Smartphone gimbals are pretty commonplace today. There are countless models from companies like Zhiyun, Moza, Feiyu, and a million other brands. It feels like we’ve had them forever, although they’ve only really been around for about four years. And sometimes, even today, we need to figure out a way to live without them.
You’re not always going to have it with you when you see something cool and want to whip out your phone to grab a sequence. Or perhaps, as filmmaker Brandon Li mentions in this video, carrying a gimbal defeats the whole purpose of using your phone. Putting his money where his mouth is, this 10-minute video shows us how we can get gimbal-like shots without a gimbal.
As with eliminating camera shake when shooting photos, or getting smoother handheld footage with a DSLR, mirrorless or more traditional video camera, it’s all about how you hold your camera and move the camera (and yourself) to create a smooth, fluid, steady motion.
Most of us probably hold up our phones to shoot video the same way we might for a still. One hand holding onto one end of the phone, with our other hand free to tap buttons on the screen to start and stop recording. But this doesn’t necessarily result in the smoothest footage. Brandon’s method practically clamps one hand around the entire phone in a more central position and then using his other to help guide it and increase the stability.
But it’s not just about how you hold your phone, but how you move, too. Even though Brandon’s not using a gimbal in the video, he’s still doing the “gimbal walk” that you’d use to remove Z-Bounce when using a gimbal. That bounce is still there in a normal walking movement whether you’re using a gimbal or not.
Brandon also shows several pretty cool techniques for creating pull back shots, too, giving the appearance that you’re walking backward from your subject. Particularly impressive is his technique for shooting smooth vortex shots with a rolling camera move.
The key, though, no matter what shot you’re trying to get, whether it’s forwards, backward, tilting up or down, panning, vortex, whatever, is to have a consistent and smooth speed of motion. And once you get well-practised, you can even combine the movements.
Even if you don’t normally shoot video on your phone, they’re handy techniques to know for when you’re away from home and the only camera you have with you is your smartphone.