Stability: Stabilization options
First, lets discuss the different options for stabilizing your camera, later on we'll look at what units I recommend.
Something very important to mention is that you shouldn’t be trying anything for the first time while you’re on a shoot, new things should be tried and tested well before any important shoot. It is especially important to mention here because small camera screens can look deceptively stable, especially since you are moving together with it, but then when you get back home you may get a shaky surprise.
A trick to seeing how stable your footage really is, is to look right at the corner of the image, ideally in play mode rather than during a shot, you will see any shaking much more clearly this way.
Handheld “Flying” stabilizers - £150 to £450
A good one of these with a lot of practice can produce some fantastic results for a reasonable price. I discuss which ones I like most in LINK NEEDED, and the vest systems that can be used to hold these up is discussed in the next part of this chapter. This gives the best results for slow walking, fast walking, and even running if you’re really good. Most of them are not as easy to aim or do very fast moves with.
Stabilizer with vest system - From £450
This option allows you the same stability as a handheld flying stabilizer but with most of the weight sitting on your body rather than your arms and back. It is also often easier to control the stabilizer this way. The down side of these is that they are much heavier to carry to the shoot, and are not very comfortable to try to do anything other than aim and shoot while you're wearing the vest.
Shoulder rigs - £60 to £600
These are provide some stabilization, but still allow a bit of instability movement in the image and a unique advantage of having full control of the camera and focus with very good control over the aim, especially for fast pans and tilts and easier use of focusing aids such as the camera's viewfinder. An important tool.
Electronic “gimbal” stabilizers - £1500 to £3,000
These are a more expensive option, especially for the quality ones, and are pretty new to the industry. Each one may have it’s own quirks and limitations, things to consider are battery life, reliability (especially with cheaper units), being able to aim in the direction you need, etc. This is currently not my choice, but can be very useful and allow for some things that can’t be done with other stabilizers.
Lens stabilisation - From £100
Optical image stabilization is a great option for extra help with stability, but most of the time is really only useful for standing, not walking or running. The problem with this method is that lenses get very expensive with less options for larger apertures, so I do not rely on this as a main form of stabilization, just an addition, sometimes.
In-camera stabilization - From £500
This option isn’t that common, and it isn’t as good for moving around as a flying stabilizer, and will vary from camera to camera. Most won’t give amazing results and usually will just be an addition that’s useful for when standing still (not so much for walking), but a few cameras do this pretty well, such as some of the Olympus mirrorless cameras. This is a useful option for those who want something that's super compact for travel or as a backup camera. The problem with this is having to stick to a specific camera system to get this feature, which for many people may not be the ideal camera in other ways. If you go for this option you want to ensure the camera is actually moving it’s sensor to stabilize the image, not doing digital image stabilization. More on that below.
Digital image stabilization - Mostly free
Stabilising your footage in editing can produce some pretty stable results, but often with a lot of nasty stretching or smearing of the image and with added crop which slightly reduces image quality and might not give you the framing that you originally intended for that shot. It should be your last option, then it can be a very useful backup to your main form of stabilization.
Youtube stabilization - Free
This is a strange one to add, but I’ve actually used it a few times. It’s probably the lowest ranking, but for some quick things it can be very useful for non-essential stuff to be quickly watchable on Youtube.
Here's a really quick test I shot. Handheld camera and nothing else, with Youtube stabilization added after upload.
Wide lenses - £200 to £400
The wider the lens, the more stable your footage looks. With something super wide (like a 14mm on a full frame camera or 11mm on crop sensors) you can actually get some really good results with very little noticeable shake, although it is best used together with another form of stabilization. Even though this helps a lot, a super wide angle lens is often not the look you are going for, so most of the time I stick to about 35mm on full frame.
Here's a video I made a long time ago. I used the Tokina 11-16mm on a Canon 60D and a shoulder rig. I was able to walk around without much unwanted movement showing up in the footage. The last two shots were done on a Glidecam.
I wouldn’t bother much with this. Often used by skaters to get very low angle shots and this is where it is useful.
"Fig Rig" style dual handle stabilizers
Useful with wide lenses for action shots. It's more stable than handheld but not exactly smooth, the movements feel more harsh. Definitely not something for wedding films.
Tripod - £20 to £1000
A little obvious but important to mention. This is obviously the most stable, but with very little movement options.
Monopod - £20 to £150
I don't use these much. When I want this sort of functionality I just close the legs on my tripod. If I wanted to use it often I would get a monopod again, but generally I find that I don't use them much. They add a lot of stability and a lot of portability but with very little option for movement during the shot, so for me they are not ideal.
Slider - £120 to £400
For my work these are indispensable. A good slider system adds a ton of production value when used well.
My favorite multi-use portable rig
This gorillapod focus is a joy to use. It can't replace my tripod/slider system, and it can't replace my Glidecam, but it's my favorite shoulder rig, my favorite overall budget rig, my favorite travel rig and my favorite "grab-and-go" rig.
bottom handle grips
Not really a pro tool but a potentially helpful super-low-cost travel stability aid.