Gimbal vs. Glidecam: Deciding on the Right Stabilizer Solution

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Even though many cinema and mirrorless hybrid cameras today come with good image stabilization, the image stabilization found in cameras can only do so much.

You need some external stabilization to get smooth shots while moving around. Sliders are good but not designed to walk around with.

But which kind of stabilizer is best? The short answer is that there isn’t a short answer.

It depends on the kind of footage you want to capture, where you’ll use it, and for how long (e.g., do you have access to a power source?)

Here, you can read more about the pros and cons of gimbals and glidecams and what kind of video production each is good for.

Glidecam stabilizers

Here’s a great video from Cal Thomson on how to balance your camera properly on a Glidecam-type stabilizer

Glidecam is a brand but has – like Steadicam – become synonymous with camera stabilizers that balance cameras with weights and don’t contain any electronics.

A glide cam uses counterweights to balance the camera on a short pole around a center axis.

The heavier the camera and lens setup you want to balance on top, the more weights are added to the bottom to keep it stable.

Also, the length of the center pole in relation to the handle is adjusted to keep the camera still during movement.

Glidecams use no electronic parts but rely entirely on gravity and the user’s movement for a smooth shot. That’s why it takes some practice to get right.

How to use a glidecam-type stabilizer for best results

Here’s a great video again from Cal Thomson on how to use a glidecam.

You use a Glidecam by holding the handle in your hand and gently adjusting the angle and position of the center pole with your other hand.

This is a great way of controlling because it allows you a direct, hands-on feeling with your Glidecam. This, in turn, allows for faster pans and tilts than what is possible with a gimbal.

The lack of electronic motors also has some benefits to it.

First, it doesn’t run out of battery.

And second, you don’t risk getting sand or other kind of tiny dirt particles stuck in your motors. That’s great if you have brought your stabilizer to the desert or beach.

When you use a Glidecam-type stabilizer, it’s important to move with your legs bent and try not to bounce up and down too much. That way, you’ll get the best results.

Pros and cons of using a glidecam

Glidecam-type stabilizers have a lot going for them. For example, they don’t have any electronic parts. So you won’t suddenly get stuck with a motor that doesn’t work.

Also, they don’t need any batteries and don’t need to be recharged. So you don’t need to worry about suddenly running out of battery in the middle of an important shoot.

If funds are tight, you can make one yourself using PVC tubes, which you can read about here.

Gimbal stabilizers

Here’s a nice video from Armando Ferriera on properly balancing a camera on any gimbal.

Gimbals are motorized stabilizers that need a battery and can be programmed to do many cool moves.

Now, reading only this, it might sound like gimbals are the way to go. But not so fast. Because there’s a lot more to consider when choosing a stabilizer.

Gimbals use motors coupled with small arms to stabilize your footage. You place your camera on a small plate and balance it.

And when you move around the motors, keep your camera balanced and free from shakes.

Gimbals come in all shapes and sizes – from the small, lightweight setup for your smartphone or GoPro, which you can hold with a single hand, to the big rigs for cinema cameras.

Gimbals are also found on camera drones like the ones from DJI to stabilize the video footage and photos in the air.

2-axis vs 3-axis gimbals

Gimbals are usually either 2-axis or 3-axis.

A 2-axis gimbal allows you to control tilting (up and down) and rolling (when you move the handle horizontally).

A 3-axis gimbal lets you control the pan, i.e., the movement from side to side.

What you need is entirely up to you and the movement you need for a particular video shoot.

To learn more about gimbals intended for DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and smaller cinema cameras, you should check out our guide Best Gimbal Stabilizers For DSLR And Mirrorless Cameras.

How to use a gimbal for the best results

Here’s a great video from Parker Walbeck that shows you how to use both a gimbal and a glidecam properly and the different results they get when capturing the same scene.

You control a gimbal with a small joystick on the gimbal handle, and sometimes you can even program it via an app on your smartphone (great for hyper lapses).

Because a gimbal is controlled this way, it often produces a more mechanical movement than a Glidecam, where you can control the camera’s movement in a more hands-on way.

To use a gimbal, you still need to practice, or else your footage can easily suffer from a swimming-like look.

Like with a Glidecam, you need to bend your knees when moving around so as not to get footage that bobs up and down.

If you want to learn more tips and tricks on using your gimbal, look at my article 5 Pro Tips To Make The Most Of Your Gimbal For Your DSLR Camera.

Table comparing the pros and cons of glide cams and gimbals

As promised in this blog post, I’ve created this comparison table of the pros and cons of gimbals vs glidecams. I hope you find it useful the next time you decide between one or the other.

Gimbals vs Glidecam-type stabilizersGlidecamGimbal
Pros• Hands-on control allows for faster tilts, twists, and pans
• No power source needed
• No risk of damaged engines
• Easy to get started with good results • Programmable modes e.g. for timelapses and hyper lapses
• Can often be controlled remotely
• Not as susceptible to windy conditions
• Can be combined into bigger rigs e.g. for car scenes
Cons• Takes a lot of practice to get right
• Can swing from side to side - especially when windy • No programmable features

• Easy to get started
• Needs a power source
• Risk of overloading the motors from bad balancing of your camera
• Risk of damaging the motors from sand
• Mechanical looking movements

Summary

So that’s it. I hope you found this post helpful.

If you want to buy a gimbal, look at this article 5 Best Glidecams For Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras.

Which one do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comment section below.


Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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2 thoughts on “Gimbal vs. Glidecam: Deciding on the Right Stabilizer Solution”

    • Hi Mark

      Thank you. I hope you found it useful.

      Nice catch with the link. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I should be fixed now!

      Best Regards,
      Jan
      – Owner of FilmDaft.

      Reply

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