Seemingly unsatisfied with conquering the market of 360 degree photography, the innovative folks over at Insta360 have only gone and created their own smartphone gimbal, and they've even sent us one to review! We got a first-hand look at it during our time at the NAB Show in Las Vegas and we were pretty blown away by what it can do! Mark spoke to Michael from Insta360 to get some more insight.
"We're very excited, this is the first ever non-camera product that Insta360 has ever made. It just came out a couple of weeks ago and I like to tell people that it's not your average phone gimbal, it's more like your AI filmmaking assistant because of all the sweet features that are packed into it" 30 seconds into the interview and we were already gripped with curiosity. "We have an extendable clip on the back that can fit all different phone sizes and once you have the clip on your phone, the coolest part is that it's a once-step rapid deploy. For people who want to shoot quickly, you simply fold it out and it'll deploy and stabilise quickly, and allow you to start shooting"
The quick deployment and stabilisation is seriously impressive to see in person! In one simple movement, the Insta360 Flow will turn and calibrate your smartphone, ready for shooting! I'm sure any videographers who've used a proper DSLR gimbal before can relate to the mind numbingly intricate process of perfectly calibrating and balancing the camera to the gimbal. Luckily the Flow will do this all for you in the space of about 1 second (if that!) The next thing that the Flow has to offer is the app integration. The Flow connects to your smartphone via the free Insta360 app which allows for the editing and setup of your shots.
"Within seconds you're connected to the app and we've built in all of the functionality of your traditional native iPhone camera app into our app but we've added a lot onto it. For example, with other gimbals on the market you can't set your manual camera settings which makes it impossible for professionals to use, so they're essentially using it as a glorified stabiliser without any of the software features. You can do that in our app, you can set your ISO, shutter, white balance and EV and all that stuff" It's very apparent that Insta360 didn't just aim to create a gimbal for budding vloggers or people looking to take stable holiday videos, they've genuinely crated this gimbal with the professional photographer or savvy videographer in mind.
"Next up, this is the only mobile gimbal that has both a built-in selfie stick, and a built in tripod. If you have big hands this can be used as an extender, but the tripod legs come out and you can plant this on the ground. If you want to use this on a more professional tripod, it has a 1/4 20 screw built into it so you can actually add onto it. The other thing that we've done is we've integrated our hardware with the app and the software" By turning the wheel around the main control panel on the gimbal, you can control the smartphone's digital zoom.
By swiping your finger around the face of the control panel, you can also switch between the four different modes that the gimbal features. As Michael explains "There's four different modes on here, you just swipe around and you go into different modes - The first mode is the most simple, basic auto so when you use the gimbal it'll follow your hand movements, it's very intuitive. The more you scroll, you lock certain axis and if you reach the last mode which is auto it'll unlock the roll axis so you can get FPV style shots and the wheel becomes a spin so you can do barrel rolls"
The Flow also has 2 charging ports, an IN and an OUT port. One allows you to charge the gimbal when not in use, but the OUT port allows you to use the Flow as a portable power bank if your phone is running low on battery. Speaking of battery life, the Flow has a 12-hour battery life! So there's plenty of charge to spare for your smartphone. The Flow also features a cold shoe mount, so if you wanted to integrate a professional recording device with the gimbal, you can also do that. The Flow also comes with a clip-on LED light for self shots or low light filming, the light has 3 brightness settings as well as the ability to toggle the "tone" of the light to suit your shot. You might want a softer lighting shade, as opposed to a bright white light, you can choose between a variety of different styles of lighting. This is perfect for vloggers, streamers or content creators who are filming themselves and need adequate lighting, having a softer and less "invasive" light for others around them.
On the back of the gimbal is a trigger which serves different purposes depending on the number of times you press it. If pressed once, it'll un-select an object or person from the tracking feature, two presses will re-centre the gimbal and three presses with turn the phone round 180 degrees. But possibly the most impressive feature of the Insta360 Flow is the AI-based tracking technology!
Based on a software called "Deep Track" the gimbal allows for smooth tracking of a subject in the shot. By simply drawing a box around an object or person that you'd like to track on your screen, the Flow gimbal will turn to follow them wherever they go. Pretty impressive already, but what separates this from other gimbals on the market is that this uses "lossless tracking" - What this means is that if the gimbal is tracking a person in the shot and someone was to walk in front of the shot, the gimbal is able to use "person re-identification" to relocate and continue tracking the subject. This feature is incredible and extremely useful for people who are filming "out and about" where there might be other people walking into and through the shots. The Flow was able to hold its own with this tracking technology during a bustling NAB trade show, so it'll definitely have no problems with a stray pedestrian or dog walker etc.
What's more is that the AI technology isn't just recognising your human shape or pattern - It's actually recognises subjects. This means that subject who are wearing similar clothing can be differentiated from one another without issue. Aside from the mind blowing AI tech built into this gimbal, there are also a lot of super useful modes and features like motion time lapse where the gimbal will slowly move across a set path and duration, producing some impressive moving time lapses. Other features include panoramic mode, slow motion and even a dolly zoom effect which zooms the camera in whilst the user slowly moves the gimbal backwards, creating a super cool cinematic shot that's a staple of Hollywood films. Insta360 also wanted users to be able to have fun with this gimbal and create the shots that they want, so they even have something called "hoop mode"
In this mode, you can set up the gimbal on the tripod and it'll identify where the basket is, and where the ball is and then it'll track the ball as it's passed around the court and into the hoop, The Insta360 Flow really does seem to have something for everyone! And that includes the average consumer who maybe doesn't have as much filmmaking background and experience as others. Insta360 wanted to make this gimbal as available and useable for as many people as possible, whether they're a notice content creator, so a complete newbie to the profession. Something that's a great example of this is their AI shot assistant that's built into the gimbal and the software itself.
By simply speaking into the gimbal, you can access a wide variety of shot lists which the in-built software will walk you through and allow you to create your own super cool edits. There's a whole bunch of situations to choose from, for instance during the interview, Michael told the gimbal "I'm at the park" and it brought up a selection of different shots for that situation. Once selected it'll overlay the shot list onto what you're filming so you can set it up perfectly. "The whole idea with Insta360 is that we want to make it easier for people to edit and share great quality content, and this is the step towards doing that" After getting a hands-on preview of the Flow gimbal, we can certainly agree with that statement. Whether you're a first-time wannabe filmmaker, or experienced content creator, this gimbal certainly has everything you'd need to make some seriously impressive and professional shots!
The Insta360 Flow smartphone gimbal starts at just £145 for the gimbal itself, or you can upgrade to the creator kit for £199, which includes various charging cables for different smartphones, a rubber grip cover for the gimbal handle, and the spotlight LED clip-on light. Even if you were to just go for the gimbal itself, £145 is a brilliant price considering everything that the gimbal comes packed with. We were simply blown away by the power and potential of the Insta360 Flow and we can't wait to mess around with the one that Insta360 kindly sent to us, so keep your eyes peeled for a full review on our Youtube channel soon!