A Month In Action And My Settings
It was about 5 years ago that I stepped into the mega B&H store in New York City. My mission: to purchase the almighty GlideCam HD-4000 and its accompanying bells and whistles. I thought to myself: “This was it!” I’d finally be able to get those smooth and steady cinematic shots that I‘d seen in so many movies. But with its steep price and cumbersome design, I always knew this was just a step into a cheaper, smaller, and simpler future for the stabilizer market.
The advent of steadycams has truly benefited budding filmmakers in the past decade. I have been thankful for the opportunities this system has given me. “Precise”, “smooth”, and “airy” are all adjectives used to describe the type of footage achieved with this tool. However, the word “easy” has never been used to describe the process in which one achieves this type of footage. Balancing, torquing, weights, counter-weights, etc., are all among the countless parts to keep track of as one attempts to master the art of being a steadycam operator.
THE OSMO’S FREEDOM
Enter the OSMO by DJI. By looks alone, it is a far cry from any ‘serious’ steadycam that any professional would ever consider. But what it lacks in physical oomph it gains in spades in the technology it houses. Being a 3-axis gimbal, a system only well known to the field in the past two years, offsets the worry of balancing, torquing, counterweighting, etc., to the tiny sensors built-in to the unit. Essentially, it gives total creative freedom to the operator, rather than the technician. I could now finally say that using a steadycam was easy. I actually timed myself–it took only 20 seconds to turn on the unit, attach my phone, re-centre the unit, and press record. Not only did this save me time on set to get the shot that I had envisioned but it also allowed me to be a bit more creative knowing that the OSMO would, for the most part, have my back. Hours I’d spend balancing the steadycam I could now re-prioritize to storyboarding and blocking. Such a liberating experience.
THE OSMO IS MORE THAN JUST A GIMBAL
The OSMO comes with the Zenmuse X3 camera, a super lightweight camera that is essentially married to its gimbal portion. It is using the Sony Exmor 1/2.3" CMOS sensor with a fixed lens at a 20mm equivalent focal length. This is perfect for the wide use case of this device, enviromental shots. It’s dynamic range is nowhere near as high as my primary camera, the Sony A7S, but there is an option to upgrade its camera to the Zenmuse X5 that touts around 13 stops of dynamic range. You have to buy a special adapter to fit the X5 but it might be worth the upgrade if you are shooting consistently with the OSMO. As powerful as the steady shots that come out of this OSMO are, it is strongly hampered by its biggest flaw. Its onboard microphone seems to capture more of the camera’s loud fan than the sounds that really matter. I always make sure that everything that I film using the OSMO is only for B-Roll and never critical for clean sound.
Of course, being a brand new product, it is in what I describe as a constant-state-of-beta, at least for the forseeable future. I’ve experienced a bug where the unit would not turn on (including both lights) and I had to hard reset it to make it work again. Another bug was that the camera would not record more than a couple seconds of 4K footage at a time and crash the unit. Filming in UHD (3840x2140) would work perfectly however. This particular bug has since been fixed in the later firmware update 188.8.131.52. Along with this firmware update, the DJI GO App has been updated to version 2.50 that also enables new features such as the ability to adjust sharpness.
Here are some tips I find important with the OSMO.
- Gimbal setting set to SLOW or Custom for non-jarring pans and tilts
- D-log colour profile outdoors (or ISO 100), none for indoors (or ISO 200+)
- Do not shoot more than ISO 800 or the shot will most likely be unusable without serious denoising
- Dial sharpness to at least -1 for city or environmental shots. Sharpness to -2 if dealing mainly with peoples’ faces
- Make sure to have a primary audio source other than the OSMO’s built-in microphone
- Practice, practice, practice your walk to reduce micro-juddering
- Purchase an ND filter for filming outdoor to keep shutter speed under control
- Purchase an additional battery as only one is not sufficient for all-day filming
DJI’s OSMO is a solid gimbal that is not only easy to use but showcases incredible ingenuity as it is able to be held in one hand rather than a full body aparatus, has the ability to film in 4K, and is currently selling for a very affordable $949 CDN.