planetMitch note: this is the first post from Kevin Almodovar – hopefully you'll appreciate his style and reporting.
I have been shooting local car commercials for three years and last year I was able to convince my client to spring for the rental of a gyro stabilized mount. This thing was a beast and we had it strapped down in the back of an SUV to let me shoot out the back.
It worked amazingly and considering that we have to be versatile in this small town and take on any project that comes along, I was seriously thinking of investing in one of these systems. It can be used for boating, aerial and automobiles, just to name a few situations where gyro stabilization will make a production look much better.
One problem! $
There was only one problem. The rig I had used was close to $30,000 and renting it was going to run $1000-$2000 per day. I was lucky because the guy with the rig I rented was local and he needed a trade out deal for video. He made me a great offer but that was only a one-time deal.
One of the reasons these rigs are so expensive is because for real stable video you need two gyros to stabilize the three axis (each gyro stabilizes 2 axis). One for yaw (panning left to right) and for pitch (panning up and down) and one for roll (rolling the camera as you do with a Dutch angle). So depending on the weight of the camera fully rigged, just the gyros alone (two of them) could run you $4000-$14,000. Then you have to find a mount because a two-gyro setup can't go directly on the camera without some extra hardware. These mounts are extremely expensive. It's a mystery to me, like a $2000 matte box.
In comes the new Kenyon line of stabilizers. One gyro, in a small package that packs a wallop and takes care of all three axis at once. I found these while doing some research and luckily enough found one for rent at lensprotogo.com for only $230 for a 4-day rental. Now that’s more in the area of what my clients would want to spend. The one they have for rent is a 4 x 4 version and it is perfect for DSLR shooting.
Renting from LensProToGo
I was going to rent it just to play with it but before I had a chance I got a call from one of my clients wanting to do another car commercial. Perfect timing. I called the guys at Lensprotogo.com to find out more information about the rental.
My concern was that it did not have a mount and I was not sure how to go about mounting this thing considering my last experience and how heavy it was. As always, the guys at Lensprotogo.com were great and they explained that it only weighed about 5 pounds and I could use it hand-held. WHAAAAT!?!? My last shoot, it was locked down because the entire rig was about 60 pounds and now I can go hand-held with 3-axis stabilization!? I was sold.
Now the rental was very inexpensive and as usual the rental prices are directly proportional to how much the units cost. So I delved into the Kenyon site and was amazed at how reasonable these units were priced. The kit I rented, which includes everything you need to get going was priced at $3460.
How did it perform? Just as advertised. I used it hand-held the entire time (one hand on the DSLR grip and one on the bottom of the gyro) and it has a very small learning curve. The trick is that you have to understand that it is creating its own inertia and so you cannot fight it. It is not designed for fast movements of the camera. You have to move it as fast as it will let you or it will jerk around a bit and fight you. You have to be one with the force Luke.
Some things you need to know: It does weigh 7 to 10 pound with the camera on it, depending on your gear, so shooting for very long periods of time without a mount is probably not recommended unless you sport Popeye forearms. My longest time shooting with it was about 5 to 10 minutes at a time and that, for me, was about enough. It is also very noisy, so it is not ideal for anything that requires audio. The best that I can describe it is that it sounds like a jet airplane when you go use the lavatory minus the harsh flushing sound. Lastly it requires about 5 to 10 minutes for it to get up to speed so you have to make sure you have time to let it run before you start shooting. The good news is that it takes about that much time or longer to wind down so if you want to save battery, you can turn it off and if it has not wound down all the way when you start it back up, it takes less time to get back up to full speed.
I used the gyro for shooting a Jeep off road and for shooting a truck pulling a boat over a bridge. Both shots hand-held without a gyro would have been very difficult. Please view the video for samples of the stabilization. There is test footage, then one clip shooting without the gyro to give you an idea of the difference and the final clip, I left the original in-camera audio to give you an idea of the noise that it makes. All footage was shot with Marvels Cine picture style but it was not color corrected or graded.
All in all this is an excellent tool for certain situation and it has certainly become part of our list of items we are going to recommend to our clients.
For more information on the gyros, visit www.ken-lab.com.
Kenyon X Series 3-Axis Gyros demo!
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(cover photo credit: snap from the video)