Do-It-Yourself Camera Stabilizer: The Home Made Steadicam Version 3
The commercial version of the 'Steadicam' has been around for a very long time, and has helped create many defining moments in popular cinema; many of us still remember the harrowing chase through the maze in Steven King's 'The Shining' and the amazing way that the camera seemed to float behind the actors as they ran... one bent on murder, the other on survival.

For as long as companies have been selling tools to assist the filmmaker, people have been exploring ways to accomplish the same thing better, faster, cheaper... and mostly aiming for cheaper!  This page chronicles my  adaptation of the many DIY designs floating about the internet. 

Before we begin
This article isn't intended as a complete building guide...I really just wanted to chronicle my ongoing efforts to design and build a camera stabilizer.  This page represents my 3rd effort, and draws most of its inspiration from the Steadicam Merlin, a commercial stabilizer aimed at the consumer market.

Putting together my own steadicam represented some unique challenges... I had seen many references to the '$14 Steadicam' on the internet, and I have to applaud the grace with which Johnny has dealt with the know-it-alls who feel compelled to point out the limitations of the design... read his FAQ and you'll get a small sense of his patience and sense of humor.  (These are links to his college website, please mail me if he graduates and the links get broken)

My budget was a bit higher than $14 and I wanted to put something together that emulated, as best as a home-brew project could, the design of the commercial steadicam.  To that end I trolled the internet and discovered a whole community of amateur filmmakers, physics nerds, and cheap folk like myself who just had to see if they could build a camera stabilizer for less than the cost of a compact car.  The successes I found on the internet, and the elegance with which folks have done it, inspired me to do the same.

The main conundrum I faced in putting together my SteadiCam was the mechanics of the gimbal.  The commercial units have many beautifully machined parts, and while my garage workshop is reasonable well equipped,  I was completely unprepared to do any precision metal machining or drilling.  My first design utilized PVC to create a simple yet elegant gimbal which has been working out great (check out the video).  My newest design was intended to eliminate this labor-intensive part and replace it with something 'off the shelf'. 

To that end, I present you with a 1/4" right angle ball joint, commonly used as a throttle linkage on cars.  I bought mine off ebay from this guy.


In this picture you can see how the ball joint is implemented as my gimbal.  The threaded ball is attached to a 3/4" PVC cap, which is then pushed onto a short length of PVC pipe.   The ball-socket, which is threaded for a 1/4-28 bolt, was attached to the wood support by cutting off the head of a 1/4-28 bolt which was then hammered into the wood support after drilling a pilot hole
The camera platform is the same one I'm using on my 1st camera stabilizer.  This short video should give you enough details to see how it is designed.  It's purpose is to allow me to adjust the center of gravity of the stabilizer as simply as possible.
The weight stack at the bottom of the stabilizer is just a bunch of 5/16" fender washers threaded over a short length of 5/16" all-thread rod, which has been screwed into the end of the lower stabilizer bar.  The body of the stabilizer is made from 1x2 Pine fur strips.

Click here for a large, full view of the stabilizer