I do a lot of videocasting, both for personal use on our family blog, and for this weblog. I use my Sony Cybershot F717 digital camera to capture most of the videos, but get frustrated because I can't hold it still enough. Spending thousands for a Steadicam rig was definitely out of the question, but for under $50 I think I've found a workable alternative. . .
My cousin's son, Tryg, is a student at the Brooks Institute and has been visiting us here in Japan during the holidays. We happened to go into Tokyo for some sightseeing and photography, and over lunch we got into a long discussion about stabilizing cameras.
His first suggestion was a gyro type device, which sounded interesting and expensive. Then we started examining the merits and demerits of a whole series of professional and amateur devices. Still, the lowest price we could come up with was still over $600.
So, we tried the "When in doubt, Google!" approach to problem solving, and within minutes found the "$14 Steadycam - The Poor Man's Steadicam" (see link below.)
Apparently Johnny Chung Lee, the $14 Steadycam inventor, had been in my shoes quite a while ago, and devised a wonderful, low-tech solution. More important, he took the time to put together a great website that provides all the design details, instructions, photos, and video clips.
The video clips are really amazing. The results aren't Academy Award Winner perfect, but they are so much better than shooting hand-held that I was shocked. With Lee's plans and instructions I should have a working solution before the weekend is over. I suspect that it will take me longer to get to the hardware store and back than it will to actually build the device.
Lee even provides examples of useful add-ons, like an inverting bracket, alternative weight and bar length, and a larger sled for bigger cameras. My first add-on, probably from the very first moment, is going to be the inverting bracket since my robot videos would really be enhanced by being able to take video close to ground level.