Multirotors are amazing tools for capturing stunning video and photos from angels and locations that would previously have been impossible. But spend any time watching aerial video and you will quickly realize that image stabilization is a must if you want keep your audience from feeling seasick.
Some of this can be done with software but, while this helps, it does so at the expense of quality. If you are really serious about it you are going to need a stabilized gimbal.
For those not in the know a gimbal is a piece of equipment that will keep your camera stable regardless of what the platform it is on is doing. I’m sure there’s a good explanation involving sensors and things but I prefer to think of it as magic.
Here’s what one looks like in action.
And here’s what it looks like in the natural world
Gimbals are so important that the first drone film festival, held in New York on March 7th, wouldn’t accept submissions that were not shot using a gimbal.
For the camera I opted for the Mobius Actioncam. This little sturdy camera has proven itself to have comparable quality to a GoPro but at about 1/3rd the cost and weight. Having already lost one GoPro while filming I didn’t want to risk that kind of money again.
Of course the GoPro is practically a standard and so there are many more gimbal options to choose from if you go in that direction. For the Mobius there was only one gimbal that fit and reviews of that were mixed, but I decided to go for it anyway.
The HobbyKing video said that the gimbal could be assembled in 10 minutes.
As soon as I opened the pack and saw all the little pieces I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but it really wasn’t that hard to do and with some patient following of the instructions I had it all together in a little over an hour. One thing that helped was downloading the PDF version of the instructions so that I could zoom in and save my poor old eyes from unnecessary strain.
To power it I made a special lead which could go in between the power lead and the battery with pigtails coming off and used JT connectors so that I can disconnect the gimbal easily.
Now it was time to flash the firmware which was achieved by following the instructions in this video.
By far the longest part of this was that I had to downgrade my kids laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 7, since the software provided only runs on Windows 7 or XP. Why the gimbal isn’t provided pre-flashed is beyond me.
I wanted to be able to control the tilt of the camera by remote and just two wires are needed to set this up. I was a bit confused initially because all the pictures I saw showed the 9 pins with the wire going to the top.
Only when looking at the gimbal under a magnifying glass did I discover it was upside down and I really needed to be hooking up the bottom pin. I configured the APM to use pin 11 on the for control (off of channel 6 from the controller) and as soon as I did that everything magically worked.
That left the last task of finding a good place for it on the quad. I wanted it to be placed forwards so that there would be less chance of legs showing in the pictures. That meant moving the battery (previously slung underneath) to a new location inside but positioned towards the back of the quad and moving the receiver from the top of the platform to the bottom. Nothing too difficult and the use of a few well placed zip ties and we were good to go.
With the weather finally starting to warm up I’m looking forward to getting back out there and capturing some nice shots of the area.
Only thing left to do on the quad now is add FPV!
Note: An alternative that I considered was a kit that transforms the Mobius into a GoPro form factor – affectionately known as a “Gobius” – which allows for a much wider range of gimbals.