What is a Steadicam?

Malcolm Tatum

The steadicam is a device that functions as a stabilizing mount for a motion-picture camera. By utilizing a steadicam, it is possible to capture action without causing unintentional jerky movement or lack of focus in the shot. The steadicam can take on a couple of different forms, depending on the type of camera in use and the environment in which the camera is utilized.

Steadicam operators ensure that scenes are shot properly, without jerky movements.
Steadicam operators ensure that scenes are shot properly, without jerky movements.

When many people think of the steadicam, the first thought that comes to mind are the support systems that are used for cameras shooting on movie lots or locations. These larger and more powerful cameras are often loaded onto a hydraulically controlled stand that help to relieve the camera operator of exerting physical energy to hold the camera steady. These larger examples of a stabilizing mount may include seating for the camera person or allow space for the operator to stand behind the unit and focus the angle and lens. The value of these types of larger steadicam supports is that the camera can be easily moved to accommodate the action being filmed without creating issues such as fuzzy focusing or rapid movements out of range.

Along with these large supports that function as enhanced tripods, there are also harness versions of the steadicam. These are often employed with smaller hand held cameras. Camera operators who work with news divisions of television stations often make use of the steadicam harness when filming interviews and other events that take place outside the television studio. The harness fits around the torso and shoulders to create a secure environment for the hand held camera. Because the steadicam harness carries the larger portion of the weight of the camera and helps to keep the device steady, the camera person is less likely to experience fatigue in the muscles of the arms and be able to obtain a sharp recording of the remote event.

Whether in use with a movie camera on a production stage or as a means of filming events in public places, the steadicam can prove helpful to many professionals. At the same time, amateurs with home movie cameras can purchase steadicam harnesses that can also help to improve the quality of those home movies. These types of harnesses are often available at camera shops and other retail establishments that carry camera equipment.

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