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Since I'm no longer selling the DIY Highball steadicam, you may wanna check out these other camera stabilizers. Click on any picture.
Update: Check out the latest DIY camera stabilizer design, suitable for GoPro, compacts and DSLRs.
A glidecam or steadicam is a device that stabilizes the video camera for a smooth footage even when the operator is moving on uneven terrain. As the subject being filmed is moving, the cameraman may follow the subject and the video capture will convey a gliding effect.
|Before the steadicam, a director had two choices for moving (or "tracking") shots:|
* The camera can be mounted on a "dolly", a wheeled mount that rolls on tracks or leveled boards. However, this is time consuming to set up and impractical in many situations.
* The camera operator can hold the camera in his hands. This allows greater speed and flexibility, but even the most skilled camera operator cannot prevent the image from shaking, if only minutely. Hand-held footage has therefore traditionally been considered suitable mostly for documentaries, news, reportage work, live action, unrehearsable footage, or as a special effect to evoke an atmosphere of authentic immediacy or "cinéma vérité" during dramatic sequences.
A steadicam essentially combines the stabilised steady footage of a conventional tripod mount with the fluid motion of a dolly shot and the flexibility of hand-held camera work. While smoothly following the operator's broad movements, the steadicam's armature absorbs any jerks, bumps, and shakes.
The steadicam was introduced to the industry in 1976 by inventor and cameraman Garrett Brown, who originally named the invention the "Brown Stabilizer". After completing the first working prototype, Brown shot a 10-minute demo reel of the revolutionary moves this new device could produce. This reel was seen by numerous directors, including Stanley Kubrick and John Avildsen. The Steadicam was first used in the biopic Bound for Glory, but its breakthrough movies are considered to be Avildsen's Rocky in 1976, and Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining.
Source: Wikipedia - Steadicam
When building a glidecam you must think of two concepts: inertia and center of gravity. Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change its state of motion. The center of gravity (center of mass) is the point at which the system's whole mass can be considered to be concentrated.
This means that a steadicam must have somewhat a significant mass and the whole system must be perfectly balanced. The mass of the rig is given by the mass of the camera but it's not entirely dependent of that. In order to achieve the right balance for a given camera one can do one of the following:
- add weights
- slide weights on the the rig
- lower or raise the center of gravity of the rig (with telescopic tubes instead of fixed bar)
Upright position of the whole rig is granted if the center of gravity is slightly lower than the gimbal. This means that if you tilt the glidecam (threaded bar axis) it will come back to being vertical. As a measure of the perfect balance, the glidecam must restore it's vertical axis in 1 or 1,5 seconds. You basically set the system somewhere between a stable equilibrium and a neutral equilibrium.
- a threaded bar, approx. 50 cm long, 10mm diameter
- a small ball bearing (a skate bearing will do fine)
- three PVC pipe rings of three different diameters
- 6 mm diameter long and short bolts (I used long bolts which I cut)
- 10 mm diameter bolts
- self locking nuts for both the ∅6 mm and ∅10 mm bolts (ones that have a piece of plastic at one end - along the inner thread)
- regular nuts
- lots of washers (used as weights)
- a few pieces of laminate flooring (any other type of plates will work as well)
- a drill
- a jigsaw
- a hacksaw
- a vise
|Make the gimbal - the core of the system|
Use three rings of PVC pipe to make your gimbal. The rings must be drilled sideways and each set of two holes must be diametrically opposed. The smallest ring will have two holes, the middle ring four holes and the third ring (outer) will have either two holes or four holes (if you want to add a handle to the gimbal).
In the end you'll have a set of three concentric rings, each spinning on an axis that is perpendicular to the axis of the next bigger ring. Use self locking nuts or add super glue to the thread of the bolts - this will keep the nuts in place and will hold the gimbal. Leave some leeway between the nuts so the plastic rings can spin easily - if the nuts are too close there will be drag in the system which will prevent it from working smoothly.
I left it without a handle so I hold the rig as you can see in the first picture above. Update: I added a handle to my PVC DIY gimbal.
You can make the holes using a hot nail that you can push through the plastic rings or you can simply drill them.
Please note that you can also do the Merlin design - which is simpler than the PVC gimbal system. It consists of an arch and a gimbal made either of a ball joint or of a double joint (universal joint) and a bearing. Some say the ball joint creates too much friction and thus is inefficient. A double joint and a bearing seem to work better for this type of steadicam.
The only type of a double joint I was able to find was the one in a spark plug wrench. I guess I'm gonna buy one and use it in my next project...
How to Balance Your Glidecam - Demonstration Videos
DIY Merlin Steadicam Video DIY Glidecam - Gimbal with Handle DIY 11$ Glidecam My Glidecam Test Video Notice my home made fingerboard - training for climbing - in the steadicam test footage. Special thanks to Kornel Cseri - a Facebook friend who suggested the slide channel feature for my glidecam! For further inspiration, he pointed out the above how to videos as well. Cheers man!
Have you built a glidecam? Share your outdoor videos, glidecam tips and video advice with the community.
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