I got my Nebula delivered about 2 weeks ago, but I’ve been flat out with corporate gigs and so have not really had a chance to take it out and play. I was very lucky to have a day off and get invited by my mate Simon to go to the Australian International Air Show with his mate Kevin. I thought this would be a perfect chance to try out the Nebula.
I haven’t had much experience using “small” stabilisers before and I think it shows in the footage. I’ve used a Movi a few times on set, but I found using the one-handed Nebula a bit more challenging.
First the good. I balanced my GH4 with it’s 12-35 lens at about 8:30am when we arrived and the battery on the Nebula lasted until 5:30pm when we left, and it was still going. I shot 1 hour and 46 minutes of footage, mostly in 4K and about 35 minutes of it at 96fps.
So I am very impressed with the battery life of the Nebula.
As you might expect, the Nebula was a lot lighter than any other stabiliser I’ve used in the past , though having said that, I did have to switch hands from time to time if I was shooting for 5 or more minutes continuously.
Now some of the challenges I faced and what I learnt. To begin with, I learnt that I need to move the camera a lot slower. When I got my footage back on a bigger screen, I saw that there were a lot more jerky actions than I thought. My pans/slides were way too fast to be usable and when I would rotate, I would come to a stop too suddenly. I need to learn to be smoother.
So when shooting with this, think like when you are public speaking, no matter how slow you think you are going… go slower.
Walking shots! I can see I am going to need a lot more practice to get those steady with the one-handed Nebula, or get a Fig Rig and attach it to that for more points of contact and stability as Erik Naso has done.
Another challenge was monitoring. It’s a no-go really. I was talking to a guy earlier in the week who has a Nebula and he showed me how he had velcro’d an iPhone attachment to the back of his Nebula and would mount the iPhone, connect to his camera via wifi and use it to monitor his camera on the Nebula. Great idea and the lag wasn’t too bad. The only place it let me down was when I wanted to use the Nebula held up above my head, so I couldn’t see the phone screen either. Still really good for walking shots.
Because I couldn’t really monitor the camera screen most of the time, I set the GH4 to use autofocus, which is fine when you are just experimenting and don’t have to nail every shot. I was pleasantly surprised how well it did. I only found it hunting for focus a few times. Having said that, I’m not sure I would use the autofocus on a paid gig, unless I had no choice.
You’ll also notice that most of the shots are, at best, a little over-exposed. I’d love to say that this was a style decision, but in truth, I’d had a 12-hour shoot the day before, I got home at about 11pm and I forgot to pack my variable ND. This turned out for the best, as I had to shoot most of the day around an aperture of f11-f13, so even if autofocus wasn’t nailing it, it didn’t have a lot to nail.
I graded it with Color Finale and I’ll upload a second version to show the before and after of the grade. I actually found that some of the shots got really bad banding when I tried to push them too far in FCPX and this is where being able to record 10Bit out of the HDMI port to something like a Shogun instead of the 8Bit that the GH4 captures internally makes all the difference.
Overall, I am pretty happy with my first day out with the Nebula and I can see how I am going to get some great footage out of using it in the future.
Below is a version that shows a bit of before and after for the grade.