Glidecam HD2000 Camra Stabilization System Review
In the world of video image stabilization there are hundreds of solutions for upping project potential to the professional level. There are image stabilizing lenses, image stabilizing software, and a slew of other mechanical fixes for helping dampen the dreaded vibration of handheld cameras. Although these solutions are usually great fixes for the problem at hand, they fail to address the issue at the source.
Sure, vibration can be removed with post-processing techniques in addition to being slightly dampened with shoulder rigs and other handheld contraptions, but they all fall short of eliminating the source of the problem. The human hand and arm cannot stay completely still, no matter how hard we try, so it is necessary to turn to simple mechanics to aid us in stopping camera shake dead in its tracks. Through simple physics and an application of the laws of gravity, Glidecam Industries has created a product that is not only an exceptional camera stabilization system, but a very affordable one as well.
It’s All About Balance
To aid in grasping the concept behind the Glidecam image stabilization system, the concept of center of gravity needs to be understood. Take for instance, a meter stick. If a meter stick is grabbed around 3/4 of the length to the top and moved from left to right, the meter stick will move out of vertical alignment. The top will move with your hand, but the bottom will trail slightly behind, very unbalanced.
Now, move your hand down to the center of the meter stick and perform the same left to right action. If you find the center of the meter stick, or, the center of mass, the meter stick’s top point and bottom point will move together and the meter stick will remain vertical as you move it forward and back, side to side. This is the concept of center of gravity, and is the concept behind the Glidecam stabilization system.
So, think of how long it took you to find the center of gravity of that meter stick. It was pretty easy as there was no weight on the top and no weight on the bottom. The stick is symmetrical when you hold from the middle. (Assuming the molecules are evenly dispersed and density constant throughout the meter stick). Not the case with the Glidecam HD-2000, or any Glidecam for that matter. Since you will have unknown amount of weight atop your Glidecam in addition to the three-axis Gimbal not being centered in the middle of the setup, there is a fair amount of work you will need to do to effectively stabilize the system. You will need to, similar to how you balanced the meter stick, balance the Glidecam system and find its center of gravity.
Doing so takes a lot of practice and time, but it is crucial that you find that center of gravity for the Glidecam to work properly. There are various tutorials on Glidecam’s website on how to do this properly and a slew of extremely helpful “how to’s” on YouTube and other various places on the Internet.
Personally, I had a lot of trouble balancing the Glidecam at first, and did not completely understand the balancing system when I first used it. Once I played around with settings and worked with the directions, I was in awe at the difference it made when I finally got the Glidecam into balance. My advice is to stay patient during the balance process as it can take some time, but is the most important step in setting up the Glidecam. And remember, any shift in weight matters so be sure to have your batter and memory cards in the camera when balancing as they do make a noticeable difference in weight and balance of the Glidecam.
When the Glidecam is finally in perfect balance the user should be able to move the setup from side to side and from front to back without it tipping in any way. It should stay perfectly upright as you hold the Gimbal with one hand. Just like the meter stick, you now have a perfectly stabilized camera system where the very top and very bottom move together as one.
As for vibration in the Glidecam system, it is non-existent. The three-axis Gimbal system eliminates any and all vibration caused by the user’s hand. All unwanted hand movement is fully absorbed by the Gimbal system so you can finally say so long to that dreaded camera shake.
It’s Like Learning To Ride A Bike
You just didn’t hop on that bike your parents bought you as a kid and tear through the neighborhood, did you? No! You had to learn how to ride a bike, just like you learn how to do anything else. Practice.
When you pick up the Glidecam it’s going to feel a bit awkward at first. Holding the Glidecam with a heavy camera on top with one arm can be a bit of a task, but it’s just something you’ll have to get used to. There are also other solutions to carrying large cameras which include a body harness which can be purchased as an add-on through Glidecam Industries.
The whole idea of stability is based on the three axis Gimbal system; this is the reason you “drive” the Glidecam and camera with one hand. The other hand is used to guide the setup in a certain direction. Using your second hand can be tricky as you are directly touching the setup and can easily jostle the camera and get unwanted vibration as a result.
It is especially important to have precise control over your guiding hand to ensure that it is only used for guiding the Glidecam and not for extra support as that would introduce vibration to the setup, defeating the purpose of the Gimbal stabilization.
It’s also very easy to lose control of the system if you don’t drive and guide properly; this is where practice is required.
At first, this will feel like the most difficult task in the world. The arm you use to hold the entire setup will be hurting, along with the rest of that side of your body, but you will get used to it and learn to handle the weight. As you practice more and more you will also get better at guiding with your other hand. The combination of the development of both arms will eventually allow you to handle the Glidecam like a pro.
I myself have not yet developed the skills to fully drive the Glidecam with the type of precision I am happy with. It takes, time and the best way to master the skill is to learn by doing. The key is patience.
It Is a Quality Product
The Glidecam HD-2000 is no knock off stabilization system; it’s the real deal. Being as light as it is, the HD-2000 is incredibly sturdy and built out of quality metals that seem like they will hold up for a very long time.
Now, just because the Glidecam is built with a good amount of quality doesn’t mean you can go throwing it around and dropping it and then expecting it to hold up. Remember the Glidecam relies on balance, and damaging parts of the Glidecam could make it very difficult to find the equilibrium balance of the Glidecam. Treat it like you would treat that pricy camera you have mounted atop your Glidecam. If you dropped a lens, the elements would jostle out of place and make it difficult to use; if you drop the Glidecam, it will become harder to balance making it harder to use.
All parts and joints are very high quality. There are a few plastic components of the Glidecam but they’re not operation critical (adjustment knobs) so you shouldn’t have any problem with wear and tear. The handle also has a high-quality foam to aid with your operation of the Glidecam. The foam acts as a good grip and seems like it will hold up with normal use.
I don’t see the Glidecam having any quality issues as it is built very well. Nothing on the system seems flimsy or loose and everything is easily adjustable. While retaining the same professional capabilities of other camera stabilization systems, the Glidecam is also slimmer than much of the competition and this really matters if you plan on using the Glidecam for extended periods of time.
Should You Buy It?
Making the decision to purchase a Glidecam it all depends what kind of video you like to shoot. The Glidecam gives shooter’s video a professional look and shows you know what you’re doing. Although not a necessary tool, the Glidecam is a handy thing to have and gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to different shooting types and capabilities. The Glidecam is a great product to try out and will open up a lot of possibilities for your videography.
For professionals who know what they need, the Glidecam would be an invaluable tool for your profession and deserves a try as it compares to, and in some areas, goes beyond what other stabilization systems have to offer. For the Glidecam’s price point and the overall value, I feel the Glidecam is an essential tool for any videographers tool palette. Being cheaper than some plugins for video editing, the Glidecam is a tool most videographers can’t afford not to have.
Check out the sample video we have featured above. It’s just a short clip and small sample of what the Glidecam can do featuring Milwaukee musician Vonny Del Fresco [@VonnyDelFresco] shot and edited by Rodney Johnson [@MassiveBears]\, also of Milwaukee, Wisc. We’ll have more videos up soon shot with the Glidecam. Check back in a while.