DIY camera stabilizer keeps your video shake free on the cheap

diy_camera_stabilizer

Commercial vest-based camera stabilizer systems are quite expensive, sometimes bearing price tags in the $700-$800 dollar range. Photographer [Miguel Vicente] has a pretty well-stocked workshop and decided there was no way he would shell out that much cash for a rig, so he simply built his own.

“Simply” is a bit of a misstatement, to be honest. The system looks relatively complex, judging by the build videos embedded below. Constructed of steel tubing, custom-built springs, and a really snazzy vest, the rig is adjustable in almost every direction. He has tested its capacity up to 2.5 Kg (roughly 5.5 pounds), though he says it’s pretty unruly to manage at that weight. [Miguel] says that 1.5 Kg (3.3 pounds) is a far more reasonable limit, and that the stabilizer works quite well at or below that weight.

While it looks pretty good to us, he says that there are plans to improve the design even further. One particular point that he wants to address is the ability for the stabilizer to accept asymmetric camera setups, i.e. cameras with attached lighting and microphones.

Stick around to see a short “highlight” film of the build process, as well as a video featuring a more thorough documentation of the stabilizer’s construction.

Interested in more DIY camera equipment?  Check out this overhead camera dolly and this DIY gimbal mount we featured a short while back.

[via Make]

Comments

  1. Doug says:

    The link is light on build details, the video is merely an assembly sequence video. From the video we get there are two equal length parallel arm assemblies, supported by a pair of springs each. A gimbal at the camera mount, and a way to counter balance the weight of the camera. No way to adjust the counter balance springs for different weight of cameras that I noticed other than changing them out. All in all a professional looking final result. But personally I’d change out the spindly looking rod at the camera mount for fatter round tubing. I’ admit that’s only personal aesthetics.

  2. aEx155 says:

    This seems very similar to the Steadycam Merlin system.

    That steady cam system is made of two parts: a gimbal to isolate the camera, and a spring loaded parallel arm assembly to support the gimbal.

    This is a very nice DIY alternative.

  3. Spork says:
  4. nice says:

    It looks like it would work decently. But if you’re using one of these, chances are you have a nice SLR, and if you had the $2000 to spend on your nice SLR you could probably get another $700 for a Steadicam

  5. Renee says:

    Yeah, but why waste money? I can’t make a DSLR that shoots HD video so buying one isn’t exactly proof that I’m Miss Moneypants or anything.

    I tend to be anti-camera peripherals. I’ll justify the camera, but I can’t justify spending thousands on stuff I know I can make at home.

  6. Faelenor says:

    @nice: no!

  7. Whoever says:

    “It looks like it would work decently. But if you’re using one of these, chances are you have a nice SLR, and if you had the $2000 to spend on your nice SLR you could probably get another $700 for a Steadicam”

    I see this kind of logic very often.

    It bothers me. It’s just plain wrong. At least in the case of me and everyone I know IRL.

    If you had the $2,000 for a nice SLR it’s because you’ve been saving up for quite a while and just blew it all, you don’t have anything left for excessories. End of story.
    When money is earned slowly there are far better ways to spend it.

  8. Trollicus says:

    I still like the chicken based steady-cam.

    Jr. Chicken Hawk, grabs Foghorns leg and starts dragging him away : “I’m a chicken hawk and your a chicken!”

    Foghorn : “Actually I’m a rooster, go home and ask your father to explain the difference to you.”, “That ought to keep that boy busy for a while”

  9. Mikko Wilson says:

    Not bad; though I do have one suggestion for Miguel if he’s reading:

    Lose the handle that you added to the post.

    The Steadicam works by isolating the camera’s position and, critically, angular orientation from the operator. The sled acts like a big lever, with the gimbal as the fulcrum and the camera and counterweight at the ends. Idea is that the leverage of the operator passing through the (low friction) gimbal is not enough to disturb the camera out at the end of the lever. The gimbal provides a massive mechanical *dis*advantage to any wobbles from the person carrying the unit.

    The added big long handle below the post adds to that lever and returns that unwanted mechanical advantage; meaning that any wobbles at the handle will translate much easier to the camera and the final image.

    As your design allows for the simple removal of the handle; I’d recommend you take it off and try controlling the sled (camera’s orientation) by holding the post – very lightly – directly, just below the gimbal. If your rig is balanced correctly, this will be the center of gravity, and the point at which you have the smallest influence over, and smallest ability to bump, the camera. This allows the physics of the system to do their magic and keep the camera steady; and gives you a point where you can control it without adding in unwanted shake.

    As noted above all-thread is quite small, so you might want to consider making the post larger at least directly below the gimbal at the control point, if not overall for rigidity (=stability).
    A simple tube over the all-thread locked into place with a lock-nut at each end could be a good start; and some gaff tape for grip can help also.

    – Mikko

  10. Miguel says:

    Hy everybody,

    thanks for all the comments. Learnt a lot in the process, mostly because I didn´t now squat about steadycams…..

    It´s not even close to finished but it is functional, I´m not working on it because the post-production of the firsts scenes recorded with it is my priority. But it definitely needs tweaking.

    Mikko, great advice. The gimbal and the arm were my main concerns (if I didn´t get those right, there was no point in going on), they worked out ok so the next step was the vest (somebody asked me about it, it´s a police-issued tactical vest, second hand at a flea market), that worked out nice enough so I finished the pole…..well, finished……

    It´s the part that has the least amount of work and it shows, but it can be greatly improved easily and it will, I have to shoot a short film with it in a month or so. Balance is key, so the weight height and distance to the pole will be adjustable, I´m taking Mikko´s suggestion to heart and with some PVC tubing will make a handle similar to the glide-cam 2000. I´ll keep you guys posted about it.

    Thanks to everyone!

  11. Mikko Wilson says:

    I’m suggesting take the handle off completely and try controlling the unit by holding (very lightly) the post directly, just below the gimbal.

    You other hand then goes at the arm-gimbal connection, so that it doesn’t touch any of the moving parts of the gimbal.

    – Mikko

  12. Shaun says:

    Hi just leaving feed back on your great video of your DIY camera stabilizer.. Thanks for such a fantastic put together item.. I am going to try to make one just wondering how to adjust the springs so I can adjust for different weights of cameras .. thanks.

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