We recently took on a music video which required a long take for the opening shot. Our best bet would have been to rent a stabilizer, such as Steady Cam, as well as an operator. This would be ideal so that we could have relied on the expertise of another, allowing us to do our job. However, the budget would not allow for that (typical indie music budget, am I right?!). We then looked at renting a DJI Ronin, which we knew was a more accessibly priced option, but were unfamiliar with the quality of the product. After comparing the rental rates with the actual cost of the item (about 20% of the retail price), we hesitantly made the jump to purchase the Ronin. For a small company such as ours, any substantial purchase such as this must be weighed with these considerations:
-Will this make our product substantially better?
-Will it pay for itself, or better yet, return a profit?
-Will it help us be more efficient, or slow down productivity (affecting profit)?
-Is this item something we can use in a variety of productions (or is it too niche)?
-Can we rent this item out when not in use?
-Will it add credibility, add status (perceived value)?
Assuming the Ronin works well, it seems to answer those questions positively. So with that we pulled the trigger and made the purchase. The most intimidating aspect of this was that the Ronin arrived on Friday. The shoot was scheduled for Monday. So I only had two full days to become acquainted with the Ronin. For someone with zero experience operating any kind of stabilizer it was definitely a gamble.
Saturday, I decided to spend a few hours setting it up, troubleshooting and getting familiar with it. Setting it up was fairly self explanatory and within about 30 minutes it was all assembled with the camera on it. Getting the camera to balance was fairly simple, however looking back, there were some things I didn’t understand just yet. I think that is something favorable with the Ronin. You can get it going rather quickly to an acceptable use, however, the more you use it, the better you can operate it.
There is an app to control and fine tune the controls which is a big help. One problem I didn’t realize right away though is that once you’ve used the app, it’s best to turn it off. That way it isn’t continuously trying to tweak the gimbal. Once you get it set, it’s best to roll with it and start shooting. I spent a good hour or so with the app and that was concerning. I didn’t want to have to spend that much time on set fiddling with it while everyone was waiting. Once I got it seemingly set, then I did my first test shots.
The test shots were essentially me chasing family members around the house. Definitely was encouraged by the “out of the box” results. Spent about 2 hours overall on Saturday getting it up and running, including test shots.
On Sunday I decided to start from scratch to see if there would be any kinks. I realized with a shorter lens (50mm) that it was having problems. I switched back to the 24-70 lens previously used and it was fine. This limited my confidence for the next day’s shoot, which allowed me to mentally plan on only using the 24-70. The wider lens is better for this type of thing in my opinion anyway. Set a deeper focus and shoot at 24-28 focal length. That was the game plan. It felt good and we were all set for Mondays shoot.
On set, it was smooth sailing. All the prep work paid off and we didn’t experience any kinks along the way.
In addition to the DJI Ronin, we used the Small HD 7” monitor attached to the top cross bar. Otherwise, it’s impossible to see what your shooting. Ideally, someone else would have a wireless follow focus system. But we have yet to incorporate that into the configuration with the Ronin. With that addition, it really seems that this piece of gear could be used on so many things.
Overall, we’re very pleased. If you’re looking to add some sweet tracking shots to your production, hit us up. We will rent the DJI Ronin to anyone in the Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, New York area. We would recommend sending out an operator with it as it protects our equipment, but also frees you up to not worry about the technical considerations with it.
Here are some of the first test shots we got with the Ronin: