A Camera Stabilizer from Plumbing Parts: DIY Gear Resources

Friday, June 29th, 2012 by Jeff Gray, KET

Some of us have been interested lately in making some Do-It-Yourself camera gear: stabilizers, cranes and jibs, dollies, etc. There are a lot of plans and how-to videos online. One stabilizer that seemed easy to try and inexpensive to make was the “$14 Camera Stabilizer,” by Johnny Chung Lee. So I got the parts from a local hardware supply store and a couple of hours later I had a camera stabilizer to play with, pictured above being used by our Cynthia Warner as a camcorder support.

The actual project cost for me was about $25 with a new drill bit. I hadn’t made anything like that in a long time and I have Homer Simpson skills, but it went together easily and the stabilzer works pretty well. For today’s light cameras that are hard to keep steady this type of stabilizer basically provides a counterweight for you to lift against, resulting in smoother camera movement.  As you can see in my test using a tripod adapter for recording with an iPad, below, practicing smooth body movements gets smoother shots (best ones were moving around the tree and along the windows). Johnny Lee also says that that’s the big factor in success; his $14 Camera Stabilizer site has some good-looking test videos that show good results.

It seems as though the iPad camera may not do to well processing fast pans either, along with its flickering auto-iris exposure adjustments, so one might want to also move slowly when panning to get better results. Some iPad camera apps have exposure and focus locking to try as well. Another problem in using iPads for video is that bright sunlight can almost totally obscure the screen. We’ll try to make a sun shield to see if that will help.

Here’s a test video using the DIY stabilizer with an iPad tripod adapter:

Here are some other good sites for DIY camera gear and fun project tutorials, demos, and more :

We’ll be making a handmade camera crane-jib next. Teachers, check out these sites for some clever, fun, and useful projects you can do with your students (note: preview before sharing, as there may be some inappropriate language, content).


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