From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 8
by Joe Papa
AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick–Joystick The value of a three-axis gimbal for capturing Hollywood cinematic footage is undisputed. The genius minds at AerialPixels are world leaders in this industry and cater to the most discerning and demanding clients. Pioneers in their own right, they’ve been on the cutting edge of gimbal design and control since the technology’s inception. The bottom line is that if you want the best, AerialPixels is the place the pros go when their livelihood is on the line.
No matter how good your gimbal is, the resulting footage is still heavily dependent on the skill of the operator. Most operators will quickly learn that panning and tilting the camera can be a bit of a workout in tight quarters or during extended use.
If you own a brushless gimbal and have attempted to use it handheld, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The fi rst time I used our Ronin with a full-size DSLR; my shoulders burned to a crisp and became numb in a matter of minutes. One reason for the muscle inferno comes from trying to steer the camera. When the gimbal is in its “follow mode” as you rotate your upper body or use your arms to rotate the handles, the camera will smoothly pan in that direction. Tilting your wrist up or down will tilt the camera lens appropriately. All these movements are Olympic-level training alone, but keep in mind your shoulders are supporting the weight of the entire rig the whole time and….well you get the idea. Another concern you’ll quickly come to grips with is trying to maintain a clear view of your LCD monitor while performing these aerobatic tricks. While some have resorted to a second operator confi guration where another person controls the pan, tilt or both from a transmitter, this complicates the entire process and can be more difficult to coordinate. AerialPixels has come up with a simple solution that is so effective and simple to use, I can’t imagine owning the gimbal without this essential little accessory.
The Aerial Pixels Joystick is an elegant and beautifully-machined professional solution for single operator camera control. It’s fully enclosed, very lightweight and mounts in just a couple of minutes to the 25mm or 30mm tubes on the DJI Ronin, FreeFly Movi and AlexMos-based gimbals. This article is for the DJI Ronin specifi c model which includes the larger 30mm adjustable boom clamp. Now, controlling tilt and pan is as eff ortless as moving your thumb. Maintaining a clear view of your LCD monitor is a breeze and excessive playground semantics are no longer required to precisely control your camera while being completely stabilized.
Mounting the AerialPixels joystick couldn’t be simpler. Simply loosen one handle on the Ronin with a 2.5mm Allen key, slide the joystick over the tube and reinstall the handle. A single silicone servo style plug can be routed down the handle and connected to the Ronin’s S.Bus jack. Instantly your up and running. Be sure to leave a little slack in the cable to allow panning without obstruction. Another thoughtful touch is the adjustable carbon fiber mounting plate that includes tool-less adjustment. Perfect at accommodating different size hands, it allows you to raise or lower the stick position in seconds. The joystick is fully powered through its single connection, so the only step remaining is to open the DJI APP and make sure that your stick movements correspond to the camera movement you’re expecting. Initially, moving the stick right or left controlled the roll axis. While great if that’s what you’re looking for, I prefer this stick movement to be assigned to the pan axis. I launched the app and changed the roll channel to pan by selecting it from the drop down. If a channel is reversed, a quick check mark in the appropriate box should solve that in short order.
One thing I quickly realized is that the speed of the Ronin when controlled by the joystick is fast! This is a great feature when doing rapid movements, whip pans or some dizzying affects, but slower controlled motion is a little more my style. With a double click of the joystick, the Ronin instantly changes on the fl y to half rate mode for precision movement. Another double click returns you to full speed. If the speeds aren’t exactly what you’re hoping for, adjusting the max speed in the app for the external controller will quickly help you tailor the speed and control to your exact needs. We found that experimenting with the max speed of between 5 and 20 gave us smooth repeatable control that truly allowed us to create cinematic shots on our own with minimal effort. Not only were the clients happy, so were our deltoids. It’s so much easier to move your thumb to initiate a camera movement than all the other possible methods. At the very least, the AerialPixels joystick adds variety, capability and value to your bag of tricks.
THE FINAL WORD
The AerialPixels joystick for the DJI Ronin and Movi is the perfect addition to your gimbal to give you the control you need to get the shot. Once you use one, it really is hard to imagine not having it. It’s well made, extremely easy to install and will help you make more money with your gear. How can you go wrong?