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Ars Technica Builds Make Magazine's Steadicam 159

An anonymous reader writes "Make magazine has been out for a little over a month now and was given high marks in a Slashdot review. Ars Technica has taken their review one step further by building the $14 steadicam project and testing it out. (be sure to check out the QuickTime video at the end to see their results...)"
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Ars Technica Builds Make Magazine's Steadicam

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:00PM (#12072120)
    make: *** No rule to make target `magazine'. Stop.
  • by rescendent ( 870007 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:03PM (#12072145) Homepage
    I like the Lego solving a rubik's cube... I thought of some great ideas using the Lego computer, but I never had _that_ kind of vision!
  • What's next? People around here will praise Linux? ;)

  • As expected? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:08PM (#12072193) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    For those stuck on dial-up, here is a quick summary of our results:

    * Both "handheld" shots were very shaky with the electronic stabilization performing only marginally better.
    * The "steadicam only" shot was a significant improvement over either "handheld" shot.
    * Turning on the electronic stabilization made the "steadicam" shot even smoother.

    Despite all of this, we found that there was still a little bit of shake in the picture. We expect that a little practice with the steadicam could have vastly improved our shooting technique. All in all, we would say that this project was a big success!


    I saw the video. It was a little better, but the combination of the two made it much better. Unfortunately, it's still far too shaky to consider it useful for any indie film that doesn't want to be branded with the Blair Witch style. So why would you go to the trouble?
    • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michaelNO@SPAMmichris.com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:16PM (#12072243) Journal
      So why would you go to the trouble?

      Because there are many thousands of us who shoot video on a level between "dad in the backyard with the kids" and "Oscar nominee" who might want some improvement in our quality?
      • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Informative)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:30PM (#12072328) Homepage Journal
        I would add that most of these $15 'steadicams' are equivalent to many of the low-end steadicams that normally don't sell for that much money. The really high-end stuff (e.g. for helicopters) involves gyros to maintain stability against the natural tendency to vibrate, while still allowing gradual motion.

        One could easily add some small gyros to a handheld steadicam design and still come out fairly inexpensive. Take three 6v electric motors and a 6v battery. Add a wheel on the end of each motor, and mount them so that the wheels spin in three planes. Add weights to the wheels to balance them. Continue adding weights until you have enough stabilization. Place this apparatus in a padded box to keep it quiet, and mount the box.

        • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:35PM (#12072715) Homepage
          One could easily add some small gyros to a handheld steadicam design and still come out fairly inexpensive. Take three 6v electric motors and a 6v battery. Add a wheel on the end of each motor, and mount them so that the wheels spin in three planes. Add weights to the wheels to balance them. Continue adding weights until you have enough stabilization. Place this apparatus in a padded box to keep it quiet, and mount the box.

          Since all you really need to dampen is movement along the pitch and roll axes, a single gyroscope with the axis mounted vertically would be adequate. And rather than trying to build and balance your own, you'd do well to save yourself the headache and pick up a nice surplus military missile guidance gyroscope, like this [deutscheoptik.com]. Knock that spinner out of its gimbals and I bet it'd be just right...

          • I was going to suggest RC helo gyros, but these would be cheaper/have more stability.
            • Re:As expected? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Moofie ( 22272 )
              My understanding was that RC helo gyros don't actually have massive flywheels, but are patched into the control loops and correct with aerodynamic forces. At least, that's the way the ones I looked at for my big-ass model airplane worked.

              I can't say for sure, because I wound up chickening out and building the tail longer to improve longitudinal stability.
              • Yes, this is correct. I have played with them, but not used them in helicoptors. They detect rotation in the helicoptor, and if there is no rudder input, they will increase/decease the pitch of the tail rotor.

                I was just thinking that some of the larger ones may oppose rotation.
        • Re:As expected? (Score:3, Interesting)

          If you really think you have a better idea, figure out the details, write up an outline and propose it to Make [oreilly.com] yourself. Make is written almost entirely by freelancers IIRC.
        • Re:As expected? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ibennetch ( 521581 )
          I'd just like to point out that the stabilization that goes in to a helicopter gyro is different from even the more expensive steadicam rigs(1) that you need for a heafty camera. Most helicopter gyros that I'm aware of run 6 figures, mount to the helicopter itself, and use gryoscopes rather than counterweights and springs (disclaimer: I don't actually work with helicopter mounts so I may be in error with regards to common technique. I can only repeat what I've heard from a reputable source). So yes, what yo
          • I was intentionally comparing two different techs. Those 60k rigs are what most people think of when they hear Stedicam... or at least, that's what I think of. My intent was to point out that there was a difference, and more to the point, to suggest that combining the techs could yield better results.

            Anyway, I -think- the stability, is related to some combination of the speed, the circumference, and the mass at the circumference. So something much smaller than the bike tire, but add weights and a motor

        • The really high-end stuff (e.g. for helicopters) involves gyros to maintain stability against the natural tendency to vibrate, while still allowing gradual motion.

          really? I cant find any gyros on the $13,000.00 steadicam outfit we have at work.

          have you even seen a real steadicam setup?

          The key is weight balance, high quality gimbals and a weight distribution system that does not kill the operator by transferring the weight to his hips and torso.
          • really? I cant find any gyros on the $13,000.00 steadicam outfit we have at work.

            have you even seen a real steadicam setup?

            The key is weight balance, high quality gimbals and a weight distribution system that does not kill the operator by transferring the weight to his hips and torso.


            Ding, ding ding. We have a winner.

            Steadicams do not work via gyroscopic precession, but rather through the careful use of inertial isolation between the rig and the operator as well as moving the center of gravity
      • I'm bothered by that...
        I do a lot of editing of my home movies.
        Most of the shots I'm personally in are
        me & the boy in the back yard
        howeverm I work at it, and research, and even scoured this topic for tidbits.

        I even do simultaneous shots from different persepctives for the video in video overlay

        I'm sorry, Dad in the backyard with the kids, is not the entry level (imho) of where bad video begins...

    • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Slack3r78 ( 596506 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:32PM (#12072340) Homepage
      Ars' video samples are really subpar for this type of device. Slashdot covered a story on a nearly identical setup here [slashdot.org] about a year ago and the results are *much* more impressive. As with anything, experience and practice make all the difference in the world. Ars is a great site, but film isn't exactly their focus. :-)
      • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Informative)

        by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:42PM (#12072410)
        Ars' video samples are really subpar for this type of device. Slashdot covered a story on a nearly identical setup here about a year ago and the results are *much* more impressive. As with anything, experience and practice make all the difference in the world.

        This is probably key - professional steadicam operators are trained specifically in how to operate a steadicam (they're not just camera operators who decide to strap on a rig one day for kicks). If you've ever seen any behind-the-scenes footage of steadicam shots being filmed, it's pretty amazing how smoothly these guys move.

        A lot of amateur camera operators - be it still or motion picture cameras - think good camera work is almost entirely dependent on the equipment. In fact, I'd say way more than half of what it takes to get good results lies with the operator. You can't put together a steadicam rig and then walk down the street like you'd walk normally and expect a steady shot - that won't work even with a real steadicam. You need to walk as smoothly as possible and make smooth, even camera movements. It doesn't look like that was done here, although to Ars' credit, they do note that they probably could have gotten better results with a bit of practice.

        I do think that a rig like this could be a pretty decent option for indie videographers willing to actually learn and practice the proper techniques.
        • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by n3k5 ( 606163 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @12:41AM (#12073535) Journal
          This is probably key - professional steadicam operators are trained specifically in how to operate a steadicam (they're not just camera operators who decide to strap on a rig one day for kicks). If you've ever seen any behind-the-scenes footage of steadicam shots being filmed, it's pretty amazing how smoothly these guys move.
          Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say: This is not even wrong. (I like saying that.)

          Professional steadicam operators use equipment that is completely different from consumer/prosumer 'steadicam'-ish gear. They come in teams of two: The one carrying the rig isn't able to look through a viewfinder, so a second person has to control focus, aperture etc. The apparatus has so much inertia that the carrier can actually hop up and down and the camera will still hardly move, let alone rotate. Lots of practice is only half of the story: the huge weight strapped to the body kind of forces the operator to move smoothly, anything else would be totally exhausting.

          Equipment in the two figure dollar range, on the other hand, isn't more than a handheld tripod that keeps the centre of gravity around your hands by introducing a counter-weight that roughly equals the weight of your camera. With consumer cameras becoming ever smaller and lighter, that isn't much. Jerks introduced by shaky hands are pretty much all they can compensate for somewhat adequately.

          However, this isn't what ars technica actually tested: They walked down a street. The picture resulting from this has to be shaky hand cam style. The "little bit of shake" that the reviewer attested is actually insanely wild. If you haven't got a more expensive steadicam setup, you really only have these two options: Either purposely go for the blair witch style, or let only the actor walk (when shown in the picture, as opposed to the 1st person view) and put the camra person plus camera on some sort of wheeled vehicle, like a dolly with a tripod.

          It seems like the ars techinca reviewers had too much fun doing their oh-so-cool project; not only were they too enthusiastic about the marginal improvement in image quality, they also didn't really factor in the problems they had (they needed much longer than the make mag instructions projected and ran into issues the instructions didn't even touch on) when writing the concluding summary.

          Not that there's anything bad about this: With a USD 14 handheld tripod, you're supposed to have fun, not emulate Oscar-league steadicam gear. And yes you can train to move super-smooth, but still steadicam and steady camcorder are two entirely different issues.
    • Re:As expected? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Deffexor ( 230167 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:37PM (#12072365)

      Unfortunately, it's still far too shaky to consider it useful for any indie film that doesn't want to be branded with the Blair Witch style. So why would you go to the trouble?

      I'll offer up an answer, since I wrote the review.

      I realized today that there was a small problem with our video test: we weren't following any subject. Most steadicam shots are either following a subject or moving around a subject within a few feet of the camera. As you saw in the test, there was no subject. Consequently, even the tiniest movements seemed to make the whole world shake.

      The other half (as I mentioned in the review) was that we didn't practice much with the steadicam. I imagine with a little work, we could have gotten a really nice shot. One of the areas that could have used some practice was paying attention to how the side bar is held (since it controls the side-to-side motion). You'll see in the last shot that overall it is very smooth, except that there is a little side to side movement.

      All in all, the $14 steadicam was a fun build and worthwhile if you don't have a few thousands dollars for a real steadicam.

      • Fair enough :P

        The next project I have is to make a 1/2 decent PVC ride-able track dolly. I've got some good ideas for building a fairly light and durable one - now I just have to make some time to actually assemble it :P

        (the dolly part is pretty easy, but I want to make track sections that clamp/screw together to keep the joint between the pipes as seamless as possible). Again, I have some ideas that I hashed-out with a colleague of mine, but I need to move from the "planning" to "building" stage. Poss
        • There are already (fairly) cheap solutions for what you want to do, but where's the fun in that?

          I've got an idea for your next project, after you perfect your PVC dolly track. A home built jib! I've seen a few of these used on various low budget shows, and they seem to work really well. I talked to one DP who built his own, and he said the hardest part was figuring out the math, which wasn't his forte.
    • by Pfhor ( 40220 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:41PM (#12072398) Homepage
      I don't know if they cite the original source of the project:
      http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/steadyca m/
      It has testimonies of pro's who have used this hand made rig and a $800 steadicam rig, and they say both are great. What you get with the $800 right is a full body vest mount that allows you to mount the camera on your hip, for even smoother shots.

      As someone who has used a steadicam professional rig, i can say that with image stabilization on, the image actually produces strange movement, once you learn how to use the steadicam.

      You can't just pickup a camera attached to a steadicam and notice an amazing difference unless you have learned how to carry your body with the camera. What the steadicam does is make it a lot easier to do so (first your arm is extended at a lot lower angle than holding the camera in your hand and second, the added weight lessens shakes cause by your body).

      If you have ever seen someone use a steadicam, they walk more like a dancer than a doofus with a handicam.

      So to answer you question, after you train to use the steadicam (and have degeeked your forearm strength to be able to hold it for 45 minutes or so at a stretch without tiring) you can achieve shots that would have cost you $800 before, now for only $14. the remaining $786 could be spent on a 3ccd panasonic camera. Or saved for a dvx100 or a wireless mic set, etc.
      • And not to mention that an $800 steadicam is about the very bottom of the barrel. Something professional level can easilly be more like 7000 dollars." [bhphotovideo.com] And that's a used one...

        Just the bracket [yahoo.com] used to convert the steadicam to a really low to the ground shot can run about $800.
        • Uh, try $50,000* for the real pro stuff.

          What you linked is "prosumer". Extremely pricey prosumer, with many advantages over cheaper solutions and home made kit, but not what I'd call fully professional. (Yes, you can probably do professional work with it, if you know how to use it.)

          * They don't even quote prices on the Steadicam [steadicam.com] site, but if you dig a little, you'll see that it costs $2900 to attend a training workshop for their pro rigs. I remember Steadicam rigs costing $70,000 fifteen years ago, so my
        • I found that particular model (SK2) [steadicam.com] that was in your BH link, and it is a bit more intriguing than I first thought. It's got a three axis gimbal, so I'll have to change my tune and call this "low end industrial" instead of high end prosumer. Maybe that's just semantics, anyway.
    • Re:As expected? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TeaQuaffer ( 809857 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:44PM (#12072426)
      It's just a little Physics, not magic: from Johnny Chung Lee [cmu.edu]'s website (and also in the magazine):

      How you use it is 80% of the smoothness. This even is true for the professional stuff with all the fancy shocks and hydraulics. Don't expect this thing to perform miracles, you have to practice using your arms and body to create a smooth motion. Watch your hands while you walk, and see how level you can keep them relative to the ground. Watching the shadow of your hands on a sunny say is an easy way to isolate thier movement. Keep your legs bent and learn how to "glide". I talked with someone who has used professional steady-cams and they said this was, "really, just as good." Getting good results is not so much about the equipment, but how you use it. That's really true about everything.
    • Real steadicams also take a great amount of practice, to the point where you can hire a steadicam operator for a day for $1000.

      A person who does non-steadicam camerawork as their day job still comes up with a shaky picture when walking around in a shot with a steadicam.

      What I would have like to have seen is a steadicam operator (one raking in $1000 a day) attempt to use it.
      • Re:As expected? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @02:40AM (#12073949) Journal
        $1000? $1000 is just for openers. See this typical rate schedule from The Steadicam Operator's Manual of Style [filmmakerstore.com]:


        $ 1000.00 at the time of your appearance on the set
        $ 2.00 per foot forward (walking)
        $ 5.00 per foot forward (running)
        $ 3.50 per foot backward (walking)
        $ 7.00 per foot backward (running)
        $ 10.00 actor in the shot
        $ 15.00 actor not in the shot
        $ 20.00 per flight of stairs (up)
        $ 15.00 per flight of stairs (down)
        $ 10.00 each additional consecutive flight
        $ 25.00 to put the camera in the Low-Mode
        $ 15.00 to put it back
        $ 35.00 to change sides with the Arm
        $ 25.00 to put it back
        $ 5.00 per rehearsal minute, 16mm & Arri 2C
        $ 10.00 per rehearsal minute, Arri 35BL
        $ 15.00 per rehearsal minute, Panaflex on Steadicam
        $ 35.00 per rehearsal minute, Panaglide
        $ 3.50 per focus change
        $ 2.50 per iris change
        $ 8.50 both focus & iris at the same time

        Remind the producer that the above costs are on a per take basis and not on a per shot basis. Further more the above costs vary according to the length of the lens used. Additional cost for the16 or 18mm is negligible but repeated takes with the 50 or 85mm can become prohibitively expensive.
    • 1. That's not a steadicam. That's a simple stabilizer "stick". The real Steadicams weight a ton and cost a fortune (some $100k for the full rig). (Yes, Steadicam is spelled with 'I', it's a product name)
      2. The instructions seem to be ripped straight from one guy who makes these.. No matter, I recall he has released his plans for any use. Hope he was credited anyway.

      The video is pretty much useless. You can see he doesn't even try to compensate for his own shakiness. These kind of little steadysticks need s
      • I agree, with practice, handheld can be very smooth. And a skilled Steadicam operator ( a real Steadicam, as you say) can be almost indistinguishable from a dolly in terms of steadiness.

        The big disadvantage of these "steadicam" sticks is apparent as soon as you try to turn. The momentum will cause the whole rig to tilt. The greater the momentum and the sharper the turn, the greater the tilt.
    • Re:As expected? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      A steadicam requires someone to be able to use it. anyone off the stteet can not use a steadicam and have instant smooth shots. Steadicam operators command the highest per hour fees of any camera operator because it is an art and an insanely hard thing to do. Try wearing a full steadicam outfit with a 48 pound camera and lens on it for 2 hours while you run up the stairs after the actors for the 5th time.

      Any fool can build something that emulates a steadicam, it takes practice and talent to actually operat
  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:11PM (#12072211)
    Johnny Lee originally published detailed instructions for making the cheap Steadicam on the 'net well over a year ago. See http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/steadycam/ for details. Anyone with semi-reasonable googling skills can have this information without having to pay almost $15 to get it in a mag with pretty pictures.

    I was a bit disappointed to see the article, actually -- when a "cool" new print mag recycles the Internet, you know the end of paper is nigh.

    • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:47PM (#12072442)
      I was a bit disappointed to see the article, actually -- when a "cool" new print mag recycles the Internet, you know the end of paper is nigh.

      Yeah, but in 15 years, my kids can flip through my old issues of Make and find fun projects.. while that dude's site is going to be long gone.

      The internet is great, but far too many sites are gone forever.
      • mod parent up (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:59PM (#12072511) Journal
        One of those inevitable moments when you wish you had a mod point left.

        As the parent poster noted - sites go away. Even if you archive stuff, you can lose 'em. Sure, paper burns too, but my parents had decades of National Geographic for me to peruse when I was a young'in and I'm glad they did.

        Some stuff needs to be more permanent than bits. In 50 years you may have technology to read electronically archived data from DVD-R and the like. But you'll still only need your eyeballs and a pair of hands to read Make or National Geographic.

  • Saw this 3 years ago (Score:4, Interesting)

    by filmmaker ( 850359 ) * on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:12PM (#12072221) Homepage
    In the summer of 2002 I saw an article about the homemade steadicam on slashdot. I then used it for many shots of this independent production [joeldalley.com] of dubious artistic or technical merit.

    I loved it, but the whole time I was using it, I kept thinking of possible ways to improve it without spending any money if possible. I tried using more weight, which helps, but only very marginally. Anyone know a way to improve it inexpensively without electronic stabilization?
    • I think some time in a marching band would probably eliminate most of the shake, with the "steadicam" removing the rest...

      In marching band, you have to learn how to walk without disturbing your airflow due to steps, and that should translate very well into camera work, with the weighted cam evening out any missteps and normal hand jitters.
      • Ahh, that's the reason for drillmasters.

        I just thought that my band teachers wanted us to walk funny... like an overtrained animal, I glidestepped much of my way through highschool unwittingly after the many hours a day I spent correcting my normal walking style my freshman year.
      • Very good point. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Andy Dodd ( 701 )
        The way people in marching band walk is usually referred to as a "glide step" or a "roll step".

        When you have 15-20+ pounds of brass held to your mouth, you want to be moving up and down as little as possible while you march. The bras has this tendency to want to stay in place, resulting in lots of relative motion if you're bouncing. :)

        Don't know of any good way to teach/explain roll stepping to someone without actually having them join a marching band. :)
        • Thanks so much. I've always wondered if there was a reason bands marched that way, or if it was just a traditional thing. Seems so clear now...

          I've learned something on Slashdot!
          • By the way, the stereotypical method of marching you see in some movies (legs lifted high, a very "stiff" kind of march) is NOT a glidestep/rollstep. It's just the opposite, and VERY bad for playing.

            Most modern bands go for the glidestep/rollstep to sound better, even though it may not look as flashy. Glidestep/rollstep is very smooth and pretty difficult to tell from normal walking at a distance.
      • yep, trying to move 10 yards in 8 steps while turned at 40 or so while playing a marching baritone (the oversized trumpet type) will teach you to glide step *very* quickly.
  • I think everybody I know has built a steadycam by now. There was a guy using one on campus the other day. So it's getting kind of ho-hum. There's always a Video of Steadiness published, and this article is no exception.
  • I watched the movie, and really didn't notice ANYTHING that would warrant the time invested in building it. The electronic stabilation sucked, but the steadycam wasn't a vast improvement. Maybe it's just me though.
  • Impractical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:20PM (#12072269) Homepage
    How many of you are going to build this? Maybe for fun, but imagine taking one of those along on a vacation or a trip or something. I don't think so. I realize that that is besides the point, but shouldn't some of these projects actually appeal to more tech people, as opposed to a tiny portion who produce movies and such? Recall the Popular Science and Popular Mechanics stuff from teh 60s and 70s: they *had* a purpose and appealed to a much larger audience. Why is it difficult to do the same while keeping the techie edge?

    • Re:Impractical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:30PM (#12072682) Homepage Journal
      "How many of you are going to build this?"

      Well, if I decided to make an indie movie, I'd give it a go.

      "Why is it difficult to do the same while keeping the techie edge?"

      What's wrong with somebody cheaply solving a problem and publishing it? Should they hoard the knowledge or share it? That's the neat thing about the internet: publishing is cheap.
    • I'm going to build one. I'm shooting footage for a documentary, purely for my own interest, using a borrowed camera, and I'd like to steady some shots a bit. I think that there are a fair number of people out there doing things a notch or two above vacation shots, with no thought of financial return, who could use a simple device like this.
  • Ripoff? (Score:5, Informative)

    by plimsoll ( 247070 ) <5dj82jy7c001 AT sneakemail DOT com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:25PM (#12072306) Homepage
    I was kind of relieved to see that the reviewed Make article [makezine.com] was written by the author of the original $14 Steadycam site [cmu.edu], Johnny Chung Lee. The man's a hack, and I mean that in the most endearing way.

    Not to review a review of an instruction, but I think Ars Technica is being a little hard on the Chung. Operating a steadycam is a bit of an artform unto itself.

    A steadycam will not turn Shakes the Clown into the next Scorsese, but once you learn the limitations of the axes you'll get results like Mr. Lee posts as samples on his site (see the bottom of the page, under "Using Your Steadycam").

  • Lousy test video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yroJJory ( 559141 ) <me@jor[ ]rg ['y.o' in gap]> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:30PM (#12072329) Homepage
    I appreciate the effort, but a test video with no subject to focus attention on doesn't really show off how well any of the four tests are working. All I see are tarred cracks in the pavement jiggling in all four.

    Whereas, had they walked with someone down the street, it would have shown off the differences quite well.
  • If you are going to be messing around with electronic parts, you are going to need to know how to solder (and de-solder) electronic components to your breadboard. Make magazine shows even the greenest neophyte what to get and how to properly solder joints.


    I can't wait to drop $15 on this mag so I too can solder breadboards!
  • Steadycam deja vu (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Their steady cam is the same design/concept as another which was online 2 years-ish ago, where the guy had video of him skateboarding etc. I hope this magazine does more than dig up things that are on the hazy boundries of my overblogged memory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:54PM (#12072480)
    I am going to wait until it comes out in paperback.
  • Not a steadicam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tentac1e ( 62936 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:03PM (#12072529) Journal
    The $14 steadicams you hear about are _not_ steadicams. They're glidecams, or, if you want to be less marketing-like, just call it a counter-balance. Steadicams are much more complicated [howstuffworks.com].
  • ...but this http://steadicam.com/ [steadicam.com] is a real steadicam (please to note the 'i')...Invented by Garrett Brown and first used on "Bound for Glory" in 1975, but made famous chasing a little-known boxer up the steps of teh Philadelphia Museum of Art 2 years later. And it don't cost $10K...more like $60k (before the extry $40k you can spend on silly accessories...like remote focus control & motors & extra brackets & wireless video & cases for alla yer stuff & other impliments of destruction).
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:14PM (#12072598) Homepage
    Looking at the design I'd have to opine that while the galvanized steel pipe may be nice and rigid it's really heavy and adds a lot to the weight you'd need to carry. I'd recommend spending $20-30 on a cheap camera monopod and using that instead of the vertical pipe piece. It's much lighter weight aluminum, and you'll already have a camera mount on top saving you a lot of effort and trouble.

    http://www.google.com/froogle?q=monopod&btnG=Searc h+Froogle [google.com]
    • I agree with this, but not sure if we share the same reason. If you use steel, you add weight above the handel that is not needed, using PVC pipe would be light, and you would not need as much counter weight on the bottom. You could use the same amount of weight, and get more stability if you have less weight on top of the piviot points.
      • Small-diameter PVC pipe is pretty flexible, and with larger stuff it'd get awkward and you'd lose some of the weight savings. The extruded aluminum tubing used in a monopod is both rigid and lightweight.
  • OT: Russian Ark (Score:3, Interesting)

    by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:22PM (#12072644)
    Since people reading this article are theoretically interested in Steadicam work, I thought I'd link to the movie Russian Ark [amazon.com]. It's claim to fame is that it is a 90 minute movie that was shot in real-time in one-take on a steadicam. I've never seen it, but folks on a camcorder board I go to praise it (or at least the camera work.)
    • I saw it. It's pretty amazing, although the plot's pretty thick. The last "scene" is a stunner. As Pournelle says: "Highly recommended"
  • Takes practice (Score:2, Informative)

    by plutonium83 ( 818340 )
    I've built the said $14 steadicam and here are some thoughts: 1) First of all, it wasn't $14. It was more like $25 (without buying weights, they where a waste of money) 2) It takes immense practice to use it very well. 3) The sidearm makes this better than any tripod or monopod 4) The rotations are the most impressive part of it. The shots generated are really smooth. If someone will generously provide me with hosting, I can post a compilation of shots I did using the cheap steadicam.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    from the article: "We also could not help but notice two or three articles that seemed to be written exclusively for Macintosh users. Normally, this is not a particularly worrisome issue since there are some things that you can do only on the Mac platform. What made these articles somewhat offensive was that the articles were addressing concepts that were not Mac-specific."

    Well, 'bout time. As a long-time mac user, I can't begin to number the times I read PC-biased articles that are not PC specific.
  • by plutonium83 ( 818340 ) on Monday March 28, 2005 @10:20PM (#12072947)
    If you want to take home build stabilizers to the next level, check this [codydeegan.com] out. The test videos are VERY impressive.
  • Too bad their subscription order form sucks. I signed up with my credit card, and it brought me to a page that said they would invoice me, or I could pay online with my card (wtf? I just did that). So I click the link to pay (again), and put in my info, and it fails with some sort of no phone number error. There's not even a spot to enter your phone number.

    This was last night, maybe they fixed it now. I'm annoyed. I still have not received a response from their customer service, and it's been more th
  • how do I build a shakicam like I've seen on Battlestar Galactica and Lost? ;)
    • I don't know where you live, but if you're in Los Angeles, you contact IATSE Epileptic Camera Operators' Local #37. I think they cover all of Southern California, but the one in the Bay Area is different. Contact the IATSE National office [iatse-intl.org], and they'll give you contact info for whatever the local is in your region.
  • A lot of the shots in this film [sickdimension.net] were used with that same design.

    Specifically any of the "lead cam" shots, where the camera car is leading the picture car with the camera shooting backwards.

    It works very well, the only issue being keeping the whole setup from rotating side to side. Its very difficult to hold in this position for extended periods of time (just try holding a 30lb weight straight out in front of you for 3 minutes).

    You can see the rotating movement in some of the shots... but overall they

  • /. first posted the $14 steadicam over a year ago. I know because I saved it, built it and used it a year ago...
  • It was intriguing enough by the initial ads and the fact that it's an O'Reilly publication that I subscribed. I think that the articles are a little elementary for serious geeks, but overall it's an OK mag for the general reader. Since it's got articles you can read in a few minutes, it's a nice addition to the collection in the "Reading Room" The price, $14.99, is what I'd expect to pay for a book instead of a magazine, but it's well illustrated and printed in color on good paper stock. I'm seeing some oth
  • It's probably better to call it a combination of a vibration isolator (your arm) that counter balances the camera weight (the barbell). It's got some basic concepts of the real system sort of the way a model rocket is like a Saturn moon rocket :)

    The real Steadicam, invented by Garrett Brown, counterweighs the camera on a thing called the "sled" which also has a preview monitor for the operator from the video tap (if it's a film camera) or camera output. The sled has significant weight on the bottom from
    • The other thing I forgot to mention is that the are some non-Steadicam ways to get good motion shots-two of the time trusted ones are using a wheelchair pulled by another person, as well as building a dolly to ride on PVC track. They're covered pretty extensively on Usenet and indie film newsgroups.


  • For those of you who have this issue of make but haven't read every single sentence, check out the Kite Photography article. There's like a safety checklist on page 81 where they warn potential kite photographers of dangers such as sun exposure but fail to mention power lines. Perhaps they've pegged their readership as being comfortable around electricity, but not necessarily being outside in the sun.

    Seth
  • This is a pogocam. A steadicam is a mechanical device and a pogocam is just a weight camera base.
  • Back in his early days, filming Bad Taste, Peter jackson (of LoTR fame) built a $15 steadicam. The efect was very good in the film (well good for the obvious budget of the film). I wounder how similar this design is to the one he used back then.
  • SO I'm expecting something with rubber bands, shock absorbers, integrating accelerometers, gyroscopes, microcontrollers doing video pattern tracking. Instead we get counterweights. And comments that say it works a lot better if you hold it steady.

    OF COURSE IT WORKS BETTER IF YOU HOLD IT STEADY!

    That's like all the diet pill commercials that say you'll lose weight if you take the pills and diet and exercise and catch giardia and aomebic dysentery.

    Also their web page shows some distressing proofreading

  • I'm a video professional and do a lot of freelance cinematography and DVD work and editing for clients.

    The one thing that is very important to understand about Steadicam operation - whether its the $1400 or $14 version:

    Steadicam takes a LOT of practice to get smooth fluid results. There is a reason a good Steadicam operator can demand high wages on big shoots (and is well out of the budget of small indie productions; which is why I applaud Make's article, I'm going to make one of these).

    If you want some
  • ...a SteadiCam - for $14.00! I will likely need one of these, in the future, for a project I am working on. So here I am thinking "what makes a steadicam work, and can it be made smaller"? Knowing how much a real SteadiCam is, and seeing Make's price - I was thinking "there it is - what I need - or something close".

    So - first I look up some information on what a SteadiCam is, how it works, what it consists of - then I am thinking, "ok, maybe they haven't miniturized it too much - likely something for a hand

  • Just do it in software:
    http://biphome.spray.se/gunnart/video/deshaker.htm

    I've done bike rides and kung fu competions with this. Works great, but takes lots of CPU.
  • "We also could not help but notice two or three articles that seemed to be written exclusively for Macintosh users... What made these articles somewhat offensive was that the articles were addressing concepts that were not Mac-specific."

    Ho-hum. Having just spent the weekend trying to get a printer to work, whose manufacturer (Canon) never even imagined it might be used with a non-Windows computer, I say "good on them" for giving Windows users a turn at being excluded.

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