Category Archives: Shake Free Video

HandlePod Makes a Simple Camera Mount for the DIY Steadicam

Some type of steadicam equipment has almost become a requirement for motion tracking video. People have become accustomed to seeing video from a camera that seems to float on air. Camera shake from obviously hand-held equipment screams “amateur” and “unprofessional”.

There is an abundance of camera stabilization equipment available, much of it in the “Do It Yourself” category. The one thing most of these DIY solutions have in common is a complex camera mount that requires the purchase of dedicated equipment or hours of building complicated systems to provide the necessary camera movement. The reason is the need to balance the camera on the steadicam.

DIY steadicam supports any camera

The HandlePod DIY steadicam supports most cameras from a DSLR to a smartphone.

HandlePod solves the problem by providing an instant camera mount with all the movement necessary to balance any camera on a simple DIY steadicam made from PVC pipe. The HandlePod steadicam will support a DSLR, a palmcorder or a smartphone with only minor variations in the construction.

Three-axis rotation plus a slotted camera mount with 2.5 inches of front-to-back movement makes it easy to balance the camera. It is the ideal solution to the often difficult problem of balancing the camera on a DIY steadicam, especially one with a gimbal and roller bearing.

HandlePod is a Versatile Camera Support

HandlePod attaches to the PVC steadicam in seconds with the elastic shock cord. It releases just as quickly for all the other uses HandlePod serves—hand-held stabilization against any solid support, firm attachment to support objects with the elastic cord, mini-tripod support on any flat surface. It is the most versatile camera mount device for the simplest DIY steadicam design available.

 

DIY Steadicam for DSLR Using HandlePod

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

DSLR on steadicam

DSLR on a DIY steadicam mounted on HandlePod.

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.

Attach HandlePod for Stable Selfie Video When There’s Nobody to Help

You can secure HandlePod to just about anything using the elastic cord. Any object you can wrap the cord around can be a camera mount. Even large objects will work since the cord stretches to over four feet. This is a useful advantage not only for low light photography but also for video.

When you can’t hold the camera yourself and there’s nobody around to help (you’re alone in a row boat, for example) attach HandlePod to any available support, mount the camera (or smartphone using a tripod adapter) and shoot. The video below is just such a situation showing the Schooner Zodiac shot from a row boat in the San Juan Islands.

Build a Simple DIY Camcorder Shade Hood

An earlier blog detailed how to make a simple DIY sunshade for smartphone screens.  The monitors on video camcorders are also difficult to see in bright sunlight and could benefit from a sunshade. There are a variety of commercial products available as you can see in this link to Google images for shade hoods. If you have a HandlePod, it is simple to build a DIY sun shade in a few minutes at little or no cost.

Camcorder Shade Hood Is Simple to Build

Sun shade camcorder 2

DIY shade hood for camcorder mounts to the camera with HandlePod.

All you need is some heavy black paper, scissors, black tape and a paper punch. Any thick paper will do as long as it is black or dark colored. The one in the photo was made from a dark gray file folder. Thin cardboard will also work. Cut a strip of paper wide enough to extend from the monitor to just past the tripod mount.  Place the camera on the paper and mark the places where the paper will fold up the side of the monitor and over the top, Mark the spot where the paper touches the camera.

Now fold the paper on the marks and cut it where it touches the camera. Hold the paper in place against the bottom of the camera and mark the spot where it touches the tripod threads. Use a paper punch to cut a hole at the tripod mount location. At the top end apply a strip of tape (preferably black electrical tape) to hold the paper to the camera. The tape can extend just 1/8th inch past the paper to hold it in place.

HandlePod Secures the Hood and Adds a Firm Grip

Put the paper on the HandlePod and insert the tripod bolt through the hole. Now mount the camcorder on the HandlePod and fold the paper up and over the monitor. Attach it to the camera with the tape. Move the camera to the end of the slotted camera mount and tighten the knob.

HandlePod supports the paper shade and holds it in place while providing a solid grip for your left hand. You can now see the monitor much more clearly in bright sunlight and have a firm grip to avoid camera shake and shoot smoother video. When you are done shooting in sunlight the shade hood folds away for easy storage.

HandlePod and a Sun Shade Improves Digital Cameras

The previous blog detailed characteristics of digital cameras that have an effect on camera stabilization. One is ultrazooms on compact cameras with a range of 60x or more. This extreme zoom makes it very difficult to hand hold video that is not shaky and nausea inducing. Zooming in that far requires a fast shutter speed to avoid camera shake when shooting stills in low light. At such extreme zoom range, night photos are nearly impossible without camera stabilization.

Eyepiece Viewfinders Are Disappearing

Another casualty of the digital age is the eyepiece viewfinder. The DSLR is the only camera today that has an optical eyepiece viewfinder. All others have an electronic eyepiece viewfinder if there is one at all. Most still cameras and all video camcorders have abandoned the eyepiece viewfinder in favor of the LCD monitor.

Monitors work fine most of the time but they are difficult to see in bright daylight. And the mechanics of holding the camera a foot or more from your face and watching a three inch screen is different from holding the camera up to your eye. With the camera held against your face, your head, eye and camera move together as one. This makes it easier to concentrate on what you are shooting and follow fast action. It is not as easy to do while holding the camera at arm’s length and watching a three-inch monitor in bright sunlight. I once tried shooting the Blue Angels with a camcorder and got mostly sky and clouds while searching for the fast moving jets in the monitor.

Add a Hood or Magnifying Loupe

One approach to the problem of camera monitors in bright sunlight is to add a hood to shade the monitor and make it easier to see. A variety of these are available for camcorders from Hoodman. This solves the bright light problem but does not bring the monitor closer to your eye.

HoodLoupe

HoodLoupe from Hoodman eliminates glare and turns the monitor into an eyepiece viewfinder.

A better, though more expensive solution is the HoodLoupe for 3.2-inch monitors. These include a magnifying glass and can be held up to the eye. Models range in price from about eighty to one hundred dollars and can be equipped with a strap to attach them to the camera. The HoodLoupe turns the monitor into an eyepiece viewfinder, making it easier to see and follow fast action.

Small cameras with an extreme zoom range can benefit from the improved grip and stabilization that HandlePod provides. Add a sun shade hood or a loupe to create an eyepiece viewfinder and following the action of your child’s soccer game becomes smooth, easy and jitter free.

Tripod Alternative Stabilization for Small Cameras

Small cameras and small tripod alternative supports go together like hand in glove. Cameras are definitely getting smaller, lighter and easier to carry. Even DSLR models have shed considerable weight, at least in the consumer models and some come in at just over a pound. At the other end of the spectrum is the point-and-shoot which is usually pocket size and weighs just a few ounces.  In between are the compact or bridge cameras and mirrorless cameras.

All Cameras Need Stabilization

Hand Holding HandlePod

HandlePod offers improved leverage and a better grip for hand holding small compact cameras.

No matter what camera you use, all can benefit from camera stabilization in low light. HandlePod will support any camera from a consumer DSLR with a kit lens down to the smallest point-and-shoot. The smaller the camera, the greater the need for stabilization in low light. HandlePod offers three methods to stabilize cameras of any size: 1. It’s a handle for a firmer grip and better leverage for hand held shots. 2. It provides tripod-like stability when pressed by hand against any solid support. 3. It attaches to support objects with an elastic cord that is strong and completely reliable.

Eyepiece Viewfinder or LCD Monitor

Other factors typical of cameras today influence the need for camera stabilization. One is use of an LCD monitor as opposed to a viewfinder. Film cameras all had an optical viewfinder so you could brace the camera against your head, a much more stable position.

Today many cameras have done away with the eyepiece viewfinder altogether and rely completely on the monitor. Holding the camera a foot or more away from your eyes to see the monitor is a much less stable stance. Camera movement is more difficult to avoid and can cause blurry low light exposures and shaky, less stable video. The improved grip and leverage that HandlePod provides yields sharper low light stills and more solid, shake free video.

Extreme Zoom

Compact cameras with extreme optical zoom lenses, sometimes called ultrazoom, also could use more stabilization than hand holding alone provides. These cameras are extremely difficult to keep steady when zoomed in at 60x or more. This is especially noticeable when shooting video. But zooming in that close for stills in low light demands stabilization to avoid blur from camera shake. HandlePod provides a significant measure of stability for cameras with such extreme zoom ranges.

The pocket size, four-ounce HandlePod is the perfect tripod alternative for today’s smaller, lighter cameras, especially those with extreme zoom and no eyepiece viewfinder.

HandlePod, the Multi-Purpose GoPro Accessory

There is an endless variety of GoPro mounts and equipment. Like this video says, you don’t just buy a GoPro. There is a wide selection of mounts, straps, tripods, etc. in every form you can imagine. In addition, there is a range of DIY GoPro accessories you can build yourself. Yet among all these choices, HandlePod stands out as a multi-purpose camera mount that fills many functions in one.

All it takes is a simple tripod adapter for GoPro to take advantage of all the benefits HandlePod provides for cameras and smartphones. The following is a brief rundown of the many advantages HandlePod offers GoPro users.

It’s a Handle for GoPro

Cameras as small as GoPro are difficult to hold and fingers can often protrude into the wide angle shot. HandlePod solves the problem with a comfortable grip and improved leverage for shake-free, hand-held video. It also keeps fingers away from the lens. Turn the GoPro around to video yourself while keeping your hand out of the picture.  Dedicated handles can be purchased or built, but none will do as much as HandlePod does for GoPro.

It Attaches GoPro to Almost Anything

GoPro on HandlePod

GoPro on HandlePod attaches to car mirror.

The many adhesive and wearable attachments for GoPro cover a range of uses. But there is nothing that matches the versatility of HandlePod’s elastic cord. It stretches to over forty inches and secures solidly to large objects. Anything the cord will wrap around can support the GoPro on a HandlePod. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities for mounting GoPro.

Use Tape to Stick HandlePod on Walls

There is a variety of adhesive mounts for GoPro, but these are not easily removable for re-use. Duct tape will stick HandlePod to walls or pretty much anything else and easily supports the light weight GoPro. And the camera mount keeps GoPro far enough away from the wall so that a monitor on the back is still visible and precise aiming is possible.

It’s a Mini-tripod for GoPro

HandlePod is self supporting on a flat surface just like a mini-tripod. Place GoPro on any level object with HandlePod.

It’s a Camera Slider

Cover the HandlePod’s rubber-tipped feet with Velcro and it will slide effortlessly across any smooth surface. Make a DIY slider with lumber and a yardstick for perfect tracking shots.

Make a DIY Steadicam for GoPro

With HandlePod and some PVC pipe it is easy to build a steadicam for GoPro starting with a simple, hand-held version. Or you can get more complex by adding a gimbal and a roller bearing to completely isolate hand movement.

Accessories are available for GoPro that will do just about everything. But no single accessory will do as much for GoPro as HandlePod. It is the ultimate, multi-purpose GoPro accessory.

Tripod Alternatives for Camera Stabilization

 

 

The term “tripod alternative” conjures up a variety of devices used for camera stabilization in place of a tripod. These come in two basic types: those that are self supporting on a more or less level surface and those that attach to supports with some sort of connecting mechanism. Some devices do both. What follows is a general description of the varieties of tripod alternatives available and their uses.

Mini-Tripods with Bendable Legs

Mini-tripods, as the name implies, are small tripods made to be self supporting on horizontal surfaces. A recent variation on the concept is bendable legs made of ball joints or containing flexible wire shafts. These can be wrapped around support objects for attachment. They connect to vertical or horizontal supports. But the support object must be small enough to wrap the mini-pod legs around and grip solidly. If the support is too big the connection is unreliable or impossible.

Bean Bag Devices

Bean bags or sand bags provide reliable camera support. They have been a DIY alternative for years and commercial versions with camera mounting screws are available. Bean bags will work on any surface as long as it is relatively horizontal. Vertical or steeply angled objects will not work. There is no tripod head so composition is a matter of positioning the camera on bean bag to aim it. Bean bag mounts come in a variety of sizes for different cameras. Some versions can be rather heavy and most are not pocket size. But for use on horizontal surfaces, a bean bag device will do the job.

C-Clamp Type Mounts

There are a number of tripod alternatives that use some type of clamp to mount to support objects. These will work on horizontal or vertical supports and provide a solid, dependable connection. However the support object must be small enough to accept the clamp. Too large and it won’t work. This limits the objects that can be used as camera mounts. Also, most clamp type mounts are not self supporting on a level surface.

Velcro Straps on a Mini-Tripod

Another variation on the minipod concept is the use of Velcro straps to connect to support objects. The straps attach reliably to vertical or horizontal supports as long as the object is small enough to wrap the straps around. The legs fold out to form a standard mini-tripod that can be used on flat surfaces.

Suction Cup Supports

Suction cup mounts have been used to attach cameras to a variety of surfaces, either vertical or horizontal. But the surface must be clean and smooth. They work best on metal or glass. The most common use is on the bodies or windows of vehicles for motion video.

Adhesive Back Supports

These are mounts that feature an adhesive backing that will stick to many surfaces provided they are clean and relatively smooth. Some have a peel-and-press adhesive that is more or less permanent and can’t be easily removed or re-positioned. Another type uses flexible adhesive goo. It can be peeled off and reused. The sticky putty will pick up dirt that must be cleaned. Adhesion is not as reliable on rough, unclean objects. The camera mount has limited movement and can’t be rotated from horizontal to vertical.  But it will stick reliably on many surfaces though it is a good idea to test adhesion first.

That pretty much covers the different types of tripod alternatives and their uses with one exception—Handlepod. This product differs in a number of ways from the typical run of tripod alternative devices. More about this in the next blog.

Multiple Uses for HandlePod

HandlePod camera stabilization

HandlePod serves a variety of uses.

Camera stabilization for low light photography and shake free video is the reasoning behind HandlePod. This unique tripod alternative serves multiple functions. It is a handle for improved stability when shooting hand held. It attaches securely to support objects with the supplied elastic cord. Its unique feature is the ability to hold it comfortably by hand against any solid support for dependable camera stability.

Secure Attachment to Moving Vehicles

The supplied elastic cord guarantees solid, dependable attachment. Try it on your car’s rear view mirror to make an awesome car cam. Most vehicles have some part where you can attach a HandlePod. Examples include ATVs, race cars, motorcycles, hang gliders and so on.

 Duct Tape Will Secure it to Large Supports

Use duct tape to mount HandlePod to a wall, door or any large object when you don’t want to hold it in place with your hand. Slap a strip of tape across the handle and press it firmly against the support.  This works best with small cameras or phones, but be sure to test adhesion first. A C-clamp can also be used to attach it to any thin flat object.

Instant String Pod Improves Hand Held Stability

Extra stabilization for hand-held shots can make the difference between a super-sharp exposure and one ruined by camera shake. HandlePod provides the advantage of a solid grip and added leverage to minimize blur. But for additional hand-held stabilization it’s easy to add a length of string to create an instant “stringpod”. Just slip a length of 1/8 inch nylon cord into the slot on the HandlePod, stand on the other end and pull up to create tension. This provides an added measure of stabilization that can make all the difference.

There are many on-line articles dealing with low light photography. All of them recommend using a tripod as the primary defense against blur from camera shake. But if no tripod is available, HandlePod can make the difference between a tack-sharp low light photo and one ruined by camera shake.

HandlePod Tames the Wild Super Zoom

Common advice from photography instructors and books is to “fill the frame”—get closer to your subject. The fault with many photographs is they include too much unnecessary material and the subject is too small. The usual fix is to “zoom with your feet” to get in closer and fill the frame. This advice applies to video as well which should always include close up shots.

Zoo beast 2

Frame grab of zoo animal video. HandlePod was braced against a barrier post.

But there are subjects and places where you can’t zoom with your feet to get closer. Examples include zoos, animal parks and wildlife preserves where there are barriers or restrictions on how close you can get to the animals you want to photograph. Then the camera zoom is the only way to really get in close. Today many cameras boast an optical zoom of 50X or even 60X. That is enough to get you eyeball-to-eyeball with an orangutan. Digital zoom will get you to the moon, but don’t go there. Avoid digital zoom because it degrades the image.

A super zoom can get you an extreme close up from a very great distance. The problem with zooming in that far is holding the camera steady. Human hands are not capable of maintaining a steady shot at fifty times zoom and video shake is unavoidable. Optical camera stabilization helps but is not a total solution. A video tripod with a fluid head would solve the problem, but who carries that for a day at the zoo? Check out this link for tips on zoo photography.

HandlePod is a pocket size camera support that delivers the stability to let you zoom in close and avoid video shakes. Just press the HandlePod against any convenient support, compose and shoot. And there are plenty of support objects to brace against, especially at zoos. Rails, barriers, walls—the things that separate you from the animals are the things you can use to stabilize the camera and get in as close as you want.

Seal 1

Seal at a marine reserve. Frame from video shot from a cliff above the beach. HandlePod was braced on a fence.

Wildlife parks and nature preserves are more of a challenge, but there is usually something to brace against. If not, HandlePod still helps by providing a firm handle and added leverage to make hand support easier and more stable. Even at a 50X zoom your video will be smoother and steadier than it would be just holding the camera alone.

HandlePod lets you zoom with confidence that your video will not make viewers dizzy and induce nausea. Use that super zoom to get up close and personal with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Tame that super zoom to make your wild animal video something special.