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  • Steady 101: The Steadicam to the stabilizer

    In the world of filmmaking, technology improves at a dizzying pace. Miniturization of components meant that the capabilities for making movies began to be available to the average consumer…the video revolution of the 70s and 80s bought hand-held video technology to the masses. Suddenly we were able to create our own moving picture narratives without having to go to film school and learn how to light a scene, how to cut film, how to operate huge film cameras and expensive rigs.
    A whole new wave of filmmakers were born; teenagers cutting together their own homemade epics on vcr decks growing into Hollywood mainstream movie directors in their own right.
    Following on the coat-tails of the video revolution was DSLRs, a long-time staple of photographers suddenly expanded to include high quality digital video, with a huge range of lenses adapted for use across a range of cameras. The indie filmmaker had a powerful new weapon.
    A dizzying range of accessories arrived on the market to support this kind of filmmaking, as the DSLR camera needed a completely different style of operation compared to the over-the-shoulder camera. New solutions to old filmmaking problems arose, and a new market came into it’s own.
    steadijr-1-lgThe Steadicam adapted, bringing the Steadicam Jr. This was a direct response to these recording tools being put in the ‘prosumer’s’ hands…the personal filmmaker looking to have an edge over others with smooth steady shots. The technology that was utilized to support larger equipment took a level of training, was heavy, and expensive. This technology was a step forward, a reduction in price, weight, and ease-of-use.

    The next wave followed swiftly, the move to smaller cameras shaped by photographers instead of videographers demanded a different kind of stabilization technology. Actually, the solution had been utilized for quite literally centuries…even in filmmaking, it was not a new innovation. It took a creative spark to make the technology leap from helicopters, planes and boats, to drones, and shortly after, to hand-held technology.

    Stabilization had evolved to gimbals and gyroscopes on a digital level, into a price range and size that could be embraced by the indipendant filmmaker once more, just as the technologies that preceeded it had evolved to a consumer level, so did this form of technology.

    Over the next few years, as is the norm, price, portability, and ease of use came down to the level that could be adopted by all kinds of filmmakers. The technology is rapidly improving, enabling complex, steady shot compositions to be pulled off by the ambitious prosumer

    Additional Links:

    More information about the history and usage of the Gimbal and the Gyroscope, both important components of the modern stabilizer.

    Different methods of Image Stabilization are discussed here.

    Arguably the first foray into hand-held dslr stabilization, utilizing the gimbal technology.

    An excellent article highlighting different forms of Gimbal technology and the Panasonic GH4

  • Stabilization did not begin with The Steadicam, but it is a good place to start with the modern era of steadying footage while on the move. This technology was a huge stride forward in terms of both portability and stabilization. The era began with one man called Garrett Brown. It is a testament to his design that his invention is in wide usage in modern cinema and television, despite the rapid evolution of camera technology.

    The first movie use of the steadicam, Bound For Glory stands up well even with modern Steadicam usage, combining a crane shot with a tracking shot.

    Additional links:

    Refocused Media has put together a fantastic visual representation of some of the best STeadicam shots in movie history. It is far from a complete guide, but it is a great way to showcase the artform.

    SteadiShots is a fantastic resource for an archive of Steadicam shots in the movies, showcasing camera operators. Easy to navigate.

    Garret Brown‘s own words. Straight from the inventor’s mouth. Still alive, still innovating the medium.

    Wiki entry detailing the history of the format.

    One of many great interviews with the creator that you can find on the internet.

    A little more about the usage and techniques HERE.


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