Gimbals are fantastic tools for filmmakers. Personally, I’m quite partial to Zhiyun, having a Smooth C, Crane 2 and Crane 3 LAB at my disposal. In this video from Mango Street, we see five shot transitions that you can only really get easily if using a gimbal. They’re using the DJI Ronin-S in the video, but you can apply these transitions to just about any gimbal these days.
This transition, as the name suggests, involves orbiting around your subject. But you want your subject stood against a wall of some kind. The trick is to move around your subject, while keeping the same distance from them as you do, ultimately ending up as close to the wall as possible. That’s shot #1. For Shot #2, you want to shoot the same thing in reverse, starting at the wall, and then moving away from it as you orbit around your subject to line up your final shot.
Just remember to keep track of which side of the wall you ended up on last time, so you know which side to start off from on the second clip!
This shot involves zooming into a photo. In this case, an instant Polaroid shot. You can also do this with something like a slider or dolly, or even just handheld if you’re using a stabilised lens and are really steady. It’s a lot easier with a gimbal though. Essentially, you move towards your subject, ultimately filling the frame with the photo.
In post, you motion track and swap out the photo with your second piece of footage. Once it’s all blended together and you add a little motion blur, it looks like you’re just zooming right into that second shot.
This is essentially the vertigo effect, or “Hitchcock Zoom”, as it’s sometimes called. You’re walking away while zooming in, or walking towards your subject while zooming out to keep your subject the same size in the entire frame. You want to shoot the same clip in your two different locations. And you can cheat a little with this, because it is quite tricky.
You need to move, zoom and focus all at the same time. If you’re shooting 4K, though, and are only putting out to a 1080p project, you can forego the zoom and simply scale & crop to get a similar zooming effect. Then all you need to worry about is moving and focusing. Then, in post, just speed ramp to join the two clips together. Motion blur does the rest.
On the DJI Ronin-S, this is called the 3D-Roll360 mode. On Zhiyun’s gimbals, it’s called Vortex mode, but essentially they both do the same thing. They roll (as opposed to pitch & yaw) the camera about its centre while keeping the camera pointing in the same direction. If that description was a little confusion, the above clip should help.
I like this one. You could even go full Batman with several spins for each of the two clips, and then ramp the speed in post with a bit of a fade and motion blur to help soften the transition a little.
This final transition is a little bit like the frame fill above, only in reverse. It’s a handy way to transition from an outside shot to an indoor one. First, simply shoot your outdoor scene, panning in one direction, and then shoot your indoor scene through a window, panning in the same direction towards your final composition. Then in post, motion track the second shot to add the outdoor scene to your window.
As with other moving transitions, a little speed ramp and some motion blur help to sell the effect.
So, the next time you’re out filming with your gimbal, and you’re stuck for some shot transitions, give these a try!