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Poor Man's Steadicam

Posted: Thu, 6th Mar 2008, 9:35pm

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Jabooza

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Hey FXhomers, I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of or has a Poor Man's Steadicam. Darth Penguin and I were thinking about making or buying one, we can't really afford a normal steadicam. I was wondering if anyone might know how good it works or how easy it is to build or if it's just worth paying more to get a pre-built one. I looked at some of the videos on the site and to me it seems pretty good. Do you recommend getting one? Any other thoughts on this?



-Jabooza
Posted: Thu, 6th Mar 2008, 9:53pm

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EvilDonut

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Jabooza wrote:

Hey FXhomers, I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of or has a Poor Man's Steadicam. Darth Penguin and I were thinking about making or buying one, we can't really afford a normal steadicam. I was wondering if anyone might know how good it works or how easy it is to build or if it's just worth paying more to get a pre-built one. I looked at some of the videos on the site and to me it seems pretty good. Do you recommend getting one? Any other thoughts on this?



-Jabooza
you already posted the link. That's your cheapest bet. Anything else would be out of your $ range. The other solution is building one yourself. Unless you two are not really good at building stuff. Steadicams aren't hard.

d
Posted: Thu, 6th Mar 2008, 9:58pm

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SilverDragon7

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For $14 I'd just buy one from him... It's what I'm gonna do now wink.
Posted: Thu, 6th Mar 2008, 10:33pm

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pdrg

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If push comes to shove, just bolt the (collapsed) cam onto the tripod, and move the tripod around - it acts as a counterweight and dampens the shock movements. Heavy, though wink
Posted: Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 12:33am

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Atom

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Blast! My muddling around on this post whilst looking at Facebook has caused pdrg to beat me to the punch! smile

It doesn't work. Really. We do it over and over and make it more and more expensive and it simply isn't worth it. Not only that, there's always a hesitance to running around with your camera on a generally wobbly mess of metal pipe.

What works much better in many cases is simply buying a cheaper but heavy tripod, mounting the camera, and picking this up with the minimum number of leg lengths let out. It's worked wonders for us, my friend Chase in his movie Who We Are and my friend Brian in his movie Jonas.
Posted: Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 1:11am

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Squid

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I made a variation on this stedicam myself, and it has worked fairly well. Not as well as I had hoped, Mind you, but hey, the price was right.

A few small warnings though to anyone who buys/makes one. For starters, the camera mounts onto the apparatus using a basic bolt... if you have a tiny consumer level camera, this is probably fine. If, however, your camera is even slightly larger, it is going to need some sort of flat base to sit on in addition to screwing into that bolt. Otherwise, you are liable to break your camera.

I have a DVX-100B and I modified the rig to have a large wooden base at the top to accomodate the stature of my camera, and it has worked fine.

Another thing to be careful of is screwing the camera on too tight. A while back a friend of mine screwed my old JVC consumer level camera on too tight, and it actually broke the camera (it made the LCD cease to function... that made shooting much more difficult).

So yeah, very decent stedicam, but just a couple things to keep in mind.
Posted: Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 3:05am

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pdrg

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Oh, one more thing (2 more things?)

1) When pro's refer to a Steadicam, they usually mean a piece of sprung aparatus attached to a tight harness with a very skillful operator (expect to pay upto £900/day for a top-end operator with his own kit). These guys sweat like pigs, and have a limited work lifespan before their backs give out, but you need them if you have complex heavy camera shots - dolly shots are cheap by comparison!

2) as with the above, 'proper'?, steadicam, the smoothness of movement is all in the operators skill, the op almost has to dance keping his arm still like a chickens head (pick up a chicken, you'll understand!)
Posted: Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 4:26am

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EvilDonut

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Maybe look at it as an excuse to get more in shape. TV news cameras never use steadicams. They just workout a lot, and are in great shape.

Honestly, i don't see steadicams used much on pro sets unless it's a major running action scene. When you need the camera to be more ... um, uh, steady. smile

d

Last edited Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 7:55am; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Fri, 7th Mar 2008, 7:16am

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aargh

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I built this exact same stabilizer a few years back, needless to say, I ended up having more useless crap to clutter my little work area. Personally, I didn't feel it gave the desired look of "stability." But hey, 14 dollars is a deal to at least give it a shot, because if you don't like the look as I did, you could always use the parts to make something else; say, I don't know...a redneck wind chime?
Posted: Sat, 8th Mar 2008, 3:10pm

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D3L3T10N

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I built this exact one a few months ago, and as aargh said, its not as stable as a professional one, but it gets the job done. Most of the steadiness is the operator anyway. You just have to experiment and see what works. It was a big improvement over holding the camera while running, so I thought it was definitely worth the $14.
Posted: Mon, 10th Mar 2008, 3:18pm

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jmax

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EvilDonut wrote:

They just workout a lot, and are in great shape.
While I don't deny that, I think it's worth pointing out that the shoulder-mounted pro cams they use are much more inherently stable than consumer-sized handhelds.
Posted: Mon, 10th Mar 2008, 5:05pm

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chchaisson

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Yep, it doesn't work. I tried building this a while ago. ALthough it smoothes out the more violent shaking, side to side motion is still a problem.

If you really need a stabilizer, just rent one (Glidecam Pro 2000 is ~$25 for a day at most places) and better results will make up for the cost.
Posted: Tue, 11th Mar 2008, 5:28am

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NickF

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Or if you are looking for a super cheap stabiliser, attach some weights to the bottom of your tripod and use it when the tripod is extended smile

There is a reason behind as to why this works that has something to do with physics and center of gravity but I can't remember it fully...
Posted: Tue, 11th Mar 2008, 5:55am

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EvilDonut

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btw: The 'trend' now in Hollywood nowadays is NOT having the steady, tripodish style shots. The 'camera' is the new action star, and evident in many of the movies of late. Audiences have gotten bored of the tripod look.

Trust me, it's more fun when the camera feels like a person and walks around with the action! Be creative but don't pull a blair witch.

d
Posted: Tue, 11th Mar 2008, 8:20pm

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chchaisson

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I don't really like the "Shaky" look or the flat "tripod look." A little bit of motion is nice; the kind you get from a shoulder mounted cam.

Last edited Wed, 12th Mar 2008, 9:05pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Wed, 12th Mar 2008, 12:55am

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Harvey

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chchaisson wrote:

Dolly shots just look plain amateurish. Side to side is okay, but moving forward or backwards is a tell-tale sign of a student film. In my opinion.
Er, that's kind of a rash statement to make, especially considering that the film you mentioned (in what I think is a positive manner?) featured quite a bit of dolly work.
Posted: Thu, 13th Mar 2008, 6:32am

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Atom

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chchaisson wrote:

Dolly shots just look plain amateurish. Side to side is okay, but moving forward or backwards is a tell-tale sign of a student film. In my opinion.
Ahem.
Posted: Thu, 13th Mar 2008, 9:22pm

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chchaisson

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What are you trying to say, Atom? Are you proving my point? Your film, after all, is a student film.

(I didn't watch it, but I'm guessing it had some dolly shots in it and you were offended)
Posted: Thu, 13th Mar 2008, 9:29pm

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Jabooza

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chchaisson wrote:

What are you trying to say, Atom? Are you proving my point? Your film, after all, is a student film.

(I didn't watch it, but I'm guessing it had some dolly shots in it and you were offended)
I think what Atom is trying to say is that dolly shots look professional and in no way look amateurish (I completely agree), he just doesn't have a very good way of saying it. smile

About the steadicam, I think we might go ahead and try building it anyway, because it's pretty cheap and even if it isn't that great, it's probably better than nothing.



-Jabooza
Posted: Thu, 13th Mar 2008, 9:38pm

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chchaisson

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Oh, well you have a good point. The subtle dolly shots in Redemption looked great for the most part. My only criticism would be the side-to-side motion while moving (at 00:22 in the film).

I agree that dolly shots can look good if done well, but one little bump or jerk throws the whole shot off.
Posted: Thu, 13th Mar 2008, 9:45pm

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pdrg

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chchaisson wrote:


I agree that dolly shots can look good if done well, but one little bump or jerk throws the whole shot off.
Indeed, but that's another matter altogether - seeing as pretty much every $10M feature you've seen is shot largely on a dolly of some sort... wink
Posted: Tue, 18th Mar 2008, 8:02pm

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Atom

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chchaisson wrote:

Oh, well you have a good point. The subtle dolly shots in Redemption looked great for the most part. My only criticism would be the side-to-side motion while moving (at 00:22 in the film).

I agree that dolly shots can look good if done well, but one little bump or jerk throws the whole shot off.
A little hypocritical ain't it? smile

I know I'm back late to the game but I just caught this thread again. pdrg is right, once again, and as expected. Glad you see the light of professional camera technique such a dollying and crane shooting.

That was on a $30 dolly we made, by the way. smile (P.S. saw your TimeFest entry thread on DVXuser, nice stuff!)
Posted: Wed, 19th Mar 2008, 6:27am

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EvilDonut

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dollys have their moments, same with jib cranes, steadicams, and then gun and running.

you learn all this in school. There's no "set formula" on camerawork.

This is why those pro hollywood guys make the big bucks.

So don't even concentrate on it. It's like asking how do I get into medical research. It's YEARS of practice, learning, and working with others (DP, Director).

So i'll say it again. When starting small - concentrate on the STORY. No one cares if it's dolly or hand-held. Robert Rod. used a wheelchair! smile

but if u need to spend money - spend it on a half decent tripod. Slow shutter speeds? wind? constant framing?, you'll be thanking your tripod.

r
Posted: Wed, 19th Mar 2008, 2:01pm

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pdrg

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EvilDonut wrote:


Robert Rod. used a wheelchair! smile

but if u need to spend money - spend it on a half decent tripod. Slow shutter speeds? wind? constant framing?, you'll be thanking your tripod.
Ain't nothing wrong with a wheelchair! They can get you places you can't on track, and you don't need a dancefloor to use them. They're not the answer to everything, but a useful addition to the arsenal no question.

Also I support ED's assertion that good legs are worth having. I'd add to that a good head is worth having too, as you'll find out the first time you try to tilt or pan!
Posted: Wed, 19th Mar 2008, 6:47pm

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EvilDonut

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yeah i used a wheelchair once.

but .. just not to look dorky out in public on a set, i put skull flags on the side of it. made it look a bit 'cooler'.

then it was an uber-wheelchair, and i wasn't embarassed to sit and film in it. nor were the cast. smile

now i just have a dolly, ones that u use for moving. works better actually. and compacts down.

d
Posted: Wed, 19th Mar 2008, 8:42pm

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jfreedan

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Hmm...........


I use the Poor Man's Steadicam with my Cannon GL2 and have never had any problems with it.

However, I've have some other people try to use it and they have a difficult time trying to keep the shots steady.

Steadicam operation requires a fair amount of physical strength, not just in your arms but also in your lower back, because you need to keep your knees bent while you walk in order to keep the camera steady.

At the college program I'm in now, we have a Steadicam Jr. available to us in the equipment room, but the only thing it can attach to is a Cannon GL1 (of the cameras we have available to us). I've played around with it, and I think I actually get better shots with the plumbing pipe setup that cost 14$. The Steadicam Jr costs like 600$

-shrugs-

Last edited Thu, 20th Mar 2008, 6:57am; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Thu, 20th Mar 2008, 2:50am

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Serpent

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jfreedan wrote:

At the college program I'm in now, we have a Steadicam Jr. available to us in the equipment room, but the only thing it can attach to is a Cannon GL1. I've played around with it, and I think I actually get better shots with the plumbing pipe setup that cost 14$. The Steadicam Jr costs like 600$

-shrugs-
I happened to get a Steadicam JR for free from my uncle a while ago, and it is certainly better than the numerous cheap steadicam things. I don't recommend buying one, as they are expensive, probably overpriced. However they don't cost $600 if you know where to look (used, ebay, Craigslist, etc). They aren't great for elaborate camera setups (example: my GL1 with 35mm adapter, shotgun mic, support), but they are amazing if you have a simple setup. I'm definitely going to build a big vest steadicam for my next camera.

Also, dolly doesn't = student film...
Posted: Fri, 21st Mar 2008, 2:56pm

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chchaisson

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Yeah, not sure what I was thinking when I said that. Just finished watching "Primer" and there's some great dolly work in there for being such a low budget film. I stand completely corrected wink
Posted: Tue, 1st Apr 2008, 10:22am

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Krazy Killer Biker

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if looking for a cheap steadicam for light weight camera have a google for "Hague" stabiliser, it's a british company ships worldwide.

lots of people at hv20.com are happy with it.
Posted: Tue, 1st Apr 2008, 10:49am

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Sollthar

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pdrg wrote:

Ain't nothing wrong with a wheelchair! They can get you places you can't on track.... Also I support ED's assertion that good legs are worth having. I'd add to that a good head is worth having too.
Must be because I'm no native english speaker, but I guess I'm the only one who finds this funny...? Ah well.


As for dollies and cranes and whatnot...
Your visual stay is a way of telling your story, so I'd say think well about what you do there. If a 1$ thing does the trick, then why not use it. Especially for lower budget or even no budget filmmakers.
Posted: Tue, 1st Apr 2008, 5:04pm

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aargh

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Sollthar wrote:

pdrg wrote:

Ain't nothing wrong with a wheelchair! They can get you places you can't on track.... Also I support ED's assertion that good legs are worth having. I'd add to that a good head is worth having too.
Must be because I'm no native english speaker, but I guess I'm the only one who finds this funny...? Ah well.
HA HA HA HA HA! I saw what you did there! Ah... Funny stuff there, just what I needed. biggrin