Tag Archives: diy dslr stabilizer

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Yup, within the first few minutes the Steadicam Smoothee walked through the door it was laying helplessly in pieces on my workbench. As I suspected, it's quite easy to modify this little stabilizer. With a quick release adapter, a top stage that can be fine tuned Left/Right & Forward/Back for easy balance, and one of the smoothest Gimbals on the market, i'm calling this the 'Cheesycam Baby Merlin'. If you haven't seen how smooth the Gimbal is, check out the earlier video (here).

The original Steadicam Merlin will run you about $800 dollars (click here to see), and I know there's a ton of people who want something similar for their GH2 or Sony NEX5n cameras. With this DIY, you can have just about the same features for 1/5th the price! Here's how I went about the mod.

Peel Back the sticker at the  base and you'll find a few small screws. Remove the metal plates inside so you can drill through the base.

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I reassembled the base (without the metal plates) and then drilled through the center (almost center - oops). Using a 3/8" Drill Bit, I was able to stuff a 1/4 x 20 coupler perfectly inside.

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On the underside of the coupler, I added a washer and 1/4x20 screw to keep it from pulling through the top. On top I added my weight bracket. You could use just about anything here, and my counterweight was at 13.6 oz. which is needed to counter balance the 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs total).

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DIY TIP
If you want to build your own counterbalance that can swing left to right, and allow you to adjust weights up or down, check out this little mock-up using basic off the shelf parts (below). An Eye Bolt will be at the top of your counterweight setup (attached to the base of the Smoothee). A threaded coupler will allow you to attach a long all-thread rod. You can use heavy washers on the rod and a pass-through thumb knob at the bottom. You'll probably need a second thumb knob above the washers to clamp them down. If you need to make it less bottom heavy adjust the weights upwards. If you need to make it more bottom heavy, adjust the weights downwards.

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Click image for larger view

Or you could also start with one of these slotted metal Dual Camera brackets to build up your swinging counterweight system.
Dual Camera Bracket
find-price-button Dual Metal Camera Bracket

Not really a cost saving idea, but If you really wanted that finished look like mine has, then here's where I cannablized the lower counterweight bracket from.
Opteka Steadicam Stabilizer
find-price-button Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer

For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.

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Drilled a hole down the middle of the QR plate, and added a screw underneath. I had to trim a bit underside to get the screw to fit.

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There you go! A modified Steadicam Smoothee made into the Cheesycam Baby Merlin. A nice stabilizer with an adjustable top stage, a Quick release mount, Fine Tuning knobs for quick balance, and adjustable weights underneath with movement to counterbalance uneven weight.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (16 of 17)

Originally modified to use with my Sony HX9V or Canon S100, but sturdy enough to rock my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs.) This is a no-brainer awesome Stabilizer for all kinds of smaller cameras like the Micro Four Thirds, or Sony NEX5n / NEX-7 type cameras. Right now these little Smoothee stabilizers are on sale (click here).

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find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro and iPhone

Steadicam-Merlin
find-price-button Original (more expensive) Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizer

6 Comments

YouTube member TheEthanThompson has a very simple idea on how to use an articulating friction arm to add a bit of extra support when shooting hand held. The arm can be positioned much like a gun stock / target shooter to add an extra point of contact. My guess is you'll need at least the 11" version to give you more room for adjustments, and some sort of brace on the end to work comfortably. A handy little tip to know if you already have an articulating arm. [Thanks Ethan]

Articulating Friction Arm
find-price-button Articulating Friction Arm

32 Comments

As some of you might have noticed, this blog went a few days without an update. I was busy attending CES - Las Vegas. Since there were several days of event coverage and many hours of walking, we needed to travel light - super light. The area was sooo crowded with what felt like hundreds of thousands of people, it was too cumbersome to even bring out a simple Tripod. We knew that we had to rely mostly on hand held shooting. Not to mention all the Taxi and Shuttle rides that made it difficult to travel with excessive gear and navigate through crowds. Our weapons of choice were two $24.00 dollar shoulder supports with a basic set of rails and handles. At times, the shoulder support was put in the backpack and the cameras were stabilized through the basic rail system which includes handles.

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(Above) Camera on Basic Rails from Express35

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find-price-button Manfrotto Shoulder Support Adapter

Quick tip: If you want to make a straight shooter out of a basic set of Rails and Handles, you can also carry around the Manfrotto 361 Shoulder Brace for Monopods. This adjustable shoulder support will connect directly to the Tripod plate of the rail system giving you that extra point of contact.

One of the benefits to using a modular rail system is that when it's taken apart, it has the smallest footprint possible and extremely light weight. It's also the core foundation of building up to Follow Focus systems, Matte Boxes, and other accessories that are designed around the industry standard mounting solution. Another benefit is that it can be reconfigured into different ways by shifting the parts around. (I bet you guys never though about doing this). By just rotating the camera sideways on a set of rails and repositioning the Handles to each side, I was able to make a Fig Rig type stabilizer. I didn't want to pack the Flycam, so instead I used this type of setup for all my walking shots. Switching to my Tokina 11-16mm wide lens helped smooth out any walking motion too. When I was done, things packed up very neatly into a small backpack. When I get a third handle, i'll show you guys how i'm planning on adding a 'Top Handle' to the basic rail set. This would have all the same functionality as my DIY DSLR Fig Rig with two handles to each side and one on top. Of course it would be more lightweight and can be broken down for easy traveling.

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(Above) Shown using rails sideways in a Fig Rig Stabilizer Configuration

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(Above) Traveling with Basic Rails

For those who were hunting down a way to mount a set of rails to the Cheap $24.00 shoulder support, here's the answer you've been waiting for. This is a custom offset adapter that I requested from Express35.com. Unlike the mock-up version that I first received, this is a set of parts that allow multiple axis adjustments to get the camera where you want it. If you're looking for such an adapter to mount your Redrock, Zacuto, Gini Rig, or other rails you can contact Express35.com here and let them know you want that Cheesycam Offset for the cheap Shoulder Support.

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(Above) Custom Offset Adapter to Cheap Shoulder Support

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find-price-button Cheap Shoulder Support for Video Camera

Supposedly a few other people have been requesting this same setup of rails to 'cheap shoulder support', but didn't even know where to start. For those of you who haven't invested in a basic rail system yet and looking to adapt to the cheap shoulder support, a new bundle of parts labeled as 'RigX' became available on the Express35.com website. The RigX Project is the custom offset adapter (above)+ basic set of rails + DSLR base + Tripod mounting Plate + HD Handles - all ready to be used seamlessly with the Cheap Shoulder Support. The bundled parts are designed specifically to be used in what many are calling the most comfortable entry level DSLR shoulder rig (you'll need the cheap $24.00 shoulder support) combination. If you want more information and prices on the complete RigX project from Express35, you can check it out here: http://express35.com/rig-x/1857/

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find-price-button Express35.com RigX

4 Comments

John Hwang decided to tackle Hal's DIY PVC shoulder support and provides a timelapse look into the project. With not too much more than a simple Hacksaw, this project was completed right in the living room floor. There's a fun test run at the end complete with sound effects. Of course there's nothing to show it's true stability or how this rig can further be loaded up with accessories, but it looks like a solid foundation that should perform well for a first time rig. This would definitely be something to look into for you GH1, NEX, and PEN fans. You can't complain for a $5 dollar project. [Thanks John].

DIY TIP:
If you're looking to get cleaner, more accurate, and straighter cuts into your PVC projects, check out these twisting PVC Pipe cutters running under $8 dollars. You clamp the unit to a PVC tube and just give it a spin. Continue to tighten and spin until it's cut all the way through. Very simple, and you won't break a sweat. Found here: PVC Pipe Cutter
twisting-pipe-cutter
click image for pricing on PVC Cutting tool

8 Comments

dslr-rig-octopussydiy-dslr-rig-octopussy
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Thanks to Thomas for sending in a very interesting DIY DSLR Rig. The entire rig was built by his father to be super light, super modular, and even adds a few wheels for some dolly style tracking. Everything packs up into a small bag, DIY follow focus included. There's a bit more information and a bunch more photos following the link to his blog. http://www.punto14.net/blog/2010/10/03/say-hallo-to-octopussy%C2%AE/

[Thanks Thomas]

14 Comments

Cheap New DSLR Rig from Tony Carretti on Vimeo.

We've been donated many photos and ideas on the 'Dual L Bracket DIY Fig Rig stabilizer', but I believe Tony Carretti here has donated the first video tour of how this thing really comes together. The first idea is to use a a flat flash bracket to join the two together with a quick release plate, but Tony's got a great idea of using a wide flat base from an old Flowpod, so that the camera can stand on it's own. The Canon 550D / T2i is mounted with two Sima L brackets (same that I have), but similar ones are from Alzo or the Adorama L-bracket with 2 Standard Flash Shoe Mounts. For the quick release plate, he's using a Cullman QR. I like how that QR plate is mounted on that Flowpod wide base plate, fits pretty flush. Great job on this Tony and thanks for sharing the video. This gives more of us an idea of how it all comes together to make a decent hand held stabilizer on the cheap.

Not suggested for the Canon T2i, but I think this would be even more awesome with the DIY top handle idea.

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find-price-button Camera L Video Bracket Hot Shoe

straight-bracket
find-price-button Straight Bracket with Two Adjustable Flash Shoe Mounts