Are Gimbals Being Overused?

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

When filmmaker Vince LaForet introduced us to the 3 axis gimbal stabilizer back in 2013, we knew it was a game changer. But fast forward to 2017, the question becomes … are gimbals now overused? One filmmaker thinks so.

Everybody and their grandmother have been shooting on gimbals… I look around, and it just seems like everyone is shooting every single piece of content on a gimbal. People are caught up in it. – Jakob Owens

Jakob Owens says that the overuse of gimbals in every single scene has been weighing heavily on his cinematic mind. Owens goes so far to say that some filmmakers are being solely exclusive with their gimbals, bordering on abusing the tool. He kinda has a point. You wouldn’t use a drone for every single shot would you?

There are people who use gimbals for every single shot because it’s a trendy thing.

So why are so many shooters over relying on gimbals?  Ask Owens and he’ll give you two reasons: 1) gimbals are still a hot trend in the industry and 2) many shooters can’t keep a camera steady enough to get a hand held shot that they like. (I’ll add a third one … they have to pay that gimbal off).

This trend has created a kind of over-reliance on gimbals and using them where they don’t necessarily belong.  To underscore the point, Owens gives the example of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. In that scene, the camera is hand held by design, becoming a character in the film.

Owens calls it “a handheld, chaotic mess. A visceral, attack on the senses. “It feels crazy,” Owens says. “If you were to shoot that same scene on a gimbal, that scene would lose its raw, edgy feel. It wouldn’t have that same emotion.”

When you build a house, you don’t use a hammer for every single project? Sometimes you need a saw or a wrench. The same goes with filmmaking. Y0u have to use those tools at your disposal.

Owens says the essence of the problem with over using the gimbal today, is that many young filmmakers think if you just throw your camera on a gimbal, you’re going to get a professional shot. But that isn’t always the case. “I’m not knocking gimbals in any way. I used them,” Owen defends. “I’m just saying you just need to think critically about how you use your gear. Use gimbals for when it calls for it, not for every single thing.”

Here’s a short film done by Freefly that shows a perfect example:

The short film was originally envisioned as a multi shot sequence. But using the FreeFly MōVI, gave the filmmakers the option of creating a single shot feeling of being at the Burton Snowboard factory for a tour.  It was the ideal way to show what goes on, and do it with flair. Looking behind the scenes, you find that single shot was choreographed by several different camera operators, handing the camera off from one to another in a delicate, but brilliant dance. For this kind of shot, a gimbal made complete sense.

Gimbals can be valuable, even a game changer. However, using any piece of gear exclusively to the detriment of all others can really limit you as a filmmaker.  Every once in awhile, it’s better to force yourself to figure out another way to get the shot.

What do you guys think? Are gimbals overused? Leave a comment below.

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About James DeRuvo 784 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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