Camera movement is one feature of media production that can really set the look and feel of your project apart from the rest. Dolly and track, camera jibs or cranes, tripod sliders and camera stabilizers are all different options when it comes to providing this camera movement, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. Set up time, production logistics, crew size and equipment availability can also come into play when planning for the use of this type of equipment. One of the more popular and technically interesting types of camera support that can be used is the camera stabilizer, or more brand specific, the Steadicam.
A Steadicam is a stabilizing mount for a film or video camera which mechanically separates the operator’s movements from the movement of the camera, allowing a very smooth shot even when the operator is moving over an uneven surface. This separation is done with a mechanical “arm” between the camera and the operator. The complete system includes a supportive vest worn by the operator, what Steadicam calls an “iso-elastic arm” with a series of cables, pulleys and internal springs with adjustable tension and a carefully counterbalanced “sled” to hold the camera, system electronics and the operator monitor.
The Steadicam was introduced to the industry in 1976 by inventor and cameraman Garrett Brown, who originally called his invention the “Brown Stabilizer”. The Steadicam was first used in the 1976 feature film Bound for Glory, but its breakthrough movies are considered to be Rocky in 1976 and the 1980 film The Shining. Here’s part one of a short piece featuring Garrett Brown on Science of the Movies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXQP3mlPA_s
Originally manufactured by Cinema Products, Steadicam is now a registered trademark of Tiffen. There are several different models available based on cost, unit features and the ability to handle different camera types, sizes and weights.
The advantages of the Steadicam system are the improved stability over a hand held or shoulder mounted camera and the increased mobility and flexibility over the dolly and track. It can help with production logistics such as rough terrain, tight spaces, stairs and spontaneous camera/talent choreography. It becomes an economic resource that saves set up time, money and manpower. It can also be mounted in or on vehicles like cars and golf carts to do moving shots or running footage of other vehicles. Most of all, it becomes an artistic tool allowing point-of-view shots, variable perspective shots, the ability to put the lens where and when you want it and it can offer very unique and original camera movements, angles and choreography.
If you would like to see a Steadicam in action or would like to see a few examples of the types of shots a Steadicam can provide for your production, feel free to give us a call here at PentaVision. We would be happy to discuss our Steadicam system with you and talk about what it can offer to you and your project. If your spine is feeling especially strong or you need an excuse to visit your chiropractor, we may even let you strap it on for a test drive…although our insurance company might frown on that one.