Video Is Inescapable
Whether shooting a home video for TikTok or a Hollywood blockbuster for the big screen, camera stabilizers have become an essential piece of equipment in any filmmaker's arsenal. So, what exactly is a camera stabilizer and why are they so popular?
In the technological era we currently find ourselves in, we can't escape visual media. From entertainment and leisure to your working life and education, video content has simply become omnipresent. It's no surprising, then, that the means to create such ubiquitous, high-quality video has become increasingly accessible and simple for everyone. Camera stabilizers are no exception to this trend.
What Is a Camera Stabilizer?
When was the last time that you were willing to endure more than a few seconds of online video that was shot with a wobbly hand? Such amateur shooting standards just don't exist in the filmmaking world of today. Why not? It's all thanks to the accessibility of camera stabilizers.
A camera stabilizer is a piece of filmmaking equipment that a camera is attached to in order to remove any unwanted movement or shaking. Therefore, as the name suggests, it's a rig that stabilizes a camera to keep it steady and secure. You could consider it almost like a shock absorber that cancels out any bumps or jolts that an operator encounters and their camera inevitably picks up.
Traditionally, stabilizers achieved this function through an act of counterbalancing the camera's movement with weights. But the technology has progressed significantly over the years, with computing power and algorithms now playing a key role. Let's break this down a little further.
Camera stabilizers typically fall into three primary categories: handheld stabilizers, vest stabilizers, and 3-axis gimbals.
Handheld stabilizers are essentially frames or devices that are directly attached to the camera to provide added stability. They require the operator to directly hold them by hand. This means that although camera steadiness is greatly improved with a handheld stabilizer, its effectiveness still largely depends on the operator's ability to maintain still.
Weight also plays a huge part in handheld stabilizers. The wide variation of camera sizes and weights in existence, means that handheld stabilizers need to be chosen carefully, in order to ensure that they suit the attached camera. And because they're indeed handheld, going too heavy here is going to severely restrict the operator's freedom of movement and duration of use.
Similar to the handheld stabilizer, vest stabilizers are attached directly to the camera. The difference here lies in the fact that the stabilizer is also directly mounted to the operator's body, and therefore does not require steady hands. As such, these stabilizers allow operators to move around more freely while the camera remains steady. In addition, with the camera supported by the weight and leverage of a full human body, this rig can handle much heavier cameras, and is the go-to for high-end productions.
Vest stabilizers are often synonymous with the brand Steadicam, the advent of which completely revolutionized blockbuster films back in 1975. And although Steadicams were a huge step forward in the development of filmmaking in general, their complexity, price, and size put them out of grasp for general videographer hobbyists.
This stabilizer, as the name suggests, contains three axes: yaw (pan), pitch (tilt), and roll. Each axis targets specific directions of its target's motion, that is, left to right, up to down, and off-center or unlevel subjects, respectively. Like handheld stabilizers, 3-axis gimbals are handheld, however, the three axes help counteract any unwanted shaking or hand movement. This means that operators have a lot more freedom to move and don't need to place so much focus on keeping their hands steady. This freedom of movement also allows videographers to take shots from positions that would otherwise be impossible with traditional handheld stabilizers.
In addition, unlike handheld stabilizers, 3-axis gimbals are motorized to provide additional counterbalancing force and further prevent unwanted shaking and movement. Such a motor does add extra weight and comes in at a heftier price point, but the benefits of this added function far outweigh the cons. And as motor designs continue to improve — allied to computer algorithms — so too do the counterbalancing results and steadiness of the camera.
Of course, motors need power. So keep in mind that motorized 3-axis gimbals rely on rechargeable batteries. Keeping batteries fully charged on set is essential when working with such gimbals.
Don't Rush into Buying
Before you even begin to consider purchasing a camera stabilizer, you must be sure of your own needs. What kind of camera will you be primarily be using? What kinds of shots do you plan to take? How long are you going to be shooting for? What's your budget?
Although these questions must indeed be taken into account, unless you're planning to shoot a high-end production, we usually recommend a 3-axis gimbal for the vast majority of homemade and professional video shoots. 3-axis gimbals provide fantastic counterbalancing results in a compact package, they fit a wide array of camera types, and they allow you to move around at will, even in complex environments. Let's explore two Zhiyun 3-axis gimbal models: the Weebill S and Weebil 3.
Ultra-Compact and Ultra-Steady
The Weebill S is a baseline model that weighs approximately 895 grams with a maximum runtime of 12 to 14 hours. The Weebill 3 is an upgraded model that comes in at approximately 1130 grams and has a maximum runtime of 21 hours. This means that both models are purpose-built to handle a full day of shooting without running out of battery nor causing physical discomfort to the operator.
The key benefits of these two gimbals are the excellent stabilization results that they deliver in packages that are small and light. With advanced motor units and powerful stabilization algorithms, you get the stabilization effects of state-of-the-art equipment in rigs similar in size to an A4 piece of paper. Their price points are also significantly lower than other products of a similar quality.
Both rigs are also compatible with a wide range of camera types, making them a great fit for filmmakers that tend to switch between equipment on set. You can see the full list of compatible cameras on the product pages of our website.
The slightly more advanced of the two — Weebill 3 — also includes its own lighting and microphone functions to make your filmmaking experience more convenient than ever. And with a quick release system, you don't need to waste any time switching between equipment. This removes the need for recalibration or switching out batteries.
Put simply, the base model Weebill S and upgraded Weebill 3 are a great fit for amateur and professional filmmakers who are looking for a compact camera stabilizer that delivers fantastic stabilization results.