If you’d like to get your camera off the tripod and add smooth-motion capture to your video work, take a look at this modified setup of the Flycam Nano DSLR system adapted for use with the GoPro Hero. If you’re not currently shooting with a GoPro system, no worries, the information in this post can be equally applied to any small or mid-size camera on the market today. I do however recommend the Hero for its frame rate capabilities, specifically the ability to capture 60fps (frames-per-second) at 1080p resolution, not to mention its usefully small size.
Stabilizing for Walking Shots
Companies are now making available on the consumer level the cinematic tools developed and used by the motion picture industry for decades. One such tool is a vertical stabilizing device designed to remove the up-and-down ‘pogo’ effect created as we walk, generally known as a steadicam. The system we’re using here is the Flycam Nano DSLR. This unit is lightweight and produces such consistent results that it’s become an integral part of my event and real estate video workflow.
The Nano is designed to carry a DSLR payload with washer weights located at the bottom of the unit to counter-balance the top and front-heaviness of the camera and lens. The upper portion of the Nano is adjustable in both side-to-side and fore-aft directions via thumb screw to dial in the center point for proper balance. This is a handy feature and, while there are other models available that offer additional micro-adjustment for larger capacities, it is unnecessary to do so if you should need or choose to go with a smaller camera. The slighter build of the Nano allows it to be easily adapted and used with any small to mid-size camera. All we need is the proper balance and we’re rolling.
Mounting and nailing the balance with the DSLR on the Flycam can be a daunting task. The handle bearing is of such high quality and the 24-70 lens I typically carry is bulky and tends to pull the front end of the rig around. The Hero, on the other hand is rock-solid. This is a setup I’m sure video enthusiasts & pros will find useful as a creative tool, as well as any family interested in capturing incredible home video memories. It’s that easy and effective. Let’s start with a look at the basic setup.
Step one is to simply remove the weight entirely from the bottom of the unit and extend out to roughly 3/4 of its maximum length. Next, I found that adding four of the washer weights with five to six (pink – supplied with Nano) washer gaskets to the upper part of the unit to be dead-on for balancing. To do this properly, I recommend getting your hands on a standard 1/4″-20 threaded screw (+washer) long enough to hold the weights in a tight stack on the platform. I’ve since changed my setup accordingly and with even more reliable results.
This is where it gets even handier. When you get the weights on and tighten down the GoPro tripod attachment, the key is to leave a tiny bit of room for play. The washers can now slip slightly in any direction to acquire dead-on balance in seconds. I also found along the way that by learning to (loosely) hold the unit just above the handle bearing, or by adding a flexible twist-tie to hold at the rear of the base will bring even more command and control.
As far as equipment, that’s all there is to it. You might try to adapt a loose, bended-knee style of walking to ease any extraneous up-and-down movement and consider investing in the wrist/arm brace to add support for extended shooting. While the brace is a must for DSLR work (as far as my build goes), I’ve learned that I can shoot all day with the GoPro and never need it. In fact, if I didn’t need the Nano for the larger camera, I’m sure the unit could be pared down further and made even lighter. If you don’t need a stabilizer that performs this double-duty and you want to start practicing, check out these compact options from Tiffen and Flashpoint.
The final step is to get out there and give it a try. Have fun experimenting and playing around with real time pan and zoom, or learn to emulate jib and slider movements by hand. With a little practice and the right application, the result can be well worth the effort.
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