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Old April 3rd, 2006, 12:29 AM   #16
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OK...here's the way it went down.

I didn't think a good stabilizer should cost as much as it does until I bought a Glidecam 1000, then a 2000, and on and on. I found (as did others) that it was just too heavy to handle for an extended period of time. I decided to make my own arm to support it. After all, how hard could it be...just some aluminum, vest material, sewing, assembling, and other hardware.

I built my first arm and vest about four years ago. It was similar to the Smooth Shooter in design. It had one fixed arm and one articulated. I tried it out and it actually worked. I thought I should make a number of them to sell to others like myself who couldn't afford the $4500 Steadicam Mini. After making a dual articulated arm I decided it was much better so I stopped making the single arm.

Building my own support arm was a good idea and a bad idea. The bad part was, to do it right I had to buy lots of equipment (band saw, 4 drill presses, belt sander, deburring equipment, two grinders/wire brushes, myriads of drill bits/counter sinking bits, bending equipment, socket sets, springs (various sizes), aluminum, bushings (changed to bearings), and about a million other small parts that I didn't even know the names of. I needed these because the system had to look good as well as work well. Then I had to find these parts in bulk because small quantities cost a lot more per piece. That took a great deal of time.

Then, after the parts were done (so I thought) I found I needed the main parts welded instead of riveted and then power-coated for looks. Do you have any idea what that costs?! I thought it should be inexpensive but it wasn't. You have to make a lot of parts in order to meet the minimum charges. This involves getting a lot of quotes. Yes, there is a great deal of driving around too.

Then I was told by others that I should offer a complete system with my own sled. I was originally going to sell just the support arm and vest to other Glidecam owners like myself but I was told I should offer my own sled with the system. A year later the sled was done (so I thought) but when I couldn't balance it in more than one direction the whole thing about gimbal linearity came about. I couldn't figure out why it would balance in the forward direction but when flipped 180 degrees it would go out of balance. Thanks to Charles Papert and others, I learned the gimbal had to be more than just "close", it had to be extremely close in it's construction. So off the machine shop to have a CNC gimbal manufactured. More money and time.

Then I had to learn about the different types of bearings and where to get the special bearings I would need for the gimbal.

Some of the support arm design was unique so I did a patent pending on it. That is a hard thing to do? Just ask Leigh W. as he has gone through the same process.

Let's not forget the hours and hours and hours of testing, redesign, and practice. I also checked out as many other stabilization systems as I could to see how our system stacked up to them.

Now, 4 years later and having spent enough money to buy a number of Steadicam Flyers, "we" have a stabilizer system that we like and that works very well. It's priced low enough for most independent filmmakers to afford but high enough (we hope) to help us to continue to make them.

Next we have just have to figure out the marketing thing. We don't want to have the supply problems spoken of in other threads. For this reason we aren't advertising until the units are built and ready to go. Sorry if this sounds like an add but I felt it was important to let fellow videographers and stabilization users know what is involved in making a system for sale. It is easier to build a single unit but still it's not that easy or inexpensive.

Conclusion: You can build your own system with the right set of plans and the right equipment but if you want to build a serious stabilization system then you have to "pay the price". The nice thing is...you also get to "enjoy the price".

Note: I feel like I just finished writing a novel.


Tery
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 04:07 AM   #17
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Well said Terry.
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 04:19 AM   #18
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EXCELLENT post Terry!

Extremely informative, thankyou.

- Mikko
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 04:37 PM   #19
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Charles and Mikko,

I feel honored that you have taken the time to read it.

I know Leigh Wanstead could, and still might, write a similar story.

Thanks and I hope to see many of you at NAB this month.

Tery
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 06:10 PM   #20
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Hi Tery,

Thanks for the post.

Well said about manufacturing part. ;-)

One thing to add is it is not wise to make one copy yourself professionally and inexpensive if you have no idea about engineering. The cost will not be very cheaper if you calculate the labour cost, material cost etc. And the time taken will be far longer than just pay the bill and get it in a week time. DIY always face the risk for the failure of the project.

Just my 2 cents

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Originally Posted by Terry Thompson
I know Leigh Wanstead could, and still might, write a similar story.
Tery
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 06:45 PM   #21
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Leigh,

Corrrect, but some people (especially those who haven't tried to make a stabilizer) will think it doesn't take that long to make one. That being said, a simpler stabilizer might be made quicker but not a serious stabilizer.

How about hearing from you guys who made a do-it-yourself stabilizer. How does it compare to the price of a ready built and tested one. Charles King would be a great one to comment on this. Most of us will say it was a good experience but we didn't realize what we were getting into.

Here's the real secret...When you build a stabilizer you find the things that need to be improved and are constantly working on those things.

Tery
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 07:11 PM   #22
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I'm building a homemade version of a full commercial system, but on mine, I have run into a few roadblocks and a few things I've had to design around. I know for a fact that my $700 rig would never, ever be sold for under $7,000. I've put 6 or so months of designing into it, and now around 4 months of building, and I'm around 3/4 of the way done. It takes hours every day for months and so much investment in equipment you wouldn't believe. I've been lucky, being able to use my school's bandsaw and getting an inexpensive drill press, but still, the work and time needed is enormous for a decent rig. I built my last rig in 4 days. Sure, it worked, but it broke down 3 times, required me to rebuild it about once per week, and eventually just stopped operating, and it cost $500. Really, a cheap stabilizer isn't that easy to come by. (I'm not talking about little handheld rigs. I could pop one of those out in a few hours for under $100, but that's not where I want to go.) Big full rigs take time and work and skill. Unless you've got some machinist friends or are really into spending thousands of dollars on equipment, don't expect to be able to make one of the more complicated ones at home. Sure, there are rigs like the Codycam that can be done for cheap at home, and produce great results, but once you step into building semi-professional and professional level stabilizers, you really just are spending so much time on them that unless you love the building (as I do) it's not worth it.
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 10:50 PM   #23
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I know Vishad from school. He does actually have plans. And you guys are right when you say it takes a lot of work to make one. I used one of the plans he's found and tried to make my own steadycam. It actually worked quite well. There's definately a LOT of improvement needed, but for the limited cost and time the plans require, I'm kinda happy. I'd dump what I made if I could get a better rig, but that's not happening any time soon.

Hopefully he'll post the plans soon.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 09:23 PM   #24
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Okay, sorry about the delay, everyone. I ended up posting the plans and pictures on a blog site. I'll update the page every other day or so. I have one of the plans up with pictures. Let me know if you want anything else.

http://steadycamplans.blogspot.com/
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Old April 8th, 2006, 02:09 AM   #25
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These plans have been around for centries ;) For those interested in giving building a small stabilizer a shot, it would be nice. Just a thought though. The XL-1 is still a heavy camera to use on any hand-held rig. Get ready for tiresome hands. Smaller cameras should work out better.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 02:55 AM   #26
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I agree.

Now the bar is raised. ;-)

We have to offer good product to our customer, otherwise they will go with a simple diy job. ;-)

Regards
Leigh

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles King
These plans have been around for centries ;) For those interested in giving building a small stabilizer a shot, it would be nice. Just a thought though. The XL-1 is still a heavy camera to use on any hand-held rig. Get ready for tiresome hands. Smaller cameras should work out better.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 01:05 PM   #27
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I have one or two vest+arm plans, but they're almost pointless. I'll post them on the blog anyway, just so people can look at them. One of them requires an old spring-action lamp arm to support the camera weight. That's just wrong because it won't do a single thing for stabilization. It was a nice idea, though.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 02:57 PM   #28
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Hi Vishad,

I support what you did.

Well done ;-)

The more people into video hobby, the better for everyone.

Regards
Leigh
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Old April 8th, 2006, 08:28 PM   #29
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Thank you very much, Leigh Wanstead.

I know a lot of people on this post have implied these designs are inferior (they are) but I think most of us on dvinfo can't really dream of the more intricate ones. I've never in any way said my plans are better than anyone elses, just a lot cheaper.

And when it comes down to cost, us amateurs will be happy with the $40 rig, even though it's not as stable as we'd like it to be.

In the end, something is definately better than nothing.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 09:19 PM   #30
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Any Ideas on building a Sony Proprietary Hot Shoe Alternative?

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I am interested in hearing about a lower cost "steadicam"--Also, I am:

In Need of A Sony Proprietary Hot Shoe "Work-Around"...
Has anybody considered modifying a standard hot-shoe splitter, i.e., a "Y"-shaped splitter, which would allow mounting of both, say, a 40 watt video light as well as a non-Sony condenser shotgun microphone onto a Sony HDR-HC1 (or HC-3) hot-shoe? (Mic has its own battery)

The base of the "Y"-shaped splitter would either be "ground-down" to fit into the Sony proprietary shoe or else, possibly, a smaller " Sony-proprietary-sized" base, i.e., a piece of metal, let's say, is attached (via strong epoxy?) to the base of the standard y-splitter to "down-size" it.

(I have seen the Y-shaped standard shoe splitter at my local camera store...cost: $32.00 USD)

Does this even sound plausible??

Open to any possible work-arounds...and hoping for a Non-Sony "Shoe-In"!!

THANKS!!

--Reilly
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