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Fluid head vs Remote head (investment) (3 replies and 2 comments)

Wouter
2 months ago
Wouter 2 months ago

Hello Roger and forum,

once again I'm looking for some much appreciated comments of you lot! 

The soul of my old crappy video head is sadly on its way out of this world so I'm faced with the horrendous task of investing some money in new one. Hopefully this time, one with a longer life span, let's hope.

As always, budget is extremely limited. Perhaps it's best not to invest in a good one myself, as good quality heads are really expensive. On the other hand.. a head is something that one uses all of the time.. an essential piece of the kit.. having to drive all the way to the rental house just for a good head seems a bit counterproductive and bad in terms of effiency.

The big thing though, I'm wondering about.. should I invest all of my budget in a decent video fluid video head.. or should I dare to invest in a gimbal/remote controlled head (which is stabilized as well).

The drawback of course, is that a gimbal is more fragile, takes a bit longer to properly set up (balancing) and might be prone to problematic behavior under extreme weather conditions (not sure of this though).

Also: on a gimbal, a remote lens control system is a necessity as well.. which is another huge investment but maybe worth it anyway.

The benefit I think is that in a way it also speeds up the workflow:

For instance: for a fixed shot, one can simply mount the gimbal onto a c-stand, which is more space efficient a lot easier to set up and much easier to adjust the height of the camera and the gimbal itself automatically makes sure that the camera is perfectly level at all times. 
Whereas we all know how difficult it can be to properly set up a tripod; especially when we're in a hurry, don't we? 😉 

On a simple dolly shot, one doesn't have to be on the dolly platform which makes it easier to operate I think. The dolly system itself could be a lot smaller and more light weight as well. 

On a dolly/jib it is always better to have a remote head to cancel out the mechanical movements you put into the fluid head which then easily transfer into the jib arm. Also, walking besides the jib while operating the head is rarely something one can pull off flawlessly.. and pretty much impossible at high speeds.

Another drawback of a gimbal though I that I imagine it's not possible to attach an extreme telepohoto lens onto it. On the other hand though.. when such a lens is needed, it's probably necessary to do it on a fluid head anyway.. it's not like it's possible to do some elborate camera movement with such a lens. And since a telephoto shot is quite rare, it's probably justified to hire a fluid head with it. 

I have no experience with gimbals.. I've only researched them quite a bit and seen a lot of footage but that's it. 

For some reason I can see a lot of benefits in a gimbal.. I would guess that it increases the general cost by 35% compared to good video head (because of all the support gear like batteries, remote controlled focus etc..) but in a way.. if it works properly I think it could outperform a good fluid head in terms of cost, efficiency and flexibility. 

I welcome your criticism! 

Morris
2 months ago
Morris 2 months ago

Gimbals are wonderful pieces of equipment.
However, they are an extra tool in the toolbox and I would certainly not regard them as a replacement for a fluidhead (or steadicam).

The problem with gimbals usually is set-up time.
It takes quite a bit of time to balance correctly and with every minor adjustment to the camera-setup it has to be rebalanced.

Of course you'd need batteries to run a gimbal, wireless focus, video transmitter. Batteries run out. You can't work with a gimbal that has no power. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. You can always work with a fluid head.

You can't easily move from a gimbal shot to a handheld or tripod shot, because of rebalancing time.   

You also might encounter problems with the electronics/firmware/interference on set, rendering the gimbal useless on some locations.

I think anyone who has experience with gimbals and fluidheads will disagree that a gimbal would outperform a fluidhead in terms of cost (longer production times), efficiency and flexibility. (it's quite cumbersome to work with)

But we can all agree it's a great tool for certain shots, nevertheless.  

Wouter
2 months ago
Wouter 2 months ago

Thanks Morris! 

Okay, I'm going to try to disect your concerns, try to solve the problems.. maybe something comes out of it. 

"The problem with gimbals usually is set-up time.
It takes quite a bit of time to balance correctly and with every minor adjustment to the camera-setup it has to be rebalanced."

This is true. However, when the gimbal is correctly balanced in every axis, if one changes the lens, only one axis has to be adjusted if I understood it correctly. This could easily be done by sliding the dovetail camera plate back or forth. In terms of time, I think this is probably not really an issue since changing the lens itself can sometimes also take a little bit of fiddling. 

"Of course you'd need batteries to run a gimbal, wireless focus, video transmitter. Batteries run out. You can't work with a gimbal that has no power."

I wouldn't use a wireless transmitter. I would just run a bnc cable. As for batteries: monitors, recorders, viewfinders and camera also need batteries. I would use one big battery pack to power everything in one go and make sure it has the capacity to provide power for an entire day of shooting (even in cold climate conditions). 

"You also might encounter problems with the electronics/firmware/interference on set, rendering the gimbal useless on some locations."

I would run a multicore bnc/dc power cable to monitor and control the gimbal. Only with specialty shots would I do it wirelessly. 

However, I must admit, having no experience with gimbals and merely by the looks of it (it looks really delicate and fragile) it could be that I'm a bit overly idealistic. However, maybe I should just test the theory and see how it works in the field. 

Wouter
2 months ago

this is the kind of cable I would run from the camera to the monitor/control system:
http://images.maplinmedia.co.uk/sentient-cctv-bnc-and-power-cable-30m.jpg?w=283&h=283&r=4&o=q5oCtNI1qZtx3IyVGDAGQ4rFQ$0j&V=1rDS»

Wouter
2 months ago

I was also playing with the idea to rig some sort of a bazooka to a trolley and attach the monitoring/control system to the trolley as well. Also the battery pack. So basically everything would be attached to the trolley. On location, one merely rolls out the trolley out of the car/van, power it up, attach lens and balance the one axis and start shooting.

What about dolly shots? 

Well, I assume that it would be fairly easy and quick to rig the trolley onto a flat surfaced dolly. Attach a small jib onto the bazooka and one is good to go. 

I mean, from a gripper's POV, this might seems blasphemy but if you look at what those guys can construct with pipes and clamps I would think this wouldn't be much a problem lol. Doesn't even have to be 100% level as the gimbal stabilizes and levels itself. 

Morris
2 months ago
Morris 2 months ago

Well, I have a lot of experience with gimbals, fluid heads, geared heads, steadicams etc.
All I can tell you, from this experience, is that a gimbal has it's place in today's production environment, but is no replacement of the other tools in most professional occasions.

But please, rent one; they're pretty cheap and you'll quickly find out if it works for you !

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