The DJI Ronin Experience

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I am trying to make it a habit to update this blog regularly. The impetus for that to materialise is that I shoot more, and I simply love trying out new toys to help achieve the creative and dynamic vision that Aidil, Shaun and I are seeking to get out for this film, and the most satisfying so far certainly has to be the DJI Ronin, a 3-axis handheld gimbal stabiliser by DJI. As the description on DJI’s website goes:

Developed for the filmmaking professional, the DJI Ronin marks a generational leap in camera stabilization technology. Its custom sensors, powerful motors and advanced algorithms put world-class precision in your hands.

And so if you haven’t already known brushless gimbal stabilisers have been all the rage lately, and I was really dying to try the Freefly MoVI about two months earlier, but it wasn’t available the day I wanted it.

Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as the Ronin came soon after, and so it turned out, the rental price for the Ronin is significantly lower than that of the MoVI. For producing a low-budget film, it’s a no-brainer then, I thought.

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The Ronin has three operating modes, Upright, Underslung and Briefcase, but I only managed to use it in the Underslug mode, which is the default mode. Calibrating takes a while of getting used to, but once you are familiar with setting up a camera that you use regularly, it should take no longer than 5-10 minutes to get rolling.

What’s even more helpful is that it has an iOS app (not for the iPad though) called DJI Assistant that allows you to automatically tune up the stabiliser, but that’s provided you’ve got the CG right with manual pre-balancing. This, according to DJI, allows for quick calibration when you change camera setups. The app also allows you to select between single or dual operator modes, of which I chose to operate single man due to the small size of the crew and set, and inability to rehearse the shots prior.

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Operating the Ronin was a breeze. For this shoot I opted to use my GH3 with a 20mm F.17 Mark II pancake (one of my favourite M43 lenses), as the versatile focal length allows me to move freely between shot sizes without compromising the subjects or environment.

With confident and capable actors who can run with the scene from start to end seamlessly, we decided to shoot the scene in long takes, with slight variations in each take for editing coverage purposes. When we started rolling camera, it took only about half an hour to shoot everything (could have probably been even lesser, if the roads were easier to drive around and back). Its just as well, the shoot only lasted that long because the Ronin is a considerably heavy tool.

If the conditions are right, the only thing you only need to worry about is if your footage is in focus. Not a big issue for us, shooting F11 in daytime.

The Ronin also comes with a set of two accessory mounts for the top bar and a industry-standard 15mm rod system on its baseplate. It even has a P-Tap power supply unit so you can use a wireless follow focus. Due to the short period of time we had for the shoot, I did not try mounting additional items like a monitor or a matte box. Maybe next time!

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In conclusion, would I buy the DJI Ronin? Yes (if I had the cash to splurge!).

As a first-time user of the product, I am satisfied with the shots that I managed to achieve, and despite its weight, I very much appreciate its one-size-fits-almost-all capability, which allows me the freedom and flexibility of switching between larger and smaller cameras whenever required, and still having the Ronin as an option to shoot with.

It also comes with a very large flight case that stores everything within. Its bulky but it ensures your SGD3,800 toy stays safe, and in this case (no pun intended), I suppose it’s an acceptable inconvenience.

So that sums up my extremely positive virgin experience with the DJI Ronin. I have since returned it to the rental centre, but I am looking forward to shooting with it again soon, and once more using it to push our creative vision to higher limits. Till next time!

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And here are our detectives! You will get to meet them real soon. I promise!

Photos by Sarah Lim and Aidil Johari

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