How Badly Do We Need MōVI?

MOVI - A revolutionary new camera stabilization unit 

     Vincent La Foret had much of the video world in a tizzy last night when he announced MōVI – the tiny gyro-based camera stabilizer from Freefly Systems that is in production to sell for around $15,000. At first glance, MōVI seemed to me like nothing more than a cool toy. The shots look beautiful, yes, but the demonstration video shows only a smaller and lighter version of a Steadicam Zephyr, which sells for around 11k. The extra 4k seems like a decent price to pay for a more versatile stabilizer rig, but it doesn’t seem worth it to purchase it for those of us who may already own a Zephyr. As I began to look through the footage though, I realized that the potential of this system is much closer to limitless than I had originally imagined.

     There are a couple distinct advantages that the MōVI has over a steadicam setup. The first being gyro-stabilization over balance. From what I understand, having the gyroscope gimbal in the MōVI means less of you balancing your rig and having your AD yelling at you because you aren’t fast enough and you’re holding up the entire crew. If you’ve earned frequent flyer miles on your rig, this won’t happen as often, but in situations where you don’t have a lot of time, (weddings and low budget shoots come to mind) you need a stabilizer that makes your job easier. According to La Foret, the MōVI also has a very easy learning curve, which is a plus when compared to any other stabilization rig. I still haven’t perfected anything on that stupid glidecam, but this operator passes his camera through a hoop and switches it into the other hand without losing any stability. Extremely impressive.

The MOVI operator passes his rig through a hoop

     Which brings us to versatility. Though it is a smaller rig, the MōVI is by no means a yuppie rich kid play-thing. An optimal camera crew would consist of the operator, a focus puller, and someone to remotely pan and tilt the camera. The built-in complexity of your rig means that you probably won’t just be able to run outside and make a beautiful looking film by yourself. However, this 3-man camera crew does provide opportunities for some amazing shots that may not have been possible before now on such a cheap rig. My first example would be the shots from the MōVI BTS video.

A Rollerblading camera operator hangs onto a cab as he films the interior

     This shot where the cameraman hangs on to the side of the taxi as he is pulled along on his rollerblades shows that this shot can be performed easily without the operator having to worry what the shot looks like. Another shot shows the camera following a group of dancers down the stairs with ease. Not so easy if you’re trying to keep your camera trained on a specific character, but executed beautifully in this situation by a 3-man setup.

     But of course we filmmakers are always obsessed with the downsides. What are they? How do they affect our use of the product?

     First – the MōVI doesn’t appear to have any support system. Hopefully Freefly Systems will come out with a vest and an arm to make holding the rig a little bit more manageable. Given that the MōVI weighs in at 3.5 pounds though, this doesn’t seem like it would be as big of a problem as if it were a balance-based unit. The second problem though, is that a 3.5 pound system will only support 10 pounds of camera equipment. If you’re shooting on a Canon 5D or 1D, this is fine, but if you want to shoot on a RED or even a c300 or F3, things might get a little more hairy when you try to add your attachments.

     The last big downside that I can see is the price point. I feel like it’s in that range where it’s too high for consumers and small production companies, but it isn’t adaptable to all situations on higher-budget shoots. Therefore it might be overlooked in favor of a higher end stabilization rig by larger production companies. For now, the most use that the MōVI gets may be primarily from rentals. Only time will tell though, if this is the game changer that La Foret promised. Vincent La Foret’s announcement article can be found here. What are your thoughts on the MōVI?

  • G

    What about using this with an EasyRig to hold up that 3.5lbs + camera/lens/FF? Granted, I think they look silly, but it would be practical to use on location, perhaps hands-free if needed.