Introduction: A Simple, Modular Camera Stabiliser
Anyone who's ever shot videos on a DSLR or a small camcorder knows how difficult it is to keep steady, especially if you are moving. I make videos and short films quite a lot and along the way I've built and developed my own rigs for stabilising the camera. This rig is the current iteration and it has been under constant modification for the past three years but I think I'm close to my 'ideal' rig. I figured someone else might also find my ideas useful and get some inspiration out of them.
The construction of the rig is extremely versatile, the rig can be broken down into very small space or expanded to accommodate a different style of shooting.
In it's current form I can brace it against my body like a run n' gun rig, use the side handles only like a fig rig or use the top handle for low angle shots.
Step 1: Get Your Parts and Build
The main parts of the build are metal tubing and the tube clamps. Additionally you need something to put your camera on and preferably something to brace against your body for an extra point of contact.
The most expensive and hardest to find parts are the clamps. I use RK light clamps (manufacturer's website) that I bought from a local seller. They are plastic, you can also get metal clamps but you really don't need the additional strength. I'm using four different types of clamps, cross clamp, flange clamp, base clamp with an adjustable joint and T-clamp also with a joint.
The tubing is 15mm aluminium which is the standard diameter for all cinema equipment (matte boxes, follow focus etc.). You can get any diameter you want as long as you can find clamps in the same size, in fact a larger diameter of around 20-25mm (little under 1") would be more comfortable to hold.
You can make the camera platform and stock from pretty much any material you like as long as it's sturdy enough. plywood is a good choice, another option would be a plastic IKEA cutting board.
Building a rig like this is very simple. Figure out the dimensions you need, cut the tubing and attach with clamps. The camera platform and stock are the only parts that are more difficult.
The simplest camera paltform is to cut a plate of wood or plastic, drill a 1/4" hole through it and attach a couple of clamps to the bottom. You can expand the hole into a slit so you can move your camera to balance it, or even attach a quick release plate like I have in mine.
For the stock you can cut a piece of the aforementioned plastic cutting board, heat it with a heat gun and bend the plate so that you have a curved stock. Add some padding and you're good to go. That was my first version but I've changed to a construction of 9mm plywood, foam padding and a leather cover.
Add some bicycle grip tape to the handles and spray paint you wood/plastic matte black and you look like a pro!
Step 2: Final Thoughts and Further Inspiration
As I said in the beginning, this type of a rig is extremely versatile and all the parts are reusable. I've built from the same materials:
- A simple run n' gun rig with a stock, a handle and a small camera platform
- A large shoulder rig with a bent cutting board shoulder brace
- A third person rig for my GoPro
- A helmet mount for my GoPro
And the possibilities are limitless. Any rig that you build with these parts can be broken down to a very compact size for transport and easily assembled on location using a single hex key.
I live in Finland which is a small country, so in order to get the clamps I had to buy a lot of the (40 to be exact) and they cost a lot. However with all the different rigs I've built they've paid themselves back many times over. Even if they didn't, I could not buy a commercial stabilising rig for the same price that would fit me as well as this rig does since I can use it, come up with an improvement to the design and simply make it.
Anyway, that's it for this 'ible, if you read it all the way through I'm grateful. Making this was an afterthought as you can probably tell, but I still think the idea is worth sharing.