Nov 10, 2007

Build Your Own "Steadycam" for $14 Steadicam is a device that smooths out tracking shots when you don't have time to use a dolly, or you want to do something that a dolly could never do, like follow a character up a flight of stairs.

I've seen numerous ways to achieve the Steadicam effect without using an actual Steadycam. The problem with using a real Steadycam, if you are an indie filmmaker, is that they are expensive ($1500 and up) and require basic training and lots of practice to get the movements right.

Sam Raimi created a home-made Steadicam way back in EVIL DEAD (called the "Shakycam"), so that they could do a shot of the camera rushing through the woods, just a foot off the ground and racing up to a character's face in close-up. His method of smoothing out the motion of running with the camera was to strap the camera to the middle of a long two-by-four and have two guys hold the board by the ends and run like hell.

One savvy do-it-yourselfer has figured out a way to make a homemade "Steadycam" for $14, using some metal pipes and counter weight. He calls the unit The Poor Man's Steadicam, which is a model based on the fundamentals of other models which form a T-shape base for the camera to be mounted on. The only drawback to many of these models is that they are not really geared for larger video cameras, but they do seem to work well with the mini-sized cameras that fit in the palm of your hand.

Another common construction that can be found around the web is to mount the camera inside a steering wheel, or to PVC pipes that have been fashioned into a steering wheel shape. This style allows you to grip the camera from any angle, but the lack of a counterweight makes the unit a bit more wobbly than a counterweighted device.

With a little web snooping around and a little savvy, you can fashion your own camera stabilizer for less than a hundred dollars, saving yourself thousands, if you were originally thinking of purchasing a steadicam.