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camera How to get smooth camera movement without a gimbal but using handheld?

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
How do you make handheld movement look like a gimbal?
Simple! Go to mime school for four years. Those people really know how to move.

Otherwise buy a gimbal cause you aren't a mime.
 
A simple steadycam like support will work but you have to understand how it works before you buy one or make one.

The full blown steadcam has a camera support, some spring loaded four bar linkage and a support vest. The four bar linkage connects the camera support to the body harness while allowing the operator to move the camera any way they want. The idea is this; if you can walk with a glass of water in your hand without shaking and spilling it, you have the basic skill to start using a steadycam, because that's really what you're doing with the camera; you're walking without shaking it. I'll get to the stuff you need to know but first a little more on the 'real' steadycam. The reason for the spring loaded four bar linkage connecting the camera support to the support vest is simply to transfer the weight of the camera to the operator's torso so that it becomes nearly weightless in his hand. Remember, the steadycam originated when heavy film cameras were being used. A camera operator could not possibly hold the camera in their hand and walk with it. So, the steadycam essentially makes the camera weightless in the operator's hand, but there's more; Inertia. The heavy film camera has inertia. That is to say, even though it is balanced and weightless when attached to the steadycam and operator, it still has inertia because of it's mass. This means that the operator can not easily make it shake or tilt. It will naturally move smoothly. The more inertia, the smoother the camera will naturally move. That's why you can run up stairs or jump over tree branches and the footage will be as smooth as if the camera was floating on air.

The camera you will be using probably weighs about a pound. You don't need a steadcam to support it's weight. You could easily hold the camera and run with it, but what would you get? a bunch of shaky footage, and that's not what you want. So, if you attach your light weight camera to a support like this one;
stabilizer.JPG


You can get some smooth footage. Here's a tip; the heavier the camera and support, the smoother the video will be. You should add weight to the camera , which means you have to add more weight to the counter balance at the bottom of the rig. If you can get the fully loaded rig to weigh around 8 pounds, I think with a little practice you will be able to get some pretty smooth footage for around $50.
 
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You can get some smooth footage. Here's a tip; the heavier the camera and support, the smoother the video will be. You should add weight to the camera , which means you have to add more weight to the counter balance at the bottom of the rig. If you can get the fully loaded rig to way around 8 pounds, I think with a little practice you will be able to get some pretty smooth footage for way less than $100.
This. When I first bought a Canon Rebel T2i in 2010, it was my first experience with rolling shutter. I was getting ready to shoot an action film with a lot of "handheld" and needed a way to make it look good. I realized that if I could make the camera bigger, then that would help take out the micro shakes and make it feel like it was shot with a larger camera. My tripod became my go to tool. I would pick up the tripod by two legs and chase actors around. That was my handheld look. Sometimes I wore rollerblades too for extra smoothness. Other times I would collapse the legs and lay them on my shoulder, positioning the camera just in front of my face. This became my shoulder rig. Both allowed me to make the camera feel larger than it was.
 
This is good advice. Although I believe sfoster is joking, it's not far from the truth. I've practiced martial arts as a hobby through the years and I feel that has lended itself well to camera movement/balance - being able to lock your back/waist/movie on an axis. Also, ever see in a movie or a video of an actual soldier/marine doing that 'gun walk' (walking quickly but stealthily with one foot over the other with large gun drawn)? Anything that promotes muscle discipline is useful; martial arts, ballet and ..miming. 😄 Also, I couldn't help but be reminded of this:
 
attach the camera to a tripod and turn the tripod upside down hanging from a cord.
my tripod has a ring underneath the junction area perhaps for this purpose
adjustments may be possible in post

many cameras now have one or more internal stabilizers.

using moving camera depends on the purpose
and may not be needed for many scenes
a camera set at a distance on a fixed tripod set at a perpendicular axis showing a character or vehicle moving - long shot
when the actor gets to the door of the house, camera position is changed for medium and closeups

a lot of handheld camera is unsuccessful and not for motives connected with the story
like making it look like news footage or creating a sense of immediacy or intimacy -- that never really work.
(when it's a monster movie, we want to see the monster, not get confused by the camera)
this mistake is made all the time in fight scenes.

the great films of the 1950's by people like John Ford were done with fixed camera.
you can see the camera moving on a straight horizontal line to reveal another person or view, then dropping down on a straight vertical line.
this was better camerawork than that being done now
 
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In a fight scene, using a hand held camera mix with close-ups usually means the actors don't really know how to fight.

Think about this; the hand held camera technique so popular since Blair Witch simulated bad camera technique; Documentary style where the cameraperson just hopes the shot is in focus while they try to keep the shot framed. Why would anyone want to simulate that?
 
How to get smooth camera movement without a gimbal but using handheld?
It’s simple, attach something reeeaaaaaaaally heavy to the bottom of your camera. I don’t mean a tripod, get like a heavy brick shaped box or something, attach the flat plate of a tripod with the suitable screw for your camera on it - to the top of whatever heavy brick or square shaped thing You find. Then attach your camera onto it. Now just hold onto the moderately heavy brick thing with the camera on it. Move the camera via moving the brick / box which is it’s foundation. If you have ever filmed with an iPad you will know, moving something bigger or heavier creates a smoother result. You don’t need something insanely expensive, just get a box and fill it with heavy stuff, attach the camera to the top by whatever suitable means and boom. Smooth As hell, smoother depending on how big the foundation is. Now, moving the connected base to move the camera is the smoothest option, but having hands on the camera itself also is pretty smooth with the weight - or any weight attached. You can also easily take this to the next level for no cost if you just have some creativity in you. Most stabilisation equipment below Hollywood grade is overpriced weight and suspension, thats it. You can easily create that for free, it’s just weight, suspension and longevity.
 
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