"Shoot video that's worth watching" reads one of the straplines for Aetho's "Aeon" handheld GoPro stabilizer. It sounds kinda obvious, right? But, if you've ever walked/ran/danced/dived/whatever with a GoPro in your hand/mouth/knees/whatever you'll know it's not that simple. You thought you had an oak-like steady grip, turns out you shake like a cold chihuahua -- and the GoPro does a wonderful job of translating that to your videos. Aethos's marketing copy suddenly doesn't seem so vapid, does it? Especially once you see what the Aeon can do for your footage. Which, helpfully, you can right here in this article.
Let's back up a little. What is Aeon? It's a camera gimbal (stabilizer) designed for GoPros. If you've ever watched a silky-smooth drone video, you've already enjoyed gimbal-stabilized video. But, handheld versions of these already exist, right? Yeah, they do. In fact, when I recently wrote about some of the best accessories for the ubiquitous action camera, I cited an existing gimbal as my "must have" add on. The problem with current products, though, is they either feel a little delicate, a little clunky, or simply lack practical design.
Aetho's goal with the Aeon is to make a stabilizer that looks and functions as slick as the video it produces. I spent some time with a 3D-printed prototype, and I have to say, it looks and feels very promising. Firstly, the design is unlike most competing products (which usually resemble a frame on the end of a pole). Aeon, on the other hand, looks like the offspring of a traditional steadicam that got friendly with the steering controls of a supercar. The curved handle feels much more comfortable to hold for extended periods, and it also places the camera directly level with your hand. With other gimbals, the GoPro is usually above your hand, which makes framing less predictable. With Aeon, you just point your knuckles where you want to film, and the GoPro follows. A small, but significant detail.
The Aeon also allows a broader range of lateral motion. The camera's 3-axis articulation is designed into the handle itself, so instead of motors moving on the end of a pole, the grip has much more ability to twist and maneuver. To make use of this, Aeon has an analog joystick (a-la PS Vita etc.), that lets you pan the camera left or right (or up/down) without your wrist moving. This means you can be moving (say, on a board/bike) and track your subject with your thumb, while keeping your hand naturally pointed forward. Another big plus, is a circular LCD display at the top of the grip so you can see exactly what you're filming at all times. At the base of the grip, is a GoPro mount, letting you attach this to helmets, selfie-sticks and any other compatible accessory you might already have.
The prototype I tried didn't have some of these extra features (no LCD or GoPro mount), but the gimbal and joystick worked perfectly, and the results are impressive. I took it for a walk, which might not be extreme, but the movement of walking is one of the best ways to bugger up your handheld video -- and you can see below how smooth it is (the video starts with unstabilized video first). Frustratingly, I realized after shooting that the GoPro in the Aeon has a bust lens hood, so there's some blurring from the camera, but the results are unmistakably much, much smoother than the camera that's just on a regular grip (GoPro's 3-Way, incidentally).
Other details I noticed, is that where the motors in my current gimbal can jam when you reach the end of their rotational range -- creating an annoying vibration in the gimbal and your footage -- the Aeon prototype didn't do this once. That alone make me excited about this product. It only takes one rogue wobble to ruin your meticulously planned cinematic skate intro, right? Oh, and the Aeon can be charged via USB cable -- no weird-sized batteries with a cradle (if you have a Feiyu, you know what I mean). I still love my Feiyu G4, but Aetho's taken a good idea, and tried to make it great -- and from what I can see, it works. If there are any concerns, it's whether it'll deliver the five hours of battery life promised, and how rugged or delicate the final units will be, something I can't judge from the prototype.
The Aeon's currently taking orders on Indiegogo, but, from my conversations with Aetho founders Harrison D. Lee, and Ian Nott, all the development is done (for real, it used to look like this), and production is ready to go -- slated for early 2016. The money pledged is to directly fund the production of those devices. How much for one you ask? If you're quick, $300. If you're not so quick, $350. That's about $100 more than the popular Feiyu G4, but with LCD, and other design advantages above, that seems about right.
Aetho's 3D-printed prototype might not look as pretty as the final product, but it works a charm.