Since the Movi rig was announced in 2013, gimbals have become prevalent in 2D filmmaking. They enable smooth motion on multiple axis using the latest in brushless motor technology. In 360, a gimbal would go great lengths to making VR content smoother and more comfortable for the end user. There have been a number of examples of demo products, but only one has made it to market so far.
The reason 360 gimbals are not seen commonly yet is due to both technical and economical factors. A gimbal rig works in 2D by balancing and counteracting a camera sat directly in the centre of gravity and works to keep it there. This means the gimbal rig surrounds the 2D camera in every direction except the one the lens faces.
In 360, the camera sees everything, so a normal rig cannot be mounted around it. Counter-weights need to be included in the design to enable the vertical centre of gravity to be raised to where a camera can sit on top of a gimbal.
Economically speaking, the market for 360 cameras is relatively small in comparison to 2D cameras. For those looking to move 360 cameras often and professionally, the market is currently exceptionally small. Hence we are only seeing very small start-ups attempting to make gimbals at this time.
Historically, many people have thus far been using gyro stabilizers. These are based on rotating balls in a small housing, which revolve up to 10,000rpm. They thereby create a spinning centre of gravity which counteracts movements at the other end of a pole where the camera is mounted. Kenyon Gyros are the most common brand used in 360 VR filming.
The issue with these mounts is that they are extremely expensive, feature a high pitch continuous noise and take up to 10minutes to reach correct speed before they can be used properly.
At the moment, we have seen a few prototypes and images of different 360 video gimbals. All effectively feature 3-axis or 2-axis designs with counter-weights under-slung. Some of them feature restricted X and Y axis movement to allow for the space needed where the weights sit.
The Tarzan A / Tarzan G gimbals are currently the only gimbal out on the market. Reviews suggest they work reasonably well with mid-size cameras like the S1 or Omni. The A variant is lighter and comes with a plate for mounting to a drone. Larger drones such as S1000 or possibly M600 are required due to the heavier payload. The G version is slightly heavy and is suitable for ground mounting, with a standard 3/8” or 1.4” thread in the base column.
(Guru Air 360)
The Moza Guru Air is a similar design with under-slung counter-weights. We expect this to be available in a few months. This is a little bit more slender than the Tarzan gimbal, meaning less coverage of the nadir area. The camera appears to be able to sit higher up than on the Tarzan.
(DJI Custom 360 Ronin)
Z Cam have worked with DJI to make a customised version of the Ronin. Basically this features tweaked motors to manage the weight outside the COG. We expect DJI to eventually bring out a specific gimbal for 360 VR filmmaking.
(Levitezer 360 Gimbal)
The Levitezer team have been working on their 360 video gimbals for some time. Their larger gimbal features awkward looking wings carrying weights to divert the COG. No info on pricing or availability has been released thus far.
Finally we have a slightly different hanging weight design from a team in China. This rig is in slow development from a small start-up so details are scarce on this one.
As we can see, there is a lot of common design features within these current rigs in development. Apart from the Tarzan models, the rest seem to be stuck in development hell so for now, there really is only one option. Until DJI give us a nice surprise perhaps and release something cheap and solid.
The need for 360 gimbals is great with every more clients requesting the dynamic feel of movement within 360 video filmmaking. We can’t wait until more of these make it to market so we can test the fully.