Techniques for Shooting with the HandlePod DIY Steadicam

HandlePod Steadicam

The HandlePod DIY steadicam with gimbal and roller bearing.

With the HandlePod DIY steadicam outfitted with a gimbal and roller bearing, hand movement is effectively isolated from the camera. Once properly balanced on the steadicam, the camera will remain pointed in one direction regardless of any twisting or turning hand movement.  With proper technique, you can make the camera appear to float is if flying through the scene on wings. However, mastering the steadicam takes some practice to get it to work effectively.

The first problem is the fact that you have no hand control over where to point the camera. It remains aimed in one direction and hand movement won’t change its orientation. The way around that is to place the thumb lightly on the gimbal and apply just enough pressure to keep it from rotating in the roller bearing. Then you can turn with a sweeping motion of the arm and the camera will pan smoothly with your movement. The key is to move slowly and avoid rapid panning with the wrist. This works smoothly when turning corners and walking curved paths. Once you have made the turn and the camera is pointed in the right direction, release pressure on the gimbal and continue walking until the next turn.  It is best to touch the gimbal as little as possible, but light thumb pressure will let you point the camera as desired and put a brake on unwanted camera rotation.

Tilting the camera up or down is movement over which you have little control. The gimbal prevents camera tilt and the only alternative is to grab the steadicam with the other hand to tilt up or down then release it to continue shooting. This is difficult to do smoothly and it is best not to touch the steadicam to tilt the camera. Leave the camera pointed at the level at which it is balanced, usually horizontal. But you may want the camera to point up or down for a particular shot. The HandlePod camera mount makes this easy. You can easily rotate the mount on the pivot and change the balance to point the camera away from horizontal.

Walking smoothly is another requisite skill for proper steadicam technique. While the steadicam dampens rotational movement of the hand, it is important not to bounce the camera up and down with your arm as you move. Try to walk lightly and be as even as possible, especially when going up stairs or negotiating rough paths. The video below shows how the steadicam performs on stairs and rocky trails.

When using the steadicam, don’t expect all your video to be perfectly smooth at first. But with practice you will find that your steadicam shots will look like the camera was floating on a cloud.

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