Hey BrainBox Fans,

As many of you know already, the new M10 stabilizer from Freefly Systems, commonly known as the MOVI is a hot ticket. It offers the promise of steadicam like shots in a budget friendly and easy to operate package. Having shot with it on three separate commercial jobs (so far!) I want to share some tips and tricks to make your experience with it as pain free as possible.

MOVI M10 Rig on a Camera
Low-angle because we’re cool

And of course, (shameless plug ahead) if you want a good deal on a Movi Rental you can always find ours here.

1. Balance, balance, balance. In that order. Clear off a good open space, in a clean environment, on a level surface, free from wind. Follow the manual, it’s actually pretty useful. I’ve balance it a lot now but I still use it. Don’t forget to attach everything you’ll want to the rig before you start balancing (follow focus, media, etc., more on this later). It may take you upwards of an hour or longer if you aren’t experienced with the rig. When you do a lens change you may need to tweak balance slightly, but not a lot.

2. Don’t neglect the gimbals! Yup, it’s more than just balancing. Once you get your center of gravity dialed in don’t forget the Movi App! You can connect using bluetooth using most any device and fine tune the 3 gimbals stiffness settings. You want to get them as high as you can without causing any vibrations or oscillations in the rig. It’s here in the app that you also control the operator mode, whether you want it to hold it’s tilt angle or adjust based on the degrees you tilt the handles. And you can customize these settings by changing the degree window and the amount of smoothing to apply to any tilt / pan moves. Or just disable that and let the remote control operator handle all pan / tilt functions. Although in my experience single operator mode works great for most shots, and we only use the 2nd operator on the remote control for very long or complex shots.

3. MOVI requires multiple operators for a full day of filming. Operator fatigue is an issue with a heavier camera such as the Red Epic due to it’s weight. Having 2 or 3 that can switch off as the day goes is useful and will save your back, not to mention save you a trip to a chiropractor. And if you want to use the remote functions of the Movi one operator on the controller and one just holding the rig walking the shot path is a good way to go. We get the best shots when we take the time to choreograph a complex long move, and not when we just improvise.

4. Lens choice is important. We have mostly shot primes on it and get the best results with lenses 50mm and wider. Longer than that and you see some wobble. It’s tempting to go with something lightweight and a zoom like Canon L Series so you don’t have to waste time changing lenses and save on weight. This could be a good option but you may need to tweak balance when you zoom in / out because the center of gravity will shift slightly.

5. Powering the Epic is tricky as the redvolts in the sidehandle don’t last very long, and it increases downtime when you have to put the rig down and swap batteries and check balance. Custom cabling that is very thin so it doesn’t pull on the rig that can be hooked up to a battery belt or some such that the operator wears would be a good idea, I know a few people are looking into this but I haven’t seen a solution yet. So save your camera whenever you can. The batteries that power the Movi itself thankfully seem to last 4+ hours easily. If you’re using a lighter camera like a dslr or c300 etc. this isn’t as big of an issue.

6. Bonus tip! Simplify your setup. It’s very tempting to just load up the camera with as much stuff as you can. Afterall you want to look like a badass running around with this thing, so lets put every possible gizmo on it as possible. A monitor of some type on the crossbar is a must, but make sure you use a thin line bnc cable to get video to it. Then you want to add wireless follow focus, or maybe a full focus / iris / zoom control. Don’t forget a wireless video transmitter for your AC / director. And oh, to rig those lens motors you now need to add a base plate and an iris rod and extra cabling, oh and where are you going to strap extra batts to power all that? Whoa! Before you get too carried away consider the needs of your shot. That rig is going to get really heavy really fast, and when you’re on take #15 and your forearms start shaking you might regret it. Can your AC walk beside you and pull focus by eye or off your monitor? Do you need remote follow focus for the shot, or can you stop down a little and just set your focal plane? Keeping the shots complex but your build simple is a good general philosophy with MOVI, it’s tricky to find the balance, but its worth keeping in mind, as its fewer things to cable / power / and mount onto an already fairly small device.

With a little practice and a lot of patience you too will be crafting epic tracking shots to make Zemeckis or Cuarón blush like a school girl on prom night. Just remember these tips and you’ll be in good shape.

Happy Movi Flying.

Here’s a fun little behind the scenes video with some horses from a Movi shoot we did last week.