Like it or not, gimbal stabilizers have irreversibly revolutionized the way in which camera movements can be accomplished. Because of these devices, many cinematography techniques that used to take pounds of equipment and a multi-man crew can now be done solely by a camera operator and a single-handed gimbal.
One of the many camera techniques that can be easily achieved with such a device is surprisingly the vertigo effect. Originating from Irmin Roberts, the acclaimed cinematographer of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic flick Vertigo, the Vertigo Effect (or Dolly Zoom effect) is the camera trick wherein the background becomes stretched out as a subject comes closer to the camera. This technique is usually done with a dolly system by moving the camera forward while zooming out, or vice versa.
Performing this technique on a gimbal is ideal as it allows you to pull off the shot while keeping your subject centered and stable in the frame thus avoiding the jitteriness associated with handheld shooting. With a gimbal such as the Zhiyun Crane 2, performing the Vertigo Effect is relatively simple and straighforward, as explained in the following video by Momentum Productions.
To start off, you’ll need to set your Crane 2 to Lock Mode first. That can be done by pressing the Mode button on the gimbal as this step will ensure that any unwanted camera shakes and jitters are eliminated from the recording. Next, you should choose your start position – do you want to start zoomed in or zoomed out? Remember that when you press record, the direction of your body movement and zoom will oppose each other.
After you’ve settled on your starting position, hit the record button and begin your camera move. If you’ve opted for the shot zoomed in, trigger the camera lens to zoom out as you move closer towards your subject. If you started with the shot zoomed out, move farther away from your subject as you trigger the camera to zoom in.
To ensure smooth motion while filming, you’ll want to use some sort of follow focus/remote zoom system. Zhiyun offers a proprietary follow focus system for their Crane 2 gimbal which in this case was used to manipulate the zoom, rather than the focus ring.
Alternatively, you could utilize a smartphone remote or remote accessory in conjunction with your camera. Those of you who are shooting with Sony mirrorless cameras such as the A7R III, A7 III or A9 can use the tab to focus feature to be able to rack focus on the fly.
If you’re looking to disorient audiences even more with the camera move, you can go completely bonkers by using the Crane 2’s POV mode, rather than Lock mode. This gives you the ability to perform the move while rolling, thus adding a more intentionally off-putting feeling to your shot while denoting a sense of confusion if that’s what you’re going for.