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4 DIY Camera Stabilizers For Under $50

Camera stabilizers can be the difference between shaky, unusable footage and beautiful shots that put your viewer in the heart of the…
4 DIY Camera Stabilizers For Under $50

Camera stabilizers can be the difference between shaky, unusable footage and beautiful shots that put your viewer in the heart of the action. The only problem is that stabilizers can be bulky and expensive. However, with a little time and patience you can make your own camera stabilizers with materials you can find at any hardware store.

1. Camera Dolly

What you use it for: A dolly is a camera rig with wheels that moves alongside your subject. If you’re going to shoot tracking shots, a camera dolly will greatly reduce shake. Often a camera dolly will be placed on a smooth track to ensure there will be no bumps. It is also frequently used in shots where a subject is sitting and talking because having the camera circle the subject will keep your viewer from getting bored. And you can use it for push and pull shots, which are similar to zoom shot, but gives a different feeling to your audience.

An example of a push shot from the movie Jaws.

What you need to make your own:

  • (1) Tripod head
  • (2) Painters sticks
  • (1) 16" 2X4 board
  • (1) Wood board 8" wide (longer than 10")
  • (1) Long piece of 1 1/2" angle aluminum
  • Tape measure
  • (8) Skate wheels
  • (2) Carriage bolts
  • (8) Hex bolts
  • (8) Block washers
  • (36) Regular washers
  • (20) Nuts
  • Black paint (not water based)
  • Dremel
  • Hacksaw
  • Drill

Total cost: Less than $50

Set it up:

Credit: Parker’s Tutorials

2. GoPro Gimbal

What you use it for: A GoPro is great for getting shots in the heat of action, but just because you are using a GoPro doesn’t mean your shots need to be shaky. A gimbal is a handgrip that allows the rotation of your camera on a single axis. You can also get a three-axis gimbal for even further stabilization. A gimbal is designed to isolate the camera from your movements, so that regardless of how you move, your shot will stay steady.

Smooth footage using a GoPro gimbal. Credit: Alex Meliss

What you need to make your own:

  • Corner Brace steel
  • (2) 1/12 Precision ball bearings
  • Bolts and nuts
  • Clear epoxy
  • Kids’ scooter handle
  • (4) Plastic bottle caps
  • (1) Piece of wood

Total cost: $5

Set it up:

Credit: Brains techKnowlogy
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3. Steadicam

A Steadicam is actually a brand of stabilizer that was created as an alternative to a dolly. A steadicam uses weight at the bottom of the rig to eliminate small shakes and twitches that come from holding it in your hands above. When shooting and walking at the same time, you may not have the luxury of being somewhere that a dolly can roll. Some steadicams will even use a weighted vest to keep the camera steady and to compensate for any shake.

A steadicam shot from the movie Wolf of Wall Street.

What you need to make your own:

  • Power drill
  • Galvanized steel pipe
  • (1) 1/2" Metal T joint
  • Metal end caps
  • (1) 1/2" Metal flange
  • (1) 1" Thick wood:
  • (1) 3/4" Screw
  • (1) 1/4" Machine bolt washer
  • (1) 2.5lb Weight plate

Total cost: $15

Set it up:

Credit: Indy Mogul

4. Shoulder Mount

A shoulder mount puts the audience in the scene with the subject and gives them the feeling they are moving along with the camera. A shoulder mount is a middle ground between holding a camera and using a Steadicam. It produces more camera shake than a Steadicam, but much less than if you were holding the camera. This is something you will see a lot in war films where the filmmaker is trying to get you to experience what the character is seeing and feeling. These rigs can also include weights that counterbalance the weight of the camera and eases the stress on the filmmaker.

Footage shot with a shoulder rig demonstrating a more realistic feel than the Steadicam. Credit: BR Video

What you need to make your own:

  • (1) 3/4" PVC pipe
  • (1) Piece of thermocol
  • (6) 32–2" Machine screws
  • (6) 30 Machine screw nuts
  • Drill bit and drill
  • Saw
  • Heat gun
  • Tape measure
  • All-Purpose cement
  • Cover plate

Total cost: $20–30

Set it up:

Credit: Film Riot

Bonus: The Rubber Band Stabilizer

If you are in the field, and have no way of using any sort of camera rig or tripod, there are a few homemade solutions you can use. These solutions won’t replace the actual equipment, but it may get you through your shot. For this stabilizer, you just need to attach a rubber band through your belt loop and tie a knot. Then attach the other end onto your camera plate. Now when you pull away, you will feel resistance, which is what will keep your camera from shaking.

What you need to make your own: (1) Rubber band

Set it up:

Credit: Filmora Video Editor
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By Josh Futtersak, Storyhunter Writer