Varavon Birdycam 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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:

baseplate
Varavon Birdycam2 Quick Release System

UNPACKING
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.

BALANCING
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.

galaxy
7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 running SimpleBGC Bluetooth App

PID SETTINGS
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:

http://www.basecamelectronics.com/downloads/android/

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.

samsung galaxy tab android simplebgc bluetooth app gimbal
7″ Android Tablet Samsung Galaxy 4

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.

pelican01
Pelican 1610 Rolling Hardcase for Birdycam2 Gimbal

TRAVELING
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.

Pelican 1610 Hard Case gimbal Birdycam
Pelican 1610 Case with Foam for Camera (Black)

FINAL THOUGHTS
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.


Varavon Birdycam2 Gimbal

  • Dan L

    Very cool, how is the weight? Can it be used for long duration shots?

    • Rik

      The weight varies depending on your camera and accessory combo but I was able to fly with my GH4 speedbooster combo for about 2 minutes before my arms got tired. Definitely do some practice runs before a real take to get your upper body warmed up.

  • Thanks for telling me about the site, it’s good to read the full review. I’m really leaning toward making that GH4 my next purchase, but I’ve been seeing a bunch of folks shoot with the Metabones Speedbooster. Can you give some further insight on why you added that to the mix?

  • hey Rik I got the birdycam2 myself a little while back but will be finally using it for a shoot tomorrow. I have 0 experience flying a gimbal. Mounting an A7s and 55mm sony/zeiss so the weight is very low. Also only have an iPhone so calibrating via an app is a not an option. That said, are there any tests to do after I have it calibrated that will let me know I’ve done things right. Any idea what the extra AC looking adapter plug is for that came with the birdy? Should I even mess with the joystick? Looking for a good tutorial on using the birdycam or any gimbal really… you have any that you could recommend? Thanks a million!

    • Rik

      I think the best basic tutorial can be found here on Cheesycam: http://cheesycam.com/varavon-birdycam-3-axis-gimbal-stabilizer-first-look/

      I use an iPhone as well but I would highly suggest getting a cheap Android tablet or even a cheap PC Netbook because being able to calibrate is the only way to get the proper settings. The basic thing you are looking for after calibration is that the motors are giving the right amount of power across the Pitch, Roll and Yaw. Too much and you’ll hear and feel vibrations, too little and your camera will flop around all over the place. Here’s the settings I use for my camera setup: http://runplayback.com/varavon-birdycam-gimbal-custom-pid-settings

      Also the AC looking adapter plug powers up your battery so it’s essential that you get an adapter like this: http://www.amazon.com/Tmvel-Universal-UK-EU-AU/dp/B007LG453Y/ref=pd_sim_e_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0K8G82CV92D5FVGFFWRY

      You can probably find that at any local convenience store.

      Joystick is good for recalibrating on the fly but it really depends on the kinds of moves you’ll be doing and what the scene requires. I would definitely urge you to experiment before going on critical shoots.

      • I apologize for sounding like a noob but I kept having trouble balancing it and went back to the basics (thanks Emm from Cheesycam) and realized I was ignoring how significant that tilt test is for the yaw. Fixed that and now no noises or vibrations and I’m up and running.

        Varavon supplied an ac plug and an adapter cable for the plug which I use to plug into the battery, however there is also a separate adapter looking cable that has the standard ac round plug and then the narrow plug on the other end the same size as what goes into the battery. Any ideas on what to use this for? See pic below.

        Gonna catch up with the rest of runplayback now you seem to have a knack for hitting on things that are important before I even have the wherewithal to form a question about them. Awesome as always Rik! Thanks!

        • Rik

          Cool glad I could help out! I’m not sure what that extra cable is for as I didn’t receive it in my order. I also got an earlier model so it might be some kind of extra cable to power the battery. I created the site to spark some creative inspiration and collaboration so please browse around and hit me up with any comments or suggestions. And good luck on your shoot!

  • karmamole

    I’ve been trying out my Birdycam for a while now, and I have a few questions:

    1. I balance it properly, on all axis, and yes, I remember to do the YAW – however, whenever I power on – two things are a bit off. First the camera is almost never exactly horizontal. It always drops a few degrees to one side, and it almost always pans a few degrees to the left. I deal with the slight pan by using the joystick to return it to center, but I’d like to have both issues resolved.

    2. I’ve read people saying that you have to calibrate on a flat surface, and some have said without using the stand and only using the kickstand. Okay, I’ve tried that, and clicking the joystick six times doesn’t really seem to do ANYTHING.

    3. I then read on this forum that there’s a problem with Mode 6: “We detected a small problem on Mode 6. Connect the Birdycam onto a PC or a smartphone with Simple BCG, and go to ‘Service’. Choose ‘click 5’ and select ‘Calibration ACC.’ Then, use ‘click 5’ to calibrate. And choose ‘Long Press’ and select ‘Reset'” This SOUNDS (to me) like it re-maps the calibration process onto Mode 5, rather than fixing it for Mode 6. Am I right? And if so, is there a way to fix Mode 6 rather than lose it and have Mode 5 dedicated to calibration?

    That’s it. Any help very appreciated. I hope I’ve been as clear as possible. If you need me to explain any issue further, please ask.

    • CheesyCam

      Every question you have is relative to the software, not hardware. It’s probably a good idea to learn the software so that you can tune the gimbal to your own personal needs. I’ll try to answer some of your questions.

      1) If the gimbal doesn’t line up perfectly when you turn it on, it most likely just needs to be calibrated. Sensors can lose calibration over time or even when there is temperature changes. To calibrate it, you can go into the software, or you can use the joystick (if you have it setup for this). In this video you can see how I calibrate in the software: https://youtu.be/BQjO-OBsI_g?t=7m15s

      2) You should always calibrate holding the gimbal as square and as even as possible. A flat surface with the stand would be easy, but you can also calibrate the whole system by just holding it up in the air and making sure everything is squared up.

      3) The ‘Service Modes’ or ‘Profiles’ can be setup differently. Even though many gimbals use the same software, different companies set these modes differently. You can set them yourself too. When you connect your gimbal to the software, check the ‘Service’ tab. You can see what is assigned for each click. Each click has a drop down menu. I suggest changing Profile 4 to Calibrate ACC, Profile 5 to Calibrate Gyros. You don’t need to use the long press.

      • karmamole

        Thank you very much, as always you’re generous with information 🙂 I actually contracted Varavon, and Tim Choi and another engineer helped me out massively on a Skype session. Was quite impressed with how much time they took to help me resolve some issues. Reading what you say here, it’s quite obvious that I need to do some homework if I really want to understand what’s going on and be able to tune the Birdycam myself rather than just use it as is. Thank you again 🙂