Keeping a camera stable while shooting hand held video is a challenge that requires some kind of mechanical assistance. There are a number of devices to accomplish this, many of them are DIY projects that can be done for very little money. Most of them fall into three basic categories:
- Shoulder supports and hand grips. These provide a shoulder rest and extended handles that support the camera and offer a better grip like the DIY shoulder rig shown here.
- Counterweighted supports. These are basically a shaft with the camera on top and a counterweight on the bottom. Holding the device at the balance point between the camera and the weight allows steady motion and shake free video.
- Gimbaled supports with roller bearings. This is a more complex system that includes a gimbal and roller bearing at the balance point to totally isolate hand movement from the camera as in this DIY device.
Build a DSLR Steadicam
All DSLRs will shoot video and many of these stabilizing devices are intended for the DSLR. HandlePod will also accommodate the DSLR as part of a DIY steadicam that can be built for almost nothing using PVC pipe. Previous blogs described how to do this as a simple counterweighted support as well as adding a gimbal and roller bearing. Those articles featured use of the HandlePod steadicam with a light weight video palmcorder.
Using a DSLR with the HandlePod steadycam involves some modification, mainly having to do with weight and balance. The heavier camera requires the addition of more counterweight material to fill the PVC pipe. Nuts, washers or any inexpensive metal pieces will do the job. In the photo at right, the pipe was also extended slightly to provide more counterweight.
Balancing the DSLR
Balance is the key to success with the gimbal and roller bearing rig. There should be slightly more weight on the bottom to keep it from tipping over but not enough so that rapid horizontal movement will cause it to pendulum. The steadicam should remain upright regardless of hand motion. Start by adding too much weight then remove a little bit at a time until perfect balance is achieved.
Once the proper weight distribution is achieved, balancing the camera on top of the steadicam is where HandlePod proves its worth. Other DIY steadicam devices require complex mounts or special tripod heads to allow sufficient movement to balance the camera. This can be a difficult process. HandlePod has the necessary movement built in with forward and back motion on the slotted mount and left to right movement of the mount itself. It is a relatively simple process to position the camera to achieve a perfect upright balance.
Of course such fine tuning of the balance is not required with a simple counterweight rig. Just hold the steadicam lightly at the balance point and move as smoothly as possible. It may not be quite as steady as the gimbal and roller bearing rig, but it works remarkably well. Either way, HandlePod is the centerpiece that makes the DIY steadicam inexpensive and easy to build.