The title of today's blog might be a little misleading. I am not claiming to know the best stabilizer for video because truthfully, I don't think there is a best stabilizer. I think there are a lot of options out there and the best one will change from situation to situation.
Best Stabilizer for Video: Options
I would say the most used and known about stabilizer would be the tripod. If you want complete stabilization, this is the way to go. With a tripod, you just put the camera on it, and unless someone bumps into it, you get completely still video. This is probably the simplest to use and that's why you see these everywhere. We use tripods for most of our cameras during the ceremony, and I will also set one up for dances and other events during the reception. I can just put it there and I know I'll get whatever walks in front of the camera.
The problems with a tripod come from their legs. The legs are needed to create stability, but they create problems. One, tripods can't be put just anywhere. You have to have a good amount of space for the legs to spread out. The legs also keep a tripod from really being mobile. To move from one place to the next, you have to push the legs in, move without hitting anything, and reopen the legs. Tripods do not do well for chasing the action.
The little brother of the tripod is the monopod. Instead of having three legs, a monopod only has one. The monopod can sometimes stand by itself, and this gives you stable footage, but a simple bump would knock it over. I wouldn't trust it. You can hold onto the monopod and the one leg will help you keep it steady, but I still find some movement in my shots. The great thing about a monopod over a tripod is that you can move with it. It is very easy to pick it up and just go. This is what I use for about 90% of my shots during a wedding. It allows me to move quickly, and a monopod can fit in tight places, unlike a tripod.
Flyers are devices that allow you to balance the camera while hand holding it. When you see footage from a flyer during movement, it really looks the camera is just gliding along and flying. This allows for some really creative shots that would be difficult or impossible with a tripod or monopod. The big benefit of a flyer is that you are able to move with your subject and still get stable shots. You can walk beside him, go backwards, or go around him. I like to use our Glidecam for creative shots. I usually bring it in during the portrait session of the bride and groom and then again during dancing. I like to either go toward them or do a circle.
There are some issues with a flyer. The biggest one is that balancing one can be difficult and take time. You will usually have to balance it again every time you make a change, whether it's putting the camera on or changing a lens. They are very sensitive, so the slightest change throws things off. Personally, I'm not very good at it, so I limit my use of them. The other issue is fatigue. You're holding a camera and device up with just your arm. This can wear you out pretty quickly. The other two options are supported by the ground, so you really aren't holding the weight of the camera.
Like I said, there really isn't a Best Stabilizer for Video. It all depends on who you are, your style of shooting, and really the situation. I use all three during a wedding, while other videographers might prefer just one. My suggestion would be to try each one out and see what you like, but make sure to keep your options open to all three.