Building a camera stabilizer, or the home brew steadycam

With 4th of July hosing my work week (Yay I get paid for 2 days of work, the Check is gonna SUCK this next pay period.) I decided to make some good use of it and build a pair of camera stabilizers. One roughly based on the really cheap "$14.00" steady cam copies but far more refined by using aluminum and better design parts. And a full blown gimbals based design that is as close as you can get to the real thing while still staying hand held.

I finished what I call the Steady stick, and it's OK, it takes lots of practice to get rid of motions your body and hands put into it (your body likes to put in a natural side to side wobble that needs an arm strap to reduce) but is less useful as you cant pan or angle without moving your whole body. It does it's job, but is not ideal. After handling a real steady cam setup before I can tell you without question that it's a useful device, but not anywhere good enough to be useful to anyone but a very casual home movie person. I would hate to use this thing for an entire day on a set or live event. Although it's incredibly light, so that makes it have at least 1 major advantage.

The real steady cam takes some engineering. The top plate needs slides to adjust camera balance front and back and side to side. you also need to make a 3 axis movement isolation system to get rid of the nasty human tics that make video look nasty when hand held. I discovered a system by using a Rollerblade wheel modified and drilled to have a pivot bracket and a handle that has a rotation in it as well to completely isolate the humans arm motions from the camera. (hope to figure out how to make a vest/spring arm as well) I am betting that this one will work far better than the steady stick or non-bearing and non-gimbal based half attempts that are all over the internet.

honestly, the new tiny camcorders need some type of steady cam on them, your breathing makes them shake all over the place because for some reason the camera makers think that tiny = good. When in reality it really does not.

UPDATE: both are 99% finished. I decided to modify the steady stick for a different use, mousecam. It get's the camera on the ground easily for really low shots (Think low tire row dolly shots at a car show.) The gimbal design is done. I still need to build a crossbar for weight balancing and would love to figure out how to get rid of the twisting that is possible that unbalances the unit easily. I think the problem is in the use of a skate wheel as that separates the pole giving a spin-point. Version 2.0 needs some refinement to make things tight as a drum. If you want some basic instructions on how to build the better steady cam, email me and I'll get you some basics, I hope to do a writeup once I get 2.0 designed.


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