Friday, July 16, 2010

DIY iPhone 4 Steadicam

I've been working on a fun little project that I though I'd share.  After getting the new iPhone, and really digging the quality of the video, I tried to do some filming, only to get motion sick looking at the footage.  There's no image stabilization that I can tell on the phone, and hand holding a tiny lightweight camera obviously causes a lot of shaking.  So after doing some research around the net I decided to build this:



I do get that this is a stupid amount of work to put into improving the video quality of a cell phone, that fact didn't escape me as the nerd haze descended over my eyes, and I started sawing and drilling.  But my precious iPhone 4 demanded to get a fair shot at being a real camcorder, and I think it rose to the challenge admirably.

I know that Tiffen is coming out with an iPhone steadicam sometime soon, but that's likely to costs hundreds of dollars, and doesn't come with a modified Nerf gun handle, which I think is a big design oversight.  Besides, it's more fun to build these kinds of frivolous things yourself.  All you need for this $30-$40 worth of parts from Home Depot and your local skate shop, and thick enough skin to actually take this thing out in public.  I've included an instructional video below, as well a short demonstration I did.  Keep in mind when watching that you still need to learn how to use a steadicam to get the most out of it.



DIY Instructional Vid:
And just in case the quality sucks on the YouTube version, here's a Vimeo link to the demo video:

iPhone 4 Steadicam from Spencer Watson on Vimeo.

Let me know in the comments if you want more detail on how to build one yourself.  If you're looking for parts for it I put them in my Video and Rigging section of my store (the link is toward the top right of the page).  And if anyone knows the names of those Portland skaters in the demo vid please let me know so I can update the videos with the credit they very much deserve.

Edit:

And for the record, I'm not claiming to have invented anything here.  So a huge thank you to all the people who posted great instructions on making the different parts.  I'll try to post some credits soon, until then hit up Google and YouTube for more great instructions.

And thanks very much Gizmodo, CrunchGear and Make for featuring this How To.  I hope people have fun trying this for themselves (and probably making mine look like crap in comparison).

('DiggThis’)

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

dude great stuff spencer you need to show me how to get stuff off my hd camera and keep it hd when i spread it all over the net... that sounded bad.
love shane

brady said...

you made it on gizmodo, cheers to that.

Spencer S. Watson said...

Wow, that's awesome! Super stoked to be on all my favorite sites!

Oh, and to the guy who keeps popping up here calling me a thief. Yeah, I 'stole' lots of ideas to make this, probably some 'stolen' from the guy you keep mentioning. Whatever, feel free to link to the guy's How To, that would probably be really helpful to everyone. Just don't be an ass about it, that's why I keep deleting your comments.

I probably should credit everyone who posted How To's, I didn't think this would get any attention. I'll try to post an update with additional links (although there's also this site called Google).

Anonymous said...

Nice and simple. Good DIY vid. But how are you attaching the long threaded piece to the inside of the bearing?

Spencer S. Watson said...

Oh yeah, good question, I forgot that part. I used 5/16th hex bolts on either side, then saw someone that used 5/16th locking nuts. That worked better, and really held it in place, but was really hard to thread up that long threaded rod. I ended up putting the nut in a vice, and spinning the rod with a power drill until the nut was in place.

Jon Schull said...

How do you point it (keep it from turning left or right)?

Spencer S. Watson said...

Jon, it was pretty good about staying straight on its own, since it was bottom heavy, but when I wanted to turn it I just used a wrench on the center rod, close to the gimbal. Ideally I'd like a variable friction bearing like this guy did:

http://www.diycamera.com/stabiliser/index.html

But that seems like overkill for a cell phone rig. Maybe when I make a real one.

Lee Hammond Photography said...

Looks good! I've built something similar, that has a single weight directly under the camera. See here: http://14dollarstabilizer.org
Your main aim to lower the center of gravity of the assembly and reduce rotation about the pivot: where you hold the assembly.

BiggShaad said...

What camera did you use to shoot the DIY Instructional Video?

Rob said...

Maybe I'm a complete idiot, but I looked through the store and can't find any of the components for the steady cam. Am I missiing something?

This is a pretty cool (and geeky) idea. I can't wait to build one.

Anonymous said...

Very cool project. I do like the Nerf gun handle . . .another option if you don't have a Nerf gun lying around is an aerosol spray gun trigger handle. Search google(shopping) for "aerosol trigger".

Defiant Marshmallow said...

This is really impressive. Great job, and your video "how to" was also really well done. I have the iPhone 4 and think that it does warrant something to help steady it for videos. So this isn't overkill, or overgeek to me, it's just plain old ingenuity. Congratulations and thanks for sharing!

Glenn M.
Lititz, PA

Root said...

I like it thanks you very much :x
Download Phim-Film | Download game | Software | My Blog | NonStop DJ | VietNamNet

Anonymous said...

This is the BEST homemade stabilizer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qycGKHD5Is4

We are Scotch and RaChelle said...

PDF version? With sizes....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I'm in the process of building mine right now. I had one question...

What is the purpose of the cross bar on the bottom? Wouldn't it work with just the weights on the end of the rod?

Spencer S. Watson said...

Thanks everyone for the comments, I'll try to answer some of your questions.

The camera I used for the instructional vid is the Canon 5D Mark II, and I'm working on lots of DIY and budget film making tips and tricks for the Mark II and it's little sister the 7D that I'll post soon.

The phone holder component is now on the first page of my store (top right of the page).

I might do a PDF with instructions once I finalize the design of rig, but honestly this whole project is a really low priority for me.

And the cross bar at the bottom is to balance the rig from leaning forward or back. I've changed the design to focus on balance, and will post a follow up video this weekend.

Thanks again to everyone. Now that this project is more or less done, is there anything else you'd be interested in seeing (more DIY budget film making, photoshop tutorials, lighting tutorials, vintage Bulgarian pornography)?

Stan said...

Hi,

Can you give us dimentions for the rod and the cross bar?

Can you also give more details about how the gimbal attachment to the rod

Thank you

Allan W. said...

Hey Spencer, love the project and videos! I saw this a few weeks back, and it didn't register with me - isn't that first skate shot Pier Park in St. Johns? I recognize the giant tunnel. I was there with my kids the other day, and shot some bowl skaters with my iPhone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1xUMejQhOc

Excited for the detail, but there's definitely some jello-ing in fast motion. I edited in FCP and hit it with some film looks. Looking forward to more, and I hope I run into you in town sometime!

- Allan White
http://whitebalanceimages.com

Spencer S. Watson said...

Hi Allan, yep that is Pier Park. Your video looks good, I like the grading you did. The more I use this thing for home movies the less I worry about the crappy sensor, and jello effect. Maybe in a decade or so these short comings will have the same sort of lo-fi nostalgic appeal that super-8 does now.

cyclebell said...

Hi spencer awesome work, khudos

jackob said...

Wow this is AWESOME, soooo cool! I didn't even think this was possible! Definately donate!!!!
iPhone Porting, iPhone Migration

Qlmpnr said...

Spencer - your innovation and video are really fantastic (yeah, nothing is original - everything is stolen - yada yada - your solution is still cheap, practical, and amazingly DO-able). I might actually try to build one.
I keep thinking, though, that with the accelerometer and the gyro in the iPhone4, someone should be able to come up with a Steadicam app for the video feature. Ajay Joshi has come up with a great start for the still camera - SteadyShotCamera - which is simple, but FREE. Wouldn't it be sweet if you could get software corrected video results without the contraption factor?
Keep it up though, thanks.

manutencao iphone said...

The iPhone 4 seems to have a camera which should deliver an image quality on par with the lower segment of P&S cameras. It's field of view (no zoom!) corresponds to a 30mm lens (on a 35mm film camera) and it captures as much light (produces as much noise) as a system camera with a lens aperture between f/11 (FourThird) and f/22 (35mm film).

Juan Romero said...

Wow!, great steadycam spencer, I definetly am very interested on knowing more about how to make one myself, the howto video is good, but some of us need a little more details. Any chance of getting this as a written document? That'd be great. Since I live in Spain, I'm not getting the parts from home depot but from something called "brico king" so, most likely I'll have to adapt it to metric and for some parts I'll have to use similar components, but not exactly the same you use. Thank you very much.

Paolo said...

Great job, Spencer! And thanks for making the whole demo so aesthetically pleasing!

download said...

I like it thanks you very much :x

Anonymous said...

With this camera mount used the center of mass is never on the rod. Did you try other mounts?

Anonymous said...

Great post!

mary brown said...

There's no image stabilization that I can tell on the phone, and hand holding a tiny lightweight camera obviously causes a lot of shaking. So after doing some research around the net I decided to build this:safe jailbreak iphone 4

iPad Mini Dock said...

Wow, that's awesome! Super stoked to be on all my favorite sites!

Sweet Fairy said...

That is pretty good. Thanks for sharing. en ucuz iphone

James Bullard said...

Thanks Spencer!...is there a shopping list of all the parts needed on here?

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