Freefly Movi Gimbal

I recently added a Freefly Movi M15 camera stabilizer to my kit, and I’m very excited about it.  It opens up a whole new world of camera movement and visual storytelling possibilities.

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What is the Movi?

The Movi is a 3-axis motorized gimbal – it takes the bumps out of handheld shots by using electronics and special motors.  Like a Steadicam, it can create dynamic moving shots without having to lay track or build a jib arm.

New technology like smaller cameras, affordable wireless HD video transmitters, wireless follow focus, and the rise of personal drones has led to amazing advancements in what we can do with camera movement today.

Here’s a demo video that shows some of the possibilities:

Another behind-the-scenes video shows some really great uses of the Movi, especially when they incorporate golf carts, Segways, and even a multi-rotor helicopter:

The Movi’s motors reduce the harsh movements, such as handheld and footsteps, horizontal rolling or vehicle bumps.  

I’m excited about the Movi because it really can enable Steadicam-style shots, Techno-crane shots, and even doing complicated shots that couldn’t easily be accomplished before.   Many years ago, I considered becoming a Steadicam operator, but I knew that it took years of practice because it’s all about how you hold the camera with your body that provides the balance and stable horizon.  With the Movi, it takes much less practice to become proficient.

In many ways, the Movi offers more freedom and versatility than a Steadicam, because it can move from very low to high angles in one move, or it can be mounted to a car, or a jib, or even rope.  It can be passed from one operator to another, and move through smaller environments.

The pan, tilt, and roll of the camera can be controlled remotely, with a joystick controller or with the new Mimic.  The Mimic is a simple, intuitive controller that looks just like the handlbars on a bike – you pan and tilt the handles, and the camera follows.  There’s even a geared-head style pan-and-tilt wheels that can be used with the Movi.

Cameras that work with the Movi:  The Red Epic\Dragon\Weapon is popular, but also the new Arri Mini is a great choice.  My 5D Mark 3 can certainly go on it, I’ve seen a C300 Mark 2 on it, and also some Sony cameras.  A lot of it has to do with powering the camera and being able to balance it.

I like to have a prep day with the camera and the Movi to make sure it’s all ready to go for the shoot.  It can take some time to strip the camera of unnecessary accessories, and also to figure out the best way to power and balance the camera, follow focus, and video transmitter.

I’ve set up my Movi kit to include a Bartech Wireless Follow focus unit, an ultra light matte box and filter holder, and a Teradek Bolt video transmitter\receiver.  I also have lightweight Zeiss Standard Speed lenses, although Ultra Primes or even Master Primes can fit the Movi.  For longer-range video transmission, a Paralynx Tomahawk or Teradek Bolt 2000 could be used.

A few other notes:

The Movi takes some experience to know how to set up, balance and troubleshoot.  It’s fairly simple to operate, but a little bit of practice goes a long way.

The Movi can be operated by a single person, but you typically need a Camera Assistant to adjust focus as the camera moves.  Dual-operator mode is also an option, where one person moves the rig while another pans and tilts the camera remotely.

I sometimes hear complaints from filmmakers who’ve used the Movi or Ronin, and find they’re slow to balance and can have problems with the motors, but I think a lot of it is down to experience.  It’s definitely something that I think works better with an owner-operator instead of just getting one from a rental house.  In my case, I have a lot of spare parts and accessories that can solve problems, and I know the rig, I know the app, and it’s much more efficient that way.

If you also need long-lens, tripod, zoom or dolly shots on the same day as the Movi, it’s best to carry a second, dedicated camera body for the gimbal because of the time it takes to convert the camera from lightweight Movi-mode to Studio-mode.

A support vest is also useful because holding the camera with your arms will get tiring very quickly.  I have a Ready Rig vest, and it enables the operator to hold the Movi up for long periods of time with less fatigue.

Overall, I’m excited about the shots that can now be easily accomplished with the Movi, and I’m looking forward to some great shoots with it.  Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about it.  



About Graham Futerfas

I'm a professional Cinematographer working in Los Angeles.
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