After cruising the floor at this year's NAB, you may have thought to yourself, "Is there anything truly new under the sun in production support gear, especially for smaller and lighter cameras?" A company called Freefly Systems seems to think so.
While the market in recent years has seen a plethora of new camera support systems, if you categorize them, you come up with the usual categories of Steadicam and Steadicam-like handheld gyro systems, jib arms, sliders and, of course, your run-of-the-mill tripods, dollies and shoulder-mount systems. Freefly's MōVI M10 made its debut at NAB 2013 to some rather large crowds, undoubtedly drawn by Vincent Laforet's Vimeo demonstration video, not to mention his social-media interaction. Shot in New York, the clip vimeo.com/63357898# shows camera moves that, up until now, required larger, more sophisticated support gear and a larger crew to accomplish. The M10 combines some of the Steadicam's floating look with the much smaller size, weight and operator simplicity of a handheld rig.
The secret to many camera stabilization systems' smooth movement is a free-floating gimbal system that isolates the camera from the supporting platform's jerkiness and harsh movement. Freefly's gimbal design for the M10 utilizes a proprietary custom-designed inertial measurement unit (IMU) and brushless direct-drive system. The gimbal is 100% designed in-house by Freefly's engineering team. Creating the gimbal from scratch allowed Freefly to precisely execute their vision for an entirely new type of stabilized camera gimbal that, as the Vincent Laforet video amply demonstrates, allows smaller crews to achieve camera movement that was previously too difficult to achieve without larger, heavier and more expensive equipment.
How does one actually use the M10? That seems to be the most interesting part of its design. The M10 can be used handheld, mounted to a Steadicam and mounted in vehicles, including aircraft, cars, bicycles, ATVs and quads, horseback and really just about anywhere else a gyro-stabilized camera could be useful.
Another unique feature is that while the M10 can be operated by the camera operator, it also can be operated remotely as a two-person team, with the camera person carrying the M10, trying to move as smoothly and quickly or slowly as necessary, while the "operator" can control the M10's gyro for camera movement, angle and placement. You must budget for an extra wireless device to control the camera's focus, iris and zoom capability, and this device must not touch the M10's inner gimbal.