made a DIY steadicam, about $40

I was making a video for work where I needed to walk around a lot and looked for a way to avoid the bouncy look of someone holding a camera I saw in so many videos. (We’ll see if it panned out). I found a cheap DIY steadicam solution I wanted to built for myself and ended up building it last Friday night and using it Saturday morning for work.

Here’s the idea I used: http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy/. He used to sell them for $40 but it looks like his supplier upped their prices so it’s all DIY (do it yourself) now.

I followed the step-by-step instructions from this video. I think they just followed the link above and made a video, since he doesn’t have a step-by-step video.

I had a laptop out in the garage while I built it and just did one step at a time. It took me about two hours to build – not too bad. That’s also how long it took me to find the parts around town. The 1-1/2 wide 1/4″ washers weren’t at Home Depot, the first place I went, they’re a specialty item. They did have them at Lowes (who has a pretty good mobile website, I found them while standing in Home Depot on my phone), .

a bent washer
You want both bent, one to hold the camera and one to stay snug against the weight on the bottom.
the bottom of the steadicam
Cracked this one a bit but it still holds fine.
rubber ring attached to camera
I thought this might keep the camera from being scratched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ones I bought were Zinc-plated, though, so they were harder to bend – the process described in the video didn’t work for me, but bending them by tightening them against the weight at the bottom of the rig did, so I did that, took the washer off and put it at the top, then did it again for the washer I would keep there. I also added a rubber ring that I had from a plumbing kit to not scratch the bottom of the camera.

The weight I used was 2.5 lbs. – I have a pretty light camera, so it works. If I had a heavier camera I would have wanted a heavier one.

steadicam on ground with viewfinder open
it does stand on its own but not very stable
steadicam without camer
I kept an extra bolt on top to make it less sharp in case my kid trips into it. You don't need it for the build.

Drilling the holes took the longest. I used vegetable oil to hold the shavings and keep the drill bit from catching on fire or whatever it was going to do. I bought a vice, which I didn’t have, for about $20, so that added to the total price. Without it it would have been $40. So, all told, $60. The steel was cheap, so were the caps – the bolts and screws were the expensive thing. If you’re looking for a deal I’d price the bolts and nuts before you head to your nearest store, which I did. I found the weight at Walmart for about two bucks. All in all, I paid more than the $14 advertised, but I get the feeling that tutorial/site been up for a while and prices of the materials have changed since then. I’ll try to get $40 of use out of it.

I’ll try again with the aluminum frame mentioned on the written description in the extras – I was excited to try the kinds of shots Raimi got in the Evil Dead 2 but it’ll have to keep. The aluminum bent and broke when I was bending it, I cut the aluminum slightly but I think I bent it the wrong way.
The top screw goes right into the camera – I’d like to make a rig with an actual tripod top eventually, maybe like the frugal floater (strange name for a clever DIY merlin-style steadicam).

I need more practice with it, but the weight at the bottom automatically adjusted for some of my walking bounces. This is a rough estimate of how it looks – most of the fault is likely mine because of lack of practice. The camera belongs to work – it is a Canon Vixia HF series.

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