When the MōVI M10 was announced this Spring, it sparked a massive amount of interest and conversation within the film making community. For any of you that aren’t familiar with the MōVI M10 – It is a camera stabilizer that uses a brushless gimbal, handle bars and an optional remote control to provide an alternative to steadicams, sliders, and even jibs. The most impressive thing about it, is that this single tool can potentially replace the need for all of the previously mentioned stabilization systems and often provide a superior result. For the purpose of this article, I’ll mainly be focusing on the M10 (which supports cameras up to 10 lbs), although it should be noted that later this year Freefly will also release a less expense M5 model which will handle cameras up to 5 lbs. If you haven’t already checked it out, please see the video from when it was first released back in April:
While there are a number of other gimbal based stablilizers out there (some of which were out before the MōVI and many more came after), the MōVI got by far the most attention. This was due to a combination of many factors, one of which being that it comes highly endorsed by Vincent Laforet who was involved in the creation of the device.
For one reason or another, some film makers and producers have been skeptical about the MōVI, mainly due to the $15,000 price tag. While they do see the potential that it has, they have often critized the high price, pointing out that there are now dozens of similar products being developed regularly that are offering an almost identical design but at a much lower cost. There are some that are as low as $2500 that on paper offer a very similar result to the MōVI.
Nobody can deny that the device is extremely well built, beautifully engineered and a leap forward for the film industry. But what we can debate is the price, which seems to be the number one concern with the product. I’ll admit when it was first released I was just about ready to pre-order one until I realized that it was $15,000. Initially this was a bit shocking to me as the device seemed to be such a simple design and I would have expected it to be half the price or less. And for me, when I typically needed any sort of steadicam or dolly I will rent them, so I couldn’t justify spending that much money on a device that I won’t use all the time. But for those of you that will use them all the time. Or want to start using them, the question is – is the MōVI worth it? After going back and forth on this question myself, I would have to say, yes. It is absolutely worth it right now.
Here’s my rationale. First off, if there is no better product on the market at a lower price point, I can’t say that it isn’t worth the money. The moment someone releases a stabilizer that is better than the MōVI in every way and costs less money, is exactly when the MōVIwill be overpriced in my opinion. Until then, Freefly has the luxury of charging what they please for it because there is no real competition yet. I happen to think that will change very quickly and in the next year they may need to either adjust the design to add for different functionality or drop the price, but for now it is the best gimbal based stabilizer on the market.
I also happen to think that when you factor in just how many tools this can either replace or replicate on set, that adds to the value of it. For example if you were going to gear up for a feature film and purchase a dolly system, steadicam and jib, you’re looking at many many times the cost of this. A steadicam alone could run you many times the price of the MōVI. And let’s not forget that the steadicam will be rented – not owned (unless you plan on being a steadicam operator), meaning you have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. The MōVI is sellable down the road. And you can operate it yourself. From what I’ve seen so far, it is exceptionally easy to operate, so you can factor in that you or your DP or operator can use the tool yourselves and you no longer need to pay for an additional crew member (the steadicam op) to come out with his own rig.
And to counter the recurring argument that there are other cheaper MōVI-like stabilizers on the market today – they simply aren’t good enough. Not by my standards at least. When I think about stabilization it either needs to be perfect or not there at all. I will take a locked off shot on the sticks any day over a bumpy dolly shot or a wobbly glide cam shot. Sometimes in film, less is more and when I see productions that use crappy jibs or other support gear it is the first give away that the film had a very low budget. The irony of this of course, is that these tools are supposed to add production value to your final product but if they don’t look perfect they will take away from it. There are many examples of oscar winning films that were shot entirely locked off. Or on a shoulder rig. Or within very minimal stabilization. Often times this is a stylistic choice intended to better serve the story, but the point is that stories can be told in an infinite amount of ways and not all of those ways require a steadicam. If they do however, than the MōVI proves to be an excellent alternative as it is many times less expensive than a steadicam and doesn’t require a dedicated operator with specialized training.
If the MōVI was released 10 years ago it wouldn’t have been met with nearly as much criticism as it has been today. The simple reason being that film makers today (myself included!) are spoiled. We live in an age where we get instant gratification. We don’t have to wait for film to develop. We can shoot raw video on cameras that cost $995. We can edit our films on laptops and share them with the world with tools that are available to us from our couch. New cameras and new gear come out every day and they all push costs lower and quality higher. This is all great. Technology is simply running its course. But sometimes we need to step back and realize that not all tools, especially completley new innovations, are going to come out swinging with the lowest prices imaginable.
I will add this though. I think that theÂ MōVI M5 (although much cheaper at about $5k) is more off the mark price-wise than the M10 – even though it is a third of the cost. The reason being the M5 can only handle cameras up to 5 lbs. When you consider your lens and and camera body alone, you are basically limited to cameras like DSLR’s, Blackmagic Pocket Camera, or other mirrorless prosumer and consumer level cameras. I’m not sure how well the M5 will sell, even considering it is much lower cost. For productions that are shooting on DSLR, $5K is usually a lot of money. On the other hand if you’re shooting on an EPIC or Alexa and need an M10, the $15K probably isn’t going to make as big of a dent in your budget. If you are considering an M5 and a new DSLR to go along with it, check out my Top 5 DSLR’s for video.
I don’t doubt that next year at this time there will be many more options out there that will come close to or possibly surpass that MōVI. And they may very well be available for much less than the MōVI is now. But until that happens, the MōVI is simply the best product on the market and priced in a way that adequately reflects that.
What do you think? Is this a tool you could see yourself buying? Renting? Or just passing on completely.