Here's an interesting DIY stabilizer for those of you just starting out with small camera video. YouTube member Dean Barkley put together his DIY Fig Rig stabilizer and doubled up use as a table dolly. The entire frame is made up from common and cheap PVC. [Thanks Dean]
The GH2 or other small video cameras are very lightweight and the selection for a quality stabilizer are few. Lately, there's been some interest around modifying a Steadicam Smoothee to work with such light cameras. I was able to modify one successfully, but I never got around to showing it's full capabilities. So it's great to see other examples out there, and here's one of the best videos i've seen so far about a modified Smoothee (a.k.a Baby Merlin) with a GH2 camera from Vimeo member MKVideoFilms.
If you want to find out how to modify your own, there's an article posted here: http://cheesycam.com/diy-steadicam-smoothee-mod-cheesycam-baby-merlin/
So the goal was to modify this Steadicam Smoothee for lightweight cameras, but it was surprising to see it fly my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 Lens. Getting back to the real reason for the mod, I tested out a smaller setup with the GH2 + 20mm Lens (total 1.2lbs). It took about 6.8oz of counterweight, but she balances just fine. In fact, I really think Tiffen should offer something like this for all the new smaller lightweight cameras coming out. If they can keep the price about the same, they'd make quite an impact. There's some additional information in the video about the Quick Release mount and Counterweight attachment.
If you're late to the party, you can find all the build information on modding a Steadicam Smoothee for your small cameras in the previous article (here).
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.
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.
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).
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.
Or you could also start with one of these slotted metal Dual Camera brackets to build up your swinging counterweight system.
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 Video Camera Stabilizer
For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.
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.
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.
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).
Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro and iPhone
Cameras are getting smaller and lighter. People are attempting to fly GoPro's and iPhones on Steadicams. For lightweight cameras including Sony's A55, Panasonic GH2's, or Canon T2is, here's a simple DIY DSLR Steadicam (merlin style) stabilizer idea from Vimeo member KFLeung. There isn't much tooling required, it's more of an assembly of readily available pieces which combined provides you with a framework, gimbal handle, and counterweight for a camera Stabilizer. Starting with an inexpensive Flip Flash Bracket. These brackets are made for photographers to mount a Flash above the camera. When the camera is rotated in either landscape or portrait position, you can flip the flash so it still remains above the camera (i.e. to bounce light from a ceiling). This video is actually about 3 years old, but there are still several people using this method with good results.
KFLeung's first test video posted after the build
The Gimbal (handle) is based on a mini tripod with ball head so that it swivels freely. Getting a good fluid mini tripod is key to having smooth movements.
A really simple method to creating a 3 axis Gimbal Handle most people don't think about is to literally take a mini ball head and throw it on top of a Barska Handgrip. This setup adds some size, but is extremely comfortable and acts as a decently effective Gimbal Handle system. (I can see many of your minds already at work with that idea...)
Mini Ball Head
The arch design of the bracket gives space for your hand to work, while providing an area to mount a counterweight below. At this area, you can use simple Fender Washers like most Hague or Indiehardware stabilizers. When you're done, the stabilizer folds into a small form factor.
What do you get when you mix an old Bike Wheel, Bike Crank, and Bike Wheel Hub? You get a functioning Video Camera Stabilizer a.k.a DIY Steadicam. It will all make more sense after checking out the video above from YouTube member thomasumJohnson. Improvements? I would stay start with a smaller wheel maybe from a childs bike. This should cut down on about half the size, but still give you that nice arch. The smooth wheel hub is a nice touch, and it appears he's using a U-Joint similar to the WSClater builds for making a Gimbal Handle. But if you're not the type to tackle a 'Gimbal', Lensse can provide you with something http://cheesycam.com/lensse-gimbals-for-diy-steadicam-stabilizers/.
When I first started messing around with DIY builds, one of the most difficult projects to try and tackle were the Stabilizers a.k.a. or what most people associate with 'Steadicams' (that's actually a brand name). Piecing together a stage and a set of counterweights was the easiest part, but trying to locate an effective off the shelf 'Gimbal' handle was always the biggest hurdle.
A device consisting of two rings mounted on axes at right angles to each other so that an object, such as a ship's compass, will remain suspended in a horizontal plane between them regardless of any motion of its support.
Here's where Lensse steps in. I think this could be officially the first DSLR equipment company marketing Gimbal handles for DIY stabilizer projects. This is another move for companies to get attention from the DSLR community. IGUS stepped in after finding many of it's Linear Guide Rails were being used as Camera Sliders, and even JuicedLink offers basic accessory brackets also named DIY*. These three new Lensse Gimbals designed for Light cameras to heavier loads, are all machined from Brass sockets. Brass is a metal with lower friction qualities, but still hard enough to last for years. If you're working on a DIY project that requires Gimbals, including Cable Cams, and Helicopter Mounts, check out some of the Lensse gimbals.
Lensse DIY Brass Gimbals for Steadicams
I love me some RedRock Micro gear, but unfortunately i'm just one of those poor souls who can't afford even their entry level stuff. As seen in the image below, this is just one bundle in the line up of RedRock Micro's Nano rigs called the Running Man. Pretty solid piece of gear that doesn't look quite overkill. Light weight, sturdy, sets up fast, and packs down small. Nice little stabilizer for the frequent traveler. You can find the Running Man rig here: Redrock Micro nano - RunningMan
Having a few spare parts around the studio, just decided to mount the Calumet Mini Tripod / Handle to a Manfrotto 361 Shoulder Brace for Monopods. The bearing on the shoulder support spins freely, but by adding a handle under the camera, you can keep it steady. It's also handy having the handle break out into a Tripod to rest the gear down (gotcha on that one RedRock..JK).
Would be an interesting travel brace for a smaller camera like the GH1, GH2, Sony NEX, or A55. I don't know..all for fun...
Wow just caught this video from IndyMogul a few minutes ago, and believe it or not, I feel like i've just been nominated for an Academy award. In this video they touch on a few ideas for budget stabilizers (one or two from this website) with all of the web links in the description of their YouTube video found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9d93j4jf5M.
Seriously though, i'm a huge fan of IndyMogul. If you love anything about movies - making movies, watching movies, DIY gear, and low budget ways to get special effects into your filmmaking, check out all of the videos they've produced over the years. With over 80 million upload views on YouTube alone, they're hard to miss. If you're not on the ball, you can subscribe to all the content they produce over at their YouTube channel, or set up a subscription to their FREE podcasts via iTunes. This way you can carry all the episodes in your fancy iPods, iPhones, and iPads.
Aside from pure voyeurism, you can always send in your comments and ideas to IndyMogul as they're pretty active in the filmmaking community. [Thanks for the kind words guys, Keep on Keepin' On]