• The Key to Movi Magic (for us)


The Movi is an incredible tool that changes the way we as storytellers can communicate with our audience. One of the biggest questions filmmakers often have is about how approachable the rig is. Does it take a long time to learn? Do you need a large crew? This post is all about our tips and tricks on how to maximize the Movi when you’re shooting solo.

Our MoVI has taken a beating. We’ve pushed its limits, run it through harsh environments, completely disassembled it, and flown with it halfway around the world (twice!). After taking our unit from the sidelines of an NFL game to the remote edges of Namibia, we are happy to report that aside from a few scratches and a missing rubber band, our MoVI is still in one piece.

We’ve already shared our initial thoughts on the MoVI and how we feel it’s going to impact filmmakers and the stories we tell. As with any filmmaking tool though, it’s important to realize that that’s exactly what it is — a tool. How and when you use it should motivated by the stories you want to tell and the situations you find yourself in.

Which operating mode are we using the most?

It can be quite overwhelming with how many ways you can use and operate the MoVI. You can easily have a 3 person setup involving an operator, remote controller, wireless focus puller, and multiple monitors to rig. This setup can be very complex with a lot of moving parts; not an issue if you’re shooting on-set with lots of time to setup and coordinate moves.

On the other hand, you have the option to operate the MoVI in Majestic Mode; where you can basically operate the unit solo. By dialing a few settings via a tablet or computer, you can have the MoVI move and react precisely to your personal preference.

Use Majestic Mode to dial in settings perfectly for single operator shoots.

We’ve found Majestic Mode to be our go-to setup during many live event shoots; whether it be sports or our very own documentary #standwithme.

How we fit it all into a carry-on…

When Joyce and Patrick were in Namibia filming Lisa Kristine’s story for #standwithme, they faced the limitation of having limited crew and gear weight that could be brought along. This meant stripping down the MoVI to its bare minimum parts and disassembling some sections in order to pack it into a compact case. Joyce was able to pack the unit, stand, extra batteries, spare parts, and a tablet into a carry-on size shoulder bag.

Keep it as simple as possible if you’re a single operator. 

After they landed in Namibia, it took them just under 30 minutes to reassemble the unit, balance it with the C100, and immediately start shooting. Not too shabby, right?

And because we run it in Majestic Mode, only one person is needed to operate the MoVI and the bare setup allows us to quickly switch the unit for a monopod when the story calls for it.

Our go-to MoVI setup…

Even when we’re not in the middle of the desert with only two crew members, we’re still usually trying to stay as light and quick as possible. So what’s our go-to setup when we need to be fast, mobile, and running in Majestic Mode? This kit will get you up and running with a C100 and lens setup in no time.

In the MoVI bag:

MoVI with the entire handle and grip disassembled
Basic Nexus 7 tablet + charger
Rode Videmic Pro + bar mount
SmallHD DP-4 monitor + bar mount
4x DP-4 batteries + charger
5 MoVI batteries + charger
MoVI assembly tools
A thin-cabled HDMI cable

This kit and more fits into a carry-on friendly bag.

Joyce + MoVI = Love 4eva

If you haven’t heard, Joyce is a big fan of the MoVI. With it, she’s been able to push her stories, tackle documentary and sports shoots on her own and be able to move the camera to add energy and excitement without the use of a full body mounted rig.

JT MoVi 2

On a recent shoot with talent on a bicycle at sunrise Joyce was looking for a big epic shot with a ton of energy and and there was no way using a monopod or shoulder rig could’ve replicated that same feeling.

For the first time ever, she found herself tracking a cyclist down the road and hanging out the back of a van to get some sweet moving shots.

4 tips to get the most out of the MoVI

Here are some tips based on our time with the MoVI on the road:

1. A bare C100 with the Canon 24-70 (version 2) is a great combination for wide epic energetic shots with the ability to zoom in tighter when necessary. Zooming may throw off your camera balance a little but nothing that the MoVI’s electronics can’t compensate for. You don’t want to get caught having to switch lenses and rebalancing the unit in middle of the action!

2. Unlike a body mounted Steadicam, it isn’t as easy to adjust focus and other camera settings on the fly. We typically stop down a bit more than usual to take advantage of a deeper range of focus. F/8.0 is a good spot to try if you are just starting out and running solo.

3. Turn on your MoVI before boarding a vehicle that you plan to shoot out of (i.e. car, boat, helicopter, ect). Once your vehicle starts moving, the MoVI may have a difficult time booting up and aligning itself. The Freefly batteries will keep the MoVI running for a good amount of time and we’ve gotten an hour of continuous operation off a single charge.

4. On the tablet, start with these basic settings in Majestic Mode. Get a good feel for how fast the pan and tilts react to your movements. Slowly adjust your values up or down to fit your needs.

  • Pan Smoothing: 15
  • Pan Window: 5
  • Tilt Smoothing: 15
  • Tilt Window: 5

Don’t try to do everything. If you’re a solo operator, recognize what your constraints are and use them to push your creativity as a solo operator. 

If you are thinking of adding the Movi, but aren’t quite sure, we always recommend trying it first. Our friends at LensProToGo carry the Movi M10 and you can rent it right here. Here is what is super cool about the LPTG team – when you rent the Movi M10 you also get amazing support from their team on how to set it up and get it running.


Remember, the MoVI is a tool — just like anything else you need to tell a powerful story. With something this cool, it’s tempting to use it all the time, but the story always comes first!

If you’ve enjoyed this, check out our Storytelling With Heart workshop. It’s a day full of discussions just like this one, with some hands-on exercises and and in-depth look at our approaches to meaningful storytelling. We’ll have a MoVI at each stop to demo and share with everyone there as well.

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28 Thoughts on “The Key to Movi Magic (for us)

  1. Hi guys, awesome blog but could you tell us the bag you used to transport the movi with camera? I am in search of a bag for my travels this season. Need something I can carry on other than the giant pelican they come with. Thank you

  2. Hey Patrick,

    I’m wondering if you could share what bag you use for the Movi? And how do you keep the dismounted elements from scratching each other?

  3. is there separate brackets you bought to mount the rode mic? also would be cool to see how you mounted the c100 with the handle as i’m having difficulty at the moment


  4. I was wondering about the 24-70 new version and the MoVI. Do you really not need to rebalance when changing focal lengths on that lens? What are your motor percentages within the app when you change focal lengths? They still within -3 and 3%?

    Thinking about picking that lens up as my MoVI run-n-gun lens, but still want to maintain that perfect balance.

    • Hey Chris,

      We’ve found zooming with the 24-70 still works without rebalancing the camera. For longer or more elaborate shots, we’d definitely suggest adjusting the camera and properly balancing it.

  5. Just came across your blog/site it’s great. But curious as to how you’ve balanced the c100 on the Movi with the hand grip attached, I’ve had no joy. Would love to know if you could share your insights?


    • Hey Chris,

      The C100 with grip works just fine on our MoVI. What exact issue are you experiencing?

      Just make sure you remember to off-set the roll bar so you can adjust the camera’s quick release plate to free up room for the C100+handle.

  6. I just watched a set up video for the MoVi and if you have one I would recommend up grading the charger to something like this http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__6478__IMAX_B6_AC_Charger_Discharger_1_6_Cells_GENUINE_.html This charger will run of AC or DC I’ve used one for several years and it works great.

    Also one of these battery checkers helps keep you from over discharging the battery which is very bad for LiPo http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__19945__H_King_Cellmeter_6_Lipo_Life_Li_ion_Cell_Checker_Alarm.html warning this device has a loud alarm to alert you might not be good during a shoot.

  7. Thanks for the great post! I love everything you post and especially helpful tips with the Movi. This is such an inspiring tool! I hope to try it out someday in the near future. Newbie question for you here… Can you explain why the C100? Would a Canon 5DMarkiii work or a Nikon D800? Or do you need a more “serious” camera? Would love to see some of that cool footage Joyce shot. I guess I can count on seeing the results in your doco Premiere. See you soon at the Storytelling tour in Tampa! Can’t wait!

    • Megan – Let the story you’re telling determine what camera you shoot with. The MoVI can be used with anything from a GoPro to a Red Epic. They can all be serious cameras :)

      Looking forward to seeing you in Tampa on the 25/26th!

    • Currently, Freefly has only released their Configurator app for Android devices. They plan to make the app available on iIOS, but I’m sure Apple won’t make that easy.

  8. Bruce- cinestar and movi are from same company. If your comparing the 3 axis radian setup to a movi well… there is no comparison. 15k is a lot and too much for me but there is not much out there as good. i have owned several gimbals for multi rotor platforms and besides the zenmuse z15 which only works with certain cameras on dii platforms as i mentioned there is nothing as good out there or worth mentioning besides the movi, or z15 for arial. For ground work maybe be-steady, or the defy gimbal but neither of the two have many videos on the the whole internet to judge so for now the movi is in it’s own class. I’m sure the future will level the playing field but the ability to use different cameras on one gimbal and also use it for arial use with a multi rotor is a pretty rare setup for right now. i will say to be fair that the dii zenmuse gimbals work just as good for arial setups stability wise maybe even better from what i have seen but your locked in to one camera with one lens and no handheld. Come to think about it there is not much footage from any of these gimbals other then company video’s and a few test shots, do a search youtube/vimeo or even search in rc groups sites. i expected to see lot’s of arial footage with movi but there is not much out there unfortunately.

  9. I think the main advantage of the MoVi is it is well supported. If you are not someone who plays with electronics and is making stuff all the time I’d say the MoVi is well worth the money. I have built my own unit but then I have twenty years of building instrumentation equipment and I’ve been flying RC since 1977. With all that it still took a lot of time to learn all the technology and put a good unit together never mind getting components that did not live up to the manufactures promise. There is only one other unit that I have seen so far that may come close to the MoVi and that is the Gremsy there may be others, but most are based on inexpensive gimbals from China with a Alex Mos controller and I bet the support isn’t that good. I would be very weary of some of these products. There was a real surge of me too manufactures out there.

    There will be less expensive units out that will work well, but I would wait until the dust settles as you don’t want to be stuck with something that is nothing but frustration for you. It is a tool and like any other piece of equipment you have to evaluated is it worth the investment for your story telling.

  10. You guys really spent the $14K on the MoVI? I’ve been into RC (radio controlled) Quad, Hex and Octo copters for aerial video for about 2 years now. MoVI basically stole the idea from Cinestar who was using the 3-axis set up for at least 2 years with their Octocopters way before MoVI came out. You can buy the Cinestar 3-Axis Gimbal for under $2K and ad your own carbon fiber handles. You should pass info this along to your readers, so they can save a bundle and get the same results.

    • Hey Bruce,

      By commenting you are sharing this info with them, so thanks for sharing your thoughts and contributing. We not only believe in Freefly and the products they make, we also believe in who they are as people and what they are about.

      We spent a day with them learning how to use the Movi in person and were very inspired by how much they cared about empowering filmmakers and why they make their products. I can’t comment on the history of the technology – I really don’t know much about that – I can just say that our first hand experience with everybody on their team has been exceptional.

      With any product there will be a range of options. Before the Movi, many of us went with Steadicam. There were and are dozens of brands, some of which are 1/10th of the price as the official Steadicam brand. We all need to do our research and make the choices that work for us.

      For us, we want to work with companies that we believe in. We want products that are reliable and will push us to be better storytellers. I personally walked through the Kalahari for hours with nothing but the Movi. It held up amazingly well in an environment that nearly killed me.

      Thanks for sharing your comments and passing on the info to our readers.


    • Bruce. (My 2 cents)

      First of all Freefly Systems who created the Mōvi ALSO created the Cinestar. So I’m not sure what you mean by “they basically stole the idea”. They are an amazing company that has been on the front lines of the aerial AND handheld gimbal movement.
      Second, I personally own a Cinestar8 with the 3 axis gimbal as well as the Mōvi M10. The older 3 axis unit can’t even be compared to the Mōvi. New electronics, new brain and much much better. The Mōvi definitely isn’t for everyone and it IS a large amount to pay for a handheld stabilized rig but is is VERY unique and allows you to get shots that were previously not possible. It’s all about having the right tool for the job, and this “tool” opens many doors.
      Nice write up Patrick.

    • I use the Movi regularly now and have used other Alexmos based units, and there’s no comparison. The tunability and GUI on the Movi puts it miles ahead of other options for right now anyway. There’s a lot more going on with the Movi than typical heli gimbals, with custom motors, GPS angular acceleration compensation, overload sensors, thermometers in the motors etc. On alexmos based units we’ve fried the board when the gyro sensor cable came loose. That shouldn’t happen with this system.

      We’ve only used Epics on our unit, so far. It’s worked very well, from on skis in a boarder cross course, on the back of a snowmobile, on skates for an NHL spot, in the heli. The main challenge we’ve had is figuring out the best HD video link to send to focus puller and remote op. Paralinx has been less than stellar.

      And finally, if you’re on set and the Movi doesn’t work, it’s a Movi problem and they get blamed, but if your cheapo version goes down, you get blamed.

  11. Thank you for the real world examples and feedback about the MoVI, especially recognizing the fact that most of us don’t have the budget for 3 operators! Beside the C100, any other camera you recommend as suited for the MoVI?

    • The 1DC has been an awesome pairing with the Movi as well. Allowing for multiple monitors plus the option for 1920 slow motion is pretty wild. Both of them feel very good on the Movi and can be used for extended times.


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