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Steadicam balancing and operation tips
  • Hi folks.

    Last night I got my first steadicam in the mail.

    The budget flycam nano, I didn't expect too much, and I think I'm relatively happy for a cheap first steadicam. It did arrive with a few niggles, the bottom weight holding platform was a little bent, meaning the pole coming out of it wasn't perpendicular to the platform. I wasn't sure whether this would cause a problem, but i've bent it into shape of sort now. After this I experienced the problem where with the cam sort of balanced it would hang vertically with the camera pointing away from me, spin the camera any other way and it would always fall to the right a little. In the end i took apart the gymbal bracket and reattached it with even torque on both screws and i seemed to have improved this symptom mostly.

    As a whole, the flycam nano does seem ok.. balancing is a bit of a chore but I think i can get close fairly quickly. I'm finding the handle a bit frustrating, the grip rubber can shift in certain orientations which always makes me a bit nervous. I also find i have to hold the handle very low down so my hand doesn't contact with the v bracket that holds the gymbal and stops it from flying properly. I brought the arm brace with it too, which helps with the handle holding a little, but in general i do wish the handle was an inch or two longer.

    Now i'm left with a reasonably balanced flycam nano, with my GH2 and 20mm f1.7 lens. I've managed to balance this with only 2 weights on either end of the platform. Which leads me to the first question. To get this to balance i've had to extend the weight platform to about halfway down the pole extension. So I wonder, is there a rule for how much weight to put below, or does more weight with less extension have the same properties as less weight with more extension?

    I've been working with a 2-3 seconds drop time from horizontal, i've seen various recommendations on this, i've noticed the slower this drop time the less pendulum-esque the steadicam behaves when you're flying it.

    I've seen mention of static and dynamic balanced. I'm not clear on how to verify whether or not I have achieved dynamic balance, i'll assume static is sufficient for the steadicam to remain vertical when placed there, in all camera y-axis rotations.

    Whenever I see video of folks showing a balanced steadicam they always shift it forwards, back, left and right with it remaining pretty vertical and stable. I can do this, however when i do do this I find that the camera tends to spin on its y-axis a little. Related to this if i'm walking with the steadicam and i change direction the same rotation can occurs and has to be combatted with the other hand damping the vertical post or even turning it back the desired direction. Is this the behaviour of a balanced steadicam, or a symptom of one that's not quite balanced, or perhaps has an over lubricated gymbal? I'm wondering if the compact nature of the GH2 and 20mm lens is meaning that it doesn't have a very large or dense z-axis which is meaning that its moment of inertia in that axis is so small that its easy to rotate as i've just described.. So i'm wondering if i balance it with a heavier and longer 14-140mm lens I may find it is less likely to turn.

    I guess that's about it. Any help or advice would be really appreciated! I accept that it's going to take a lot more practice, but i just want to get a feel of whether i'm in the right area.

  • 18 Replies sorted by
  • thanks a lot. I'm gonna give mine a second chance as I really hate my flycam:) I've got some fairly decent results but it's a pain to use generally. Hopefully in this thread we'll be able to squeeze whatever this little thing has to offer.
  • Haven't had the time to test this myself, but I think it will do the trick with dynamic balance.

    First video I've seen that put the rod horizontal and tries out a 360 balancing of the cam. This must be what makes people upset with the nano: improper dynamic balance.
  • It's hard to see what's being done whilst the horizontal balancing is being performed. Also he then seems to go on and perform balancing from a vertical orientation which surely will undo any of the tweaks he'd previously done whilst horizontal.

    I'm relatively happy with the quick tests i've done so far. I've tried it with the 14-140mm lens which makes for a heavier rig, i didn't find this any less likely to rotate when moving it, so perhaps my gimble is more free than some, but i think i'll need to pretty much always fly with two hands, which seems to be the advised way of doing things regardless. I'm just not sure whether touching the pole, even lightly effects other qualities of the smoothness of the motion. Clearly this stuff doesn't get fixed without LOTS of practice, i just hope my arm is up to it :)
  • I think he only does the front/back adjustments in horizontal (top screws on the sled), then he goes on with the left/right adjustments in vertical (screws underneath) . Finally adjust height to get good droptime. It's a bit different from Emms approach in this video:

    He starts with the pole in the middle instead of it being at it shortest setting. I think my first example eliminates using too many weights.

  • Hey JimTreats, I got my Flycam Nano on 25th Feb'12, and having the same exact freaking weird problem, and anxiously looking for a solution. Did you get any fix? let me know. BTW you have explained the problem very accurately kudos for that! Thanks.

    Regards, Knave.

  • Hey Knave, I've not really flown my flycam much since posting here. I tried it on one shoot and it was nothing but a pain to try and get balanced and time was of the essence.. this was after i thought i'd got perfect balance the night before.

    I'll assume you have the problem of the camera rotating in the y-axis as you do movments.. I don't know if all steadicams suffer with this, i can see how the physics involved may cause it.

    Glad you were able to pick through my waffling.. it really is complicated stuff to get your head round, and fiddly. I do wish for a steadicam which was easier to adjust!!

    Good luck.. for the money its better than nothing! I have since brought the SLRMagic 12mm lens and this is wide enough that footage almost feels steadicam esque without the steadicam!!!


  • @andyvia68

    Thanks for posting.

    Try to add english CC to videos, if you can, please.

  • search for flycam here in topics. I had the same problem and this hint was usefull for me: There is a big difference between Canon 5D and Pana GH2. GH2 is too light!

  • if it's too light add some plates to make it heavier.

  • Hey i opted for a pretty cheap steadicam option, this cowboy studio stabalizer.

    I've been having a hard time getting a I have any shot with this? im using the 14-42 lens but I also plan on using a mamiya 35mm

  • Do yourself a favour before you try and balance your stabilizer and draw, or find a straight line on the ground, align the cut outs on the bottom (weights) plate over the line and then stand above it and make sure your lens is dead straight. If it is not dead straight then most balancing adjustmens will be in vain, and your stabliser will always go its own way. I have a similar sort of unit it and came with 4 weights (approx 400g) which is just right for the 14-42 lens. As far as drop times go, I reckon Philip Bloom's camera assistant gives one of the best demos i've seen on his website. Good luck.