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Recently I had the chance to work with talented actress Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black, 8 Mile, Hustle & Flow) on a short film/music video for music artist Jared Evan. The concept was a slight narrative mixed with surreal fantasy elements set in a dark, maze-like atmosphere.
Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster
Other than a few handheld shots for the intro, we stayed primarily on the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal with my Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and a Canon FD 20mm 2.8 lens.
Actress Taryn Manning using the Panasonic GH4 + Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal combo
Without focus control or the luxury of time for lens changes, we went with a wide angle fluid look. The camera was always moving on the Birdycam Gimbal, from side to side, strafing performance shots, low to high panning shots and following shots. It was so intuitive even Taryn got in on the action.
Music Artist Jared Evan lit by the F&V LED Lite Panel
My favorite scene by far was a front gimbal tracking shot as Jared walks backwards down an aisle flanked by 20 foot steel shelves. We also had an F&V LED Light providing fill from another aisle casting strange and mysterious shadows on his face. As Jared backs into the exit, Taryn finds him and together they run towards a massive light source at the end of a tunnel. We then track them from behind as they run into the light.
Panasonic GH4 + Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster + Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal + Aputure V-Screen VS-3 7″ Monitor
It was a great shoot and actually my first time using the Varavon Birdycam. Here’s a few tips I discovered when shooting entirely with a camera gimbal.
1. A wireless follow focus option.
2. A wireless video option such as the CMR Radian Pro.
3. A tether support such as an Easy Rig Mini to provide hands free camera adjustments and save time having to set it on a stand.
4. At least two Varavon Gimbal Power 16V batteries when running a full 10 hour day.
Check out the final video and hit me up with any questions about the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal in the comments below.
Frequently, I’ve been asked what my PID settings are for the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal mounted with a Panasonic GH4, Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and a Canon FD 20mm 2.8 lens. While this is slightly heavier than a GH4 with a plastic digital lens, my PID settings might get you close to the weight of a speedbooster and a manual prime lens like the Canon FD’s.
Unless you have my exact camera combination I would highly suggest that you dig into the PID settings via Bluetooth app or software and tweak the P’s and D’s until you find the right balance. Emm from Cheesycam goes into great detail with fine tuning here, but my general rule is that you can achieve the perfect the balance when the motors aren’t fighting too hard or too little. Essentially, they shouldn’t make any noise vibrations once the settings are dialed in correctly. Hit me up if you have any questions and check out my first video shot almost entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Gimbal using the above settings:
Joell Ortiz “Q&A” Music Video
As you can tell from the video above, the Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal is a lot of fun (especially in 4K)! After a few days of indoor balancing, I was able to put the Birdycam to the test by running and gunning around Midtown Manhattan in New York City with rapper Joell Ortiz for his upcoming music video “Q&A”. From a rooftop in Times Square to the C train subway platform, the Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal performed with ease. Here’s a few details that some of you will find helpful:
Varavon Birdycam2 Quick Release System
The quality of the Birdycam2 is pretty impressive. Any camera related gear I’ve received from Korea has a level of quality that feels solid and the instructions were straightforward (though it helps to have gimbal balancing experience). The only place I got stuck, literally, was the baseplate. It was too tight and I had no idea how much force I was supposed to apply to remove it until I unscrewed the top of the mount and discovered the metal red loop thing is a crank lever. I balanced my GH4 + Metabones Speedbooster + 20mm 2.8 Canon FD combo quickly while watching the Cheesycam tutorial video. Everything worked pretty solid except my calibration was a bit off. Now I didn’t enter any PID settings, so out of the box, it was a pretty good balance. Then I practiced packing it into the bag to see how fast I could take apart and rebuild. It’s surprisingly easy to fold up and fold out. Just watch your battery and joystick wires as they tend to flop around the handles.
The second day I put a Manfrotto baseplate on top of the Birdycam baseplate to give it some extra weight for my GH4. And that’s when the gimbal freaked out. I removed the Manfrotto to regain my original balance but the gimbal just wasn’t having it. That’s when I went into PID settings to fix.
7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 running SimpleBGC Bluetooth App
I ended up purchasing a used 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 to use the Bluetooth control that’s built into the Birdycam2. Please keep in mind that in order to download the SimpleBGC app into the Galaxy you’ll have to download the actual .apk file here:
For some reason, the Google Play Store will not download it through the Galaxy. I emailed Basecam and they’re trying to solve the issue. The software does seem to download on other Samsung devices such as the Note and the S series. Go figure.
So, after some tweaking I got my PID settings to a great place. The only thing that felt off was the calibration. No matter how many times I balanced it on the stand, the camera would favor a slight 10 degree rotation to the right. To correct that I turned off the motors using the Bluetooth app. Then I placed the gimbal on a solid desk surface, with the rear kickstand sitting flat. Finally I calibrated both the Camera IMU and Sensor IMU and that did the trick. So basically if you want a proper calibration, do it on a flat surface instead of the stand.
Pelican 1610 Rolling Hardcase for Birdycam2 Gimbal
While the soft carrying case that comes with the Birdycam is nicely padded, I could see the thing falling apart, especially with how I like to move around the city. To solve this, I ended up using a Pelican 1610 Rolling Hard Case that is a perfect fit. I simply removed the padded foam from the soft bag, transferred it into the Pelican and added some loose foam pieces around the edges to keep it secure. It’s the perfect size as you can tell from the photo.
So far so good! I had a brief time flying the DJI Ronin but it’s a bit heavy for my GH4 combo so the Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal seems to hit the sweet spot for me in terms of functionality and price. Like most gimbals I’ll have the occasional freak out glitch where I have to reset before a take and wait 10 seconds. But that can be solved by some shortcut programming in the PID software. Also I’m a short guy so shooting in upright mode will most likely be my main gimbal style. Since the rear kickstand blocks the lens when turning it to upright mode, I’ll have to mount the camera backwards.
Well done Varavon.