Introduction: CAMERA STABILIZER
Here is an easy-to-build, highly versatile camera stabilizer that can be constructed with readily available parts and basic tools.
Step 1: OVERALL DESCRIPTION
This device was primarily built for shooting from moving vehicles, especially when filming other moving vehicles, such as boat-to-boat, car-to-car, and helicopter-to-ground vehicles or boats. The basic principle is that simple weights, when connected to a camera, eliminate jitter and giggle and allow for smooth, stable video. Of course, as with a steadicam or other such devices, the arms and legs of the cameraperson are an important part of the system. The rig can be hand held as shown, but I have also had great success hanging the assembly from the top of a helicopter door using the necessary number of bungies to support the total weight and allow free movement.
Step 2: PARTS LIST
The solid aluminum hub was cut from a 1.5" thick piece of aluminum. Bar stock with the necessary thickness and a width of 2.5" and a foot long can be bought from McMaster Carr for about $32, but you will have a big leftover piece. Maybe a local recycling yard will have something you can use, which is where mine came from.
The hub has 6 equal sides and measures 2.25" across any two flat surfaces. A 3/8' hole is drilled all the way through the center to be used for mounting cameras. On three of the six sides a 5/16 threaded hole is tapped (a 1/4" drill is normally correct for the 3/16 - 16 tap).
I used three pieces of 5/16 all-thread rod to attach the weights. They are about 15 inches long -- I cut three form a 4' piece.
The aluminum tubes that I used to stiffen the rig and keep the weights in position at the ends of the threaded rods are about 12" long and from 3/4 tube stock.
The lead weights were made from scraps of lead that I melted (on the gas grill) and poured into three roughly 3" diameter tuna fish cans. I later peeled the cans off the lead weights. These each have a 5/16" hole drilled through the middle.
I used nuts to lock the threaded rods into the hub so they wouldn't twist when attaching the tubes and weights, and added a flat washer to the outcries of the lead weights. So a total of 6 nuts and three washers complete the list.
Step 3: CONSTRUCTION
I am fortunate to have a band saw to use for cutting the aluminum, but I suppose the hub could be cut out by hand. A great deal of precision is not required. A little lubricating spray makes the blade work smoother and cooler, especially on a thick piece like this. I used a fixed belt sander to smooth the surfaces -- the one shown here has seen quite a few jobs over the years and the surfaces are a little banged-up.
A drill press is best for drilling the holes to be sure they are reasonably accurate in terms of the 90 degree angle to the respective surfaces. Remember, use a 1/4" drill for the tapped 5/16" holes -- the camera mounting hole can be 3/8 inch for cameras with the larger mount holes and this is also OK if you use a 1/4" camera mounting screw.
The steel all-thread rod must be cut with a hack saw, and a bench grinder is handy for smoothing up the ends so the nuts will start smoothly.
Most recycling centers also have some scraps of lead that can be melted into the end-weights. Drilling lead can be oddly difficult and again, use some lubricating spray and a slow spindle speed to keep the drill from binding.