Monday, May 14, 2007

Timewarp Stabilizes

Now that I'll be responsible for Timewarp's cinematography, I decided to look into acquiring a Steadicam, a camera mount that allows the operator to move around while keeping the image stabilized. Of course, professional models can cost several thousand dollars, so I decided to look into making one. I was truly surprised how many Web sites provide plans and instructions.

I decided to start off simple and build Johnny Chung Lee's $14 Steadycam (left). I had to alter the basic design to accommodate our larger camera (XL1S), and I added some padding to cover the galvanized steel, but it was easy to build and only took an hour or so.

When I tested it, I discovered two things: 1) it takes practice to make it work. Moving around with a counter-weight takes a little getting used to, plus you have to learn to work around the base as you walk. 2) A rig that relies completely on arm strength can get heavy--particularly with a prosumer-level camera. Ultimately, this rig can only be used for short periods, and I really want one without that kind of restriction. So I kept looking, and I found the ultimate site for home-built stabilizers. The name says it all: http://www.homebuiltstabilizers.com/index.htm

This site has more about the subject than you can possibly imagine. From info and tips on how to build your own rig, to forums to share your experience. There's also a photo gallery that allows users to publish detailed photos of their creation. And these creations are amazing, and overwhelming. At this point, I can't imagine building one. But the forum members are happy to offer advice and answer questions.

My first step will be to buy one of the books a forum member had published. It has detailed instructions on building a Steadicam that has a spring-loaded arm, a harness, and a mount for a monitor. This is serious stuff.

Here's the link for the book: http://www.cafepress.com/stabilizer.31893959

In addition to Steadicams, the site has information on dollies and crane's as well.

Photo provided by Robert Long II