Category Archives: Shake Free Video

HandlePod, the Tripod Alternative That Does So Much More

The value of any photo accessory depends largely on the number of ways it can be used. Versatility is the key to something that becomes an essential must-have tool. HandlePod was designed to fill a wide range of functions for both still photography and video. The following is a discussion of some of the many ways that HandlePod can be used.

It’s a Handle

HandlePod provides a sturdy grip for greater stability when hand holding any camera from a DSLR to a smartphone with a tripod adapter. But it is a handle with a difference. You can hold it with your hand or you can press it by hand against any solid support for dependable camera stabilization. Anything can be a camera support with just HandlePod and your hand. Handlepod opens up a whole world of long exposure night photography without the weight and bulk of a tripod.

It’s an Attachable Camera Mount

BridgeCam onPole.png

HandlePod attached to a power pole.

Want to attach your camera to an object? The elastic cord will secure the HandlePod to many supports, even large ones. The cord stretches to over four feet. Tie the HandlePod to power poles, lamp posts, trees—anything the cord can wrap around. It’s secure and strong. The cord won’t slip or come loose.

It’s a Portable Minipod

Need a camera support that sits on a level surface just like a mini-tripod? We’ve got that covered too—for both portrait and landscape composition. Just rotate the camera mount to balance it over the handle and it is self supporting on any level surface. No need to carry a mini-tripod when you have HandlePod.

And So Much More

With a few simple alterations and DIY additions there is even more that HandlePod will do.

It’s a Stringpod

Just add a length of nylon cord with a knot in the end and you have an instant stringpod. Slip the knotted end into the slot in the HandlePod, stand on the free end and pull up to create tension. The string tension plus the improved grip of the HandlePod offers greatly improved stability for hand held photography in low light.

It’s a Camera Slider

Slider on tripod 1

HandlePod used on a DIY slider mounted on a tripod.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on a slider to provide smooth tracking video shots. Or you can use HandlePod to slide your camera over a smooth surface. A tabletop, a bar, a shelf, HandlePod will glide easily across any smooth object. All that’s necessary is to cover the high friction rubber feet to make HandlePod slide like a sled. Four strips of adhesive Velcro fabric will to the job. No Velcro available? A handkerchief or paper napkin under the HandlePod will do as a temporary cover on the rubber feet. No smooth surface available? You can make your own slider with just a strip of wood and a yardstick. Add ¼-20 T-nuts to the slider and you can mount it on a tripod and use it anywhere. And you can do all this with about three dollars worth of material!

It’s a Steadicam

HandlePod Steadicam

HandlePod DIY steadicam with gimbal and roller bearing.

Turn HandlePod into a Steadicam with a few dollars worth of PVC pipe and some nuts. This simple hand-held device can be built in five minutes. Yet it works extremely well even though supported by hand. Want more reliable stabilization? For a few dollars and a bit more work you can add a gimbal to further dampen hand motion. To completely isolate hand motion from the camera you can add a roller bearing to the steadicam for very little cost and not much extra work. The finished steadicam with gimbal and roller bearing provides impressive stabilization for that Hollywood style floating camera effect.

HandlePod can do all this and more. Use duct tape to attach HandlePod to almost any clean surface to support small cameras and smartphones. Secure it to the external mirror on your car to create an instant car cam for motion video. Versatility is the hallmark of HandlePod. Discover what it can do for you.

 

Three Versions of the DIY Steadicam

Previous blogs described how to make and use a DIY steadicam with HandlePod, PVC pipe and other parts. The addition of the gimbal and then the roller bearing added to the cost and made construction slightly more involved. Each version of the steadicam has its pros and cons. The following is a comparison of the construction involved in each and the effect that additional features have on performance.

Basic version: PVC and counterweights only

The simplest steadicam design is supported by hand.

The simplest steadicam design is supported by hand.

This is the simplest and least expensive steadicam design. It can be made for $3 to $6 worth of parts. The PVC pipe cutter is the only tool needed. It should go together in about five minutes. With the counterweight (in this case steel nuts or any small metal bits) added and the HandlePod attached with the elastic cord you are ready to mount the camera and shoot. Balance is simple as long as the counterweight is slightly more than necessary to just balance the weight of the camera. Place two fingers on the horizontal bar beneath the camera and hold the steadicam very lightly at the balance point. The steadicam should remain upright. If it leans left or right, turn the camera mount to compensate. You can walk and move the steadicam smoothly and the camera will appear to float and not shake. This basic version has the advantage of allowing you to grab the steadicam more firmly to tilt up or down or pan the camera as desired. The disadvantage is the fact that you are holding it by hand and unintended or too rapid hand movement can detract from the steadicam effect. But given its cost, ease of construction and simple use, this basic version may be all you need to begin shooting steadicam video with a bare minimum of expense and effort.

Next Add a Gimbal

A gimbaled handle added to the steadicam further isolates hand movement.

A gimbaled handle added to the steadicam further isolates hand movement.

The addition of a gimbal isolates hand movement from the steadicam. It can be made with a Traxxas #5151 half shaft and U-joint as described in the previous blog. This adds about $8 to the cost. Use of a gimbal makes balancing more critical. It can be done quite easily, however, by shifting the position of the camera and rotating the camera mount as detailed in the blog on balancing. The gimbal isolates hand movement from the camera and results in smoother motion. However, it is not easy to tilt the camera up or down as it is with the hand supported version. And the gimbal alone does not prevent panning movement which may be jerky or too rapid with wrist motion. But adding a gimbal is well worth the additional cost and effort to build it.

Include a Roller Bearing

Steadicam roller bearing handle

Steadicam with roller bearing and gimbal.

Horizontal panning motion can be dealt with by adding a roller bearing to the gimbaled handle of the steadicam, This final improvement completely isolates hand movement from the camera. But it makes the steadicam harder to aim and control. Using it takes a bit of practice to master. A package of bearings will run $4 to $12 depending on the quantity and type. But it is a valuable final addition to the DIY steadicam. The HandlePod DIY steadicam can be as simple or complex as you want. You might start out with the simple, hand held PVC only version. It is easy to add a gimbal and roller bearing later on if you find you want better performance. Either way you will find that shooting with a steadicam, even the simplest, cheapest DIY version, will give your video an impressive, professional look.

Balancing the HandlePod DIY Steadicam

Steadycam with Gimble in use

HandlePod on a DIY steadycam that is easy to build and balances quickly with simple adjustment of the camera mount.

With all the DIY steadicam designs available on line, why use HandlePod as part of a steadicam device? It comes down to balance and ease of construction. With a gimbal to isolate hand movement, the steadicam must be perfectly balanced to keep it level. Many DIY steadicam devices use a relatively complex system of moveable camera mounts and counterweights to achieve a perfect balance. This can take special tools and materials plus hours of work. The philosophy behind HandlePod is to keep DIY accessories simple, inexpensive and easy to build. An example is the camera slider made from a yardstick described in a previous blog.

Steadicam PVC nuts and paper

The steadicam counterweight is made of PVC, nuts and a wadded paper towel to hold them in place.

The idea of keeping the HandlePod steadicam simple and cheap is based on materials and counterweights. PVC pipe is the least expensive material and is the easiest to work with. And because it is hollow, adding counterweight is a simple matter of filling the pipe with small pieces of metal, in this case steel nuts. These are cheap and readily available. A box of 100 ¼-20 nuts goes for $3.99 at Orchard Supply.  This should be more than enough weight to balance most cameras. Use a wad of paper towel to hold the metal in place. Insert just enough to keep the steadicam upright. Too much weight and it will swing with hand movement. Not enough and it will topple over. Add or remove metal until the balance is just right. It is easy to fine tune the balance with just two or three nuts at a time.

Balancing the camera on the steadicam is another simple matter, which is where the HandlePod comes in. Some DIY designs involve adding a tripod head or making a special adjustable mount to hold the camera. The HandlePod camera mount provides more than enough movement to balance any light weight camera. The slot in the mount lets you move the camera forward or backward to achieve perfect horizontal balance. It is a good idea to remove the angle bracket and washer that holds the camera mount and secure it on the opposite side of the aluminum pivot. This provides more horizontal movement of the camera. If the camera tilts to the left or right, rotate the camera mount in the opposite direction of the tilt to balance it to an upright position. Very small movement of the camera mount is all it takes to bring the steadicam to vertical.

Using HandlePod as the camera mount makes it simple to balance the camera very quickly and with minimal effort. Some cameras have different size batteries and changing them will alter the balance. No problem with HandlePod since the camera position can be shifted easily. Want to change to a different camera? Again re-balancing the steadicam with HandlePod is fast and easy.

If you want the camera stabilization benefits of a steadicam that will avoid the expense and complexity of more elaborate DIY systems, consider HandlePod and PVC. Click here to see a video shot with the steadicam . It is inexpensive, simple to build and easy to use. Plus you will have a HandlePod available for all the other camera support advantages that HandlePod provides.

Make a Video Camera Slider for HandlePod

In the last blog we told you how to turn HandlePod into a smooth camera slider with four strips of Velcro. By covering the rubber feet with Velcro, you can slide the HandlePod over any smooth surface and it will glide effortlessly for stable tracking shots. But what if there is no even surface to slide the HandlePod over? In that case you have to provide a track or rail to slide on. Commercial versions are available for a price or you can build your own.

HandlPod on slider with Velcro

HandlPod with feet wrapped in Velcro glides smoothly across the slider that can be placed on any surface.

Using HandlePod as your camera mount, you can build a camera slider in a matter of minutes for less than three dollars! Incredible, but true! All it takes is a yardstick, a length of lumber and some glue. Any yardstick will do as long as it is one inch wide. The one shown is from Orchard Supply for 99 cents. Then you’ll need a length of lumber 1.5 inches wide and one half inch thick. I used a furring strip also from Orchard Supply for $1.19. Then you just cut a three-foot length of lumber and glue the yardstick to it, being careful to center the yardstick on the wood. That’s all there is to it. You may have to sand the lumber a bit so the Velcro doesn’t get hung up on any wood splinters.

Now you have a three-foot camera slider that you can use on any surface for ultra-smooth tracking shots. And it works incredibly well. The yardstick happens to be wide enough that the Velcro-covered feet just touch the edges of the yardstick and ride firmly along the length of the rail. You will be amazed at how smoothly the HandlePod glides on the slider. And HandlePod has built-in finger slots so it is comfortable and easy to push along the rail at any speed. The secret is in the Velcro that makes a friction-free cushion for the HandlePod to slide on. Without Velcro, the rubber feet would grip the rail and make it very difficult to move the HandlePod smoothly.

Covering the HandlePod feet with Velcro gives you so many tracking options. You can slide it along tabletops, desks, shelves, glass—anything smooth. Placing a straight edge against the HandlePod will keep it pointed in a straight line. Or you can build the slider described above for smooth tracking shots on any surface. Another option is to attach the slider rail to a tripod for easy tracking shots in any location. More about that in a future blog.

 

HandlePod and a Smartphone for Video From Your Car

Video shot through the windshield of a moving car can be compelling depending on location and time of day. It can be the perfect complement to a vacation/travel video. But how to do it? You can’t hold the camera and drive at the same time. A passenger could do it, but hand holding a camera in a moving car is shaky and uncertain.

Fortunately there’s a better way. HandlePod offers a number of options for shooting video from a car. You can attach it to the exterior rear view mirror. Or a passenger can hold it on the dash or against the side window for stable, shake-free video. But what if you are by yourself and you want to shoot some of the great scenery you are driving through?

HandlePod and cell on visor

HandlePod attached to the car visor holds a smartphone for video through the windshield.

The sun visor on your car provides a perfect mount for a smartphone equipped with a tripod adapter. Simply place the HandlePod on the visor and secure it with a couple of wraps of the elastic cord. Clip the visor back in place and set the smartphone to video. Now you are ready to drive and shoot video with one touch whenever you want to capture the scenery.

Time lapse adds another dimension to shooting from a car. Depending on the frame rate, you can zip through city streets at ninety miles an hour even if you’re only doing twenty. All it takes is HandlePod, a tripod adapter and your smartphone.