If you’re seeking to get your camera off the tripod and add smooth motion capture to your video projects, you might take a look at this modified setup of the Flycam Nano DSLR system adapted for use with the GoPro Hero3 camera. If you’re not currently shooting with a GoPro system, no worries, the information in this post can be equally applied to nearly any digital compact on the market today. That said, I do highly recommend the GoPro Hero 3 (Black) for its frame rate capabilities, specifically the ability to capture 60fps (frames-per-second) at full 1080p resolution, not to mention its usefully small size.
As cameras have become smaller and more capable, companies are now making available on the consumer level the cinematic tools developed and used by the motion picture industry for decades. One such item is a vertical stabilizing device designed to remove footsteps, typically (generically) known as a steadicam. While there is a company producing excellent products under the name Steadicam, the system we’re using for this post is the Flycam Nano DSLR. This setup is so straight-forward, and produces such amazing results that it has become an integral part of my daily workflow. Let’s start with a look at the basic setup and balance of this versatile platform.
The Flycam Nano is designed to carry a DSLR payload, with washer weights located at the bottom of the unit intended 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. All we need is the proper balance and we’re rolling.
In my experience, 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 use on my DSLR is so bulky that tends to inevitably pull and swing the front end of the unit around. The Hero 3, on the other hand, is rock-solid. This is a setup I’m sure video enthusiasts & pros will find extremely useful as a creative tool, as well as any family anywhere on the planet interested in capturing incredible home video memories. It’s that easy and effective.
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 don’t recommend grabbing stuff and rigging it up as in these photographs, though it did work well enough. 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, without the endless screw-turning that inevitably ends in massive frustration. You will also find along the way that by learning to (loosely) hold the unit just above the handle bearing, or by adding a flexible twist-tie to 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 up-and-down movement.
Have fun experimenting and playing around with real time pans and zooms, or learn to emulate jib and slider movements by hand. The options are limitless.
The final step is to get out there and give it a try. You’re invited to share any links to your own results here for our mutual edification. As always, your comments and feedback are entirely welcome ~ Thanks for visiting.