Robust image stabilization has become a standard feature of most modern video production. Beyond the optical image stabilization available in several DSLR lenses, an increasing number of production crews have turned to stabilization rigs to provide graceful movement to footage. These rigs - often in the form of 3-axis stabilization handheld gimbals - build upon the original innovation of Garrett Brown’s Tiffen Steadicam by placing high quality camera movement options in hands of operators, without the need for advanced training or certification.
By 2016, DJI had already made impressive inroads to camera movement innovation with its handheld gimbal, the Ronin, and the 4k gimbal-stabilized camera on its Inspire 1 drone systems. It seemed like the next logical progression was a small, high-resolution camera combined with an equally compact gimbal system for the next step in single-operator use. Thus the OSMO line was born…
The original DJI OSMO system presents a 4k, 12 MP, 20mm equivalent camera mounted atop a 3-axis stabilization gimbal. That it presents these two tools mounted atop a grip similar to an inverted pilot’s joystick makes it seem like DJI is jockeying to appeal to both generalist gadget enthusiasts AND serious content shooters looking for a compact potential alternative to larger stabilization rigs.
SHOT ON THE DJI OSMO 4K RAW CAMERA
BY: KRISTINE GUZMAN & NATHAN PARDEE
SHOT ON THE DJI OSMO PRO CAMERA
BY: JOHN ENGSTROM
The layout of the OSMO device itself is impressively simple, with only four buttons provided for basic usage (not including an additional button to toggle the device on and off). The only button that does not share functionality with the remote viewing interface (i.e. controlling the camera and several of the gimbal’s functions via smartphone or tablet) is the pan and tilt pad, located dead center in the control handle. Even some of the less obvious functions, such as horizon lock, camera re-centering, and “selfie mode” – wherein the camera quickly swivels 180 degrees to face the operator – can be controlled using the trigger button on the front of the device body. In other words, the controls are simple and pretty intuitive.
REMOTE CONTROL VIA WIFI
Like its drone systems, DJI utilizes the DJI GO app to provide operators to camera and gimbal functions via wifi using a smartphone or tablet. In the case of the OSMO and OSMO RAW, the app allows the operator to control Autofocus, Exposure Value, Record Start/Stop, Shutter Speed, ISO, and Capture Resolution – among other functions. Both OSMO systems come with a smartphone holder accessory mount to provide real time footage viewing, using the operator’s phone as an onboard monitor. Impressively, the OSMO body and remote control via wifi share several functions, greatly opening up shooting options. In the event shooters want to capture remotely - for instance mounting the OSMO on a high perch – or work in tandem with another operator – detaching the phone from the OSMO and reviewing footage as another person operates the OSMO itself – the remote control via wifi is both a necessary tool and opportunity for creative possibility with the OSMO systems.
I took the uncompressed-shooting OSMO RAW out for a spin during a recent trip to rural Vermont. The latitude provided by RAW footage seemed like a perfect excuse to shoot some snow-covered exteriors. As I turned on this version of the OSMO for the first time, I immediately noticed the noise of the twin cooling fans. As it so happened, I planned to shoot MOS footage for a short film, so the sound wasn’t going to factor into my final product. However, shooters should expect fan noise to be a presence on any footage that uses on-board microphone options to capture audio.
My OSMO footage consisted both of landscape footage featuring intense snow-reflected highlights and low-light interiors lit by candlelight. In shooting both of these conditions, I found that the OSMO sensor seems to perform best around 100 ISO, especially in the low-light conditions. While the OSMO can and does perform well at higher ISO levels based on prevailing lighting conditions, the sensor seems to capture the best footage at 100 ISO, before noise or blown highlights threaten to ruin the image.
For all of its useful features and the ultra-portable package, there are a few other operating quirks that you should be aware before and during use. While shooting with the Osmo RAW, I noticed an appreciable lag in two of the camera’s functions: automatic focus and auto exposure. While the delay is not damning to most shooting applications, operators planning to run the camera on full-auto mode should expect functional delays of up to approximately one second for remote autofocus and up to approximately two seconds for auto exposure when shooting in lighting that changes abruptly (e.g. framing an indoor scene lit with tungsten lights and turning the camera to a snowy landscape under an overcast sky).
My time with the OSMO RAW revealed a particular workflow needed to even record uncompressed footage in the first place. While both OSMOs can use MicroSD cards to record compressed footage and proxies, the OSMO RAW WILL NOT RECORD RAW FOOTAGE TO THE PROVIDED SSDs WITHOUT A MICROSD INSERTED AS WELL. During my test shoot, this quickly threatened to kill my opportunity to try out RAW shooting, as I was staying at a house in rural Vermont. Luckily, I was able to find a lifesaver of a computer store on a trip into town (a special shout-out to Small Dog Electronics in Rutland!) Basic takeaway: you WILL need both types of media to shoot RAW!
One last shooting quirk that is worth considering: audio. As I listened to the scratch audio captured from the OSMO, I realized that it could only ever be just that – scratch audio for reference. In between the intense fan noise produced by the RAW recorder and the inability of the provided onboard flexible mic to capture beyond that noise, clean audio capture should be a serious consideration for video producers looking to use the OSMO for narrative or documentary setups that require crisp, clear audio. The original OSMO 4k has a great feature in its audio options menu that effectively stops the fan during video recording, only reactivating the fan during longer or higher resolution recording when the system temperature rises; it is both completely understandable (the higher temperatures of RAW recording) and extremely baffling (fantastic RAW footage with no real hope of onboard audio in the same handheld device??) why there no such fan mute option exists on the OSMO RAW. In other words,creative audio setups with some kind of external recorder, such as the Zoom H4n or H6, and lavalier or boom microphones are necessary for quality audio during RAW recording.
POST PRODUCTION WORKFLOW
If you are using OSMO RAW to shoot uncompressed footage, be sure to download and install the latest version of DJI’s proprietary post-production software - DJI Cinelight for Mac users, DJI Camera Exporter for Windows users (preferably before shooting, if you have access to your work computer). DJI uses its own programs to review and export footage from the OSMO RAW SSDs. When I first attempted to access my RAW footage, it didn’t appear anywhere on the SSD UNTIL I downloaded the programs, so if you having similar issues, the footage should appear in the CineLight/Exporter queue after the program is opened for the first time. From there, Cinelight allows you to tweak exposure, contrast, and color space of your clips before exporting in one of a few RAW formats for more in-depth post work.
The DJI OSMO can be an incredibly useful image capture tool for enterprising video producers. If you keep in mind its small quirks, it can be a tremendous asset as a B camera for larger 4k cinema cameras or even an A cam for short-form projects. With additional accessories – such as the Revo extension pole or the DJI Focus Handwheel – the DJI OSMO can become a highly flexible option for all types of shooters. The shining attribute of this rig - its small-footprint, handheld 3-axis stabilization – can make it a truly unique and invaluable piece of kit for almost any production.
Rent the DJi Osmo 4k Raw and the DJi Osmo Pro at Flüg.