Do-It-Yourself Camera Stabilizer: The Home Made Steadicam Version 5
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 5th effort, and draws most of its inspiration from the Steadicam Merlin, a commercial stabilizer aimed at the consumer market, as well as the small improvements I've made from version to version.

The primary difference between my design and the Merlin is my placement of the weight stacks... my design attempts to keep the weight stacks within the same rotational plane to minimize the issues with dynamic balance.  It also moves the mass out to the *sides* of the stabilizer, allowing it to be held in a more comfortable position in front of the operator.

The main conundrum I faced in putting together my Stabilizer 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 an elegant gimbal which worked well (check out the video).  My second design was intended to eliminate this labor-intensive part and replace it with something 'off the shelf'. (a throttle linkage ball joint).  Each of these designs presented their own limitations however - The first one was complicated to build, and the second one had more friction than I would have liked, and a fairly limited range of motion.

My newest gimbal design borrows heavily from the work of YouTube user 'wsclater'.  This picture should give you a general idea of the parts and layout...
1) A standard skate bearing has been pressed into a short length of 3/4" PVC pipe (by heating the pipe to around 200 degrees F) 
2) Traxxas U-joint (part# 1951) has been cut down and the diameter reduced, in preparation to be pushed into the bearing.
3) A 3 inch bolt has been screwed part way into the U-joint to act as a temporary handle
In this picture you can see how the parts of the gimbal are assembled.  The U-joint has been pushed into the bearing from *inside* the PVC tube.  The PVC 'cowl' extends down over the U-joint as far as possible without impeding the range of motion of the joint.
Here you can see how the completed gimbal is going to be mounted to the stabilizer.  A small square block of wood has been drilled with successively smaller drill bits to create a lip on which the PVC cowl can sit.  The inner recess is deep enough to avoid touching the bearing and the small bit of black U-joint that extends through the bearing.  This will allow the handle to rotate freely.
A view from the side gives you a better sense of the geometry of the unit.  The angles of each piece are mostly determined by:
1) My desire to make sure I didn't bump the main vertical post
2) The need to get the weight stack low enough to balance the system. 

The camera mount was taken from previous designs and gives me about 2 inches of forward/back travel and about 1 inch of side to side travel.

There are a total of 32 fender washers in the weight stacks, and the quantity was determined (serendipitously)  by the fact that this was the qty I had laying around.
Click here for a large, full view of the stabilizer including rough measurements.