Balancing your Camera Stabilizer (DIY, Glidecam, Flycam)

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   The most often question that appears under Camera Supports in forums seems to be "How do I get my Stedicam to behave?" The answer and procedure is actually painless and simple and you don't have to spend hours adding and subtracting weights while the device tries to "turn turtle" and smash your expensive camera onto the hard floor below. Here is a very simple step-by-step guide to gettting your stabilizer up and running in minutes!!!


  Before you even start you do need a quick lesson in physics!! Its critically important to understand why your stedicam is actually behaving so badly. Consider a simple piece of lumber with two equal weights placed at each end and then a pivot point (called a fulcrum) is placed exactly at the center. Because the distance between the two weights is the same they will balance more or less in a horizontal position.

Now, if we double the weight of just one side of our "in-balance" beam, the heavier side will drop to the ground and the lighter side will move in the opposite direction and the beam will now be "out of balance"

If there is no option to keep the weights on each end the same, the beam will never balance unless we move the fulcrum point to compensate for the extra weight on one end. By moving the fulcum point towards the heavier weight we can then reach a point where the beam can again achieve balance even though the weights on each end are different. The very same principal can now be applied to your stabilizer. Using the same principle here, let's first find out where our fulcrum point happens to be on our camera that we are going to use on the stabilizer. It's important to determine this point BEFORE you even attach the camera to the top sled on the stabilizer.

OK, we now need to find out where the centre of balance is on your camcorder!! Slip in a tape, add a battery and anything else that you will be using on the camera. If your stedicam does not have an LCD on the bottom sled then open the LCD door too.

Now, place a nice round pencil on a flat table and place the camcorder's tripod mount hole directly over it and you discover that the camera will instantly tip backwards!! The tripod mount thread is very rarely anywhere near the camera's centre of balance!! Move the camera backwards on the pencil until it tips forward and then forwards again very slowly until by making tiny movements the camera tips forward one way and backwards the other way. Don't try to get it to balance otherwise you will be there all day!! All you are looking for is the approximate centre of balance of the camera. Now mark this point for reference!!!

The next big mistake is trying to mount the camera on the top of the stabilizer whilst holding it up in the air!!!! Make a simple stand (I used a old worklight stand and bolted a piece of pipe to it so the stabilizer handle slips into it and the bottom sled is just about an inch off the floor)

Now load ALL the weights that came with the stabilizer onto the bottom sled equally. This will be way too much of course to operate with BUT it keeps things more stable while you get the top sled right.

Remember your mark on the camera after the pencil balance trick??? Great!! Fix the camera onto the top mounting plate so it's pretty much in the centre and your mark is directly over the centre post of the stabilizer. Don't let go at this point but move your hands about an inch or so away from the camera and see if it falls forward or backward. Adjust the stabilizer plate in tiny increments until the camera remains vertical, then do the same adjustment side to side so the centre post of the stabilizer hangs vertically when you let go.

By determining the cameras centre of balance FIRST, it will be easy to balance the camera on the top sled. You can now reduce the weight on the bottom sled so it's light enough to be practical but if you swing the bottom sled from horizontal it takes about 2 seconds to pass thru the vertical position.


Stabilizers are designed to work with fairly heavy cameras and do it well. If your camcorder weighs less than 2lbs then you will find that adding a block weight to the TOP sled actually helps the device work a lot better. On my system my camera weighs in at 4.5lbs and I need around 2lbs on the bottom sled to balance it nicely. As seen in the photo, you can substitute the weights with an LCD display on one end of the sled and a battery on the other



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