$14 Poor-Manís Steadicam - Help Plz!! at DVinfo.net

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Old January 6th, 2007, 09:28 AM   #1
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$14 Poor-Manís Steadicam - Help Plz!!

Hi guys,

Maybe I didnít look hard enough on where to post my questionÖso I just want to say sorry in advance if I posted it in the wrong section.

Anyways, Iíll get to the point Ė I own a Panasonic GS-400, I donít have much money at the moment (Iím a full-time Uni student!) and I want to buy a Steadicam. Iím seriously considering buying the ď$14 Poor-Manís SteadicamĒÖdoes anyone have experience or opinions on this?

Here is a link to the ď$14 Poor-Manís SteadicamĒ:

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/steadycam/

Any information will truly be appreciated!!

Thanks for your time ppl!
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Old January 6th, 2007, 09:52 AM   #2
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John, it's actually a good simple design that works. I made one from the same design a few years ago when I had a GL2, and I still pull it out now and then. I made the inversion bracket also, and recently put the HVX200 on it for some interesting ground-level shots.

The only drawback is the weight, so your arm can get tired for long takes. But with a GS400 it will be very manageable, and the footage is much smoother and more watchable.

You need a few tools and you have to do some shopping, so you might consider buying the pre-fab kit for $39 if you look at time and money as somewhat interchangeable.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 10:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Hill

The only drawback is the weight, so your arm can get tired for long takes. But with a GS400 it will be very manageable, and the footage is much smoother and more watchable.
You might consider using copper tubing in place of the steel pipe to cut down on weight. A visit to the plumbing section of a Home Depot or Lowe's should provide you with a lot of appropriate parts. You will have to solder all of the joints with a propane torch. However, copper is a bit more expensive.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 10:16 AM   #4
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Thanks heaps for the reply guys!!

Iím going to be ordering it already made from the guy, and not assembling it myself.

Thanks again!! :)
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Old January 6th, 2007, 03:47 PM   #5
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Don't waste your money. Especially by buying it ready made.

Seriosuly. That money is better spent starting saving for a proper Steadicam.

If you want to build somehthing similar out of any parts you have lying around, go for it. But don't spend any money on it. It's honestly not that great.

It preatty much breaks what little rules of the Steadicam it doesn't follow. It won't give you shots that even closly resemble Steadicam shots.

Spending some time and learning good handheld operating will do you much more good.

If you don't have the buget for a real Steadicam, then look into some of the cheaper immiatation rigs that at least *try* to do the same thing. Take a look in the "Steadicam" section up above for loads of good information on stabilizers.

- Mikko

Last edited by Mikko Wilson; January 6th, 2007 at 05:39 PM.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 04:37 PM   #6
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With all due respect Mikko that's very impractical advice to give a college student who has already said he doesn't have much money. For a miniDV camcorder, a $14 DIY rig is an effective and affordable way to make your handheld footage smoother.

No one in their right mind thinks $14's worth of black pipe and hardware will substitute for a $10,000 Steadicam! I think that goes without saying.

But I've gotten some nice footage with the $14 job, and I'm sure many others have. Whether your stabilizer cost $14.00 or $14,000, what really matters is the skill of the person using it.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 05:38 PM   #7
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I too am a college student, with a whopping $231 on my bank account. And I don't even own a camcorder.

I'm not saying go out and buy a $7k Flyer, or a $60k Ultra. I'm saying that don't waste that precious money on something that's really not worth it.


And though, yes, skill is very important to the result; it takes proper equipment to get the right result.


- Mikko
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Old January 6th, 2007, 06:30 PM   #8
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Well, it's very subjective. The "proper equipment" can mean different things to different people. I'm not trying to take anything away from the Steadicam or the skill of using one. But my $14 stabilizer has paid for itself many times over, so I'll recommend it to anyone with a limited budget who is interested.
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Old January 6th, 2007, 07:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikko Wilson
I too am a college student, with a whopping $231 on my bank account. And I don't even own a camcorder.

I'm not saying go out and buy a $7k Flyer, or a $60k Ultra. I'm saying that don't waste that precious money on something that's really not worth it.


And though, yes, skill is very important to the result; it takes proper equipment to get the right result.


- Mikko
With all due respect, I vehemently disagree with the basis of your thought process.

I was a cash strapped college student almost 40 years ago. I used to curse faculty for not allowing me a reasonable production budget for my graduate projects. However, it didn't take me long after entering the professional world of what turned out to be a career of staging just about any kind of event one could possibly imagine that:

1. What one creates out of nothing to meet the immediate production demand can make the difference between success and failure.

There is no number 2.

I do not care who carefully designed what product to meet the most demanding production need. I know just about any production crew will push (sometimes in a matter or hours) that product well beyond it's limits and still falls far short of the producer's expectations. Then what does one do?

One gets inventive and embraces the courage to create. It is often exposes humility. Having a "firm grasp on the obvious" often suddenly ceases being a joke.

This comment may appear as a major shift in topic, but the reality, in my opinion, is that one must master the tools of one's craft before one can begin to master the craft itself.

Make no mistake, "cool tools" used within their limits are indeed wonderful. If you have them, use them. If you do not have the means then look, to use a perhaps worn out cliche', "outside the box". It is fun. It is challenging. It opens the door to things we never thought posible. And, it might, possibly, work. But you won't know if you don't take the the risk of investigation.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 10:58 AM   #10
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I've used a free steadicam techniques for a few years now...collapse your tripod with your camera still on it...grab the tripod just below the camera making a ring with you thumb and forfinger and let the tripod hang loosely in that hole. This will get you almost exactly the same effect as the $14 steadicam will for free. Then comes the practice which is the most important part of getting steady and smooth shots...start by carrying a coffee cup full of water around the house held out in front of you. Try to not spill any...try to not let the surface ripple. Bend Ze Knees! Keep your center of gravity straight up and down and make your hips glide on a parallel plane to the ground. Your legs will get a strong work out, don't let them get behind you...if your legs get behind you, your hips tilt and the parallel plane is broken resulting in a bobbing motion. Practice, practice, practice.

p.s. Although HOT! Coffee would train you faster, I don't personally recommend it ;)
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Old January 7th, 2007, 02:11 PM   #11
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Yes, what Cole said. I would add to that suggestion: extend the center column of the tripod and also open the legs (without extending them) which will add some stability. Turn the whole thing sideways and find the balance point which will be somewhere on the center column, then when you right it, grab just above this point.

This should deliver results just as good as the $14 thingie. Worked for me when I was a cash-strapped college student, at least for certain shots, like running down a hall. The rest of the time I worked on honing my handheld skills, something that is often overlooked today in the rush to get one's hands on a stabilizer.
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Old January 8th, 2007, 09:06 AM   #12
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I've used the $14 steadicam with my GS400 for one of my shorts. (If you want to see it, it's the last shot of my short, "The Mermaids Singing," on my website -- it's a long short, so I'm not trying to hint to go watch it -- it's just there if you need it.) The shots are not very smooth, since we only started practicing with it right before the shot. I can tell you, that it's heavy as hell. Even after a few takes, our arms were hurting (we're film geeks, not weight lifters). After using it, we realized you need to also adjust your legs a bit, give a good crouch and move like that.

Comparing the tripod method and the $14 steadicam method, it depends on how heavy your tripod is. If you've got one of those light cheap tripods, we found it easy to lose smoothness. But heavier tripods are pretty comparable to moving with the pipe steadicam method. The advantage of a pipe steadicam is the side bar, which was helpful for trying to keep the shot smooth.
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Old January 8th, 2007, 09:47 AM   #13
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I don't get it, without a gimbal this is really just a monopod that you carry around.

the smoothness in something like a glidecam or steadicam comes from the gimble allowing the camera to "float" over the terrain. Even with the glidecam, using your left (or non-dominant) hand to steady the pole and keep it from spinning negates some of the 'smoothing' ability of any of these type pieces of gear.
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Old January 8th, 2007, 10:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mecca
Even with the glidecam, using your left (or non-dominant) hand to steady the pole and keep it from spinning negates some of the 'smoothing' ability of any of these type pieces of gear.
Yes...no...well, this is sort of splitting hairs as we are talking about an approximation of the Steadicam effect to begin with. The guide hand should not inhibit the stability of a stabilizer if done properly (otherwise you wouldn't ever see perfectly smooth shots in movies/TV, and I'd be out of a job!). A perfectly balanced stabilizer can mimick a tripod when it is at rest, but it is immediately prone to the effects of acceleration when it is initially moved through space, and the operator's hand must apply exactly the correct amount of counter-force to eliminate this. In addition, the rig doesn't "know" what the correct framing is and the operator must dial this in, again, with the exact amount and type of force that will not result in wobble in the frame. Unlike handheld, where the absolute best operator in the world cannot produce images that are indistinguishable from a dolly, the best Steadicam operators can (under the best of circumstances).

I don't have any issues with Johnny's entrepreneurism, but I have many with the design of his rig. Briefly; the excess weight is throughout due to the material used rather than concentrated at the base, and the single weight at the bottom (making it a weighted monopod) is less desirable than a dually weighted crossbar that creates more inertia. Plus, the side-rigged handle will allow the operator to overly control the system because of the leverage involved.

For the same amount of money, one can build a much more effective device that weighs the same, or an equally effective device that weighs significantly less.
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Old January 8th, 2007, 01:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mecca
I don't get it, without a gimbal this is really just a monopod that you carry around.
When we used it, we weren't under the illusion we could do a true steadicam shot. But this poor man's steadicam did allow us to stabilize the footage a lot better than doing it handheld (we did both shots, with and without). Lately, though, I've found that a DIY fig rig got the same sort of "fluid" motion, without as much arm strain. In fact, I've only picked up the $14 steadicam that one time for the short, and only for very precise shots. I do not recommend it for all day shooting, not by a long shot.
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