There are dozens of DIY steadicam designs out there that can be built for a few dollars to thirty or more. Why use HandlePod as part of a steadicam you build yourself? It comes down to simplicity and balance. Many of the DIY devices out there are relatively complex and can take hours to make. One of the more difficult elements is creating a mount that allows the camera to shift and move so you can balance the rig and point the camera as needed. Some designs involve using a spare tripod head to do this or building some kind of sliding mount.
HandlePod already includes a camera mount that will rotate in all three axes and has a sliding bolt that offers 2.5 inches of camera movement. Balancing and aiming the camera is easy. Just strap the HandlePod to the steadicam with the elastic cord, adjust the camera as needed and shoot.
You will notice that the device pictured is held by hand. This is the simplest design to build and use. You just support it with your hand at the balance point. If everything is adjusted properly, you can walk, run, pivot or move as desired and your video will be absolutely smooth. Of course because you are supporting the steadicam directly with your hand, unintended movement is possible. But with a bit of practice, you can achieve surprisingly smooth results. The following video is my first attempt at using the HandlePod steadicam in the field.
You can see that the movement is remarkably smooth even though the rig was held by hand. A better approach would be to use a gimbal to isolate hand movement from the steadicam. More about this in a future blog. But even without a gimbal it is possible to achieve very impressive steadicam results with this simple device.
The key to every steadicam-type rig is balance. It must be supported so that the weight above the point of support (the camera) is countered by slightly more weight below the support. Not enough weight and the rig will topple over. Too much counterweight and it will pendulum with every movement. Of course to remain level it also must be balanced front-to-back and side-to-side. The HandlePod steadicam makes balancing very simple.
The counterweights can be any small metal objects that you can load into the PVC pipe. I used a handful of ¼-20 nuts, but you can use anything available, screws, nails, whatever will fit in the pipe. First stuff a wad of paper towel into the pipe to keep the metal from shifting. Depending on the weight of your camera, you should be able to load the pipe with enough metal bits for sufficient counterweight. Close the pipe with the cap and test the balance. Add or subtract bits of metal as needed.
With the hand-supported device shown, it is simply a matter of placing your fingers at the balance point to hold it. If you elect to add a gimbal, balancing is more critical but it’s still very easy to adjust the camera position with the rotation and shift available on the HandlePod camera mount.
The HandlePod steadicam can be built with the following material:
Length of ¾” PVC pipe, $.81 for 40 inches
Two end caps, $.39 each
One 90 degree ell, $.34
One 45 degree ell, $.69
Small metal counterweights can be anything you have on hand or buy a box of 100 ¼-20 nuts, $3.99 (this more than doubles the cost but if you supply your own metal the total for the PVC is under $3). And you’ll need a tool to cut the PVC pipe.
Absolutely smooth steadicam shots make for compelling visuals. They are a stark contrast compared to inevitably shaky hand-held and static tripod-mounted video. This is why motion pictures, TV shows and sports use moving camera shots so extensively. But they have camera motion equipment worth thousands of dollars. Today, anyone with a video camera, SLR or even a smartphone can shoot amazing steadicam video with a bare minimum of equipment and expense.