Imagine a smooth, full-speed tracking shot following a soccer ball down a field, a linebacker smashing into a guard, a skateboard flipping through the air, or a dog catching a Frisbee.
How about a car-to-car shot that looks like a high-end commercial or Hollywood production? Or an actor running through a forest in a scene that looks like it was shot from a Steadicam?
These kind of shots – and a million others you might just begin to imagine - are possible with the newest generation of handheld camera stabilization systems, like the MōVI M5 from Freefly Systems.
The MōVI is a handheld system that suspends the camera in a gimbal, using three motors and an IMU (inertial measurement unit) to detect and counteract unwanted movement along three axes: pan, tilt, and roll.
Simply put, it enables you to add dynamic movement to your footage, while eliminating the movement you don’t want – like the bounces and bumps associated with handheld.
The results can be stunning, and opens up all kinds of possibilities that were formerly available only to high-budget productions and blockbuster movies.
So when we received our first request for a gimbal system earlier this year for a Discovery Channel production, we were thrilled to add it to our storytelling toolkit.
We did quite a bit of research on which system to buy. There are many choices, but we settled on the MōVI M5 - because of its light weight, accuracy and smoothness. Agility was key. We wanted to be able to operate it in all kinds of places where a heavier system would be too cumbersome – like out a car window (see our demo), down a river, across an assembly line, or even up a tree!
We also needed a lightweight but very high-end camera / lens combo to ride in the MōVI . We chose the Sony Alpha a7S with our Canon L-series16-35mm wide angle lens. This is a gorgeous HD camera that makes a great match to some of its bigger brothers - like our Sony F55 and F5.
We have our MōVI system rigged with full audio capabilities via a wireless receiver mounted onto the handle, and then cabled into the Sony a7S. So whatever the Sound Mixer can capture, the camera in the MōVI can record. This makes it the perfect tool for very interesting talent/reporter stand-ups, shorter interviews with movement, and active demonstrations and tours.
The MōVI can be operated solo (called Majestic Mode), or using a remote with two people – one moving the camera, and the other operating the remote.
It takes about half-an-hour to set-up and tune properly, so it’s best to schedule shots in blocks of time to be most efficient, or simply keep it set-up throughout the day. It’s also good to have a camera assistant or grip to help out.
So far our we’ve used our MōVI for shoots with Dateline NBC, PGA Tour Entertainment for a CBS program about cancer, and On the Case with Paula Zhan for Discovery Channel. You can see some of these clips in our reel below. We’ve really just scratched the surface though, and can’t wait to incorporate this into some of the sports features we do with ESPN, FS1, HBO and NFL Films, as well as our documentary, commercial, and corporate productions.
Interested in trying out the MōVI for your next shoot? Give us a call or email and we’d be happy to go over any other details about what it can do, how it works, and how you can incorporate it into your next production.
MōVI Mōvie - Sample clips from our recent work with the MōVI
Skateboarders - Some fun skateboarding shots we grabbed at a nearby park
Written by Tom Miller, Copyright © 2015 Big Pictures Media, Inc.