Home Built Stabiliser Test

Mar 7, 2008

*Requires Quicktime 7 - 26.2 Mb

Here it is - the fruit of months of tinkering. A poor man's Steadicam Merlin - AUD$1300 worth of camera stabiliser - which one can only gaze upon and say, 'it doesn't look like it would be too hard to make one of those'. So it must be stated that, in all seriousness, I never really expected that I would get anywhere making one of these, I'm no engineer, it was all a long process of trial and error as I tried every and any way of putting the bits and pieces I had lying around together.

Initially I thought I would be able to at least make my own design of the $14 steadicam, but with a Merlinesque protruding arm instead of just a straight pole. Only later did I find out that the $14 steadicam can't work like that. But the early builds did seem to provide some amount of stabilisation - but I had seen the difference in results between a camera which is stabilised... and one that flies.

So I picked up a cheap ball-joint for a tripod and attached it to the handle from a sawn in half flash bracket. This provided a gimbal joint and now new territory had been entered. The gimbal joint served to isolate the camera from the handle - as long as the camera was balanced on its mounting it would always stay level and not react to shaking. Early tests were encouraging, but there was a tendency for the camera to sway, producing the effect more of a tipsy-cam than a steady-cam.

I discovered that this meant that the rig was too bottom heavy, and sure enough, once I played around enough with counterweights and different ways of connecting things together, I found a combination which put the centre of gravity at just the right spot, below the gimbal. Once this was achieved, it turned out that the whole balance of the thing was so sensitive that even opening and closing the lcd screen on the camera would alter its balance on the left-right axis. To remedy this the final ingredient was a sliding plate which I mounted sideways. This allowed me to position the camera and lock it in place so that it would be perfectly balanced.

Additionally, the stabiliser can be adapted to mount other cameras. The sliding plate is mounted to the block with the other half of the flash bracket and can be slid forward and back; the counterweight can be swung forward and back for balancing, and if required additional weight can be added. I did this in order to mount Bill Meikle's spherical hexacam to it.

The ingredients are as follows;

  • Funky 1970's chrome mike stand.
  • A couple of discarded metal mounting blocks.
  • A flash bracket.
  • $40 tripod ball-joint
  • Manfrotto sliding plate.

Canon HV20 with Century Optics wide angle adapter mounted on the stabiliser.


  • Folds up and can be stored in a backpack.
  • Completely adjustable - you can alter the front/back balance and left/right balance to mount other cameras.


  • Gimbal has a bit of friction.
  • It's heavy compared to other designs that are available. Chrome mike stand tubing is not light.

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