Why you probably don’t need the amazing MoVI camera stabilizer


The blogosphere is blowing up with talk of the new “game changing” stabilizer from FreeFly Systems: the MoVI.  It is a camera stabilizer based on the latest technology used for cameras on quadcopters.  It’s a smaller, lighter, and easier-to-use version of the venerable Steadicam.  So why doesn’t a run-and-gun videographer need it?

It is expensive.

It will either cost $7500 for a 5lb capacity (MoVI 5), or $15k for a 10lb version (MoVI 10).  It is a rapidly-depreciating asset, so unless you plan on using it on a daily basis for fully-paid work, it doesn’t make financial sense to own.  This is one to rent – especially with its reportedly shallow learning curve.

Ask yourself what kinds of shots you’ll actually be doing.  

Unless you’re shooting an emergency room procedural, you probably aren’t filming tracking shots the majority of the time.  A niche product like MoVI requires more manpower (two or three operators ideally), and will induce more arm fatigue, than the traditional tripods, sliders, and shoulder rigs used for 90% of normal scenarios.

The venerable Devin Super Tramp does amazing things with GoPro’s, quadcopters, and Glidecam stabilizers.  His combined rig probably still costs less than a single MoVI 10, and it’s light/portable enough to take to extreme locations:

There will be cheaper alternatives. Probably within a year.

The MoVI uses existing gyro and radio control technology, so there’s nothing copycat-proof about its design.  Here’s an eerily similar device developed in 2010:

MoVI will pave the way for cheapo alternatives that just might be as good or better than the original.

You may not need a stabilizer at all.

For simpler walking shots, you may be able to get satisfactory results using your camera’s internal stabilization with a little bit of post-stabilization with a plug-in like Lock & Load X.  Here is a video I shot in about 20 minutes with just a Sony Rx100 compact camera:

Click through to the original video to see a description of my workflow.

So who needs to buy MoVI?

High-budget feature filmmakers.  Rental houses.  High-end broadcast, high-budget indie film, and high-end event videographers.  Not one-man-bands like me who like to travel as lightly as possible.

The MoVI is smaller and more efficient than Steadicams and dollies, so it will be essential to productions where time is big money.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m just as excited as the next geek about this advancement in stabilization technology.

But I won’t be buying the MoVI.  I’ll be getting the under-$2k, twice-as-small Chinese knock-off that comes out next year.

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Latest Comments
  1. Bob Krist

    Great post and great technique. Thanks, as always, for sharing your methods. Your fellow one-man-bands of the video world appreciate it!

    • Brandon Li

      Sure thing, Bob! Thanks for reading. I just shot an epic concert/travel video on the NEX-5n that I’ll blog about soon. I used just a 50mm and a 24mm lens and felt like I covered all the necessary bases. It feels good to travel and shoot minimally; I feel like I can focus on the experience of being there instead of gear.

  2. Vrais

    Gotta love a professional who sees and exploits the possibilities of a pocket camera and doesn’t fall victim to the hi-tech-hype. Respect.
    PS. Lovely puppies in “The walk” 😉

    • Brandon Li

      Thanks Vrais!

    • Brandon Li

      It’s already begun. Looks like there are a bunch of companies doing knock-offs. Good. Can’t wait for the $2k version.

  3. James

    I would LOVE a Movi. It really does open up doors movement wise, even for low budget indie filmmakers. Honestly it’s more viable for them than major Hollywood filmmakers because those big budget guys don’t need it. They have fancy extendable cranes and steadicams and all sorts of shit.

  4. Jeff

    The biggest problem with Movi is that they grossly overpriced it. I imagine they want to cash in before alternatives come out. They haven’t answered anyone questions asking to justify the costs. Either on facebook or their video posts. Suspect…

    • Brandon Li

      I believe a lot of the cost justification comes from the fact that it would be almost as expensive to cobble together a DIY MoVI if one was to try to replicate the same level of performance. The brushed gymbals are very new and expensive, and Freefly has developed predictive motion interpretation software to allow it to differentiate between camera shake and intentional moves like pan and tilts. We’re still probably at least a year away from competitors replicating this tech. That said, I think it’s a very niche market that actually needs something like MoVI right now; most of us can afford to wait for alternatives.

  5. Peter Jensen

    The new tools we will see coming out this summer will be more than knock-off’s of the MOVI.
    And they will not be quadcopter technology repackaged. And they will track/stabilize with telephoto lens’s.

  6. Dragon

    No! 0:18 to 0:25… you need à stabilizer.

  7. cory

    http://defygimbal.com/ done, thank you!

    • Brandon Li

      This looks great! I couldn’t find a price though. Any idea what it will cost?

      • cory

        Yes, the two gimbal shown at NAB was going to be $1800 and this new three gimbal will be $2300… that is VERY doable for most shooters I would think

        • cory

          There will be the G2 (2lbs), the G5 (5lbs) and the G10 (10lbs) per their website and videos. The $2300 price was for the G2, so the others will be more but wayyyy less than the Movi I am sure…

      • Mario

        2300 $.
        Same as the 15 000 movi gimbal. 😉

  8. Austin

    I must say I disagree with a lot that is said here, you don’t need to ask yourself what kind shots you’ll actually be doing, you need to imagine what you can achieve with such a device, cinematographers should haver the goal of delivering the most amazing footage possible and I am not at all saying that I mean use a MöVI for everything, I am saying this device changes things and will open creative doors like the SteadiCam did.

    As they perfectly demonstrated at NAB it can be comfortably run with ONE operator and if you wish to separate the movement from the framing and focus you would want to have TWO operators. I have been GlideCam op for several years and if you think you can properly run a GlideCam on set as one person, you are wrong.

    Devin Super Tramp is an amazing cinematographer who I respect greatly and believe we can all learn something from his work, but you should not make a comparison in this way, image what he could do with a MöVI!

    Last I had heard there was no price given by FreeFly Systems so we really don’t know where that’s going to be.

    Lastly, I give precisely zero f***s who you are, if you are telling me that digital stabilization is the way to do things, you are a fool. You can NOT achieve anywhere near the same result in post, it has many limitations, it crops your footage in most situations; which should NEVER happen, it interferes with lens flares and light refractions…

    • Brandon Li

      I appreciate differing opinions but not flame wars. So if you’d like to comment in the future, please refrain from cursing.

      • Evan

        I agree with the no on flame wars, that get people nowhere. But at the same time, digital stabilization is disgusting unless you’re fine with 720p video or shoot in 4k+

  9. Gla

    I think this is the real project for a Movi style rig

  10. compact system camera

    Good blog, Appreciate your effort for writing this.

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