Gimbal Modes Explained: How To Pick The Right One

by | Stabilization

Gimbals open up a world of cinematic possibilities — as long as you can operate them correctly, that is.

It can be overwhelming trying to figure things out with the many features and settings that today’s gimbals offer.

The good news is that gimbals are not nearly as complex as they seem. In fact, most gimbals operate similarly, using a set of modes, each suited to particular filmmaking scenarios.

In this article, we will break down these modes and help you understand when to use each one.

Simply put, most gimbals have four modes: Pan Follow Mode, Full Follow Mode, Lock Mode, and POV Mode (Roll Follow Mode). Some gimbals feature other special modes. The right mode can be selected, depending on what you plan to film.

Now that you have a basic understanding of gimbal modes, keep reading to learn more in detail.

What Are Gimbal Modes?

Gimbal modes control how your gimbal behaves.

For example, some modes restrict one or more of the pan, tilt, and roll axis movements in order to make shots more smooth.

In contrast, some modes let you move in any direction, giving your gimbal a full range of motion.

The four main gimbal modes are:

  • Full Follow Mode
  • Pan Follow Mode
  • Lock Mode
  • POV Mode

It is up to you to choose what mode is best to shoot with!

What Are Pan, Tilt, and Roll?

Before you learn about each gimbal mode, it is first important to understand what pan, tilt, and roll refer to.

This is important because pan, tilt, and roll are the three different axis or directions that a gimbal can rotate.

See the below diagram to understand the pan, tilt, and roll motions:

Pan, Tilt, and Roll

Full Follow Mode

How It Works

Full Follow Mode allows a gimbal to pan from side to side as well as tilt up or down.

This gives full freedom of movement on the pan and tilt axis, allowing the gimbal and camera to be free to face upwards or downwards or left or right.

When To Use It

Full Follow Mode is ideal when you don’t want to be restricted.

This comes in handy for dynamic shots.

For example, when you want to rotate around a subject while tilting up and down.

However, this mode can be a little too free at times. If you are not yet experienced at using a gimbal, you may want to use this mode sparingly and opt for the next mode on our list instead!

Full Follow Mode is ideal for dynamic shots with lots of motion.

Pan Follow Mode

How It Works

Pan Follow Mode allows a gimbal to pan from side to side but not tilt up or down.

When set to Pan Follow Mode, the gimbal will attempt to keep the horizon at a flat, consistent level.

Some gimbals include a joystick that allows the gimbal to be set and locked at an angle on the tilt access, but in Pan Follow Mode, the gimbal will not move from this locked position.

For example, you could lock your camera at an upward angle and then pan side to side.

When To Use It

Pan Follow Mode is handy when you need to pan but not tilt.

This means this mode is great for panning to follow subjects walking from left to right or vice-versa. It is also useful for capturing establishing shots.

It is also great for following subjects as it allows you to keep the camera moving up or down but not tilt up or down.

This can be especially handy when following subjects up or downstairs or at an incline.

Pan Follow Mode is great for following a subject up an incline.

Lock Mode

How It Works

Lock Mode doesn’t allow a gimbal to pan from side to side or tilt up or down.

Because of this, Lock Mode can be very restrictive — making it somewhat unique.

Because of its limited movement, this mode is typically used in very specific circumstances and is less ideal for general shooting.

When To Use It

Lock Mode is great for shots that require no pan or tilt movement.

Like the Pan Follow Mode, it is great for tracking subjects. However, it can also be used for more creative tracking shots.

For example, a shot taken from a moving vehicle of a subject running could benefit from Lock Mode.

Because the camera cannot pan or tilt, you will end up with a very consistent shot.

This mode is also useful for hyperlapse footage — allowing for a super smooth and consistent look once the hyper-lapse is pieced together.

Lock Mode can be used to capture steady moving shots from the side of your subject.

POV Mode (Roll Follow Mode)

How It Works

POV Mode allows a gimbal to pan from side to side, tilt up or down, and rotate or “roll.”

This mode is similar to the Full Follow Mode except that it adds even more freedom.

POV Mode adds the freedom to rotate or “roll” the camera.

This allows you to capture “dutch” angles or fully “roll” the camera — capturing trippy rotating footage.

To keep the camera stable in POV Mode, make sure to move your whole body with the gimble when rotating side to side.

When To Use It

POV Mode is ideal for capturing natural-feeling, point-of-view footage.

For example, this mode can be used to create a shot from a subject’s point of view.

This mode is also great for achieving the “barrel-roll” or “vortex” effect.

This effect involves pointing the camera straight up on the gimbal using the joystick. Then point the entire gimbal forwards so the camera’s lens is facing away from your body. Then, rotate the camera 360 degrees using the joystick.

POV Mode (Roll Follow Mode) can create interesting rotating shots.

Other Modes

Some gimbals feature other modes and features for specific uses.

While there are many gimbals with their own interesting modes, let’s take a look at just a few of the more popular ones.

Selfie Mode

Some gimbals like the Zhiyun Weebill S feature a Selfie Mode.

This mode turns the entire top section of the gimbal around so that the camera is facing backwards, towards the gimbal operator.

This mode is handy for vlogging or could perhaps be used for some creative cinematography.

Push Mode

Some gimbals, like the Ronin-S, feature a Push Mode.

When a gimbal is on, adjusting your camera, or moving the rotating axis of the gimbal by hand can strain or damage the gimbal’s motors.

Push Mode solves this problem by allowing you to manually move your camera by hand, without any worry of hurting the gimbal’s mechanics.

Make sure your gimbal is in fact operating in Push Mode before trying to adjust your camera by hand!

Underslung Mode

Some gimbals, again like the Zhiyun Weebil S, feature an Underslung Mode.

This feature allows the gimbal operator to rearrange the gimbal’s handles so the gimbal can be held from the top, similar to a briefcase.

This means the gimbal is low to the ground.

Underslung Mode is great for filming follow shots of feet or really anything that is close to the ground.

A gimbal used in underslung mode

Tips and Tricks

  • Firmware Updates: If you find you cannot access all of the main gimbal operating modes (Pan Follow Mode, Full Follow Mode, Lock Mode, and POV Mode) you may need to update your firmware. Some gimbals can be updated and may need to be to unlock all shooting modes.
  • Balance: If you are experiencing any issues achieving smooth footage in the above operating modes, you may need to rebalance your gimbal. An unbalanced gimbal can result in shake and vibration while operating your gimbal.
  • Experiment: Before shooting, try out each mode to help figure out which setting might work best for your scene. Experimenting will help you come up with more original shots!

See Gimbal Modes In Action

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how each gimbal mode works and when to use it.

However, seeing gimbal modes in use can help to fully understand each mode’s characteristics.

Zhiyun-Tech has a great video that breaks down each mode using the ever-popular Weebill 2.

Check it out to see gimbal modes in action!

Practice Makes Perfect (Gimbal Footage)

Now that you know how each gimbal mode works, the next step is to practice using each of them.

Different gimbals and brands of gimbals will operate differently, so make sure to research your gimbal’s specific operating system to learn how to navigate between modes on your gimbal.

While it is possible to understand each mode in concept, you won’t truly understand how and when to use each mode without sufficient practice.

Take some time to run through each mode.

If possible, find a subject to practice with — having someone to follow and film will help you to fully understand the pros and cons of each operating mode.

Happy shooting!

New To Gimbals?

With so much to learn, mastering your new gimbal can be hard. Get started with our in-depth beginner guide to gimbal filmmaking.