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Top Tips for Getting Started as a Gimbal Operator in Video Production

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Are you a videographer interested in becoming a freelance gimbal operator? This guide will provide you with the essential information you need to get started in this exciting field. You'll learn about the equipment you'll need, how to find clients, and how to hone your skills to stand out in a competitive market. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand your freelance videography services, this guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to succeed as a gimbal operator.

Why do people use Camera Gimbals?

The term ‘gimbal’ is often used to describe a camera stabilising system, but the word actually refers to a balancing apparatus that is commonly found in homes such as toys. When it comes to filmmaking, gimbals have been reimagined as compact camera stabilisers that are ideal for creating smooth video footage once only achieved by professional Steadicam operators.A camera gimbal system can be used to support everything from small cameras like mobile phone gimbals, to gimbals for large Cinema cameras and lenses, significantly reducing vibration and shakiness when shooting.


The use of a gimbal during filming can improve the overall production value of a film by making your shots that contain movement, appear more professional and stable, you can capture smooth, stable footage even if you're moving around a lot! It's also perfect for capturing video of people in motion without any shake.


In addition to being an excellent tool for any videographer or filmmaker, operating a gimbal also presents an opportunity to become a cameraman on Gimbal Operator gigs, or even permanent positions, working directly with clients who need these services.



What is a Gimbal?

A gimbal is a device that is used to keep an object steady and balanced while it is in motion. In the Video Production world, a gimbal is a tool that stabilises a camera, reducing camera shake and vibrations to produce smooth, professional-looking footage. Camera gimbals are often used for travel videos, documentaries, and interviews, but some filmmakers also use them for cinematic shots or creating Timelapse's.


Gimbals have been used in filmmaking for decades, but they have only recently become more accessible to filmmakers who work on a budget. Miniature gimbals can be used with small cameras like GoPros, small mirrorless cameras or gimbal for phones. They are also commonly integrated into drones to create stabilised footage even when flying the drone in high winds.


So thinking about becoming a freelance gimbal operator?

As a Videographer there are a variety of skills you can develop to become an independent gimbal operator and get gimbal operator gigs. The first step, though, is understanding what exactly a gimbal operator does. The role is usually reserved for camera operators who have a lot of experience, but there are some entry-level positions as well. To become a successful freelancer as a gimbal operator, you'll need to have the right kind of equipment and knowledge to meet the needs of your clients. You will need to master the key gimbal movements required for video shoots.These include things like tracking shots, crane shots, arc movement shots. Here are some steps you can take to land gigs as a freelance gimbal operator, along with some advice from people already doing it successfully.



1. How to Become a Freelance Gimbal Operator

For many people who work in filmmaking or videography as a career, using a gimbal is a standard part of the process when filming. If you are interested in becoming a freelance gimbal videographer, you will need to be familiar with the equipment used in the industry and be able to use it effectively while filming. At the same time, you will also need to know how to market yourself effectively so that you can find clients who need your services. Gimbal operator jobs will usually fall under Camera Operator jobs on camera crew/filmmaking websites such as Production Hub, Mandy and sites like Linkedin and Facebook.


In order to become a freelance gimbal operator, you will need to start by investing in some equipment, including a gimbal, a camera, and an option for processing and storing footage. You can expect to spend between £2000-£4000 on these necessary items. After purchasing equipment, you will need to find clients who need your filming services. This can be done by reaching out to videography companies that may need videographers with gimbal experience for Gimbal Operator gigs , or by putting together a gimbal videographer showreel and marketing yourself to businesses and individuals who could benefit from using a gimbal while filming. Once you are confident in your Gimbal operating skills Network and market yourself: Reach out to potential clients and let them know about your services as a gimbal operator. Join industry groups and organisations, and participate in events and workshops to meet other professionals and build your network.



2. Gimbal Equipment Requirements

Invest in quality equipment: Having reliable, high-quality gimbal equipment is essential for a freelance gimbal operator. This will not only improve the quality of your work but also help you stand out from the competition. As a freelance operator, it is likely that you will mainly be working with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, as these are the most practical cameras for gimbal work in terms of weight/payload. Depending on the type of gimbal that you operate, you may also need specific types of cameras, lenses, and mounting accessories make sure you have all the necessary accessories before going on a shoot.If a client does have a specialist camera or large cinema camera that demands a larger gimbal rig than the one you own, it would be best to refer them to another camera operator who has the correct equipment for the job. You may also need a gimbal mounting system for vehicles, a remote gimbal controller, and a gimbal bag for safe transportation.


camera gimbal mounted on car
Mirrorless camera gimbal mounting system for vehicles

3. Build a Gimbal Videographer Portfolio

Before you can start making money as a freelance gimbal operator, you will need to build a portfolio of videos that show off your gimbal filming skills. Start by making short videos with the camera that you have available, whether this is a mobile phone,DSLR or Cinema camera, and then submit your films to video sharing websites, such as Vimeo, or to freelance websites that specialise in videography, such as Upwork. To get your foot in the door and start taking on jobs, you may need to start out as an unpaid intern or assistant, and gradually work your way up to becoming a full-fledged operator. Many companies also have social media pages where you can submit your work. Once you have created a portfolio of your gimbal work, you can then start contacting potential clients directly.


4.Get Good at Filming Moving Subjects

Practice and become proficient with gimbal operation: The more you practice and become comfortable with using a gimbal, the more confident you will be in your abilities and the more likely you will be able to deliver high-quality results for your clients.You may find that the majority of the filming jobs that you book are focused on shooting moving subjects, such as sporting events, races, concerts, or other live events, where a tripod or other forms of stabilisation equipment may not be practical. In these instances, you will have to rely on your skills as an operator to create smooth, professional-looking video clips. The best way to practice shooting moving subjects is by regularly attending sporting events or other events where you can practice filming with a gimbal. You can film short clips that you can then upload to video-sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo to demonstrate your videography skills. You can also try filming yourself doing simple tasks, such as walking around the house, to get used to operating the gimbal and getting good at controlled movements.



Camera Gimbal hand controller with blurred background
Camera Gimbal hand controller

5. Be flexible and adaptable:Familiarise Yourself with Different Brands and Models of Gimbals

As a freelance gimbal operator, you will likely be working on a variety of projects and with different clients. It's important to be flexible and adaptable in order to meet the needs and demands of each project and client. This may require you to learn new skills or work with different equipment, so being open to learning and adapting to new situations will be key to your success. Before you can start accepting jobs, you need to research the different types of gimbals that are currently on the market and decide which type of gimbal you want to specialise in operating. While there are many different brands of gimbals including Dji, Movi, Zhiyun, they all fall under one of three types: - Handheld gimbals which are small, handheld units that can be easily transported. They are usually used with single-operator setups but can be used by two people with the use of remote controlling for focusing and movement. - Steadicam style gimbals are large, heavy-duty gimbals that are operated by a single operator. They are commonly used for films, documentaries, and live events. - Vest-style gimbals are worn on the body, like a vest, which allows multiple people to operate the gimbal during shoots. A single operator can also use these gimbals, but they are not as commonly used in this way.Stay up to date with industry trends and techniques: The field of gimbal operation is constantly evolving, so it's important to stay current with new technologies and techniques. This will help you offer the best possible service to your clients and remain competitive in the market.



sony Dslr attached to Dji gimbal
DJI camera gimbal with Sony DSLR camera

Conclusion

Gimbals are a helpful tool that can be used by both amateur and professional videographers and filmmakers. As a freelance gimbal operator, you can use your skills to create smooth, stable action video footage for clients. Before you can start looking for gimbal jobs though, you need to research the different types of gimbals that are currently on the market and decide which type of gimbal you want to specialise in operating. Once you have acquired the necessary equipment and built your videography portfolio, you can start booking jobs as a freelance operator and start making money from your videographer skills.If you're passionate about cinematography you should definitely learn how to use a camera gimbal, why not start your journey today!


Our Video Production team are always looking for creative talent, so if you are a Gimbal operator, looking for Gimbal operator gigs or a Videographer, please get in touch we would love to hear from you. We are always looking for talented videographers and filmmakers!


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Shootlab are a Content Creation Company based in the UK. We offer a range of digital services for businesses and individuals, including Video Production, Photography, Videography, Social Content Creation, Social Media Management, Podcast Production. We have experience working with businesses of all sizes creating high-quality social content for websites, blogs and social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.


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