional weight to offset the weight of the camera. Just like normal non-motorized stabilizers, this weight will help with the vertical motion. What I normally do is add an extension to the gimbal and add weight at the base of the extension. The farther apart your hands are the easier it is to control the gimbal.
Extend Gimbal with Monopod or Tripod
Adding an extension or a mono, tripod to the base of a gimbal can a help with minimizing or eliminating vertical motion. The longer handle allows you to separate your hands, giving more stability to the gimbal. It also allows you to transition from follow mode to flashlight mode which is holding the gimbal vertically behind the camera. You can get some really amazing shots in flashlight mode.
I find that attaching a small tripod to the base is best. This extends the handle and gives me a tripod at the same time that I can place the gimbal on for time-lapse video. A small tripod allows you to place the gimbal on a flat surface and control the gimbal with a smartphone app.
Use a Moving Platform
Finally, the ultimate way to eliminate that vertical motion is to simply not shoot while walking or running. Get into a car, or on a bike, use a skateboard or in any number of moving platforms. The old wheelchair trick still applies, or getting pushed on a skateboard, or even using an electric skateboard such as the boosted board.
Related Topic: Top GoPro Gimbal Reviews
Using a gimbal along with your digital camera or GoPro will change the way you capture video. Using the ninja walk as well as some of the other techniques will ensure you create the smoothest videos possible. It's just like painting a wall with a roller compared to painting the wall with a roller on an extension pole. A gimbal is just a tool to be used to enhance video creation. Once you have mastered the process of walking with a gimbal you will find it hard to not use it even for the simplest tasks.