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SteadiCam
Stanley Kubrick with Garrett Brown and his invention, the SteadiCam

The SteadiCam is a camera stabilization device that isolates a hand-held camera from the movement of the operator, allowing the operator to move freely without jiggling the camera. The SteadiCam allows for stable shots in places where dollies and tracks cannot be used, such as along stairs, over obstacles, and during Walk and Talk scenes. It combines the stabilization ability of a fixed tripod mount with the fluid motion of a dolly shot and the flexibility of hand-held camera work.

The SteadiCam was first used by its inventor, Garrett Brown, in the film Bound For Glory, for which its cinematographer Haskell Wexler won an Oscar. Brown himself eventually won both an Oscar and an Emmy for his invention. It is frequently used to shoot The Oner, a long continuous shot with no edits.

A SteadiCam rig for a motion picture camera consists of a harness worn by the operator, which is attached to a mechanism containing the camera and a counterweight. Tiffen also manufactures smaller versions of the SteadiCam such as the SteadiCam JR and the SteadiCam Merlin. These devices may be used with DSLRs and camcorders and omit the harness due to their light weight.

SteadiCam is the trade name for the product manufactured by Tiffen. Panavision produces an equivalent called PanaGlide, and GlideCam Industries has a variation known as GlideCam. One can also find instructions to build their own stabilizer if they have the necessary tools and supplies.

Click here for the details about how the SteadiCam works.

Examples:

  • Rocky was one of the first films to use a SteadiCam, specifically Rocky running up the steps.
  • Halloween (1978) used Panavision's PanaGlide. The whole opening (Michael's PoV) is told through the use of a SteadiCam.
  • Used extensively in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • Also, Firefly, and even in effects shots.
    • According to the DVD commentary, in a lot of scenes the camera operator was operating without a SteadiCam harness, but was so good at operating handheld that it looked like he was using one.
    • Supposedly, the reason the shaking effect looks so real is that they could actually rock the Serenity sets back and forth. SteadiCam cares not.
  • While we're at it, Battlestar Galactica, too.
  • Steadicam harnesses were repurposed for the Smart Guns in Aliens.
  • Used to great effect in Das Boot, where it enabled camera operators to work within the confines of a real-size replica U-Boat and produce tracking shots following crew members through bulkheads and around pipes.
  • Diary of the Dead is notably one of the few "guys carrying a camera during a disaster" films to make use of one, as the guy in question is actually a professional cameraman with proper gear rather than a camcorder, though it does have one JitterCam scene when the main camera's batteries die.
  • Used extensively in The Shining, for an example Danny riding his bike through the corridors.
    • Rumour has it that Kubrick, due to his legendary perfectionism, kept screwing up shots by reaching in to adjust the camera. The operator, Garrett Brown, allegedly got him to stop by conducting a conversation — staged where he knew Kubrick would overhear it — in which he claimed to have punched out Sylvester Stallone for doing the same thing on Rocky.
  • The SteadiCam long take is a staple of ER's visual style.
  • SteadiCam is the sine qua non of the Walk and Talk, and hence are indispensable whenever Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are on the other side of the camera. Sports Night and The West Wing were particularly notorious.
  • Scream (1996) has a scene which starts with a establishing crane shot, which then descends down to ground level and proceeds to follow the walking cast without a cut. This was done by having the Steadicam operator simply standing on a platform and stepping off when the crane reached the ground.
  • WALL•E was meticulously animated to contrast SteadiCam-like shots aboard the Axiom with JitterCam-esque shots on Earth to add another layer of Technology vs. Nature to the film.
  • In Good Fellas director Martin Scorsese uses a SteadiCam for a three minute shot that follows Henry Hill and his girlfriend as they enter though the back door of the Copacapana restaurant, through the kitchen and up to the bar, stopping to meet patrons all the way.
  • The SteadiCam operator Peter Robertson reportedly collapsed after filming the epic Oner on the Dunkirk beaches in Atonement, although the reports were exaggerated.
  • It was combined with a camera shooting at 1 frame per second to produce the backgrounds for the speeder chase in Return of the Jedi.

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