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STEADY THIS (explosion
April 9, 2004 3:50 AM   Subscribe

$14 Steady-cam The camera operator may walk (or even jog), move through tight hallways and doorways, and even climb up and down stairs without shaking the camera. Unfortunately, professional steadycams cost around $1500. Even the cheap 3rd party ones cost $600+. Whether you are an aspiring filmmaker, a videographer, the family documentarian, or just want more utility out of your video camera, you'll appreciate a steadycam. Includes Video of steadycam working. (What is a steadycam?)
posted by Keyser Soze (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great find, Keyser. I just got a DV a couple months ago, and I went looking online for consumer market versions of the steadicam. I was dismayed to learn that even those were $600, as you noted. I figured it was a fairly simple counterweight, but I didn't realize it was this easy to make.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:29 AM on April 9, 2004


A nice implementation , thanks soze !
posted by elpapacito at 4:56 AM on April 9, 2004


Nice! I think I will build one of these. I bought a Canon GL1 a few years ago and I've used it maybe 10 times. One of my big problems with it is that nothing ever looked compelling enough to ever watch again. I can take pictures that are at least interesting enough to me that I'll whip out an old photo album and look over a past trip. There are only two clips that I've watched more than once. One is a wisp of clouds rolling into a valley that I took in Glacier National Park. The other is when I strapped it to the roof of my car in Hilo Hawaii and took a fast drive through a scenic road. Both could capture something that meant something to me. Any time I've tried to use it while hiking or the like all I get is a jerky picture that doesn't really look like what I'm experiencing.

The run through the hallway is much better even though it's literally just a run through a hallway. The camera position is changed to give it an interesting perspective and while motion is conveyed you can still see the picture.
posted by substrate at 5:06 AM on April 9, 2004


brilliant! Thanks Keyser, I too have been looking into buying/making a steady cam and here you come with the full recipe!
posted by dabitch at 5:08 AM on April 9, 2004


I've been wanting to build one of these too -- all I need to get now is the weights and a plot for the eventual movie. Minor hurdles, I'm led to believe.
posted by codger at 5:37 AM on April 9, 2004 [1 favorite]


Don't expect this thing to perform miracles, you have to practice using your arms and body to create a smooth motion. Watch your hands while you walk, and see how level you can keep them relative to the ground. Keep your legs bent and learn how to "glide".

Um...the whole point of a steadicam is that it "glides" for you, no matter how you are moving your body. It sounds to me like this just makes the base of the camera so heavy that you can't shake it easily.
posted by bingo at 6:03 AM on April 9, 2004


This lower budget type of steadycam uses your arm for the gymbal system.

The problem with this is that your arm gets quite tired.

Serious steadicam work requires a vest and a mounting arm to go to your torso. Then your body's movement is fairly independent and the cam is moved by very light adjustments with your hand.

So, yeah, it's a nice change from the $600 sony steadicam jr.

But it ain't a steadicam.

BTW, steadicam's patent ran out a bunch of years ago - you can find their actual original patent out there and build your own...a full Steadicam.


And Substrate - as a filmmaker, I'll be more than happy to take the GL-1 out of your hands since you're not using it. :)
posted by filmgeek at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2004


Very cool low budget means to higher quality video production. Excellent find!
posted by fenriq at 8:40 AM on April 9, 2004


I watched the fourth sample movie, and it actually looked really good. Though I am partial to the Blair Witch style "vomit cam" that so popular among young filmmakers.

Unfortunately I don't think this would be Dogme 95 compliant.
posted by bobo123 at 8:52 AM on April 9, 2004


Wow...never thought I'd see this kind of link here. Interestingly being a filmmaker myself I built my own. I did so after finding dozens of others who had done the same thing.

It's a full double armed rig that will hold about 25 pounds or so. It took about 6 weeks of full time work to do (I was unemployed at the time). After building it I found out that learning how to operate a full rig is almost as hard as making one and that it takes weeks of practice to get to a fairly acceptable level.

I've also built a dolly and a crane as well.
posted by aaronscool at 9:26 AM on April 9, 2004 [1 favorite]


yeah, great find. i was thinking just last night about making one myself for the shitty little cameras you can check out from school. Excellent timing.

everyone in this thread needs to get together and make a lo-budge movie. all the MeFi filmmakers are right here.
posted by Miles Long at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2004


I was just looking at this stuff a few days ago; I found it in Nothing's list of links (some other good stuff in the scroll box too).

I'm new to making videos; not surprisingly I'm finding things take a little more skill than just pushing the button and roughly pointing the camera. Something that will help to provide results that don't cause sea sickness would be good, especially if it doesn't cost as much as the camera.

The $14 job and its cousins are the simplest (and seem to be pretty effective); the more complicated ones use a gimbal or universal joint. It's amazing how much skill and effort some people seem to put into making the joint themselves -- way beyond my abilities. You seem to be able to get a plastic universal joint for less than $10 -- I think that's the way I'm going to go.

For those who like wood rather than metal you could follow this guy's method (the page is in French, but the pictures tell you what you need to know).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2004


no offense keyser, but this was a very cool find. thanks.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2004


One of my big problems with it is that nothing ever looked compelling enough to ever watch again

the problem with watching 'home' video...people tend to use the camera like it is their eye, darting around, look at this, look at that...

then you go home and watch it and it makes you insane.

I always get stuck doing video at family functions because a)i've done a lot of video production work, though mostly as a grip, i can claim the immense [uh, yeah] honor of having shot b-roll that appeared on the shopping channel. and mostly b) years ago i filmed my sisters entire wedding reception using only 4 minutes of tape. I'd hit record, and slowly pan, then hit pause. Not a single take over 15 seconds. It looks edited. Try that next time you are out and about. Move the camera SLOWLY. Instead of swinging it around showing all sorts of things, slowly pan across or get a short still-ish shot.

the older cameras, or even the current pro betacams are still fairly big, and so you honestly Can't move them around so fast.

When i'm shooting with a small video camera i pull the strap back with my free hand to counter balance the camera hand, that works pretty good, do the same thing with still cameras....kinda looks like you are using a wrist-rocket.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2004 [1 favorite]


I have stopped selling these until Summer of 2004 at the earliest. I'm away on a research sabbatical and can't bring my shop with me

/waits patiently
posted by haqspan at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2004


This fits better in smaller areas, doesn't it? I mean, you have a steadycam thats around your waist with a metal bar sticking out, and then you have a pipe. Which one could fit around a corner faster?
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2004


Peter Jackson used a homemade Steadicam in his first movie, the ultra-low-budget Bad Taste. He shows it off in a little making-of documentary included on the DVD. (He was a lot younger and a lot thinner, and his special effects are pretty impressive for being homemade.)
posted by xil at 4:39 PM on April 9, 2004


[channeling from outside world] Jacob says: I wanted to pass on a recommendation for a book that also shows people how to build their own camera cranes and dollies, for those looking for something even fancier. I haven't bought it myself, but it comes highly recommended. [/channeling]
posted by fionab at 5:43 PM on April 9, 2004


Trivia: What was the first movie to utilize a Steadicam shot?
posted by bdk3clash at 10:27 PM on April 9, 2004


What a progression, Keyser. I've noticed your AxMe threads on filmmaking, so I wasn't surprised by this post. But what a response! This afternoon the $14 steadicam made BoingBoing, and now it's up on Slashdot. Of course, by that point the find lacks all attribution...
posted by jbrjake at 12:55 AM on April 10, 2004


The earliest I know of is Return of the Jedi for the speeder bike rider POV shots.
posted by NortonDC at 10:34 AM on April 10, 2004


The earliest example I can think of is Kubrick's The Shining.
posted by neckro23 at 1:26 PM on April 10, 2004


Bzzt. "Bound for Glory," featuring David Carradine as Woody Guthrie.

Excellent movie, BTW.
posted by bdk3clash at 10:10 PM on April 10, 2004


IMDB doesn't support that (which doesn't make it true or false). It says that it's the first movie to use a "long Steadicam tracking shot," whatever that means.
posted by NortonDC at 10:17 PM on April 10, 2004


The only "substantiation" I can find is this newsgroup thread.

I guess I mis-remembered the IMDB trivia page's information.
posted by bdk3clash at 10:31 PM on April 10, 2004


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