I am a gear junkie. I love trying out, buying, renting and keeping up to date with the most current piece of film technology. Now, I’m not reckless and buy just anything that filmmakers and blogs recommend, however, I always ensure whatever piece of gear I purchase will improve my overall production value. Recently, I traded in my old glidecam for the new DJI Ronin, I asked these three questions from Austin Kleon’s book, ‘Show Your Work’. I realized how revolutionary these questions were for anyone looking to invest in a new tool, whether it be for filmmaking or any form of art.
1. What Was It Made For?
It sounds self explanatory, but with any new tool you really need to know the main purpose of that specific tool. For example, don’t try to use a tripod for a glidecam tracking shot. Without knowing the specific purpose it was designed for, you will not get the results you want or will be expecting. The Ronin is pretty simple - it frees up the camera from a tripod and allows you to achieve smooth footage while on the move.
2. How Are Others Using It?
With the help of the internet it’s becoming easier to see how other filmmakers are utilizing filmmaking tools. The internet has become a hub for filmmakers to share ideas and thoughts on everything film related. For example, I have seen how people mount the Ronin’s to RC cars or attach them to cable sleds. The possibilities seem to be endless and there are lots of ideas for it’s usage all thanks to the internet.
3. How Can I Use It Differently?
This is where things become tricky but ultimately rewarding. It’s difficult to think out of the box uses for certain tools. At the end of the day a hammer is still a hammer and won’t be able to screw in a screw. With that said, there are always ways to use gear in a new way, to achieve a new result. I have been experimenting with the Ronin and feel like I am still only scratching the surface of this tools’ potential. I have been dreaming (literally) of the stability it provides and alternate ways to use the remote control head. For the Church Christmas production this year I plan to hang it off the catwalks and pull the camera up from the stage, approximately 50 feet up, as the Christmas Tree Choir sings. I have seen the Ronin on cables before, but not for a Church Christmas Production! I still have a lot of work to learn when it comes to using the Ronin in a unique way.
These three questions have become crucial for how I use not just the Ronin, but any piece of filmmaking gear. I feel the last question, though the toughest, is one of the most important and can be revolutionary for any art form. I think the important thing is to give yourself time to play around with a new tool and learn its weaknesses and strengths. From there your creativity will grow. A tool is just a tool. It will not necessarily make you a better filmmaker. It is how you use the tool that will make all the difference.