Steady Cam

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  • Have you ever wanted a steadycam but been afraid of the price. Here are a series of pictures showing how I built one myself from bits of PVC piping and some metalwork.
 Numbers at beginning of text refer to pictures
  • 1 This is the Steadycam sitting on its stand with the camcorder on top. Balance is very critical on the Steadycam. This is achieved by being able to slide the camcorder along its top for front to rear balance and for side to side balance by the adjustable handle.
  • 2 All the bits laid out, The Steadycam breaks down into its component parts so that it fits into...
  • 3 A socket set case was donated to the cause, inlaid with foam that was cut out to fit the parts into.
  • 4 and 5 All the bits joined together. The tube being PVC all just push together, the top joint by the 45 degree bend I have located with a small bolt, this is to stop the bottom arm from swinging about and upsetting the balance. The bolt in the bottom of the handle is the storage place for the camcorder mounting bolt when not being used.
  • 6 The top mounting for the camcorder. the holes are for bolting though to the tripod mounting on the camcorder. There is also a small stud to stop the camcorder turning on the top mounting. Down either side of the top mounting are small pieces of cork to help secure the camcorder.
  • 7 Inside the top mounting. The slot is for the handle to enable side to side balancing.
  • 8 Inside the top mounting is a steel Din rail which is cut to run around inside the plastic trunking ( ducting to our American friends) This Din rail comes with pre drilled holes so is easy to bolt inside the trunking.
  • 9 The Din rail with the 45deg elbow. A slot is filed into the elbow to support the Din rail. A short piece of tube is glued into the elbow to give support for the screw fixing to the Din rail.
  • 10 The elbow and top mounting with the lid removed. The handle is bolted in with the wing nut.
  • 11 A bolt with large washer behind is used to fix the 45deg elbow to the Din rail.
  • 12 This bit will create a few problems. Its the ball joint. Made from a ball bearing taken out of a scraped ball race.
  • 13 An exploded view of the ball joint. The washer and screws stops the joint falling apart.
  • 14 The top bit of the ball joint this is the piece which fits onto the top camcorder mounting. This plastic part is from 1 inch diameter PVC rod . The hole is made by a drill that is just a bit bigger in diameter than the ball, but deep enough so that the washer when fitted allows a bit of free play. The bottom of the hole is left with its conical shape left by the drill. The ball then just sits on a small area at the bottom of the hole. I usually lubricate it with some light oil or WD40.
  • 15 The ball bearing with the threaded bar inserted into it. A hole is drilled into the ball using a masonry bit. This can be quite time consuming as the ball will be made of hardened steel. The threaded bar has the thread turned down at one end and is a interference fit into the ball.
  • 16 The ball resting inside the top half of joint.
  • 17 The bottom arm with the weights along side. These are made from rolled up pieces of lead sheet. But could easily be made from solid steel bar. It just needs to be a sliding fit inside the bottom tube. also made of various sizes to get the correct balance.
  • 18 This is a ball race. You need to remove one of the balls. Usually done by grinding through the outer metal.
  • 19 This is a simple drawing of the ball joint. It shows how the ball is put into the hole and a threaded bar is fixed into the housing to hold the camcorder mounting. Make sure the threaded bar doesn't interfere with the smooth operation of the ball in its socket.
Translation problems.
There has been from your emails a few problems with our common language
  • Trunking....This is what we use in the UK for running cables in when wiring up surface mounted electrical sockets, it is usually white and comes with a self adhesive backing for sticking down walls etc. The lid clips in place and is put on after the cables have been put in. Its size is 38 mm x 25 mm. and has what's called a double interlocking lid this allows the camcorder to be slid along the top to adjust the balance. It might also be called ducting.
  • Din rail.... This is used for mounting clip on electrical relays and contactors for use inside panels it comes in various sizes this is called 15 mm x 5 mm Symmetric. But you could use any strip metal, its only for support and to strengthen the top mounting and for fixing the 45 degree elbow to.
  • Ball race...I used a ball taken out of a Ball race, these are similar to wheel bearings, the ball is about 1/2 inch in diameter.
  • Top mounting for camcorder. This is 5.5 inches long by 1.5 inches wide. The slot for the handle is 1 inch back from the front.
  • The PVC tube is rated at 1/2 inch in diameter its actual size is 14/16 of an inch outside diameter (just less than 1 inch)
  • First tube after 45deg angle is 6.5 inches long
  • Second tube after right angle is 14 inches long
  • The handle is 4.5 inches long and the short stub above the handle is 0 .75 inches long.
  • The ball for the swivel joint is 0.5 inches in diameter
  • The thread size for the tripod mounting is 1/4 Whitworth.
Setting Up

  • The most difficult part is setting up the balance of the camcorder. It is really a question of trial and error, be prepared for a bit of error. The camcorder is prevented from toppling over by the weights in the long tube. For my camcorder which weights 2lb 7ozs (1.1kg) I use 1lb of rolled up lead this sits right at the bottom of the long tube. On most camcorders the tripod fixing is not in the centre of balance, hence the need to be able to slide the camcorder about on the top mounting plate. While the camcorder is sitting in its stand ( what a strange saying ) adjust the back and front and side to side movement till the camcorder sits square in the stand, you might need to lift it up and try it to see if it hangs properly. To check you have the correct amount of weight rotate your hand in circles, if the camcorder stays upright the you've got it right, if not try adjusting the amount of weight. You only need enough to stop the camcorder from falling over.
  • Now you have got it balanced correctly its time to try it out.  If you have a fold out screen on your camcorder you can use it, myself I have never needed to look through the viewfinder just set the zoom to wide angle, put the focus on manual and set it to record and point it in the general direction, a good test is running up stairs, on playback it looks like your floating, very erie....
  • I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings that have arisen since I first put this on the web...Have fun...
Updated 23/11/2000