Creative Engineers

Hydraulic gimbal for Vikings

Naturally, a great deal of boat work was required in the production of History channel's Viking series, but it couldn't all happen at sea or in lakes. Vikings needed a gimbal that would allow them to recreate storm sequences on full size vessels on dry land, where the green screen and special effects could be used.


The gimbal couldn’t just be a simple central pivot under the boat, as in other gimbals. A full Viking boat is almost 50’ long and weighs almost 5 ton fully loaded. The motion of the gimbal needed to emulate the boat’s motion in the sea. At the same time, the gimbal needed to move around on wheels, so that it could be setup quickly for different shots. It also had to be dismantled and transported for use in several locations, and work for internal and external scenes.


OMEY were asked by Vikings to come up with a clever design to do all this, and at a reasonable cost.


We started by modelling the mass distribution of the Viking ship and loads associated with realistic movements, as if on the ocean. We used this to develop a gimbal design of ‘unequal legs’, where two ‘A’ frame legs are inclined to pitch the boat around high virtual centre of rotation, similar to the dishing motion of boats. Two heavy duty spicer joints allow combined pitch and roll, while distributing the load away from a single point of failure. The entire rig jacks up on wheels that can move in perfect circles or crab front, back and side to side.


The gimbal is powered by a 30kW hydraulic power pack that can be placed 260’ away for silent operation. It is entirely computer controlled. The precise movement of the boat can be programmed or operated by a remote glove.


Since the gimbal was first commissioned it has been used regularly in scenes ranging from violent storm sequences in front of the external green screen to calm and silent fog sequences on stage.


Seamus McInerney, Producer Vikings said: “We avoided a lot of cost and risk associated with boat work over the years, by using the gimbal OMEY built for us.”