In Part 7 I covered two types of gimbal that you can use with video cameras, static and motorised. In this part I’m going to focus solely on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal, some accessories I have for it, and how it can be used in somewhat innovative ways using accessories that any photographer or videographer most likely owns. I’m assuming that every videographer will own at least a tripod and some will also own a slider and If not, this story may provide an incentive to do so. Some of these techniques obviously can apply to all gimbals, but some techniques may not be as easy to emulate, if the gimbal doesn’t have the features that are available on the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal’s handle (but more on that later). I haven’t noted any blogger/reviewer comment on what I’m about to discuss, so I’m assuming that no one has given any similar thought to how you can make use of gimbals and accessories in different ways than normally envisaged.
First off, the camera and gimbal combination does have some weight to it (over 3kg with my usual setup) and it’s not something that you’d carry in one hand all day long without additional support and that’s why most gimbal users add an extension to the base of the gimbal, usually a fold out tripod for two handed holding. I bought a Pergear tripod as the one FeiyuTech provided was an accident waiting for a place to happen. The Pergear provides a reasonable extended grip for the gimbal handle, though personally I don’t find it all that good as I don’t like the smooth tapered format, but as a tripod it’s excellent. So I went in search of an extension handle and came across an Andoer, extendable tripod centre-column that’s perfect for what I’m after. There’s often a need to get a higher point of view while videoing and a handle such as this is great as it’s far less cumbersome and much lighter to use than a monopod, especially in crowded areas and it can be attached to the handle almost permanently. Though the Andoer came with a 3/8″ screw instead of a 1/4″ screw and that meant I needed an adapter, plus another modification I did was to add some silicone heat-shrink rubber (the stuff used for fishing rods and sports handles) to the alloy to provide a non-slip grip.
The interesting thing about the FeiyuTech a2000 gimbal is that it has two 1/4″ thread mounts on the handle, one just above the trigger at the front of the gimbal and the other on the left between the trigger and the main control buttons. I’m not quite sure what FeiyuTech intended with these mounts, as they only talk about such mounts on their double handle, not the single handle. On the double handle, the mounts are certainly useful, as they allow the addition of such things as lights, audio components and similar; but it’s not so easy when it comes to the single handle. The mount that’s between the two controls can be problematic, as anything that you attach here tends to get in the way of your hand unless it stands a little proud from the handle. My initial attempts to use it for my audio recorder didn’t work out well until I tried a different mounting option that gave me room for my fingers to grip the handle.
There are a range of accessories available that can make your video easier and more importantly, interesting, offering ways to do something different from just holding a camera in the hand. One of those accessories is a camera slider. As I explained in Part 6, the slider that I bought is an excellent light-weight unit and because of the Novoflex ball head and an Arca Swiss plate that I was able to attach to the a2000 I can now attach the a2000 to the slider and get creative. The same applies to the fluid head on my tripod, as well as my monopod. I haven’t seen anyone do anything similar on YouTube or elsewhere, but after trying this out with various setups, I kind of like what it offers. By attaching the gimbal to the slider, I can use the gimbal as a pan/tilt head for a range of different movements and perspectives, so there’s no need to buy an additional motorised pan/tilt device when you already have one in the gimbal. The only minor problem was that you had to keep an eye on the Arca Swiss plate as it was quite prone to coming loose or twisting, but I fixed that with a SmallRig plate and a bit of filing. The plate now gives me a very solid mount for the Arca Swiss plate, as well as a mounting point for additional attachments such as a field monitor, microphone etc.
Ideally, a powered base that took just the gimbal head, would give you the perfect motorised pan/tilt system by providing a low profile and more stable mount. But without such an option, I’m attaching the gimbal in the way shown in the following video, as it’s quicker to attach and remove, and provides a more stable solution than if I connected the handle to the ball head or slider platform by the base of the gimbal handle. Also, by attaching the gimbal in this way, I have horizontal and vertical positioning to choose for various movements. Unfortunately when the gimbal is positioned horizontally, you don’t get the full movements available because of the way the gimbal works, but in the vertical position, I have the full range of movements, especially the follow settings. The beauty of the gimbal is that it allows you to set a range of speeds through the app, so it’s pretty easy to set up a tracking path for your needs and match the set speed of the slider. It may not be as sophisticated as this unit, but it sure is vastly cheaper.
You can also use the gimbal in a slightly different way on a slider, allowing the camera to point directly down as the slider moves across, something that’s not so easy to do with traditional methods. My example isn’t the best as I wanted to to do something outside, but the weather has been abysmal lately and not conducive to setting up anything outside. Once the weather improves somewhat I’ll look at doing something better and update this story in due course, either as a direct addition or as a link to another story. A second option is to attach the gimbal to a tripod fluid head and move the fluid head while the gimbal is in motion, which I haven’t tried as yet. You can use the follow option to to set the gimbal moving in a set direction and then move the fluid head in a different direction, such that the movements combine. This provides a greater range of options than what you can get with just a fluid head mounted to a tripod.
I’ve also found that the Arca Swiss clamp provides a much better way to attach the gimbal to a monopod for those boom style shots often used by movie makers, it’s also found it far easier to attach and remove. And while this is certainly nothing new, I feel that the attachment is a lot more secure and I might be able to use this method to carry the gimbal around far longer than just with the handle, as I can use the monopod as a rest and for other movements as well. As an example, a regular movement with a gimbal is to lower or raise the gimbal for vertical movement, but with the gimbal attached to the monopod, you can use the monopod as a much better pivot. Whether I will use this combination I’m not sure as yet, but at least it’s an option.
And, as a final word, I saw the following video for a product (DigitalFoto DH04) that seems to add to the versatility of motorised gimbals, at a fairly reasonable cost. Alternative versions do exist, such as the Ikan Beholder Flex Handle (costing significantly more) and only allowing you to mount the gimbal by the gimbal base, which I think is far more cumbersome than the DigitalFoto DH04 mounting method. There’s also one from ScottyMakesStuff (an Australian) that’s like the DigialFoto model, but again more expensive and there’s a TurboAce which is completely different again. Or something like this, if you have a compatible gimbal. From further research, these devices have been around for a few years, but don’t seem to be discussed a great deal lately. Maybe they are of limited value, unless you’re running or otherwise moving fast as depicted in the video.
Update 1. This is the final part of this series and after a lot of hits and misses with existing gear, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a proper cinema camera, a newly introduce Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K) produced by Blackmagic Design, and Australian company. The story continues in Part 1 of this new journey.