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Old 14th May, 2005, 11:10 PM
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Build your own steadycam

Steadycam: As used by specialists when speaking carefully, it refers to a mount for a motion-picture camera, which mechanically isolates the movement of the camera from that of the operator, providing a very smooth shot even when the operator is moving quickly over an uneven surface.

One of the things that makes home movies seem 'amateur' is the fact that the video will shake when the camera is attached to your hand. The use of a tripod will fix this, but a tripod is stationary. This is where the steadycam comes in. However, steadycams are very expensive. Very basic ones come at a cost of about $600, leaving hobbyists out in the rain.

One website that I go to regularly, hackaday.com, featured a website on how to build your own steadycam for $14 . I decided to try it, and this is what I came up with.

The entire construction is very straightforward, it's some pipes with a camera on one end, a weight on the other and another pipe in the middle. I found that the hardest part of building it was trying to drill holes through a couple of 1/4 inch thick caps. Make sure you've got a corded drill for this process, as I first tried a cordless and went through two batteries before drilling through one cap. Below is a picture of my device.

The weight and the way one holds the device are what helps stabilize the camera and isolate it from your movements, creating a smoother video. I would recommend getting some shorter pipes; Home Depot's shortest pipes were 18", though the tutorial suggests you use 10" pipes. Smaller pipes should give you more mobility as well as reducing the weight of the setup.

I've found that the device works well. I'm sure it doesn't work as great as the $600 devices, but since I only paid $18.15 for all the parts I'm quite happy. It actually works better than I expected it to, especially when running. The best advice I can give to somebody using one of these is to just carry it around while trying to keep the camera steady. Repeated use seems to yeild better results. The old 'practice makes perfect' adage holds true here.

I've taken a short video to demonstrate this steadycam as opposed to using the camcorder on your hand. There is still a bit of side to side motion on the video, but I hope to have that reduced or eliminated by the end of the weekend. Also, be sure to notice that at the end of the steadycam part I am running. It's a little hard to tell as the steadycam does such a good job.

Watch the movie here. (~8 MB)
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Old 14th May, 2005, 11:34 PM
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That works well especially when running.

Low-level stuff looks like fun.
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Old 15th May, 2005, 12:35 AM
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WOW that's really cool. Guess I'll have to show this to the girls and see if it inspires them to ask me to build it!!
Thanks
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Old 15th May, 2005, 10:27 AM
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Yeah, I've seen one or two pros suggest exactly that kind of mechanism before, especially if they've not been able to get a steadycam to site in time!
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Old 7th May, 2011, 10:24 PM
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I may make one of these. The price of a genuine Steadicam is ridiculous!
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Old 23rd May, 2011, 05:48 PM
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Great to hear from you fantomfreq! And as always well worth the read! ":O}
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Old 2nd June, 2011, 09:50 PM
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The professional Steady-cam is a complicated harness assembly that works well, but there are cameraman that specialize in its use. The amateur one is a ripping good idea!
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