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DIY camera stabilizer. Scroll the page for test videos and detailed pictures.
You can mount any type of camera as long as it's not too large or too heavy. While it's also a DIY DSLR steadicam, I would't recommend using cameras heavier than 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) on this particular rig.
If you necessarily need smooth video with heavier cameras, you can build a more solid version with a thicker threaded rod as a shaft and a sturdier gimbal with larger bearings.
Since I'm no longer selling the DIY Highball steadicam, you may wanna check out these other camera stabilizers. Click on any picture.
Watch some sample footage taken with this glidecam while working on a rooftop solar farm in Berlin (my day job) - some shots taken with my home made dolly slider.
What I did here is I tried to imitate the exact concept in the original Steadicam and that means having a 3 axis DIY ball bearing gimbal. Basically, you isolate the movement of your hand from the camera. The rotation on each axis is done smoothly on bearings.
The gimbal has two bearings on the main shaft which is an advantage compared to my first version (one bearing and PVC pipe rings gimbal). If for some reason, you don't want the shaft to spin too freely around its axis, you can tighten the nuts, that hold the gimbal on the shaft, against each other and adjust the amount of spin.
My bike stunts video - shot with GoPro HD on DIY Stabilizer
A cross element of polypropylene pipe fitting, machine worked to fit the bearings perfectly, a 90 degree piece, an omega cable holder, nuts, bolts and a mountain bike handle grip - the best looking DIY gimbal. :-)
The camera plate can hold any type of camera that has a tripod mount possibility. The GoPro you see here is fixed with a custom mount.
How to shoot video with a DIY glidecam
If there's one thing you should know about shooting video with a camera stabilizer then here it is: you need to train in order to get those smooth shots.
You actually have to work with your steadicam. It's not like it's gonna do the job for you. That's why Garret Brown does those workshops teaching people how to shoot video with his invention. And that's the very same reason highly skilled cameramans and steadicam operators are sought after.
Some words on dynamic balance
This is perhaps the biggest headache for people trying to balance a steadicam. If you get the right droptime (1.5 to 3 seconds) and the upright position of the main shaft this means you've only accomplished static balance.
For dynamic balance you have to adjust the weights and the camera until the main shaft remains vertical even when you're spinning it. In other words, you need to align the center of gravity of the camera right above the shaft.
See the video below for more details - the video starts with dynamic balance explanation at 6:39 min.
If you want to get as close as possible to getting the dynamic balance right, follow these steps:
- hold the steadicam by the gimbal and keep the shaft in horizontal position
- adjust the camera and/or the camera plate until you perfectly align the CG (center of gravity) of the camera with the glidecam shaft
- you need to achieve a neutral state (neutral equilibrium); no matter how you rotate the camera plate, it will remain in the same position (see the video below, that's how I do it)
A trick on how to balance your camera stabilizer
If you wanna take out a variable when it comes to balancing your glidecam, you can add washers as weights on the shaft. So you eliminate the long bottom weight plate and only adjust the camera and the camera plate when balancing the steadicam.
However, for fast movements, this setup tends to pendulum as there's a high concentration of mass in the lower part of the shaft. I personally prefer the weight plate.
What materials you need to build this stabilizer and what is the exact dimension of each piece in the puzzle
Bert asked me (down in the comments) about the specific dimensions of this rig. The truth is, there is no standard as far as I know.
Imagine that even the Steadicam Pilot or the Glidecam 2000 have a telescopic tube as a shaft, thus variable dimensions. Each model comes with weights which you can add in case you place a heavier camera on the top plate. So for any given setup (camera, display, microphone, batteries) the dimensions will be adjusted.
With this DIY stabilizer design, you cannot make the shaft longer so you you raise or lower the CG (center of gravity) by loosening the wing nuts and sliding the weight plates higher or lower. Or by adding and taking weights.
List of materials:
- 50 cm long, 8 mm thick threaded shaft
- 5 ball bearings, 8 mm inner diameter, 22 mm outer diameter
- 1 cross pipe fitting (polypropylene with 3 mm thick wall)
- 1 90° angle piece for the gimbal handle
- 8 mm self locking nuts (5 pieces)
- 8 mm wing nuts (4 pieces)
- 8 mm inner diameter washers (outer diameter may vary, get a lot of these)
- 8 mm split washers - these act as a spring (2 or 4 pieces)
- 8 mm bolts, 4 cm long (3 pieces)
- weight plate
- camera mount made of two plates (see picture below)
- 4 bolts, 6 cm long, 6 mm diameter
- 12 self locking nuts of 6 mm inner diameter (these and the 4 bolts will hold the two plates for the camera)
- a piece of pipe that goes into the 90 degree piece to form the handle
- a bike handlebar grip to cover the pipe/handle (we care about ergonomics, don't we?)
- 10 mm thick bolts as weights (2 pieces), longer or shorter depending on the weight of your camera; buy a few pairs of different lengths
- 10 mm washers (to be used on the 10 mm bolts), buy lots of these if you're planing to use a DSLR with your DIY steadicam
- an omega cable holder to be used as a frame that connects the gimbal to the handle
Also download these drawings in CAD format:
- Steadicam plates for CNC cutter - .dxf file - on Google Docs - courtesy of Peter Munns
- Steadicam plates for CNC cutter - .dxf file - courtesy of Peter Munns
- Steadicam plates for CNC cutter - .dwg file - courtesy of Peter Munns
- CAD format (.dxf file - CAD Interchange)
- CAD format (.dwg CAD file)
- SVG format
Print the image with the plates and show it to your local CNC machinery shop. If you can get these pieces machine worked, they'll look better.
More about the plates here: DIY camera plate
Want smooth video?
If you're a filmmaker and don't have the time or materials to build one of these,
Note that the plates and the gimbal are machine worked.
Update: I'm no longer selling these. I'm currently involved in other projects (working online with clients and doing offline work gigs in the green energy industry) and I don't have the time to manage the assembly and shipping.
There's another reason - there's only so much you can do with a DIY. When it comes to shooting video for clients you need a tool that allows you to do fast adjustments according to each camera you use. My DIY rig works fine but when you have to switch cameras and balance them again, you kinda wanna have a better system in place.
There are affordable solutions out there for GoPro and DSLRs as well. If you ask me, I'd go with the Glidecam 2000 HD or 1000 HD, simply because Devin Graham shoots with it. If my video gigs will start to dominate my life, that's what I'm gonna buy.
Steadicam released the Smoothee - a smaller version of the Merlin design. However, I believe a sled and shaft stabilizer is better and more versatile. It allows you to do so much more: spinning the camera, low mode shooting (camera down and weights up), easy tilt and turn, etc.
PS - Here's my first video I shot with this stabilizer. Some shots were taken with a DIY slider as well - camera used: Sony HX9V.
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