At first glance the MōVI M10 suggests an elaborate and exotic DSLR rig, albeit with lots of moving parts — it’s designed to move horizontally, vertically and diagonally to enable the camera to be perfectly balanced on all axes, at all times. The core camera platform tilts up to 75 degrees up or down from a central hub controlled by a brushless motor and gimbal to keep it level while shooting, while two other gimbals control tilt and roll. The handgrips on the support bar are made of soft but textured rubber for a sure, comfortable grip. Compared to a full-size Steadicam at 3.4 pounds, the MōVI is quite lightweight. It’s built with very strong yet light materials, mostly carbon fiber and a lightweight steel and metal alloy.
At its core, the MōVI M10 is a triple-axis, digital gyro-stabilized system with a continuous 360-degree pan range and 180-degree tilt and roll ranges, with slew rates ranging from 0 to 150 degrees per second. Its menu is accessed with a Bluetooth-Windows connection via an Android graphical user interface (GUI), and it features three control modes: Majestic, Stabilized and Stabilized Slew. Majestic mode is operator stabilized via a gimbal base, while Stabilized mode is essentially auto-pilot and requires no operator control. Stabilized Slew relies on remote control of all three axes (pan, tilt and roll) via the Spectrum DX7s remote controller, which is an integral part of the MōVI system. But, before the MōVI can be operated in any mode, it requires precise calibration mechanically and via the GUI.
One key adjustment addresses stiffness. In the MōVI M10 Quickstart Guide, Freefly emphasizes setting stiffness to the highest level feasible on all three axes. Stiffness is roughly equivalent to camera stability, so higher stiffness means a greater level of camera stability that will insure a smooth shot. When properly balanced, your camera should remain pointed in whichever direction and angle you choose while mounted on the MōVI, no matter the angle.
After a brief setup tutorial via Skype, I tested the MōVI M10 for perhaps two hours overall, just long enough to appreciate how much more I have yet to learn about setting up the MōVI for optimum performance. Once my test unit was correctly balanced, I was immediately able to capture long, torturous tracking shots that went up and down stairways in tight quarters and around sharp corners — and the shots were as smooth as if done in slow motion, despite an occasional bump or stall. In other words, with minimal training and an 8-inch HD monitor mounted on the MōVI’s handlebars, I was able to capture extended fluid tracking shots, with most of them smooth enough to use in news stories, educational films, industrials, documentaries and reality-based projects. Before mounting the monitor, I enjoyed some beginner’s luck but wasn’t able to consistently frame shots properly and dynamically. Nevertheless, considering that I have little Steadicam experience and have mainly relied on mechanical, spring-loaded stabilizers (like the Ready Rig), I was fairly impressed with my initial results with the gimbal-based MōVI 10.
For an expert user’s perspective on tapping into the MōVI M10’s true potential, I spoke with MōVI expert Rich Moriarty of MorPictures, Inc. He has worked with the MōVI M10 for nearly half a year now (mostly during the MōVI’s beta-testing phase) for a broad range of commercial projects. “Ninety-eight percent of the projects I work on these days use the MōVI M10 because it replaces so many other camera support tools,” says Moriarty. “It’s kind of a Swiss Army knife for shooters. Recently, a client wanted a shot that normally would have called for a Technocrane. But, as we were in Jamaica, renting one wasn’t an option, so we improvised and achieved a very similar look using the MōVI and a 10-foot stepladder. It entailed handing the rig off from an operator on the ladder to another on the ground in mid-shot, but it looked seamless…. That isn’t feasible with a Steadicam, which uses a sled and vest to achieve fluid motion.”
Not only does the MōVI M10 do the work of multiple devices, it will also hold the horizon for you. “With Steadicam, it’s up to the operator to hold the horizontal, but the MōVI does it automatically,” explains Moriarty. “It also has a much broader vertical range, from extremely low angles to high angles.” While the MōVI M10 is groundbreaking, Moriarty acknowledges that there’s a learning curve to achieve proficiency. “Every project entails using different cameras and lenses,” he notes. “Initially, it would take several hours to balance the MōVI with each new camera/lens/battery package, but now it goes much faster. I can usually rebalance it within minutes of changing a lens or battery. As a first camera assistant, I can also help clients tackle longer, more complex camera moves.”