Steadicam vs gimbal, which equipment is better for stabilizing video clips when shooting? No one likes to see a shaky video. It kills the experience of watching videos and indicates the amateur skill of the videographer. Although multiple software is available to use that can reduce or remove the shakiness of the video but it’s not that reliable as it crops the video to compensate for the jitteriness of the video. To overcome this problem you can use steadicam or gimbal, which will help you to stable your video clip when shooting.
For the movement in the videos, the videographer started using tripods, camera sliders, and camera dollys. But production costs of using these tools are expensive and there are also limitations to their features and usage. But things changed in the cinema industry when Garrett Brown introduced Steadicam in 1975.
You don’t just put the camera on a steadicam or gimbal and wag the thing around the set without any direction. This makes it sway away from the actual story and ultimately people will lose interest in the video. There must be always something interesting should be in the shot that drives the audience or makes the audience go along with the shot and get the experience that you want them to feel.
Steadicam vs gimbal –
Before going through the differences between Steadicam and gimbal let’s get some insight into what they are?
What is Steadicam and Gimbal?
So what Steadicam stabilization basically does is isolates the camera from all the movements that the cameraman creates. Kind of like an external arm that absorbs all the jitteriness and vibrations from the cameramen. The result is a smooth continuous shot that is pleasing to the eye. It is a mechanical solution. So there are no electronics equipment present in Steadicam and no battery to run it. You can use it all day without any fear of getting running out of battery.
The gimbal stabilization on another hand basically does the same thing as the Steadicam but it runs on the motor. It is comparatively smaller than Steadicam.
What is the difference between a gimbal and a Steadicam?
So the main difference between a Steadicam and a gimbal is that Steadicam is a mechanical solution and on the other hand, the gimbal is an electronic device that runs on a battery.
Steadicam doesn’t require any battery. It can be used the whole day without any worry of running out of battery. This can be useful in situations when you sometimes have to hike for miles to a remote place to shoot where electricity is not available. If you use a gimbal in this situation then you have to carry so many batteries and having all these extra batteries is a big hassle. If electronic gimbals are all you have and it stops working like motor dies or batteries run out then you won’t have any option and you will be in big problem. But with the Steadicam, you can shoot all day and never have to worry about it running out of battery, disfunction of motors, or any other equipment not working fine.
Steadicam used in industry is heavy. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of strength, and a lot of weight training. It is a very steep learning curve to use a Steadicam. There is a smaller steadicam version available for the consumers that are more budget-friendly than the gimbals. The gimbal on other hand is smaller in size in comparison to Steadicam. But you will still need to grow your strength with weight training to handle the gimbal in a better way so that the shots come out good.
Steadicam is just a mechanical device, everything is adjusted manually in Steadicam. If you are using a variable lens and want to change the focal length in between shooting then you have to adjust the weight distribution in Steadicam to compensate for the weight difference. So when changing focal length Steadicam needs to adjust more often. On the other hand with a gimbal, smaller changes with the lens or accessories are not a big deal. As the gimbal has three electric motors and its software algorithm is getting better, it automatically compensates for the weight difference by tweaking the motor functions.
Gimbal is best when you are running. It still gives smoother shots when you run. Steadicam tends to bounce all over the place and it is hard to control constantly with two hands. When using a gimbal if your setup is minimal and the overall weight is lighter then you can even use the gimbal with a single hand.
Gimbal is smaller, lighter, and more transportable than Steadicam. Steadicam is heavier because it uses weight plates to counterbalance the mounted camera weight. It is faster and easier to set up a gimbal than Steadicam.
If you only use a simple Steadicam for smaller cameras then the cost is cheaper than the gimbal. But when you talk about the cost of the full Steadicam setup used in the cinema industry (with all the accessories) then it is clear that the overall cost is much costlier than the gimbal setup. It includes Steadicam, external arm, vest, battery mount, etc.
Motors can only hold much, that’s why gimbal can’t hold much weight. Steadycam can on other hand hold a much larger payload.
More accessories can be attached with Steadicam than a gimbal. If you have both systems, combine them, that way you have the best of both worlds. This technique is practiced in cinema industries.
Shots with Steadycam have more of a natural look than a gimbal. Gimbal footage is more smooth, so smooth that it looks more like a robotic shot but Steadicam shots look like shots from a human perspective.
Gimbal types –
There are two types of the gimbal. One is a two-axis Gimbal and another is a three-axis gimbal. Three-axis gimbal gives more stability than a two-axis gimbal.
Which is better gimbal or steadicam?
If you ask me from the Steadicam vs Gimbal, which equipment is best suitable then I would say there is always no clear answer on which is better than the other. There are different situations where one can be a better option than the other. If you are just making simple youtube vlog videos then industry-level Steadicam is not suitable for your project. That heavy equipment is not made to hold the small cameras.
And also if your setup demands so many accessories then a gimbal will not be a good option for that. So when to use what equipment right? For me, the gimbal is suitable for smaller projects, like – real estate shooting, weddings, small music videos, vlogging, concerts, events, etc.
And I would use Steadicam on two different scales. If I am very very low on budget then I would prefer a Steadicam over a gimbal because smaller Steadicams are much cheaper than gimbals. I can also use it for weddings if I am traveling to a remote area etc. On a larger scale, if I have more budget and I get the chance on working bigger projects then I will definitely use a larger Steadicam with a full setup (with all the accessories like external arm, vest, and battery mount).
No matter what you use, Steadicam or gimbal, you’ll have to work extra on getting that smoother footage. The preparation before the shooting must be there to get the perfect shot or to utilize the full potential of these pieces of equipment. Like the proper camera balancing before the shoot, the full script of the shot, etc. Proper weight training to strengthen your muscles so that you can sustain the weight of the equipment much longer and better. And also work on the walking technique(Ninja Walk). No matter what you use try to be creative, enjoy the moment and try to learn something every day.
If you have any suggestions regarding steadicam vs gimbal, then feel free to comment down below.