A steadicam is a stabilizing mount for a motion-picture camera, which mechanically isolates the operator's movement from the camera, allowing a very smooth shot even when the operator is moving quickly over an uneven surface. Informally, the word may also be used to refer to the combination of the mount and camera.
Before the steadicam, a director had two choices for moving (or "tracking") shots.
A steadicam essentially combines the stabilised steady footage of a conventional tripod mount with the fluid motion of a dolly shot and the flexibility of hand-held camera work. While smoothly following the operator's broad movements, the steadicam's armature absorbs any jerks, bumps, and shakes.
The steadicam was introduced to the industry in 1976 by inventor and cameraman Garrett Brown, who originally named the invention the "Brown Stabilizer". After completing the first working prototype, Brown shot a 10-minute demo reel of the revolutionary moves this new device could produce. This reel was seen by numerous directors, including Stanley Kubrick and John Avildsen. The Steadicam was first used in the biopic Bound for Glory, but its breakthrough movies are considered to be Avildsen's Rocky in 1976, and Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining.
The operator wears a harness which is attached to an iso-elastic arm. This is connected by a gimbal to the steadicam armature which has the camera mounted at one end and a counterbalance weight at the other. The counterbalance usually includes the battery pack and a monitor. The monitor substitutes for the camera's viewfinder, since the range of motion of the camera relative to the operator makes the camera's own viewfinder unusable. In the film industry the armature and weight are traditionally called the "sled", as they resembled a sled in an early model of the steadicam.
The combined weight of the counterbalance and camera means that the armature bears a relatively high inertial mass which will not be easily moved by small body movements from the operator (much like it is difficult to quickly shake a bowling ball). The freely pivoting armature adds additional stabilization to the photographed image, and makes the weight of the camera-sled assembly acceptable by allowing the body harness to support it.
When the armature is correctly adjusted, the operator is able to remove his hands from the steadicam entirely and have the camera stay in place. During operation, the operator usually rests his hand on the camera gimbal and applies force at that point to move the camera. To avoid shaking the camera when lens adjustments must be made during the shot, a wireless remote operated by the camera assistant is used to control focus and iris.
For low shots, the camera/sled arm can be rotated vertically, putting the camera where the sled normally sits and vice-versa; since both camera and display are inverted, the operator still sees a correctly oriented picture. The upside-down image recorded by the camera can be fixed in post-production.
Today the steadicam is a standard piece of film-making equipment, used in many productions. Notable instances of steadicam use include:
Camera Stabilizer features 5-18 lb camera payload capacity.(Steadicam[R] Introduces the Scout for Video and Film Production)
Sep 15, 2010; Intended for video and film production, steadicam SCOUT features sled assembly designed for 12 V cameras, 7 in. color LCD...
Camera Stabilizer offers 30 lb lift capacity, I/ O flexibility.(Tiffen Releases New Steadicam Zephyr -- with 30lb. Lift Capacity)
Sep 15, 2010; Available with standard 7 in., 16:9/4:3 composite NTSC/PAL LCD monitor or optional HD/composite LCD monitor, steadicam...
Mount for iPhone 4 stabilizes video images.(Tiffen Announces Steadicam[R] Smoothee(TM) for Apple iPhone 4 Now Shipping)
Feb 16, 2011; steadicam[R] Smoothee(TM) lets iPhone[R] 4 operators capture video free from hand-held shakiness. Measuring 14.5 x 8 x 2.5...