Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her: $25 Stabilizer

on July 31, 2014

One of the most important things you can do to stabilize your footage is get your hands as far away from the camera as possible.  Many shooters mistakenly believe that they can be very careful while holding the camera and get acceptable footage.  This is a mistake.  Micro-movements in your hands, your breathing, and even your heartbeat get transferred to the camera, giving you shaky footage.

Moving your hands off the camera does two things: it makes the pivot handles that rotate your image have a smaller impact by decreasing the movement along the radius (your hand motions have less impact), and it also lowers the center of gravity of your camera, like a balancing pole for a tightrope walker, giving you a more stable footage.

The film industry has spent a fortune trying to perfect this technique.  Stabilizers and steadicams, gimbals and electronic optical stabilization all are trying to combat this one inherent flaw in human anatomy and for good reason- shaky footage is the hallmark of amateur video.

There are times when a little run and gun action gives a kinetic feeling to a scene (made popular by documentary shooters), but this is a style that has developed because of the limitations of the technique.  Documentary shooters often didn’t have the time or the resources to follow crews ini Afghanistan rigged up with a heavy steadicam vest.

Shoulder rigs are great, I highly recommend them.  So are monopods and dollies.  But sometimes you need something that you can throw in your bag that won’t take up space and won’t break your budget.

This is where the $25 stabilizer comes in.  It’s just about as simple as you can make it.

A dual flashbracket mount holds two flashbracket handles, all connected with 1/4-20 nuts.  I’ve added a simple quick release plate so that I can get the camera on and off quickly.  Too often, the decisions you make while shooting are constrained by how much time you have to shoot.  Time is the great equalizer on hollywood films and independent sets: it is a commodity that cannot be regained while lost.  Anything you can do to move to the next shot faster will pay for itself in spades.

The directions are straightforward: one handle on the left.  One handle on the right.  Quickrelease plate in the middle.  (A quick trip to the hardware store will get you the 1/4-20 nuts and bolts.  They are dirt cheap.  I recommend getting wingnuts because they can be hand-tightened.  Get a bunch and keep them in your kit.  They come in more handy than you will ever know.)