7 ways to get stable footage with no budget

We’ve all been there. You’re just tired of how bumpy your footage is. Additionaly you would like to increase the production vallue of your videos. There are numerous camera stabilizers out there like the all-mechanical Glidecam or electronic gimbals like the DJI Ronin. However, you don’t need to spend money to get silky smooth shots with your camera. Everything can be done the DIY way. Here are 7 ways to get stable footage with no budget:

1. Walking smoothly

When you record something, don’t walk like an elephant. Every step will create a wobbly image and you won’t be satisfied with your footage. Instead try bending your knees a little bit more. This will reduce the bumpiness of your footage, since your knees amortize your steps. 

I also found wearing running shoes quite helpful. That’s because they also absorb some of the bumps with their thick sole.

2. Strap stabilization

Man stretching a camera strap
Stretch the strap like this

Fun fact, the DSLR or mirrorless you’re using comes with a stabilizer out of a box. It is the camera strap that you sometimes take off. Now, hang the camera on your neck and apply forward pressure, so that the strap becomes stiff. That’s how you get stable footage in any conditions!

You can also make jib and slider shots using the same technique! Apply forward pressure to your camera body to stiffen the strap. 

Now try moving the camera:

Side to side

This will create a slider shot. There is a particular reason why this technique works so great. Not only does the camera travel smoothy left to right or right to left, but it is also pointing in the same direction throughout the motion! For that reason alone you won’t ever need a short slider for traveling – you can losslessly substitute these slider shots for the shots achieved using this technique!

Vertically

What will this help you accomplish? Exactly, a jib shot with no jib! Unfortunately, this time the strap won’t help us keep the camera pointing the same direction all the time. However, this allows you to tilt the camera during the motion and focus the attention of your audience on a certain subject

Dolly in, dolly out

if you bend your back, you can use the same technique to fake smooth dolly in and dolly out shots

Or combine all of the above

And get some interesting results.

3. Adding weight

The main reason why smartphone footage usually looks shaky compared to what you see in cinemas is the weight of the camera (or the whole rig). Blockbusters are shot using RED and ARRI cameras, which weigh a lot even when unrigged . Compare that to the weight of your DSLR, mirrorless or smartphone camera and the solution comes naturally – add more weight.

It seems counterintuitive, but adding weight to your camera will Make the footage more stable.

Why is that?

To move a larger object you have to apply a greater force. It is easier to knock over a vase than a fridge, or going to an extreme – a building. Therefore, tiny forces, which are responsible for the shakiness of your video will have a harder time trying to move your camera around.

How to add weight to a camera?

The simplest, obvious way is to tie it to something heavy (Maybe an anvil if you have one?)


Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

The optimal way is to keep the new setup functional. Get a cage for your camera. Add a microphone and an external monitor to it. Add a battery pack. All the weight will add up resulting in smoother shots – stable footage.

4. Wide lens

Attaching a wide angle lens is an instant fix for wobbliness in you footage. The cheapest wide angle lens for Canon crop-sensor DSLRs is probably the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. It is enough for shooting outside in natural lighting contitions. However, it is a bit too slow (The aperture doesn’t open wide enough) for indoor and night shots.

Since we’re talking no budget – a cheaper alternative to buying a lens is to simply buy a wide angle converter like the one below:


This particular one screws into a 58mm thread on top of your lens. This means that it’s just right for your Canon 18-55mm kit lens. However, if you’re planning to use it with a lens that has a different thread – you will need to buy a different converter. On the other hand, if the lens has a smaller diameter of the thread – you may use step up rings to attach this particular converter to it. It will make the field of view wider. Therefore the shots will become more stable.

5. Body slider

Man shifting bodyweight holding a DSLR camera
Try it now! You should get the idea quickly.

Did you know that you can use your body as a camera slider? Hold your forearms close to your chest and get a good grip on the camera. Now shift the weight of your body from one leg to the other and BOOM! – You’ve got a slider!

6. Tripod steadicam

Canon DSLR on a tripod
You just pinch it with your thumb an index finger. Don’t grab it with your whole hand!

A friend of mine used this one a lot. If you grab a tripod below its head in two fingers, it will smooth out the motion a bit. Still, it is a good starting point for stabilization in post-production.

7. Monopod jib

Canon DSLR on a monopod
Raise your camera up high and play around with motion!

This one is fun! But be sure that your camera is screwed tightly to the monopod. We’re going to do something risky here.

The trick here is to grab the bottom of your monopod and stick it up in the air. It will give you great elevation and stabilize your shots, since your hands are further from the camera.

To get a jib shot just play around with camera movement. Go down to top, side to side – find something that works for you! 

To sum up. There are a plenty ways to stabilize your shots with little to no money. Stable footage is achievable in plenty of ways. Filmmaking is all about creativity 😀

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