Introduction: Simple Conversion: Tripod Into Steadicam.

Picture of Simple Conversion: Tripod Into Steadicam.

One of the dangers of getting into new hobbies is the urge to spend out on gadgets you think you need, but end up gathering dust in the back of a cupboard. There must be millions of dollars-worth of almost-new golf clubs, fishing poles and photography gear lurking, unused and unloved, in the world's wardrobes.

So, Conker-X has decided that he "needs" a steadicam so that he and some friends can make videos with his bridge digital camera.

Rather that pay out for a dust-gatherer, I decided, I could make that!

Here's what he got.

Step 1: The Theory

Picture of The Theory

So, it turns out that basic steadicams work by moving the centre of mass of the rig to be well away from the optical centre of the camera.

That turns the natural vibrations of bodily movement into gentle, low-angle, low-frequency swings.

So, to make a steadicam, you need to hang a weight below the camera, and provide a smooth pivot near the camera.

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials

You need weight. For reasons I am not very clear on, I had three lumps of lead in my stash, which already had a hole cast through the centre. Between them, they weighed two kilogrammes.

Also from my stash came a piece of general-purpose 10mm nylon rope (left over from another project).

From Conker-X's stash came some rather impressive Duck-branded duct tape.

Step 3: Making

Picture of Making

After a bit of experimentation, we determined that all three blocks of lead were too heavy for continuous use, so we split them into a pair and a single.

I used a pair of needle-nosed pliers to round off the holes in the blocks, and threaded the rope through. At the lower end, I tied a simple overhand knot as a stopper, then at the top end I tied a bowline to form a hanging loop. A little furtling brought the loop closer to the blocks, then I trimmed off the excess rope and used a lighter to fuse the end and prevent fraying.

Step 4: Safety

Picture of Safety

Obviously, lead is a toxic substance. Although the few minutes of handling involved in making this steadicam would not cause enough exposure to worry about, the effect is cumulative. Each tiny exposure adds up.

To prevent this, we sealed the lead blocks in duct tape. Purely coincidentally, the tape was slightly wider than the blocks, meaning it could overlap at the corners and ensure the seal.

Step 5: Using

Picture of Using

To turn the tripod into a steadicam, hang the weight on the bottom (most tripods have a hook for just this reason), extend the central stem, and grip loosely around the stem below the camera.

If you grip tightly, you will get a sore hand and the steadicam won't be so steady. Let the weight rest on the top of your hand, and let the tripod swing as it will, and your images will be smoother and your hand less sore.

With the two sizes of weight, Conker-X has four options for how much to hang, depending on requirements (nothing, 0.7kg, 1.3kg and 2kg).

As an extra bonus, the weights also help when using the tripod as, well, a tripod. It's quite light-weight, so it suffers in windy situations. Add the weights, and it is much, much steadier.


Kiteman (author)2015-09-25

Building suppliers sell lead, but these blocks were just sort of acquired - I tend to accumulate stuff from odd places.

If you don't want to use lead, a bag of sand or rocks will do the same job.

HollyMann (author)2014-01-12

Excellent job on the steadicam. And the first paragraph ...I am sure a lot of people can relate to that (including myself). Buying gadgets that we think are "needed" to help us with our new hobbies...I've done this a lot of times. :) Great Job!

Kiteman (author)HollyMann2014-01-12

... and guess how many videos he's made...?

HollyMann (author)Kiteman2014-01-12

...ahh let me guess...none yet! ;)))

Kiteman (author)HollyMann2014-01-12


blodefood (author)2013-09-10

This is rather cool! I have tried hanging a cloth bag of shoes on my wrist when using a small video camera and it helps to smooth out pans quite a lot.

Kiteman (author)blodefood2013-09-10



blodefood (author)Kiteman2013-10-29

I happened to have my shoes in a drawstring bag in the winter while I was wearing my boots and I tried this with my camera. The weight was just enough to steady my hand while shooting.

Eh Lie Us! (author)2013-09-23


puckofpookshill (author)2013-09-10

Hi Kiteman,
Nice project. One small (pedantic) point. The knot above is not a bowline and is likely to behave differently to a true bowline in use. (Up through the hole, round the tree and back down the hole. Not up through the hole, half way around the tree and back through the other side of the hole)

Kiteman (author)puckofpookshill2013-09-10

It's mirror imaged to the usual knot.

Rainh2o (author)2013-09-08

Interesting and cool idea...I'll have to try this

dchall8 (author)2013-09-06

Not all camera stabilizers work by moving the center of mass.  This is a spring/mass/damper system with a force input coming from gravity and the user's hands.  With modern lightweight cameras, the user's unsteady finger motion can affect how steady the camera is supported.  When the finger input is only an inch away from the camera system, small movements translate into relatively large changes in camera angle.  If they happen during filming, then you get blur.  Whereas if the camera is supported between handles 20 inches apart, then the small finger motion results in a much smaller change in angle during the shot.  This is one aspect of stability.

What you are suggesting is setting the camera at the top of a pendulum.  That works great, too.  By dangling a tripod off the camera, the finger motion is damped out by the inertia of the heavier system.  The input by the user comes from holding the pendulum at a pivot point.  With a pendulum you have the added force of gravity helping you hold the camera and tripod steady.  With this in mind, I don't think you really need the weights. Just extending the tripod neck steadies the camera considerably. Then you can experiment with holding the assembly up by the camera with the tripod dangling, or by the tripod with the neck and camera well above the hands.

Kiteman (author)dchall82013-09-06

We had tried with just the tripod, but it's very lightweight. It needed the extra weight.

CementTruck (author)2013-09-06

reduce, reuse, recycle. I'm voting.

Kiteman (author)CementTruck2013-09-06

Thank you!

wdsims63 (author)2013-09-06

I think this is the best instructible I have read all year. Clear point and goal. SImple instructions without leaving anything out. Pictures are helpful and give just the right amount of info without being too little or too much. On top of that the pictures are clear and crisp well lighted.
The only thing I would have done differently is paint the lead blocks with an enamel paint before handling them at all to avoid any exposure and seal all surfaces (even the interior of the holes).
Great Job! I'm probably going to do this as well if I ever take any video while moving. (I already have the weight. :)

Kiteman (author)wdsims632013-09-06

Gosh, thank you, that is praise indeed!

(Now I have to hope that lots of other people agree with you and hit the vote button!)

darman12 (author)2013-09-05

The bowline is one if my favorite knots. Nice 'ible :)

Kiteman (author)darman122013-09-06

Thank you!

wazza (author)2013-09-03

Good idea !

BUT too boring to carry block of lead!

My suggestion would be a 2 litter bottle you'll have just to fill where you need weight !

yellowcatt (author)wazza2013-09-04

I built a steadycam for my bridge camera using a water bottle like that as the counterbalance. Maybe I should do it as an instructable.
I called it the Holiday steadycam as it is light weight enough to pack in your airline cabin luggage.

Kiteman (author)yellowcatt2013-09-05


Kiteman (author)wazza2013-09-03

True, but the bottle is a lot larger, and we didn't have one.

riff raff (author)2013-09-05

Cool instructable.

I did something somewhat similar; I attached a weight-disc from a bar-bell to the bottom of a Bogen mono-pod (bolted on, so swinging from the weight).

askjerry (author)2013-09-05

I voted... nicely done, simple to implement, and well explained.

Great job!

onemoroni1 (author)2013-09-05

You get my vote for an elegant instructable. Simple and dual purpose. I plan to make this as a steady weight for my telephoto with my garage stock of babbitt chunks.

Kiteman (author)onemoroni12013-09-05

Thank you!

pcfrost232 (author)2013-09-04

Wonderful! Even I can do this. :)

Kiteman (author)pcfrost2322013-09-04

Have confidence!

pcfrost232 (author)Kiteman2013-09-04

I will! Thanks... :)

Lectric Wizard (author)2013-09-03

Great idea, one of those "Why didin't I think of that?" things ...

Don't see a vote button though ?????

Kiteman (author)Lectric Wizard2013-09-03

You can vote, now!

ckoehler1904 (author)2013-09-03

Thanks for including the warning about toxicity of lead and taking the precaution of wrapping the weights in cool duct tape. It is particularly dangerous for young folks so washing your hands after handling and carefully disposing of the lead shavings is a very good idea..

Kiteman (author)ckoehler19042013-09-03

(Although, actually, metallic lead is less toxic than lead compounds in the long run.)

M3G (author)2013-09-03

This is a really good idea!

Kiteman (author)M3G2013-09-03


Kiteman (author)2013-09-03

I'm entering this in the "I Could Make That" contest - I'd be grateful for any votes.

About This Instructable




Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
More by Kiteman:Fallen Astronaut 2Custom laser cut metal business cardsDashboard Phone Stand
Add instructable to: