Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: No more shaky filming

By Justin Newcombe

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Justin shows off his ugly but functional handycam stabiliser. Photo / Natalie Slade
Justin shows off his ugly but functional handycam stabiliser. Photo / Natalie Slade

A simple attachment to your handycam can make all the difference to your home movies, explains Justin Newcombe

After watching one of my own handycam filming efforts during a karate tournament recently - where I was so busy cheering my son on that the camera work was reduced to a jerky train wreck - I thought a camera stabiliser would be a good idea.

Its basic principle is to counterweight the camera from underneath so the camera is always self-correcting and upright. The end of the stabiliser hangs free while the camera is screwed into a metal plate.

You hold the camera by a handle that has bearings inside, attached to a universal socket joint that smooths any movements, while the counterweights on the long pivoting arms correct any sideways motion. My version is a little crude and made up from bits and pieces I collected from my local Bunnings but it does an amazing job.

The most important part is the handle, which is very simple. Don't be put off by my long instruction, it is only a 10-minute job to work out and put together.

I've used a series of short wooden arms which form an arch, finishing under and behind the handle. I've used large washers as a counterweight to the weight of the camera: you'll need to use larger washers if your camera is larger than mine.

Here I've built the basic model which I'll admit looks pretty ugly but it works really well.

As long as you get the basic idea organised, the variations and modifications are endless. One addition I've made since is to a second set of counterweights on the second-to-last wooden arm to give two points of counter-balance. This gave excellent results.

Best of all, it is perfect for filming while still cheering your kids crossing the finish line.

Step 1

Use a small aluminium torch as your handle. Remove the insides from the torch (or you could use a piece of aluminium or PVC piping about 10cm to 20cm long instead).

Step 2

Cut a piece of threaded pipe the same length as your handle. Use a set of nuts and lock washers to position a set of bearings at each end of the threaded rod. I used a set of bearings from my son's skateboard - you want to make sure that the bearings fit as snugly as possible into the diameter of the handle. Slip this into the torch casing to see it fits.

Step 3

Insert two small tech screws through the torch casing as close as possible to the bearing without touching it. This will stop the bearing section from sliding out of the torch casing.

Step 4

Take a universal socket joint from a socket set (Bunnings sell them separately) and remove the base (the bit with a hole through it). Insert a screw that fits the base of your camera through the middle of the socket base, then reassemble it all back into the handle.

Step 5

Attach a second socket which will fit over the nut in the handle and clip it into the first universal socket (I used a half-inch socket).

Step 6

Take a piece of galvanised stainless steel or aluminium plate the same width as your camera. Use a vice to bend the front about 30 degrees. Drill a hole for the camera screw through the centre.

Step 7

Cut two 280mm sections and two 180mm sections of 20x20mm timber. Notch 10mm and round each end so each piece can be joined with a screw. Attach one 280mm length to the angled section of the base plate then attach the next 280mm length to the first, using bolts, wing-nuts and washers. Add the two shorter sections.

Step 8

Drill a hole in the end of the last section and place a heavy 60mm bolt to hold the washers. Attach the washers with a wing-nut.

- NZ Herald

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