Buying a gimbal is the first step that many videographers and filmmakers take in their journey to producing higher-quality footage.
But there are thousands of YouTube videos in which gimbal pros pull off impressive shots like it’s no big deal. And these types of videos can make it easy to forget or overlook the steep learning curb that comes with operating a gimbal for the first time.
Using the right setting and executing smooth shots both take a while to nail down, but there’s one step in gimbal use that must be learnt even earlier on in the learning process: correctly balancing your gimbal.
This is something that trips up many new gimbal users. Why do you need to balance a gimbal? How do you know when it is balanced? What happens if it isn’t balanced?
In this article, we will answer all the questions and more to ensure you know if your gimbal is balanced.
Simply put, you will know your gimbal is balanced correctly when you can point your camera in any direction and it stays in place. Signs your gimbal is not balanced correctly include gimbal shake, vibration, drift and battery drain. These issues stem from the excess strain placed on your gimbals motors when your gimbal is unbalanced.
But let’s take a closer look at making sure your gimbal is balanced correctly.
How Do You Know If Your Gimbal Is Balanced?
To balance a gimbal perfectly, take your time to balance all three axes correctly. Sometimes this can take a while, but it’s worth it.
The good thing about gimbals is that you can usually feel when something isn’t right — especially once you have become accustomed to operating your gimbal.
After balancing your gimbal perfectly, you should be able to point your camera in any direction and the camera should stay there. If you can do this, then your gimbal is likely balanced correctly.
That said, some issues from an unbalanced gimbal may not appear right away…
Some issues (that we will cover in the next section) may only appear after you begin filming.
But if you have balanced your gimbal correctly, you should also not experience any of these nasty problems.
Why Balance Your Gimbal?
The first question many gimbal newbies have is: “Why balance a gimbal to begin with?”
It’s a good question, especially considering that gimbals contain powerful motors that are strong enough to keep a camera upright. If this is the case, why not just rely on the motors?
Well, relying on the motors of your gimbal alone causes many problems which we cover later on.
In short, balancing your gimbal correctly takes much of the strain off of your motors — allowing them to operate when necessary and at an appropriate level.
Another way to think about gimbal balance is to consider a non-motorized or “analog” stabilizer.
These types of stabilizers require perfect balancing. This is because they have nothing but gravity to rely on to keep your camera steady.
Electronic gimbals operate on many of the same principles, and still require help from gravity and evenly distributed weight to operate properly.
Do Gimbals Have To Be Perfectly Balanced?
What if you have trouble balancing your gimbal “perfectly?” Is it necessary to do so?
While a perfectly balanced gimbal is important and something to strive for, it’s not completely necessary, at least for filming.
It’s possible that you will still achieve smooth footage with a gimble that is not “perfectly” balanced. I know I have!
But this is simply bad practice.
At best, an unbalanced gimbal will drain your batteries more quickly than a perfectly balanced gimbal, and at worst it will cause micro-jitters that a warp stabilizer in post won’t even fix.
We’ll touch on these issues in more detail later.
In conclusion, it is worth taking the time to learn how to correctly balance a gimbal.
What Happens If Your Gimbal Is Not Balanced?
Another question many gimbal newbies have is: “What happens if my gimbal is unbalanced? What’s the worst that can happen?”
Jitter, Shake, And Vibration
One of the most obvious signs your gimbal is not balanced correctly is jitter, shake, or vibration.
These are all caused by your gimbal’s motors working harder than they should be to keep your camera upright and smooth.
Think of a person holding a bowling ball for a long period of time. If they held the bowling out in front of them with both arms away from their body, would they struggle? What about if they held it in towards their chest? What would be easier?
You can think of your gimbal in a similar way. And the jittering, shaking, and vibrating your gimbal may be doing is just a symptom of that strain.
While this may not impact your gimbal in the short term, too much strain on your gimbal could cause issues or damage in the long run.
Read More: Why Is My Gimbal Shaking? Causes & Solutions
Drift might not be as easily apparent as a shakey gimbal, but it can be a big problem.
Drift occurs when an unbalanced gimbal slowly pulls in a certain direction.
As gimbals are meant to keep cameras straight and upright, this can obviously be a major problem.
If you have been filming for a while and find your camera angle is not as straight as it should be, consider that an unbalanced gimbal might be to blame.
Again, this can place strain on your gimbal — causing issues or damage in the long run.
Whether you are experiencing jitter, shake, vibration, or drift, all of these problems are likely straining your gimbal’s motors and in turn causing your batteries to drain quickly.
That said, if your gimbal is only slightly unbalanced, you may not experience any of those symptoms — just a battery draining faster than it otherwise would be.
It’s pretty obvious why this is a problem!
If you notice that your batteries are dying quicker than normal, try pausing to quickly rebalance your gimbal and camera setup.
What To Do If Your Gimbal Won’t Balance?
If your gimbal won’t balance, consider taking a deep breath and going through the balancing process again in detail.
In the heat of the moment before a shoot, it can be easy to run through each step quickly and make mistakes.
If your gimbal is still not balanced, there may be other issues at play.
It may be possible that your camera setup is not suitable for your gimbal. Gimbals have maximum weight capacities that should be paid close attention to.
Another possible issue is that your camera setup isn’t actually heavy enough in the right places to properly balance. In this case, counterweights might be required to add additional weight and balance.
You should now understand how important balancing your gimbal properly is — and how to assess whether or not your gimbal is actually balanced.
While you might be able to get away with an unbalanced gimbal in the short-term, the long-term imacpt on your gimbal and its functions will suffer.
Keep in mind that balancing your gimbal is something you are likely to do very often — likely multiple times on a video shoot.
So, monitoring for the symptoms of an unbalanced gimbal — such as jitter, shake, vibration, drift, and battery loss — on a regular basis is crucial for the health of your gear.
Now that you know how to tell if your gimbal is properly balanced, you should be ready to capture professional-looking, smooth footage.