Like a lot of filmmakers out there, when we first saw Vincent Laforet’s behind-the-scenes video showcasing Freefly System’s Movi M10, we were very excited. A tool that uses motors to stabilize a camera on a 3-axis gimbal? Yep, that’s pretty cool, but what really made it revolutionary was it’s design. You didn’t need a vest to operate it, and it wasn’t cumbersome, or long, or wide. It was actually a pretty small setup, and when we saw the operators pass the rig through hula-hoops, dip it close to the ground, and hop on roller blades in one take, we all knew the game had been changed.
Only a year after that, the Movi M5 brings those same revolutionary traits in a smaller setup and at an affordable cost, and as soon as we saw the slightest hint that a Canon C100 could be mounted on one, we didn’t hesitate to order it and start flying. Now, there is a bit of a learning curve when trying to get a C100 to work flawlessly with the Movi M5 since you do have to remove the side grip off of the body, so we decided to make a video (sitting at the bottom of this post) that hits on what we really love about the Movi and how we mount and operate a C100 on it. We called on our good friend and amazing street photographer, Tyler Hayward, to be the star as we followed him around the west side of Toronto for the day.
We don’t want to touch on anything that we talk about in the video, but we did want to write a short post on what we like about the Movi M5 (because we’re just that excited about it).
If I were to list everything I like about the Movi, we’d be here all day. I’m Movi obsessed. It’s been a few weeks since it came in and I still get urges to bring it out with me on dog walks just to try out new movements and settings and that speaks volumes about how much fun it is to play with this thing.
I think the biggest question, especially for a lot of wedding videographers, is going to be how it compares to a more traditional setup like a Glidecam or Steadicam. The thing is, with either the Glidecam or Steadicam, the footage will only be as stable as the operator and, as time on a shoot wears on, it becomes harder and harder to keep things flying smoothly. Whereas with the Movi, the motors are constantly battling any shake you throw its way. That, combined with two-handed operation, makes the M5 a more reliable and consistent tool and when you’re working a wedding where you only get one shot to capture a specific moment, that’s is priceless.
We haven’t had a chance to even throw a DSLR on the Movi because we’ve just been so happy with the C100. With a DSLR, you’re confined to the old workarounds of flying a steadicam — having to stop down to f/8 or higher, calculating hyperfocal distances, and not getting the sharpest footage in the world. But a C100 with the dual-pixel upgrade is a beast on the M5, pushing the limits of what can be achieved as a single operator. That means shooting wide open isn’t an issue anymore, and flying on a stabilizer at f/1.4 really is a jaw-dropping experience.
What I like about the Movi is that I can actually use it. We never upgraded to a vest for our Glidecam setup because we were always afraid of how intimidating it would be for our couples and their guests when shooting a wedding. Flying a Glidecam without the help of a vest or arm brace is a heavy task and made it impossible for me to use it for longer than 30 seconds at a time without wobbling uncontrollably. But, because you can hold the Movi M5 with two hands, I can easily operate it for minutes at a time and get incredibly smooth results.
I always get really excited about tools that push the boundaries of where we can take our cinematography and the Movi does just that. There are really no limits on what you can do with the M5 as long as you have the imagination. You can shoot centimeters off of the ground, pull it up to reveal a subject or scene, pass it to a second shooter and hop in a car all in one shot. These are things that are unheard of with other stabilizers and it pushes you to think of new ways to tell a story that takes advantage of all these new possibilities.
A Few Concerns…
You fall in love with the Movi so fast that you find yourself overlooking its small quirks, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
In many ways, this is a much more complicated setup than traditional stabilizers. We used to throw our Glidecam in the car, or just drop it and hop on a monopod or tripod while shooting — we knew it could handle it. A Movi feels a lot more fragile. It comes with a stand (more on that in a second), and it is made to be placed on that stand when not in use. Sure you can throw it on the ground or in the car instead of the stand, but it feels wrong to do it, and even the smallest change in weight or position of the stage can throw it off-balance. Not that it’s very hard to get it to balance again, but it is something we’ve never had to worry about before. Then there’s the fact that you can’t use it without a monitor, and that the way the cable connects to it can occasionally throw it off-balance and cause it to oscillate a bit. It’s just more things to worry about and look after at the end of the day.
And yes, there’s the stand which needs to come with you everywhere. It’s nearly impossible for the Movi to power on and balance without sitting on the stand for about 15 seconds. So, it needs to by your side on the off-chance that you might want to turn it off, or in case you run out of batteries.
[UPDATE: After the Spring 2015 firmware update, all Movi gymbals have a Setdown Sleep mode which allows it to be set on the ground during periods of inactivity without the need for a stand]
These are things that might turn a lot of wedding cinematographers off of the M5 altogether, but we really feel the reward is worth all the trouble.
This is a game changer.
If it hasn’t been clear enough, we love the Movi M5. Just as the M10 has been making waves in bigger productions, we feel the M5 will make even bigger waves since even more filmmakers will be able to make use of it. We’ve been having a blast with it so far and can’t wait to push the boundaries in our wedding work this season.
So, without further ado, here is a video on our first thoughts on the Movi M5 and how to get started with a Canon C100. Enjoy!