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Helicopter Parts Make For Amazing DIY Camera Stabilization

timothy posted about a year ago | from the so-you'll-be-checking-luggage-then dept.

Hardware Hacking 78

Iddo Genuth writes "Videographer Tom Antos developed an advanced DIY camera stabilizer which can hold almost any DSLR or mirrorless camera steady for video photography. Although this surely isn't as sophisticated (and super expensive) as the professional MVI M10 handheld 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal, its still quite impressive especially when you consider it only costs a few hundred dollars rather then tens of thousands — that is if you feel like building it yourself." Antos' design takes advantage of stabilized gimbal systems made for hanging cameras on remote-controlled helicopters, and does a very impressive job for its price.

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This is very useful (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#44021373)

Since it appears that many terrorsts are children in terrorist countries like Pakistan or Yemen, our drone pilots need extra precision and steady visuals to get those little buggers. Hooray for Obama!

Obama: the president i'd like to have a beer with (-1)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#44021423)

he seems so, you know, down to earth. he has values. not like that communist mit romney.

Re:Obama: the president i'd like to have a beer wi (-1, Offtopic)

Kilo Kilo (2837521) | about a year ago | (#44021743)

now there's someone with whom I'd like to enjoy a cold brewski.

Re:Obama: the president i'd like to have a beer wi (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44026689)

Romney is fascist, not communist.

Why isn't this done digitally? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021413)

Why not take the same sensors data and apply the same computation but into digitally manipulating the image on the fly instead of actuating motors?

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (3, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | about a year ago | (#44021433)

Because then you lose a lot of the picture. Plus it doesn't help you if you're using longer shutter times that blur the image.

Re: Why isn't this done digitally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44031231)

It is, in post, it reduces the number of pixels in the final image, requiring enlargement to fill the frame. If you over sample its not a big deal. If you are shooting at the same resolution you are delivering, you take a quality hit. If there is more motion than can be compensated by over sampling, you take a quality hit. if there is blur caused by camera motion, it is an artifact that is difficult to remove and well look odd. We accept blur when there is motion , but we are removing the motion that caused the blur.

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44021561)

Uhm...because real-time motion blur deconvolution is really computationally intensive?

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (5, Interesting)

TheGavster (774657) | about a year ago | (#44021833)

Mechanical stabilization has the advantage of keeping the focal center in the center of the image. If you're moving a crop box around a frame, you're going to get this weird effect where the point that parallel lines meet bounces around the frame.

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44022781)

Are you sure that this is the most serious issue? If the vanishing point is on screen, I'd think it would be stabilized as well. What's much more interesting is the perspective change in wide angle shots - that's the one thing you can't compensate with changing the crop window. The vanishing point is simple to deal with because it's just a point (it's a 0D object), but the altered perspective can change a rectangle into a parallelogram or vice versa. You'd essentially be creating a digital version of a shift lens which is not what you want in a video, unless you're aiming for psychedelic.

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023677)

If you have a very low quality camera? yes you have to worry about it. but for broadcast where you only care about 720p video shooting with a redone gives you so much room for this it just does not matter at all. Heck even using a 1080p camera has a lot of room for shake that you can remove in post. and 720P is all you need for the broadcasters to be happy. (Mythbusters, etc.. all 720p final render)

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023739)

You don't get that effect if you do it right, i.e. don't just move a crop frame around but reproject the image. If the mechanical steady-cam can only compensate for rotation (like these gimbal mounts), then there is no geometric aspect that could not just as well be simulated in software. The true advantage is that of avoiding the motion, because motion creates motion blur which is very difficult or even impossible to remove in post-processing (deconvolution doesn't work well when there are overexposed pixels).

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44023231)

Because a high-resolution high-framerate camera is more expensive than a complex mechanical stabilization device -- oh wait, it isn't.

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#44023395)

-resolution loss
-rolling shutter screws you over

basically look on YT for digitally stabilized vids - they all look wobbly

Re:Why isn't this done digitally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44030879)

Digital isn't automatically best for everything. Analog has its place and is often cheaper.

yes because of course labor is free (0, Flamebait)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#44021419)

"look honey, we can either waste money buying a used car, or i can build one myself out of spare parts. i can literally save $5000, and it will only take me 3 years"

Re:yes because of course labor is free (2)

Goaway (82658) | about a year ago | (#44021435)

Do you usually charge money for your spare time?

Re:yes because of course labor is free (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year ago | (#44024981)

More than that, this hack only takes a few minutes to do. TFA links to an advert-ridden blog, but Tom's own page has more details

http://tomantosfilms.com/?p=474 [tomantosfilms.com]

It's basically a model helicopter gimbal velcroed to an ordinary camera shoulder mount. Clever, and unchallenging to build.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#44021469)

Some of us *gasp* LIKE building projects like this in our spare time.

There's the door, please hand in your geek card on the way out.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021757)

And that's before you consider that no /.'er would ever be heard uttering the phrase "look honey".

Re:yes because of course labor is free (3, Insightful)

nextekcarl (1402899) | about a year ago | (#44021859)

They might if they saw a bottle of honey in an odd place.

Re: yes because of course labor is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023619)

Funniest Slashdot comment of the year.

meanwhile your wife cnat drive anywhere (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#44022683)

because the car doesnt work.

Re:meanwhile your wife cnat drive anywhere (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#44025675)

That's a retarded comparison. Very few people would DIY a device they depend on for living. The reply to the bitching wife who can't drive the classic Mustang because it's in pieces is to take the other car.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44023243)

But if you factor in the costs of having someone work on the project (someone that would normally have to be paid, and for engineering work paid pretty well), then it's definitely not cheaper.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#44025671)

Of course not, but then no hobby or home tinkering would ever be justifiable.

Would you do this if you were a movie studio and camera work was the primary source of your income? Hell no, buy the kit and make it a business tax deduction. But given the number of cameras out there and the number of hobby photographers I am willing to bet that most people would want something like this, can not afford it, and already consider their camera as an unpaid hobby.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021481)

Yes, when you don't have money, but you do have time and nobody will give you money in exchange for your time, then your time is (almost) free.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021711)

Exactly. And then, after you take the time to build it, you have to find even more time to go use the fucking thing and room to store it, etc. It's a vicious circle that I have learned after watching my dad to avoid. He almost ruined his life taking on more projects, finishing none, and cluttering up his property with half built pieces of shit. What I need I buy, and there needs to be a demonstrated need. When I no longer need it, it gets donated or goes in the trash. It makes for a simple, neat, productive, and satisfying life.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44022015)

When I no longer need it, it gets donated or goes in the trash. It makes for a simple, neat, productive, and satisfying life.

And since everyone in the world is exactly the same as you, we should all follow this amazing advice and all be so much happier!

Oh wait, part of that is wrong. Can you guess which bit?

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44022207)

The part that's wrong is the part hof that where you use snark to cover over the fact that the advice is the best for virtually everybody.

Things don't typically make people happy, and most people don't like spending time cleaning and organizing. Now, you might be one of the people that can pay others to do it for them, has a huge house and or loves organizating, but you're in the minority there. Most people are better off getting rid of things that just take up space. The replacement cost of a lot of these things is low enough that you can just buy, borrow or rent a new one if you need it for a few days.

OTOH, if you're using something so often that it's more expensive to acquire a temporary copy, then you're likely using it often enough to make storage and organization worthwhile.

Re: yes because of course labor is free (3, Insightful)

RobbieCrash (834439) | about a year ago | (#44022289)

But many people enjoy creating things in and of itself.

The whole idea of "why build when I can buy" is why people are so much worse at making things that mostly work, fully work than they used to be. Building things is fun. If it's also significantly cheaper, and nearly as good, why not learn something on the way?

Re: yes because of course labor is free (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44022311)

But, that wasn't what the GGP was arguing about. He's arguing about the advice that he quoted. And except for a minority of people, who probably aren't harmed by doing it themselves, it's sound advice for everybody.

go create. but dont try to claim you saved money (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#44022701)

because if your creation cant be justified because its cool or fun, dont try to lie about why you are doing it. none of this shit saves money.

Re: yes because of course labor is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44031253)

Maybe I'm just cheap, but I've always thought "why buy when I can build", then again, 'm a hobby blacksmith, the one trade where you can build every tool you need... Growing up on a farm, I learned how to assemble parts from things that didn't work to quickly hack together something that would get the job done. Now I'm program computers using basically the same mentality. take some chunks of code, slap them together to make something that does the job.

For fun, I built my own CNC mill from scraps I had lying around, and a few parts I had to purchase (motors and belts). the machine worked ok, but not great. however by building it myself, I could isolate most of the problems, which were usually machining errors (mostly caused by not having an accurate machine to fabricate parts with) With the machine working, those parts were re-designed, re-dimensioned and remade as necessary. Within a few weeks, most of the machine had been replaced or rebuilt. the only original parts were the electronics and motors which specked out and purchased,.Even the control box was rebuild a couple times getting everything right. the machine also expanded a lot, going from a 2x4 table to a 4x8. I might have spent $3000 in total, producing 3 major revisions of the machine, and countless minor versions. Some basic math to include the time I spent on it would estimate a cost of 5 weeks x about 25 hours per week x $75/hour = $9375, lets round everything up for simplicity and say I spend a total of $13,000 to build a 8' x r' 3 axis CNC mill, that still a lot less than a commercial model at that size. Sure, it might be a little more precises, but for what I do, it's not worth spending an extra $1500,00 to gain 3/1000 " precision.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44022181)

That's called ADHD, and there are effective treatment options for it, to at least keep that down to a manageable level.

It's not typical to leave that many projects unfinished for most folks, but if you have ADHD it's more or less the status quo for most people.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021597)

Damn, alright. Just give me the money, and i'll have someone else build my car for me.

Why [make it | fix it | climb it | run it | ...] ? (4, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#44021825)

If you need to ask the question, you'll never understand the answer.

summary claims the purpose was to save money (1, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#44022719)

the summary , and so so many other /.ers, claim they do this stuff to save money.

it doesnt save money. stop lying.

if you do something for the thrill of doing it, then just fucking admit it. dont lie about it and claim that its somehow a wise economic decision or that you did it out of necessity.

Re:summary claims the purpose was to save money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027137)

This is a rather stupid reasoning. Thing is, he may not have the money, but he may have the free time and expertise. You claiming to know what his opportunity costs are is bullshit.

Re:summary claims the purpose was to save money (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#44027609)

I can't speak for this item, but I know that I made planter boxes and saved money on them. I am also using them, so they aren't wasting space.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about a year ago | (#44021857)

Ah, but you would need to search for used parts. If not, you would be building a new car. Seems we have ourselves a conundrum.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#44023401)

"look honey, we can either waste money buying a used car

15K car

, or i can build one myself out of spare parts. i can literally save $5000

14.5K

, and it will only take me 3 years"

~2 weeks

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

fafaforza (248976) | about a year ago | (#44025087)

Wish I had some mod points.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (2)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#44023419)

The 'labour' in this case is:
Buy ready-made camera stabilisation arm intended for quadrotors
Attach to hand-hold
That's it. That's all he did. Literally bolting one ready-made object to another ready-made object. I was expecting something like using the high-speed servos for moving the swash-plate to and writing his own controller, but this is a VERY low-effort and low-labour approach.

Re:yes because of course labor is free (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#44037943)

And yet people do EXACTLY that all the time (even your example of building (or restoring) a car...

Or mount it on an owl. (3, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#44021451)

Re:Or mount it on an owl. (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44021547)

If you're scared of owls, or your owl won't let you mount a camera on its head, you can use a chicken instead [youtube.com] .

Re:Or mount it on an owl. (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#44021559)

I tried attaching my Nikon to an owl with some duct tape once. The owl was no longer stable.

Re:Or mount it on an owl. (4, Funny)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#44021599)

Get a smaller camera... or a bigger owl.

Re:Or mount it on an owl. (1)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about a year ago | (#44025153)

I bet that was a hoot

Tripod (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021461)

What's wrong with tripods or image stabilization?

Re:Tripod (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#44021581)

What's wrong with tripods or image stabilization?

Gimbal rigs are far more effective. You can make a gimbal rig out of a tripod, and throw digital IS on top of it for some great results. You can also buy these devices on amazon all day long for less than what this gentleman spent. This project is all about the DIY with helicopter parts I guess.

Re:Tripod (2)

David_Hart (1184661) | about a year ago | (#44022191)

What's wrong with tripods or image stabilization?

Gimbal rigs are far more effective. You can make a gimbal rig out of a tripod, and throw digital IS on top of it for some great results. You can also buy these devices on amazon all day long for less than what this gentleman spent. This project is all about the DIY with helicopter parts I guess.

Really??? Where? I looked on Amazon and all I see are mechanical stabilizers which keep the camera level and shoulder rigs with camera control, but no gimbals. The stabilizer that this guy uses for his DIY project is an active stabilizer with motors. It can be adjusted with the RC remote to have different camera angles and will keep the camera at that angle.

Re:Tripod (3, Interesting)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about a year ago | (#44021847)

You can't make these sorts of shots [vimeo.com] with a tripod.

Re:Tripod (1)

Hast (24833) | about a year ago | (#44027223)

Movi (which this guy was apparently inspired by, he says so in the youtube clip at least) has an example movie shot by Vincent Laforet at Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/62917185 [vimeo.com] (He's the guy that shot the first 5D mk 2 video as well.)

The Movi system is for professional use though, and it costs $15k so it's not exactly for people to play around with.

If you want to understand more about why a gimbal system is so cool then look at the behind the scenes video from the Movi demonstration as well: http://vimeo.com/63357898 [vimeo.com] .

Re:Tripod (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#44027637)

I never knew about this stuff, that is great.

Re:Tripod (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about a year ago | (#44032135)

Exactly. the clips I showed were steadicam shots, but the important thing wasn't that they were done with a particular rig, it's that smooth moving camera shots are an important part of a film's vocabulary. There's a sequence in Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice where the Netherfield ball is shown from the perspective of another party goer, another dancer--moving from room to room, listening in on conversations, and so on.

You can't do that with a tripod, where the camera is fixed in one position-- unless you use lots of tripods and lots of cuts, but then, the scene would lose some of its seamless qualities.

You can't really do that with a non-stabilized handheld rig-- as the attendant jerkiness would detract from the atmosphere.

The point of a steady cam is to be steady. (4, Insightful)

605dave (722736) | about a year ago | (#44021467)

I like this man's ingenuity, and DIY ethic. But the final video is obviously jerky and unusable, which he explains by saying you need to balance the camera better than he did in an earlier step. Perhaps reshooting a better example with the camera balanced would have been better approach to get people interested. Because after watching the video, we have to take his word for it that this will actually work. Which doesn't really make me want to run out and try it.

Re:The point of a steady cam is to be steady. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021797)

I disagree. Look at the terrain he's going over. That is a pretty extreme use of a handheld camera and the stabilization is quite impressive. On more more typical (flatter) terrain, where you are tracking a subject, not randomly panning up/down I think it would be quite usable. Certainly as good or better than the mini-steady cam setups that most of us could afford.

get a new word for what they describe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021523)

the word 'gimbal' sounds like a bastard mix between an English, Yiddish, and Welsh word. How intelligent would that be, in the long run? Fuck it, get something decent. Gimbal, my arse.

Re:get a new word for what they describe (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44021579)

Gimbal my arse

That shouldn't be a problem, I've managed to locate a suitable attachment point for the fixture right in the middle of it.

stabilize the sensor, not the camera (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021531)

The latest Olympus cameras have 5-axis in-body stabilization that works with all lenses. They cost $1000, including the camera, and probably work much better than anything that tries to stabilize an entire camera. This third party review [youtube.com] shows off how well it works.

Re:stabilize the sensor, not the camera (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44021591)

Limited range of movement. It's not just about stabilization. Contraptions like this one should allow you to shoot, e.g., a constant angular velocity panorama. How are you going to achieve that with yout in-body stabilizer?

Re:stabilize the sensor, not the camera (2)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | about a year ago | (#44021715)

Stabilizing the sensor does not work when filming with rectilnear lenses. Nearly all lenses are rectilinear, which means they scale the image differently in different parts of the field of view. If you move the sensor to stabilize the movie, then objects will appear to strech and contract as if they were made of Jell-O.

Re:stabilize the sensor, not the camera (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44022243)

There's also the issue of the view finder. If you're using an EVF it's not an issue, but with OVFs, the view you're getting is still as jerky as it was without stabilization, which can make it a challenge to frame what you like. Sure, it cuts down on some of the blurriness, but you lose out on a lot of the benefits.

Which is rather unfortunate. I've got a Canon lens with optical IS built in and I can really tell the difference, I can go from being unable to frame a shot, to being able to get a reasonably sharp image, when I turn on the IS. It's a shame that it comes with the nasty drawback of requiring the hardware in each lens that I need stabilized.

Re:stabilize the sensor, not the camera (1)

Roger Lindsjo (727951) | about a year ago | (#44022047)

As far as I can tell that camera wobbles more when walking on perfectly flat ground than this guy's does when walking in fairly tough terrain. So, great in body stabiliser but useless for "steady cam" shots.

Need my morning tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021725)

I thought this was about helicopter parents... I didn't see how calling your son's university to see if he's in class would help my pictures.

Re:Need my morning tea (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44022295)

My son's a photography major you insensitive clod!

Google "DIY Steadycam" (4, Informative)

Fnord666 (889225) | about a year ago | (#44021737)

Or you can just google "DIY steadycam" and find any number of projects for $30 or less and the demo videos are more stable than this rig.

Examples:

Re:Google "DIY Steadycam" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021805)

The first two had demo videos. It's hard to compare, though, because the first one is a heavily edited short and the second is just a guy walking around on mostly flat ground. Both are better, sure, but this guy is walking through a very rocky and vertical trail. It's not perfectly stable, but it's also much more challenging terrain and he's clearly not really editing the shot to try to look professional.

I think this is an interesting concept that definitely needs more exploration.

Re:Google "DIY Steadycam" (1)

ikaruga (2725453) | about a year ago | (#44026933)

You forgot the cheapest of them all: the chicken camera stabilizer [youtube.com] .

Re:Google "DIY Steadycam" (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#44038035)

Your example are great, but you can't change the aim of the camera in shot. Which I believe is part of the point of this DIY

So, HE'S the chopper? (1)

tapi0 (2805569) | about a year ago | (#44022679)

There's a little bit more to it, but basically for this DIY project he's bought a gimbal that's meant to provide steady images on a model helicopter and mounted it to himself?
Not quite "DIY steadycam from Helicopter parts"
In fact, and I realise this is nothing new, the title is completely wrong.

hacker (1)

greenfruitsalad (2008354) | about a year ago | (#44023003)

And this, dear teenagers, is what the word "hacker" means.

requires $440 part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023511)

The part of this gimbal that is, well, the gimbal, is $440. his link: http://www.foxtechfpv.com/foxtech-falcon-brushless-gimbal-p-1058.html

"video photography........" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023637)

video photography? Is this the photography of video equipment? or is it taking photos of a video that is playing?

Or was the writer unable to use a dictionary and discover that the word that is to be used is Videography?

Tomorrow I am going on an Airplane Drive and hope to Eat some nice Beers later.

Yaw (1)

MDMurphy (208495) | about a year ago | (#44026077)

Finally after most of the video it showed how the shot looked like from the camera. What I noticed though was that it doesn't appear to smooth out yaw motion. Granted you have to turn it to aim, but it's twitchy. Since the pitch and roll have been well smoothed the yaw noise really stands out.

What it needs is a steadicam-like gimble that keeps it pointed in the same direction unless you intend to change direction.

Cheap, but not really "DIY" (1)

AC-x (735297) | about a year ago | (#44028407)

It's a great money saving tip for sure, but bolting an unmodified Foxtech Falcon camera stabiliser [youtube.com] to a set of handles isn't really a DIY camera stabilization system. From the title I was hoping for something built from an arduino and some old hard drive actuators :)

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