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What is a Gimbal? Do you need one?

If you’ve ever tried taking handheld footage while moving, or while tracking a subject, you know dealing with shaky footage is one big headache. For precisely these reasons, we have video stabilisers or better yet, gimbals.

If you shoot handheld, chances are, no matter how careful or stable your hands are, you’ll get shaky footage. To eliminate this, you can run a warp stabiliser on your footage in After Effects, or to begin with you could shoot smooth footage.

Gimbals are basically camera mounts that can rotate among all three axes so that no matter how much your hand moves, the camera stays stable.

Gimbals are widely used among multiple implementations across photography/videography. The most notable applications are in drones, remote cameras and of course, DSLR filmmaking.

For example, a gimbal is an absolute necessity when taking drone footage as no matter how good a camera you mount to your drone, the vibrations during flight will make your footage shaky and blurry. This is the reason why most drones come with a gimbal camera already installed.

The same applies to filmmaking. You can use a DSLR or even your iPhone but your footage won’t look as cinematic as you want it to, unless you’re able to get that smooth panning shot of your moving subject. A gimbal is needed for situations like these.

Also read: Cinematography 101: How to record cinematic footage from your DSLR?

Do you really need a gimbal?

A good gimbal can improve your composition smooth and stable. It’s important to decide which brand to go for as different brands tend to do things differently and hence the difference in price. Don’t fall for a cheap gimbal to save money.

DSLR or even smartphone gimbals can be expensive. Today there are a lot of options available if you want a gimbal, but the best often stay well out the reach of amateur filmmakers. The offerings by companies like DJI are around the $500-$1000 range.

In case you’re looking to get that smooth footage, but can’t afford a gimbal, there are still a number of ways you can try and get smooth footage. Note that while these tips can help, you still might have to run them through After Effects if you want the best possible footage.

First up, you can use a monopod, a Gorillapod or even a closed down tripod to hold your camera when shooting. Using this method you’ll see an immediate improvement in the footage you take.

Also, try to add motion to your shots as motion tends to hide shake. Try taking pan, tilt or zoom in shots. Get creative with motion and surprise yourself.

Another very important thing to keep in mind while shooting handheld is to make sure that you are using image stabilised lenses. Then lenses can make a hell of a difference when it comes to getting smooth footage, especially on narrower lenses like the 55-250mm.

The way you hold your camera also impacts how shaky or blurry your footage is. Try holding your camera with both your arms, creating three contact points on the camera itself to get the best result. You can also use your neck strap and push the camera against your body to create tension and get some smooth shots.

Also read: DSLR Maintenance 101: How to clean your camera sensor and lenses

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