Targeting the indie filmmaking market, the Comodo Orbit ($1,499), designed by Dutch cinematographer/filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich and manufactured by Bowens, is a twin-grip gimbal stabilization rig that can hold DSLRs or camcorders weighing up to 11 pounds. The Orbit’s "killer app" is a unique twin-grip stabilization feature that allows you to capture smooth shots and unique angles that are impossible to perform with other handheld rigs in its class.The MAC Group, which supplies image-making tools for photographers and filmmakers, provided a review unit of the Orbit, which I used with a Canon EOS 70D. One great thing about the Orbit is that the rig doesn’t require any weights, motors or batteries, so it was pretty easy to put together. Mounting the camera to the Orbit’s camera plate was also simple, although I did have to try several times to get the right position before starting the balancing procedure. Once the camera is mounted, you then have to balance your camera’s center of gravity, which always will be different, depending on the size and weight of your camera and lens. To correctly balance the center of gravity, your pivot axis should be aligned with the X, Y and Z axes, and when correctly balanced, you should be able to tilt the rig forward or backward, and the camera will stay in its set position. This was mostly done through raising or lowering the vertical camera platform. For finer adjustments, you simply turn the vertical adjustment knob on top of the Orbit, as well as the horizontal adjustment knob that sits behind the camera mounted to the platform. When balancing your camera for the first time, it does take awhile to get the hang of it. It’s also important to remember that any small change you make (changing a lens, battery, etc.) requires rebalancing your camera.
| Dual Gimbal Handgrips
Maximum Load Capacity: 11 lbs.
Tilt control for jib-style shots
1/4"-20 camera screw, 3/8"-16 & 1/4"-20 accessory threads
No weights, motors or batteries needed
Once the camera was balanced, operating the Orbit was simple and intuitive. The gimbals on top of each handgrip were very smooth and had less of a learning curve to master than a traditional handheld gimbal system. I also found that the Orbit worked best when making quick turns around a subject by just moving one of the handles around your subject. Capturing high to low angles (or vice versa) was done by twisting the handgrips roughly 90º without having to bend down with the Orbit to capture a low vantage point. I found this especially advantageous over a handheld rig because you don’t have to be eye level with your subject. To make subtle tilts and pans, you gently use your thumbs to guide the gimbals, which gives you more of a floating feeling when circling your subject.
Due to inexperience, I couldn’t capture the moves that a professional Steadicam operator could achieve, but the Orbit still gave me a much smoother shot than a shoulder rig. I had great fun flying down the hallways of my office capturing Shining-esque shots that Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown would be proud of. Well, almost.