Introduction: Universal, 2 Gyro Image Stabilizer

Picture of Universal, 2 Gyro Image Stabilizer

This image stabilizer can be used with any lens and camera. It works the in same way as the Hubble telescope keeps pointed to the same object during multi day exposures.

This stabilizer can be used succesfully with moderately long exposures and moderately long focal lengths.

Needed: 2 discarded harddisks (HDs)
Some old discarded computer, or parts
The part in the old computer which holds floppies en HDs at a 90 degree angle...
A woden box or plywood etc..
A hand grip
One or two strips of aluminum
A camera screw
3 or 4 car USB phone chargers
A 12 V power source (lead acid cell, a discarded NiCd cell, or (rechargeable) batteries)
Some rubber washers and a piece of inner tire
Contact glue

Your camera

Costs: something between E 0.00 and E 50.00 (my costs: E 15.-)

Time to build:a few days, including some shopping...

Tools: Simple hand tools, drill, soldering gear.

Update: look at my single Gyro stabilizer:

Step 1: How It Works

Picture of How It Works

Most hard disks spin at 5400, 7200 or 10.000 RPM. The rotating parts have a considerable mass, and are very well centered and balanced. Old HDs with storage space below ca. 10 Gb can be obtained very cheaply, or even for free.

The spinning HDs working as gyroscopes in the horizontal and vertical plane (X and Y) can almost completely prevent motion blur.

When a long exposure, or tele picture is taken by hand, motion blur occurs in a combination of horizontal and vertical (X and Y axis) shaking; not so much in the back and forth (Z axis) direction.

The spinning mass in the HDs steadies the camera.

Step 2: The Mechanism:

Picture of The Mechanism:

2 HDs are mounted at a 90 degree angle. The bolts to fasten are non-metric:

In Europe, the threads of these case screws are totally incompatible with anything, so the only way to fasten the HDs is to use the existing case screws from a discarded computer, which means they can only be mounted on a metal sheet or strip.

(Case screws. These screws are six-gauge wire with 32 threads per inch American National Coarse Thread (UNC) machine screws that are cut to accept a both a Phillips No. 2 screwdriver and a 1/4 inch hex driver and are 5/16 inch long.) Wikipedia.

Of course, the prime candidate for this is the disk holder in the discarded computer: It has all the screw holes already in the right place.
This way, 2 strips have to be cut from these parts, and have to be mounted squarely.

I was not able to find an old computer before the deadline (contest!), so I mounted both on a wide strip of aluminum, 2mm thick. This strip is mounted on the lower part of the enclosure.

The HDs: nothing inside is changed. I had some old 5400 RPM HDs laying around, although having a small memory size (2.1 and 4.3 Gb), they still work fine.

They still can be used as 'image tanks'; dual use. Put rubber spacers between HDs and the mount to get rid of any high frequency vibrations produced by the HDs.

Note: Taking these HDs into the field, the data they contain might not survive the rugged environment, or rough treatment. Shock damage might cause loss of data.

Step 3: The Enclosure

Picture of The Enclosure

A poplar box of 30 x 30 cm was cut into the proper sizes to form the enclosure: although not water tight, it does protect the HDs against shorting and raindrops. Poplar and willow wood is ideal for prototyping: very soft, and almost no grain.

The pictures show how all parts are put together.

A 3 mm aluminum strip was bent at a square angle and put on the top part to hold the camera. It holds 3 holes, for different cameras. A slit might have weakened the strip to the point that vibrations from the HDs would have been amplified.

Step 4: Electronics:

Picture of Electronics:

HDs need voltages of 12 and 5 DC. In this design, only one power source, of 12 V is required. 3- 4 cheap USB phone chargers convert 12 V into 5V. According to specs in the wrapping, their output is 400 mA, so at least 3 are needed in parallel. Molex connectors from a discarded computer power supply take the power to the HDs. It seems the 12 V lead is used for rotation, while the 5V lead is used for the arm: movement, reading, writing. Both leads are need to make a HD spin.

If the stabilizer is only used occasionally, 9V + 2 x 1.5 V batteries can provide power. For continuous use, or for video, a more powerful solution is needed, like a small lead-acid cell. This cell can be mounted on a belt, with wiring to the device.

The stabilizer needs a switch to be turned on and off.

I tried to solder the new wires to the small circuit boards. However they appeared to be very heat sensitive: the copper conduits came apart from the board while desoldering!

A new charger was bought; this time soldering was done more carefully! The wired circuit boards were glued to a piece of wood, which was fitted in the top part.

The space kept for the electronics was almost too small: it required some fitting to get it all in.

Step 5: Results !!!

Picture of Results !!!

How much improvement is possible with this basic design?

All pictures made with a Canon SX110 IS, with maximum: 10x zoom (36 - 360 mm, if it was 35 mm format), mounted on the stabilizer of this instructable..

The exposure time is 1/15 sec: an impossible exposure time to take tele photo pictures by hand.

Pic 1 is made with NO image stabilization.

Pic 2 is made with its INTERNAL image stabilizer on , and external one OFF

Pic 3 is made with only the Gyroscopic image stabilizer (this instructable) ON, and the internal one off..

Pic 4 is made with both internal and external stabilizer on

All pics were made during the same conditions: early twilight, whole session less than 10 min.

It seems that my stabilizer outperforms the stabilizer inside the camera, and that when both stabilizers are on, results are even better!!!

Step 6: Possible Improvements

Removing the platters and putting a steel or brass disk instead. It would require removing the arm and modifying electronics.

Of course another high speed DC motor with heavy disk would work as well...

Oct 8th: A single gyro stabilizer is finished: look at the instructable:

On stronger motors: CD/DVD and HDD spindle motors are being hacked by the RC model plane community. With thicker wiring and replacing the ceramic magnet ring with Neodymium magnets they seem to reach up to a whopping 400 W output. Machining of a new rotor (bell) and controller ('esc') is required +a high output battery pack (LiPo), which would make a gyro project no longer low budget nor fast to assemble. It could provide another dramatic reduction in size and weight though.


MichaelS163 (author)2016-03-03

I was thinking that I would try this with a couple of SSD's as they are faster, lighter and use less power. Any ideas? {J}

chubby8 (author)MichaelS1632016-03-07

I'm hoping {J} is for joke ;)

Erocker (author)2015-04-12

Could a computer power supply be used to provide the 12v and 5v? This could simplify the project.

derekthorvg (author)2015-04-07

@jharwick, by a lightweight, simple system you mean like a portable
gimbal, with battery included? I have heard this company is doing something like that, but for motorbikes.

fizzzbang (author)2013-06-28

I think the hard drives need to be jn a cross configuration and on gimbals like this guy did with little gyroscopes - looks doable, but your method will work too not as good as the drives have to move.

fizzzbang (author)fizzzbang2013-06-28

One more think, when 4k or 8K finally comes alone we won't need these devices as we can shoot wider and just crop and add electronic stabilization :)

r.raj936 (author)2013-06-05

Do you mount the Hd's directly to the Bord.

jharwick (author)2011-10-04

I have spent the last three years developing a lightweight, simple system for taking panoramic photos. I would like add a small battery operated gyro that would fin inside a monopod. Anyone interested in colaborating on a design?

simo9836 (author)jharwick2012-04-22

By design, do you mean the mechanics or the good looks ? :D

tylercard (author)2011-11-11

This is a great idea. I can't wait to make this.

sensoryhouse (author)2011-10-28

Hells to the yes. I got a box of hardrives and it's friday night. I got all weekend. I bet you could make a killer video stabilizer with this. 5 stars.

Marsh (author)2009-09-26

The only drawbacks I see are power consumption and weight, but this is an inspiration! I've been looking for a stabilization device for my mountianbike. I'll check into finding and stripping down some smaller drives and seeing if they'll run on smaller batteries & still be effective.

BobS (author)Marsh2009-09-28

If you want to find out if a hard drive, or another motor with rotating device would be suitable, turn it on and try to turn the axis of rotation by hand. You can easily feel the resistance against the change in position. The amount of resistance felt shows if the device is suitable for the project. To stabilize a bike would require a huge powerful motor, but I would not test ride it in heavy traffic. It would react very different from normal!

rblee (author)BobS2011-10-28

"To stabilize a bike would require a huge powerful motor, but I would not test ride it in heavy traffic. It would react very different from normal!"

You mean a funeral precession? Boom! Boom!

Marsh (author)BobS2009-09-28

Actually the stabilization device was to stabilize my video camera' on my mountain bike.

mdgnys (author)Marsh2009-10-01

Heres an idea ive done in the past ill make an ible about it soon. But a gyroscope. you know likt the retro toy. haha Then get a trypod sized screw and a belt motor and let it run pretty simple and easy

ARCHellas (author)2011-09-03

Exceptional project!!! Super DIY for a very very expensive commercial device! Well done.

thepaul93 (author)2010-10-29

Very good idea.
You could of used a 1Amp 5v regulator save money and keep the size down.

nathun (author)2010-04-24

 How do you get the drive to keep spinning at maximum speed?  I tried this a while back and my drives kept spinning up and down.  Couldn't get consistent performance from it. 

infraray (author)2010-03-03

So could this function in a video camera setting?  You imply that it may, has anyone taken any footage? Only drawback would possibly be the sound of the disks spinning.  Some sound isolation might be needed. 

Also how much heat build up comes from the spinning disks? For still photography this might not be an issue but for video it potentially could.

Really great instructable, Thanks!

Crusher7485 (author)2010-02-14

Hum, I may try this, even though I rarely take pictures and only have a point and shoot. I think it'd be useful though, and maybe my sister (A photographer) may want something like this.

Anyway, why I commented was I like the idea but this is huge, I looked at the single but 2 obviously works better. I have an idea for a frameless folding design. Anybody curious? I'll look into it tomorrow. (I have like 11 old hard drives)

To the creator: If you don't want me to post this here please let me know.

Vanyamba (author)2009-09-28

With third hard-drive it could give even more perfect results!

Kegtapper (author)Vanyamba2010-02-14

would help at all
Top to Bottom and Left to Right Axis is all that is needed.

Vanyamba (author)Kegtapper2010-02-14

What about some zooming?

Kegtapper (author)2010-02-14

Was thinking higher speed film and or larger aperture lens would solve that problem without additional hardware. 

ASA 400 film and a 55mm 1.4 Lens would do better.  On cloudy days the shutter open time is longer than on bright days.

arikyeo (author)2009-10-10

 i have the quantum HD u have! it reminds me of those good ol' days... sadly, quantum was bought over by maxtor and it was bought by seagate... maybe next time it will be bought over by Hitachi?

wolfkeeper (author)2009-09-23

Nice, dude. However, I think that 2 gyros mounted like that are equivalent to one gyro mounted with its axis along the optical axis, because they fight each other. You could remove one of the gyros and mount the other at 90 degrees to the way you have it at the moment, and it should perform much the same. (Incidentally your current set up should be fairly unstable to roll around an axis, if the HDs are the same, the optical axis, because the gyros are fighting).

BobS (author)wolfkeeper2009-10-08

Your comment set me thinking. First I thought it would not work. Anyway, I have built a one gyro HD stabilizer . It leaves rotation along the optical axis uncorrected, but with some skill and practice, this can be overcome.

wolfkeeper (author)BobS2009-10-08

Cool.<br /><br />FWIW you can theoretically minimise the roll by mounting the HD so that it's hanging below the camera, on a rigid mount; it will act as a mass damper to roll, and the gyro will stop it twisting in the other two directions. the rod is extra mass, but not too bad; it needs to be *rigid* though; ideally aluminium because it has the best rigidity:weight ratio (better than titanium).<br /><br />(Actually that's how steady cams work, they balance the centre of mass to be on the optical axis and have simple mass dampers around it, as far as possible away from the axis to give the maximum damping and then the user moves the camera via springs- I think they do have gyros as well, but the main trick is the mass dampers.)<br /><br />

wolfkeeper (author)wolfkeeper2009-10-08

I remembered now, they put the centre of mass to be at the pivot point, not the optical axis, so that if you jump up and down it doesn't create any torques.

That's the other trick- you should try to hold the camera at the centre of mass; there's a youtube video of Bill Beaty doing that with a webcam on a tripod hanging down; he just holds it loosely between his fingers and the tripod damps it all out pretty well as he runs around.

jeff-o (author)wolfkeeper2009-09-24

Yeah, I was wondering if you could get away with using just one hard drive...

MYX (author)2009-10-01

Great idea! How long does it take to spin up to full speed? Also, have you tried this with longer lenses? I am wondering if the position of the HDs would need to be moved closer to the nodal center.

BobS (author)MYX2009-10-01

A second or 2 to spin it up. Another few seconds for the arm to wake up (which does nothing afterwards. Large lenses usually have their own tripod screw mount. If not, it would be worth to make one on it.

fety (author)2009-09-28

Bob, do you think hds with more internal platters would affect the way it corrects in a positive way?

BobS (author)fety2009-09-29

3 things determine the amount of centripal force (which determines the gyro effect): Speed (RPM), mass and diameter. So a multi platter 5"25 7200 RPM HD would be a stronger gyro than a single platter 5200 laptop HD.

tezzz (author)2009-09-27

Further thinking, As my small camera is a disc drive I will only need one on the bottom at right angles Hmmmmmm

tezzz (author)2009-09-27

Very Good! I'll file this away in my head-file for future use I have a small video camera I might check out laptop drives

MatthewTaylor (author)2009-09-26

Very nice!!!

bachterman (author)2009-09-26

the results are breathtaking!

zwild1 (author)2009-09-24

Great idea! When would this be more helpful than a tripod?

madmanmoe64 (author)zwild12009-09-24

These units are normally used to get good shots when you're on the move. For example in a car or they are particularly useful for taking shots out of helicopters or boats.

zwild1 (author)madmanmoe642009-09-25

shoot- I feel totally daft. Especially as I'm working on a camera dolly ible now... I'd love to see how this performs with a mounted video camera!

Grathio (author)2009-09-25

Really well done, and amazing results! I suspect in this case the older drives probably work better than newer ones.

iectyx3c (author)2009-09-25

Beautifully done. The photos in step 5 really prove how well this works. Bravo!!!

bloomautomatic (author)2009-09-25

Great job. In your last step you mention replacing the platters with steel or brass. At 5-10,000 rpm, if they're not perfectly balanced they'd probably destroy the bearings or the motors in no time. This system seems to work, so I'd say leave well enough alone.

LuciferRex (author)2009-09-25

Nicely Done!

ITChE (author)2009-09-25

This is one of the best ideas I've seen in a while! Nice work, thanks for sharing.

isacco (author)2009-09-25

This Instructable is great! The idea and design are very intelligent and the final assembled object is very well finished. Good idea and very good crafting. I rate it with 4 stars. Isacco

guitar75 (author)2009-09-24

Thanks for the great write up. I have been kicking around the idea of trying this ever since I came across the pro model
I read somewhere that they use two gyros spinning on the same axis but in opposing directions.

mbudde (author)2009-09-24

This is genius!

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Bio: No more fun than demolition, designing, building, experimenting! I like making things on a really low budget , so most people in this world, who are ... More »
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