Steadicam/stabilizers.. anyone own one or work with that mortals can afford?

edited February 2016 in Filmmaking

So my wife is on-board that we need a steadicam for our "family movies" 

I've been looking at the "glidecam" brand as they are more of an enthusiast grade stabilizer and affordable. I've really liked a lot of the footage I've seen online of people using them that know how to use them-

And for the record, I did attempt to build one out of pvc pipe and what not about 2 years ago.. it was meh.. Okay it was not very good at all.

Anyone have any experience??



  • What's your camera? This makes a difference.

  • Do keep in mind that for any sort of Steadicam, Glidecam included, there is a significant learning curve. It takes a fair bit of practice to learn to balance the camera on a Steadicam correctly, and quite a bit of practice to learn to use it well. With a little bit of effort, you can get footage that looks better than handheld, but if you want quality, plan on being patient. Anyone who tells you that it's just a matter of getting the right stabilizer for your camera is full of it.

    Even with electronically stabilized gimbals it takes quite a bit of figuring out in order to properly balance them, and it takes some practice to learn get used to how they respond to movements, to fine tune compositions, and so on.

    Glidecams are pretty solid, and a good value. Learn to use one well, and you can do great stuff with it.

  • I own a glidecam.  Could not work for my Canon XH A1 (way too heavy of a camera), but works great with my Sony NEX-5 and JVC Pro 3D video camera (both small).

    Not easy to use.  Must balance perfectly with the included weights and it takes a LOT of arm strength to hold the rig steady.

    I do not have the vest and could see how that would make a big difference because it would distribute the weight to your body/back.


  • Wouldn't tracking in HitFilm stabilize the footage, though it comes at a cost -- you'll have to frame your shots so that after you zoom in they look normal. This is free, but a Steadycam isn't that expensive, here anyways (Sweden).

  • edited February 2016

    No matter how good the tracker is, you'll get better results if you stabilize the camera than if you stabilize shaky footage. GIGO...

  • Yeah, as WhiteCrane says, it's better to start with a stablilized shot (which might still need stabilizing in post). For one thing if you're stabilizing a shot with a lot of movement you might have motion blur. A stable shot showing shake blur looks pretty strange.

    edited February 2016

    Oh okay, anyways this is what I ment


    Would only work in a perfect world though, obviously moving around isn't a very good idea.

    Topic, I would buy a steadicam secondhand, shouldn't have a huge risk of it not working properly.

  • I brought a very simple (cheap) counter balance rig (errm more a handle and a curved bracket) that uses a ball joint and wieghts for use with my phone and compact camera. While it kinda works and improves the shots it takes work and practice and I have not used it that much.

    I guess you get for what you pay for, and buying one with a motored gimball is going to get better results and I assume easier to use.

    PS: Not allowed to use the "but it will make the home videos better" line any more until I finish the family holiday video from 2014 ;)

  • edited February 2016

    What's your camera and what will you be shooting?

    For a GoPro, one of these, with the Bluetooth remote and extendable selfie stick will do you: Rider-M

    For a Camera phone - which you're more likely to have on you all the time, one of these Ikan Fly or another from Zhiyun the Smooth-C

    There are several others out there doing similar things and they're silly simple to use. Attach camera/phone, turn on, film.

    For a bigger camera, there are some like the Yuneec GB603 or for something a bit more portable, then BeStableCam will be coming out with their pistol grip SG4 gimbal soon. Or you can buy some fairly cheap, carbon tubing and a bit of wiring and balancing DIY sorts from loads of Chinese websites, as you presumably don't want to go down the DJI Ronin route.

    I mainly use a GoPro with a modified lens (72 degree FOV, flat) and a Rider-M and it shoots in 4K, Protune @30fps, so works for most of what I want and it mixes well with other footage. With remote viewing and control with bluetooth and Wifi I can stick it on a selfie stick, up a pole, on a cable-cam rig (building one now from a washing line and a few DIY odds and ends) and angle the camera wherever I want and it's steady as a rock.

    You just need to learn the 'SteadiCam walk' to minimise any up and down movement, or hang a small weight (500g or so) off the bottom of the selfie stick handle to give it some inertia so it doesn't bob up and down so much when you're running.

    Here's a review of the Smooth-C for the iPhone. The first half is all about setting it up and calibrating it, but skip to the 9 min mark for some example footage. Looks good to me, although he hasn't mastered (or isn't bothered about) 'The Walk'. ;)

    And another for an older model. He explains and demonstrates the 'locked target' mode, which makes some shots "....about a billion times easier....". :):

  • Personally I wouldn't go near an actual steadicam, due to the aforementioned learning curve and general awkwardness for the kind of run-and-gun filming I prefer to do. In an ideal world I'd get a Movi, which is basically my perfect bit of filmmaking kit.

    The reality is that even Movis are too expensive for my personal use - but if I was working on a project that needed that kind of camera move, I'd look into hiring one. Hiring doesn't really work if you're using it for family movies, though...

  • edited February 2016

    @SimonKJones Seriously? :) The guys at Corridor Digital are using one for a lot (if not all) of the footage in some of their latest videos with a GoPro and they look great.

    The part from 1:19 to 1:43 is one of the best continuous shots I've seen in a while.

    Definitely worth watching the behind the scenes videos too.

  • @palacono the Corridor guys are professionals who work full-time making videos. They can invest heavily in gear AND the time required to learn how to use it properly. My circumstances are very different, and a steadicam wouldn't be suitable for me at all - that's not a comment on the usefulness or quality of steadicams as a concept.

  • @SimonKJones, For sure they're professional, I was just giving examples to show that with something like a GoPro (or an iPhone) gimbal, there is virtually no investment in time and not much money either. They're pitched right at the mass market and are a doddle to use. It does depend on what camera @johnnyjelko intends to use though. :)

  • Even a gimbal like a Movi requires a pretty significant learning curve. It takes quite a bit of experimentation just to learn the best ways to build a balanced rig on it, especially if you're looking for professional quality work, since that requires wireless video + follow focus, pretty much. For casual use or occasional use, autofocus is sufficient, but for quality film work, it's a non-starter.

    IMO if you're going to use one casually, the higher end gimbals aren't worth it anyway partly for that reason; the price tag doesn't even include the wireless video + follow focus, which will add another $3-4k to the price tag... assuming that you're going cheap. They also add weight, so even the $5K Movi m5 falls short, and you probably see where I'm going.

    On top of that, action cameras have such good image quality that they're overkill for most casual use, and work fine with tiny and relatively inexpensive gimbals.

  • @Triem23

    I have a sony handycam cx405, sony a6000, and canon T3i. And none of my lenses are that large I would be using. Since I backpack with these items I keep everything small and light.

    It will probably be a few years before I grab anything bigger and at that time it will be a sony a7sii or something equivalent..

  •  @WhiteCranePhoto

    Thanks for the advice. And to my knowledge it's about 60% effort of the stabilizer and 40% effort of the user. I've always wanted to learn and actually see myself getting very good at it. I have a great ability of mimicking body movements, people, and impressions for that matter.. which oddly makes me graceful, methodical, and a good learner.

  • @karma I'm hoping to use it with my a6000 and stabilized lenses.. very similar to your nex. 

    I have a small handycam which seriously amazes me the amount of stabilization sony provides with those little in-body zeiss lenses.

  • @Palacono I've seen those smartphone gimbals work very well but I'll be doing a little bit more than that. 

    I'll be using lightweight dslr/mirroless with small lenses and a handycam. I probably won't even use my canon dslr for stabilizing so the most we're talking is 2lbs or less.

  • edited February 2016

    @SimonKJones luckily when I'll be filming it will be on weekend long backpacking trips with the wife and kid.. so we might be okay with the awkwardness. And I've seen some pretty expensive movi's and my budget is less than $450.

    It doesn't need to look great, but I definitely want to stabilize during filming because even somewhat stabilized footage still feels more natural to me than post work, or at least the kind that I do 

  • @Palacono I really liked their results(and by really liked I mean it was amazing) might be too polished for me though. I will be outside in the wilderness, walking trails and switchbacks. But I have to look into their setup for other stuff!

  • edited February 2016

    johnnyjelko   With the electronic ones, just getting a basic, smooth walk down is surprisingly easy once you learn "the walk" which does take some practice. It feels... odd, at first.

    I'm thinking about getting an Osmo for backcountry trips. I did three trips in fall that I wish I'd had a cinema camera with me for lots of opportunities. One was very technical (The Brothers), one was long (six days in the Enchantments), and the other was Mt. Adams. :)

  • Ummmm get one of these:

    and one of these:

    Add a 3D Printer, some resin casting materials and maybe even set up an aluminum furnace. Make a documentary on your progress towards creating something brilliant, create something brilliant that costs like 10 bucks to make, begin a Kickstarter campaign, sell your creation as "camera gear" with a 1000% markup, retire.

  • @Aladdin4d eh I'm more in the camp of, do what you love doing and you'll never work a day in your life. And although I'm not only doing what I love doing I am doing what I love along side a 9-5. Soo I'm half way there?

    Anyway I only found out how to use this whole "imagination" thing about a year ago so I'm still working on it.

  • @johnnyjelko This is $5 over your budget, but it's closer in style to the Pistol grip gimbals for DSLRs, at a lower cost because it might need some tuning. PIDs aren't that hard to do though.

    At a little more, you've got this Pistol grip style one that's probably more likely to work out of the box with no tuning, just balancing:

    They're a bit more portable for your proposed outdoor use, but if you don't mind something bigger, less polished, but cheaper, there are lots available from as little as $213.


  • @Palacono - Thanks for the great info & links! I will be looking at those sometime in the future.

  • This one will fit in your budget nicely and should work great with your a6000.

    Like others have said, lots of time and practice to get this stuff right.  If you're serious enough to really get one of these and want to learn it, here are some good starting points:

    The other big thing to think about is focusing.  As @WhiteCranePhoto said, you'll need some more gear if you want to avoid using autofocus, so your priorities will determine what you do there.  Best of luck.

  • Wow, 2010! Looks like something Noah used when filming on the Ark.

    Jockey Motion 4-Axis Gimbal from TurboAce

  • edited February 2016

    Interestingly, my video drone (Yuneec q500) came with a hand held 3-axis gimbal for their camera system.  It easily unplugs from the drone and attaches to the handheld gimbal.  The camera comes in HD and 4K flavors and the gimbal is PERFECTION.  It floats so smoothly, it's amazing.  No audio, though.

    I also have a graphite over-the-shoulder spider legs that stabilizes my camera as well as other handheld gimbals, trigger grips and handheld stabilizers.


  • I'm waiting to get my hands on the Yuneec Typhoon H to test. It's got an upgraded CGO3+ camera, which has a Sony Bionz sensor, instead of the Ambarella of the CGO3 in the Q500. Would have been nice to see the H1 chip in something this year, but Ambarella are already talking about the H2, when no one's seen what the H1 can do yet. But, yes, that gimbal is pretty cool. :)

  • I think I may have increased my budget a bit because of this, nebula 4000 lite

    I would like something more rugged like a glidecam stabilizer but odds are I'll be carrying 45lbs on my back while using it sooo not sure I want to head down that path. I think it will work perfectly with a6000 and be very light weight too. Because as much as I want good footage I don't want to be miserable while doing it.

    And as of right now i'm not going the gropro route  as I have never really been that impressed with them overall and I do a lot of still photography.


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