14 July 2017 | Category: Motion
Having had the chance to try a DJI OSMO a while back, I knew that it would be the perfect solution for a hectic last-minute multitasking job shooting B-roll footage whilst production assisting on an editorial shoot in Italy. The task was to not only assist the main photographer in documenting a supercar road trip across the beautiful country, but I also had to shoot video footage whenever I could for the client’s social media and online presence. The OSMO is ideal for exactly this purpose.
Not only is the DJI OSMO a small and light solution to shooting stabilised video, it’s also incredibly quick and easy to set up, meaning I could simply pick it up, power it up and shoot smooth footage within seconds without having to fumble around setting it up and balancing it – something that can’t be said for the larger DJI Ronin camera gimbals. Its size meant that it could live in my main camera bag when not in use, making it easily accessible without having to repack the entire boot of the car.
Using the OSMO is simple – there are three locks which hold the gimbal still when not in use. By twisting each lock you release the OSMO’s tilt, rotate and pan axis one by one. Locking them is as easy as turning each lock back the other way, and ensures that the gimbal isn’t damaged when not in use. Once unlocked, a single switch turns the OSMO on and set the gimbal into action. After a couple of seconds a green LED light indicates when it’s ready to use, but first, you need to mount your smartphone to the OSMO, or at least connect it so you can see what you’re doing. A supplied adjustable phone mount screws into the OSMO handle, so mounting your phone is as simple as sliding it into place. This is one part of DJI’s products that never fails to impress me – they’ve become industry leaders at making the camera and phone technology work seamlessly together.
As with DJI’s aerial drones, your smartphone is the screen and control centre for the OSMO – using the same free DJI Go app. Once the phone is paired to the OSMO’s Wi-Fi network, you simply load up the app and enter the device when prompted. On screen, you now see what the OSMO sees, and can adjust exposure and gimbal settings, as well as preview what you’ve captured so far.
Controlling the OSMO is super simple. A small joystick on the OSMO’s grip is the main form of control, allowing you to pan and tilt the gimbal with fine adjustments. On the back of the grip, a trigger allows you to lock the gimbal in one direction, so the camera stays focused on one point no matter how you move around it. These controls take a bit of practice to get used to, so while the drivers prepared for their road trip I took some time to wander around the cars, filming them from various angles and learning the OSMO’s nuances. The OSMO doesn’t remove ALL camera movement, so you still have to be smooth with how you move and walk when holding it.
Perhaps my favourite way to control the DJI OSMO came in useful on the last day of filming, however. As well as using the physical controls to move the camera, you can also use your smartphone’s touchscreen. By dragging your finger up, down, left and right across the screen, you can move the gimbal in that direction. This came in handy when filming the cars in parade on a closed mountain road. As I was driving the camera car, and with another photographer already shooting from the boot, I obviously couldn’t be in the back too holding the OSMO. By mounting the OSMO to the back corner of the car, and sitting my phone in a cradle in the front with me, I could leave the OSMO shooting, and adjust the angle of the camera to ensure that the cars stayed in shot whilst driving – it’s worth noting that we were only doing 10-15mph at the time, on a closed road, so no laws were broken!
As with everything, the OSMO does have its downsides. Firstly, the standard microphone is pretty terrible, but the addition of a Rode shotgun mic easily solved this. Secondly, the OSMO wasn’t so good when filming from the front of moving cars at speeds over 40mph – the wind resistance against the gimbal would confuse it from time to time, making it unreliable for this purpose. These minor niggles aside, it performed flawlessly, and was the perfect tool for the job – it’s not a replacement for a larger sensor and a full gimbal, such as the Ronin, but the stabilisation, control and versatility that it offers over shooting handheld can’t be faulted.