When Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa ran up the 72 steps outside Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, the movie’s cinematographer needed a way to follow him without the footage bouncing around like one of Rocky’s opponents. He turned to a device called a Steadicam, which uses weights and counterbalances to help keep the camera steady and the shot ultra-smooth when the operator is moving. Unfortunately, Steadicam rigs are professional equipment with prices to match; what’s more, they can take months of training to fully master. Enter the three-axis, motorized gimbal stabilizer. Similar to a Steadicam, this modern marvel uses motors to control, on a micro-level, the tilt, pan, and roll of an attached camera so that it counters and negates every shake, bounce, and rattle of your movement.
They’re fairly simple to set up, and learning to shoot with them only takes a bit of practice. They work with a range of cameras, from the ones used by professionals to common DSLRs to the smartphone in your pocket. Many provide control over internal functions and setting through iOS and Android app integration. Some even include built-in cameras and are tiny enough to slip into a pocket. Movies are about moving pictures, and motorized stabilizers help to open this fundamental tool of creativity to everyone.
When you need to get any shot, anywhere. Amazon
The Ronin-S is a three-axis motorized stabilizer designed for flexibility. It supports an 8-pound professional camera. Have a shot with difficult camera moves? With the remote control, a second operator can control the camera’s movement while you’re running around on set. Bluetooth control connects the Ronin-S to the DJI Assistant app, providing quick access to tools for tuning the gimbal’s settings and monitoring battery status, balance, and other important information.
For indie filmmakers with some money to spend. Amazon
Designed for use with DSLRs and similarly sized cameras, but capable of carrying loads up to approximately nine pounds, this three-axis stabilizer provides indie filmmakers and event videographers with a powerful, versatile, and ergonomic tool. Whether you’re running up some stairs or riding in a car or following the married couple on the dance floor, the Crane 3 helps to keep shots smooth, while also providing full control over the camera’s pan, tilt, and roll. Onboard controls and an intuitive OLED screen make setting parameters quick and easy. With a full battery charge, the stabilizer has a runtime of more than seven hours so you can get in a full day shooting.
For phone shooters with Oscar aspirations. Amazon
The best camera is the one you’ve got on you, and for most people that means the phone in their pocket. Designed to hold a variety of different smartphones, the 17.5-ounce, foldable MOZA Mini-S fits easily into a small bag so you’re always ready to get buttery-smooth shots. The stabilizer features AI recognition technology that can automatically detect multiple subjects for fast-tracking. Get creative using the MOZA Genie app for iOS and Android, which provides access to shooting modes like timelapse, slow-motion, and sports. Control your camera’s zoom and focus with onboard buttons, and a 1/4-thread accessory mounting point is perfect for lights or a small tripod.
When you want an all-in-one solution. Amazon
The DJI Osmo Pocket combines a three-axis mechanical stabilizer with an attached camera that features a 1/2.3-inch sensor that shoots 4K at 60 frames per second. It literally fits into most pockets, weighing approximately four ounces, and its battery provides more than two hours of shooting time—so there’s no excuse to miss the shot. A pro-mode is accessible via your iOS or Android phone which allows you to adjust exposure, ISO, and shutter speed. The unit includes a postage-stamp-size monitor in its handle, but for more precise shooting, attach your phone and use it as a viewfinder. Footage can then be sent to your phone and uploaded to the web over WIFI or your data plan.