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Tip #1510: A Quick Guide to Steadicams

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Steadicam is a handy way to get professional stabilized footage.

Steadicam Aero (image courtesy of Tiffen.)

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This article, written by Lewis MacGregor, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

Once mastered, Steadicam is a handy way to get professional stabilized footage.

The world of Steadicams and stabilized footage has drastically changed over the last decade. At one point, the costly tool was reserved only for professional broadcasts, TV, and cinema. Yet, with new filmmakers born of the DSLR revolution yearning for something similar, we also saw the birth of inexpensive stabilization tools that followed the principle of Steadicams, but the results weren’t as successful. Further into the decade, we then saw the birth of the consumer-priced gimbal, and now everyone can obtain smooth footage.

Steadicams have seemingly reverted to professional productions only, whereas low-budget and new filmmakers opt towards a gimbal like the DJI Ronin-S.

A Steadicam is a camera rig that’s uniquely designed to stabilize camera shake. It mechanically isolates the camera from the operator’s movement, allowing for a smooth shot, even when moving over an asymmetrical surface. First created in the 1970s, the Steadicam quickly took Hollywood by storm as a better option for shooting smooth tracking shots.

A Steadicam, unlike a gimbal, primarily achieves smooth footage from a series of counterbalance weights and operator skill. Unlike a gimbal, which uses a motor to help achieve stable footage, the Steadicam’s primary tool is gravity. As such, the use of a Steadicam comes with a steep learning curve, and it’s also why a Steadicam operator is a designated position on a production. It requires skill and expertise to master.

This in-depth article continues with lots of Steadicam example videos and the following subjects:

  • Why Would I Need a Steadicam?
  • How Do I Set up a Steadicam?
  • How Much Do Steadicams Cost?
  • The Less Expensive Alternative
  • More Info on Steadicams (including a variety of links)

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2 Comments
  1. Mark I Scott
    Mark I Scott says:

    Steadicam uses Springs in concert with off setting counterbalance weight to help steady the frame of capture.

    Reply

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