5 Essential Moves with the DJI Ronin 2

April 1, 2018
Tips and Techniques
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Gimbals have taken the indie world and ShareGrid by storm. Just in the last three years alone, the Ronin family has been consistently in the top ten most rented items on ShareGrid (with MoVI and MoVI Pro right on its tail) and no letting up in 2018. So, to say we are overdue for a video about the DJI Ronin 2 is understatement.

This time, we teamed up with the incredibly talented DP and ShareGrid member, Aaron Grasso. Aaron owns the DJI Ronin 2, an ARRI Alexa Mini and a gorgeous set of Zeiss Super Speeds.

 

We were also fortunate enough to shoot with the amazing dancer, Vanessa Nichole and with the help of our friends at Wrapal.com, a marketplace that connects filmmakers to film locations, we locked a gorgeous location, The IDEA Lofts, in downtown Los Angeles. Be sure to check out Wrapal and the IDEA Lofts for your next shooting location!

Without further ado, here are the 5 essential gimbal moves you really need to learn for your next project.

1. THE PUSH-IN

One of the best advantages of shooting on a gimbal is the ability to emphasize moments. Much like Scorsese or PT Anderson, a dramatic push-in can tell the viewer to pay attention and that something has occurred or changed in the narrative. In our case, we used Push-Ins both for slow and fast moments. 

Don’t be afraid to test different speeds of your move to find the right pace for your cut. In the beginning of our piece, we would push-in slowly on Vanessa because both the music and her moves called for it. Though it is not in the final edit, we did rehearse a few dramatically-fast Push-Ins when Vanessa leaped in the air as the music crescendoed. This was to emphasize the moment and though it looked great, we opted for a Pull-Out instead as it was a bigger reveal.

2. THE FOLLOW

This is one of my favorite kinds of shots. Following your subject provides a unique perspective. You’re allowing your viewer to experience the perspective of your subject as they move through the space while seeing your subject as well. In our piece, we follow Vanessa as she heads to the window in slow-motion in order to provide a break from the rest of the 24p footage. We also utilize The Follow again as walks next to the window and drags her hand.

Don't forget that following details such as hands and feet is a great way to emphasize moments, engage your audience and pick up textures and subtleties in a scene that a traditional wide shot would never capture.

If you cover a Follow in slow motion, you can capture moments you may not normally find at 24p. The good news is whether you're recording audio or not, if you shoot at 48 fps or faster, you can always speed it up in post to be the equivalent of 24p. So sometimes, its better to be safe. In our case, we shot all of our Follows in 48 fps which left our editor with the option of real-time or slow-motion footage in post-production.

3. THE LEAD

As the opposite of The Follow, The Lead is when the camera is in front of the subject as they move through the space. This provides an amazing perspective of your subject. If used right, you can capture a lot of emotion of your subject’s face while they discover new surroundings. We did this as Vanessa walked passed the windows while gazing out of them; almost as if yearning for something else. We then followed this shoot shortly after with another Lead as Vanessa picks up the pace and dances away from the window. What’s interesting about this version of The Lead is that Vanessa stops mid-move while the camera continues to backup. Much like any of these other moves, there are various ways to utilize them. 

Sometimes you can cut from The Follow to The Lead and vice versa. This can create an energetic and informative journey for your viewer as they get to experience both a passive and engaged sequence of shots.

4. THE ORBITAL

As seen in a number of music videos, The Orbital is an incredibly effective tool to not only provide energy to your piece, but to show off the surrounding space while keeping your subject as the focal point. We used The Orbital in a number of different ways. In the opening of the dance, we would orbit around Vanessa very slowly, capturing closeups of her face, hands, feet, etc… However, as the song and dance's tempo picked up, we captured the action on a much wider lens so to emphasize the faster movement of the camera and capture as much of Vanessa as we could.

5. THE TOE-TO-HEAD

This technique was not only great for capturing details of Vanessa but it was even more effective when we combined it with The Orbital or The Follow. Aaron and I enjoyed using this move simply because it can be combined with just about every other move on this list. Sometimes a Follow is best if you start on the feet and boom up to the head which would emphasize a purpose to your subject's particular journey and the uncertainty of where they’re going. Or perhaps a Lead with a Toe-to-Head would emphasize where your subject has come from and how they feel about the journey they’ve been on.

Though I'd recommend a Ready Rig support for just about any of these moves, I strongly encourage it for the Toe-to-Head. The Toe-to-Head is quite difficult to achieve simply because you are starting with the rig at such a low height that the balance and strength needed to keep the entire rig steady with a balanced horizon is very difficult. With the Ready Rig, you are now distributing the weight of the camera and gimbal to your hips and legs which allows you to operate with far less strain on your upper-body.

Aaron actually did not operate the Ready Rig for this shoot but I do think it is a smart investment for any gimbal owner or renter. I discuss this in greater detail in a video about tips on renting out your gimbal on ShareGrid.

 

As always, there is no science to this list. There are certainly a number of other moves that deserve just as much recognition. But we hope this list inspires you to try new things, challenge you and your team to innovate and explore different ways to tell stories. If you own a gimbal or plan to use one, let us know what moves you love doing with it!

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Brent Barbano

I have been a freelance Cinematographer in Los Angeles for over 10 years. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, I also studied at Syracuse University’s film program. I am a proud member of IATSE Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild.

I am the Co-Founder of ShareGrid and I happily contribute my findings, ideas and news on ShareGrid with all of you.

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