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The Next Big Thing In Video - 3-Axis Gyro-Stabilizer In A Small Package

In: ,
Published: 18/04/2013
By: larry

I just noticed Vincent Laforet's article on the MoVI handheld stabilizer system being released by Freefly Systems in Seattle. Vincent is the man to go to if you are releasing a big exciting video product and that is what Freefly did. Vincent of course shot Reverie introducing the Canon 5DMKII video back in September 2008.

Here is the intro video that uses MoVI and here is the behind the scenes video that explains how MoVI was used in the video. Pretty amazing stuff! Just in case you are not convinced here is a little clip of Vincent running around with the MoVI.

This release may not be quite as important as the release of the 5DMkII, but it's got to be right up there. This little device will surely have a huge impact on the moves you can do with a handheld DSLR.

34 comments on “The Next Big Thing In Video - 3-Axis Gyro-Stabilizer In A Small Package”

  1. Something tells me my agents won't be on board for a price increase that will be required to cover this ~$15K piece of goodness.

  2. I have this rule for buying gear: If I have five projects where I really wished I had [insert whatever gear I'm lusting over at the moment] then I'll let myself buy it guilt-free.

    So far I'm at three for the movi...

  3. Yea the MoVI is crazy expensive but this is similar technology as is built into quad-copters so my guess is that it's not going to be all that long before the 3-axis gyro-stabilizer will be a chip and get much less expensive.

  4. As we up the price of our gear - add new techniques and new software for processing we are increasing the daily cost of doing business. It is important to create a true cost of doing business so you know what to charge your clients. I don't believe all of these expensive products or software are required to do real estate photography as most of the readers do daily. However, there are some very advanced real estate photographer readers that may want to incorporate new technology to keep up and surpass their competion. If you are still charging $69-$250 - I don't believe anything new is required to do business and create good output. But if your client has a pick and choose menu of your services i.e. stills, panoramas, video, aerial, etc. and each one is priced according to its worth - then you can probably justify some upgrades. I know some very successful real estate photographers (successful meaning financially and incredible final product) who charge on the lower side of the scale without diluting their efforts. I think the best investment for anyone is in education and practice.

  5. @Dave - I believe that a Steadicam just uses gravity to maintain level whereas a gyro-stabilizer has a spinning gyroscope to maintain stabilization. Fred Light can probably answer this question better.

  6. Yes, but the end result is the same - stabilized hand-held video. I didn't notice much difference between the two devices, in fact the Steadicam videos I've seen seem to be more stable if anything, especially when used with the vest. Why spend many times more for essentially the same cost?

  7. We re building stabilized gimbals for our hexacopters and since the same technology is used in Movi we already have the parts and are planning on creating a similar device in the next few weeks for personal use. The control boards and other parts required to build stabilized gimbals are evolving at a very rapid pace and the prices are dropping as competition among various manufacturers increases.
    This technology, along with UAV's is so promising that it is hard to wait but prices are sure to fall faster than we can imagine and the technology is getting better at an exponential rate.

  8. @Dave
    You are 100% correct, both will produce the same results when operated correctly. 80% of people buy a Steadicam and think it does its magic right out of the box, but quickly realize that there is a learning curve to get good. Starting with balancing it and then learning to properly walk with it takes time and most people just give up. The actual unit itself provides 30-40% of the stabilization...the rest is learning how to use it correctly.

    Learning the art of steadicam operation is no different then learning photography, it takes time and the more you practice the better you get. It always amazed me to hear people say they dont have the time or they just cant get it, yet they played around with a camera for years to perfect their shooting.

    The M?VI looks amazing, but I suggest people read more into it as it also has a learning curve and it too needs to be balanced when there are any weight changes (lens etc). The videos shown with it being used are as a 2 person operation, one walking with it and another controlling the movement separately via joystick....this is not practical or even possible for most of us. The will have a SOLO “Majestic” mode as well, but again...I suggest people wait and see how the solo mode performs before breaking the

    Both the Steadicam and M?VI are tools and if used correctly can produce amazing results, the key word there is "correctly". Like with any tool, you get out of it what you put in....the M?VI will be no different.

  9. A Merlin or vest-anchored rig won't do what Movi does. First, the ability to pass through hoops, literally, as demonstrated in the BTS video. The limitations on moves with a vest are huge, since your entire body has to go wherever the camera goes. And a traditional steadicam requires a long counterweight which limits how close to the "deck" you can get. Movi allows the camera to float inches above the floor, or a tabletop, or any other object.
    From what I've read so far, the learning curve for Movi is MUCH shorter than the curve for a Merlin-type rig.

  10. A few weeks ago Malia had one of the best comments I have seen this year and it can be applied to purchasing or upgrading to the MoVI or any other equipment.

    Whether its the price or justifying the need for it (or anything for that matter), this comment sums it up.

    "For the naysayers I’ll say this: if you don’t understand the need to upgrade then you probably don’t need to. You’ll know when you start hitting the limits of what your current setup can provide."

    Malia started out small, worked with what she needed and moved up as her needs, clients and volume changed. Regardless of the tools she has used she always produces top of the line results. I think I remember a post by her over a year ago about not being able to afford a noise reduction program for video at that particular time......boy have times changed!

    If you are considering dropping 15k on a piece piece of equipment to get new business, you are in trouble. It should be a tool used to enhance your current business.

    Remember one thing, most realtors (or the public) wont notice and probably dont care if a video is 70% steady or 90% steady (only we as videographers do), what they do care about is presentation of that video.

  11. @Scott
    For sure, you are extremely limited as to moves with a Steadicam. Its hard enough to get the basic walk straight and slowly turn technique perfected!. And if that is all someone is looking to get out of the MoVI, they are probably wasting their money...get a steadicam and save yourself thousands of $$$

    It all comes down to the style of video you produce and if you can maximize its potential.

  12. @Scott
    I believe all the moves demonstrated in the BTS video and all the other video to this point or showing a 2 man controlling the unit and the other using the joystick to get the shot.

    Having 2 people opens up the possibilities for what you can do of course, the guy walking with the unit doesnt have to do anything except move to the area where the video is needed. I remember the scene where he is following the girls down the subway stairs running or the taxi scene for example...I cant imagine that being nearly as easy when using it solo.

    Most of us using it for real estate will be doing it solo, in SOLO “Majestic” mode. and I have a feeling it will be alot different when you have to do everything yourself.

    I can tell you the if I only had to concentrate on moving with my steadicam, and had someone controlling the actual would be a whole different ballgame.

    While the learning curve for the 2 man operation is said to be shorter, the learning curve for using this unit in SOLO “Majestic” mode is still to be seen.

    In any case it looks like it has the potential to be an awesome piece of equipment!

  13. @Chris - Dude! That's the first time anyone's ever quoted me (in a way that didn't make me look/feel like a total idiot)! haha I owe you a beer!

  14. $15K for a stabilizer capable of handling DSLR weight? As noted earlier, price will come down with competition. While you may rationalize the NEED and justify COST, $15K gives a lot of leeway to invite competiition.

    I give it 6 months. It is just too inviting to DIYers to 'save'. How many plans immitating the $900 Merlin are there using an axel joint from a hobby store? On a commercial basis, $15K provides a lot of room for some enterprising entreprenuer - both cheap and quality knockoffs. Just look at sliders. There are a boatload of cheap relying on rollers/wheels in the $100 range - as well as DIY plans, then there is the ball bearing based Kenova at less than half the price of the ball bearing based $600 Glidecam.

  15. Isn't this the same old boring conversation that photographers have been having about gear since the dawn of time? If you want to buy a cheap(er) knockoff then buy it. If you want to buy the original then buy it. But if you're using the knockoff and harshing on those with the originals it makes you look bitter, cheap, jealous, what have you. Other photographers have different wants/needs/budgets/sensibilities than you, no big deal.

    I took a lot of criticism when I invested in the C100 but god damn if I don't have some of the nicest looking work out there now. It makes me happy. It makes my clients happy. And I don't give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks.

  16. @LarryG

    Do you have any experience with any of the products you mentioned? Not trying to be rude, but I read alot of comments/opinions from you on this site but you don't have your website showing behind your name so its hard to tell what kind of experience you actually have.

    What I can tell you is this....I have tried alot of the knock off stabilizers in 2+ years and found only 1 to be even close to the Steadicam and that is the Blackbird. And even it has its drawbacks with the size difference. But in the end its still in the same price range of the Steadicam (around $100 difference). After the Steadicam and the Blackbird there is a significant drop off in quality, and results (in my opinion), you might save $300 but the difference is noticeable no question.

    Dont get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an extent.

    I could only imagine showing up at a shoot with a DIY stabilizer with an axel joint that is clearly from a hobby store. Part of being a professional is looking professional and using the proper equipment, not making it yourself. Its like if I dropped my car off at a mechanic and he lifted it up using his DIY hoist system built with parts clearly from Home Depot....

    Places like might be saying they are coming out with a MoVI knockoff (Gyrosteady), but on their website I see alot of talk, but ZERO action. Back on March 25th "I have but I'm very close to finishing development now. I will be release new pictures and videos soon. It won't be long before you can buy it." Then on April 3rd "I going to upload a new photo in a day or two. A new circuit board is being made. We will run some finial tests and then go into production.More photos and videos to follow soon.". And guess what, nothing fact nothing new since back in February. Im sure as hell not going to trust my business to some company doing knock offs that cant even follow through with their own

    And Malia, most of the criticism from other photographers and videographers regarding equipment is 100% jealousy.

  17. @Chris - lol probably

    And don't get me wrong. I've tried cheap gear and DIY gear in the past (the Chase Jarvis DIY camera dolly is one of the most read articles on my blog) but when it comes down to it reliability and quality will always be the most important factors to me when purchasing gear. Cost is probably about 4th or 5th down the list. I'm not judging anyone who is cost-conscious but just asking those who are to appreciate that cost isn't necessarily the driving force behind others' decisions. AND THAT'S OKAY.

  18. One point I'd make, there seems to be an opinion that cheap and possibly DIY is a knock off, that isn't necessarily the case.

    There are going to be a lot of variations of this technology, in fact there already is. The Movi is a knock off, [sort of] of the Cinestar Gimbal although the same people developed them. On the Cinestar, the Gimbal costs about $3K - In fact you could purchase a ready to fly Cinestar 6 with Gimbal for about the same cost of the Movi.

    Here is a knock off of that gimbal:

    There are some very nice Gimbals being developed for AP, the Movi is one of the first to use these gimbals as a "steadicam" but that doesn't mean that any of these that get repurposed for this application are DIY or lessor quality.

  19. I so wish that I had a "like" button as I read through the comments! I do all the creative for the top Realtor in my area ($48M+ last year without a team of realtors contributing to her numbers). I have worked with her for 13 years and I have learned...
    1) "to play with the big have to Pay to play"
    2) you always have to "Up Your Game"
    3) Integrity, Quality and Full Disclosure
    4) always strive for improvement even if you are on top
    5) Look, listen and learn. It works for selling real estate and taking photos.
    Hats off to all the contributors on this blog...I am better at my "job" because of all of you!

  20. This is not new technology - this type of gyro/ stabilizer has been around for awhile. It's what one would use in a copter or a plane to stabilize a camera. I can't imagine that with the interest this has generated, that similar products will be coming fast and furious. It's always better to wait a little bit before you jump on something brand new. You never know what's right around the corner.

    I would have no issue investing in this gear if I was sure it would help me do my job better. The jury is still out on that one as this is brand new, but I'd love to play with one! I absolutely do NOT think it will get me much additional business than I already get using a Merlin Steadicam, but if it helps me work faster... that's better. Time is money.

    In regards to going for the cheap stuff: I've got a closet full of knockoff stabilizers that I paid $100-$500 for. Most were hardly if ever used if anyone wants to buy one! I've also got a closet full of cheap tripods - all of which are worthless. I've got 2 cheap jibs and 2 sliders that also share that same closet.

    It's a hard lesson to learn, but there's often a reason why cheaper gear is ... um... cheaper. It's cheap! For all the money I spend on cheap tripods, I could have easily bought ONE GOOD tripod that works well, is sturdy, lightweight and can withstand my not so gentile ways. Same with sliders, jibs, etc. The cheap ones are heavy, a PIA to set up, full of fidgety screws and washers, not smooth, etc. For me, time is money, so being able to have a quality product that does the job right and is easy and quick to set up and use is worth the cost to do it right the first time. I don't polish my gear when I get home - it gets beat up, hauled around, and used every single day of the week. It needs to be of a certain quality in order to not break in a few days!

    I'm a firm believer in buying quality gear to do the job right, while still being able to maintain and grow my business and profit level. It's also important in this business to stay ahead of the game. I've got more competition right now than I've had in 8 years. The market is red hot, and yet I'm still booked out a week in advance. But I'm still not sitting back - I've invested in a C100, a high quality slider, a nice compact jib, a quadcopter, and other things that will keep me busy and moving forward for a long time in the future. You always have to up your game in this business - things are moving very quickly.

  21. Your right this is not new technology, however its a slightly different application of this technology in a smaller more affordable package.

    Its also not designed to take the place of your Merlin (which was a knock off of prior Steadicams). Stabilizers like the Merlin are passive while camera Gimbals use active stabilization. This type of gimbal has the potential to get great tracking shots while moving quickly, its not effected by wind or sudden changes in direction, and once setup correctly the first time its plug-n-play. If your good with a Merlin can you accomplish that, sure. But you can mount the same hand-held Gimbal on a car, motorcycle, multirotor, airplane, or the end of a pole and get the same great active stabilization. Try doing that with your steadicam.

    What makes this type of Gimbal even possible, like a lot of technologies, is the convergence of other technologies, the development of Gimbal controllers that has taken place because of their use on RC Multirotors-helicopters and the recent advances in high torque brushless motors [to name a few]. Its still not quite there yet, which is why the largest camera the Movi can currently accommodate is a DSLR, which would be enough for most of us.

    But as I pointed out earlier you don't need to spend $15K to get the same level of quality gimbal. There are going to be a lot of DIY gimbals flooding the market soon, whether they work for you or not will be up to how knowledgeable you are about the technology and who built it. Almost all technology starts out life as a "DIY" project the difference is how well its turned into a product. Here's a good example of that:

    Fred, which compact jib and Quadcopter did you get?

  22. Chuck - I'd save your money on the PJT. I bought it, used it once and am selling it. Totally useless for real estate video.

  23. Why totally useless? Doesn't go high enough? Wobbles? Too difficult to set up? Kind of a bummer, the PJT looks great in concept.

    Have you found a portable jib that you like?

    I have a good jib but its a lot of work to setup by yourself and takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and its pretty big. There's five pieces, four 4ft section and a tripod on wheels plus weights or sandbags. I was too tired to use it on the last shoot and that seems to be a trend..

  24. It doesn't go very high, it doesn't tilt and its max load is 10lbs which includes the counterbalance weights. I think it has its place in filmmaking but real estate ain't it.

    I use the Kessler KC Lite with the shorter extension (I think it's 5'). Sure, it's not as fast or lightweight but the results are a million times better than the PJT (or any other cheap jib that won't tilt). It's heavy and tedious sometimes but filmmaking isn't about quick and dirty shooting. Mine isn't anyway.

  25. I like the Aviator. It's not perfect, for sure. But it weighs nothing, folds down to about 2' (you could put it in a backpack), and assembles and is ready to go in 5 minutes... not much longer than it takes to open a tripod. I use it sparingly, so it's not something I haul into every house or use on a regular basis. But compared to the hassle of the other one I have, it's a piece of cake. It doesn't flex that much - not enough that it's a deal breaker anyway.

  26. I had all my electronic parts on the way when this rig was announced so I had to laugh at the pricing. The DIY solution is out there

    If they wanted $5000.00 for the unit it would be reasonable, but they are way over the top and I don't think they will be alone for long especially since the Chinese were actually the first to introduce this technology of brushless direct drive to the UAV market. Once mine is finished and tested I'll post something in the Flickr group Video for Real Estate. I'm making mine for an aerial video contract since I don't like the conventional gyro stabilizers. I fought with one years ago shooting with an RB out of aircraft. Anyone who has used one knows the fun it is if the pilot has to do a quick maneuver since it really wants to stay rigid in space.

    I know the DIY route isn't for everyone but if you wait a while I'm sure there will be other units for sale at a reasonable price. Freefly is just cashing in on the first adopters and more power to them. BTW the electronics and motors cost was below $200.00.

  27. Agreed, Greg. There doesn't seem to be any similar products being developed on Kickstarter yet but I'm sure there will be if the high end product costs $15K and DIYers are making them up for a few hundred.

  28. This has nothing to do with the house moving and everything with moving the camera inside the house. If you only shoot stills or you don't add camera motion to your video then I guess your right, it doesn't matter.

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