Posted on Jan 24, 2009

Mini Camera Stabilizer (Flip Float)

My goal was to create a mini version of the Steadicam Merlin for my flip video camera. Four prototypes and much frustration later, I finally had success. With the handle based on the flashlight handle design from user s.haldane, I was able to create a working solution. The two biggest observations that I made were:

1. The light weight of the Flip Video camera makes it extremely difficult to balance out. When in doubt, just add weight!
2. The connection point for the handle is not the same point as the connection point of the camera. The solution is to make sure there are methods to adjust the handle as well as the camera.

If you want to create one for yourself, I’ve provided my google sketchup drawings to help below.

SketchUp: Design (PDF)
Inspiration: s.haldane’s Project

51 Comments

  • Halohalo says:

    Hey, that big white box doesn’t go away when I’m studying your enlarged pictures and trying to figure out what the heck i’m looking at

    • digitaljoven says:

      Please check that you have the latest version of Flash. I think the white box that you see is the vimeo video player.

  • daniel de la cruz says:

    Hey like the product very nice. Also who were you playing on the background music? Tht was good too!

  • wrp says:

    Great Design! One request. I’m not terribly mechanically inclined and it would be helpful if you had some drawings or verbage describing how the flashlight, ball bearing and universal joint fit together. For instance,
    1. what size inner diameter for the flashlight (or do you jut get one that uses AA or AAA batteries?)
    1a. where do you get the ball bearing assembly?
    2. how is the cylindrical ball bearing assembly fixed to the flashlight,
    3. how is the ball bearing attached to the universal joint?
    4. what size universal joint and where do you get it?

    Do you have any idea on how scale it up for a heavier camcorder, one that ways 1 – 2 lbs?

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    • digitaljoven says:

      Hi Wrp,

      1. The inner diameter of the flashlight head i used is 15mm. The overall length was 85mm and uses AAA batteries. I basically bought the smallest flashlight at my local OSH that had a large head.
      1a. The ball bearing was from my local RC hobby shop. Here’s a link to the exact ones I used. http://www.hobbypeople.net/gallery/256961.asp (XTM Ball Bearings – 6x13x5)

      2. I got lucky with this one. I tried several methods, but luckily for me the ball bearing fit perfectly into the lens of the flashlight. To be exact, I reversed the lens in the flashlight head, then pushed the ball bearing in.

      3. Through the center of the ball bearing, I used a small machine screw with a nut. With the nut completely locked on the inner ring of the ball bearing, the screw spins freely of the outer ring of the ball bearing. The outer ring is fixed by the lens mentioned above. Using a dremel I created a flat surface on the machine screw because the u-joint has set screws on each end.

      4. Here’s a link to the exact u-joint i used. http://www.hobbypeople.net/gallery/629539.asp (Traxxas U Joints – Villain)

      I’ll add some more photos of the handle assembly. I’ve used my setup with larger camcorders just fine, but if you want a solid larger setup, I suggest you check out this project: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/s.haldane/stabiliser/index.html

      Hope this helps :)

      Thanks!

  • Dwayne says:

    Hi,

    My name is Dwayne Smith. I’m a filmmaker.
    I’m doing some experimental stuff with the Flip HD.
    I would like to buy a flip float from you that is already made.
    How much would it cost?

    Thanks

    Dwayne

  • kui2t says:

    GREAT design!!! i have some questions: (1) whats the specs of the aluminum type or thickness that you used? (2) where can I go to find these aluminum pieces? (3) what technique did you use to create the bends?

    • digitaljoven says:

      Thanks for the comment kui2t!

      1) I used 1/8″ Aluminum flat bar in various widths. There’s more info in the pdf above with measurements of my design.

      2) I buy the flat bars from my local Home Depot and OSH. It’s usually next to the steel bars and other raw materials. Sometimes it’s marketed as “home/diy project materials”. I also sometime buy stuff from here:
      http://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant.cfm?id=68&step=2&top_cat=60

      3) I found the easiest way to make the bends is to place the flat bar vertically in a table vice. Clamp down and then bend the bar by hand with some gloves or with a rubber mallet. Try to keep the movement in one direction. The more you adjust the bend back in forth, the weaker the metal becomes.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jimmy Santos says:

    Very nice and simple! Good thing I found this, I was looking into this http://steadycam.org/ but I thought this was designed for bigger cameras. But with the Flip I knew there’s something out there built for this specific camera and especially weight. I must say yours is the best one I have encountered. I will try to make one of these tomorrow and would like to thank you for the pdf. You should consider selling this cause I know tons of people will buy it form you. Are you Filipino?

    Great job.
    jimmy

  • karl kasamon says:

    HI
    I am very impressed by how prolific you are with your brilliant projects. Your website is really nice, too. Are you an engineer by training? I stumbled upon your work by researching a DIY steadicam for my Aiptek GVS.

  • digitaljoven says:

    Jimmy,
    I am filipino and thank you for your kind words. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about the build. I’ve gotten a few requests to buy built ones, but I never seem to have time. I always seem to be working on something. haha ;)

    Karl,
    Also, thank you very much for your kind words. I’m not an engineer and often wish I had more proper knowledge in certain technical areas. I work in digital media product development as a producer but previously had worked as a web developer. My passion though is my weekends in the garage where I’m obsessed with bring my napkin sketches to life… it’s amazing what you can learn on the internet :) haha

  • [...] Steadycam http://www.protodojo.com/content/2009/01/mini-camera-stabilizer-flip-float/ Thank you Protodojo for your slick sketch up design for Mini Camera Stabiliser – available for [...]

  • Joe Correia says:

    Would you be willing to sell a version of this?

    • digitaljoven says:

      Hi Joe, Sorry, although I get a lot of requests, I’m not looking to sell these. If you decide to build one, please feel free to ask any questions here and I’ll reply as soon as possible. Thanks!

  • Hi Joe, my compliments! You’ve done a very good job with the Flip Float. I own a Kodak zx1 cam and I’m trying to build a similar version (can’t do exactly your project ’cause the zx1 has the tripod socket totally on the left side. Bummer!) As you may know the zx1 is also a light weight camera. And in fact the Flip-float prototype I’m building swings a lot. May I ask how much weight (in grams) you put on the bottom and how much below the camera? Fine tuning the stabilizer is a real pita.
    Thanks a lot.
    Mike
    I’d appreciate if you would reply by email.

  • digitaljoven says:

    As requested, I responded via email. For the benefit of other readers though, here was my response:

    Hello Mike,

    Thank you for the comment! Balancing the device is really the hardest and most frustrating step. I don’t have a method of measuring the exact weight, but on top I used 6 1.25″ washers and 8 1.25″ washers on the bottom. You want the device to be a little top heavy (more weight under the camera). To control unbalanced movement forward and back, slide the camera’s position along the top. To control unbalanced movement left and right, angle the bottom weight to the left and right. Only make these adjustments when you are close with the weight and you should get it to stabilize. I really was getting frustrated until I started adding more weight to the top/camera. Try adding more weight than you think and slowly scale back.

    Since this prototype, I’ve given my Flip to my little sister and bought a creative vado hd which suffers from the same off center tripod mount. I built a small adapter that attaches to the camera that adds weight as well as relocates the tripod mount in the center. I was going to try it on the flip float when my friend accidentally broke the u-joint. I’m waiting for a replacement and will let you know if it all works out.

    Thanks!!!

  • Jahaziel says:

    Hi- great design! Please let me know that you are selling some now? I’m interested in obtaining one from you is there a reason why you don’t want to make them and sell them?

  • Anthony Bonacci says:

    I have an idea for your stabilizing problem. I have been playing with a few designs myself. I have found out that the higher UP you place your top weight (your camera) the more simulated weight it acts as. In other words you could use a riser or a mount on the top to get the camera an inch or 2 higher and it will stabilize with less weight, and thus less fatigue on you. You could use the top of a mono pod or tripod. Good luck!

    And on a side note, what did software did you use for your web design?

  • digitaljoven says:

    Jahaziel,
    Thank you for your interest, but sorry I don’t plan on selling these. I don’t have that much free time these days between my day job and other personal projects. My hopes was to post my sketchup designs to allow other people to build them and I’m always here to help. :)

    Anthony,
    Thanks for the tip! In regards to my website, it’s based on wordpress and hand coded/modified to look like this. For design I use photoshop and for development I use textmate.

  • AFX says:

    Hi, great work and thanks for sharing it. I am going to attempt making one of these and I was wondering what kind of tools you used to drill the holes and make the bar that the camera slides back and forth on?

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi AFX,

    Thanks for the comment! The whole construction was done with a drill press, hacksaw, and table vice. The aluminum is pretty easy to bend and cut by hand. I usually just measure the length, place it in the vice, and with some gloves bend to the correct angle.

  • Mike says:

    Superb…many thanks for sharing your design..I am definitely going to construct a Flip Float..I have already managed to source all the necessary parts here in the UK.Again many thanks indeed for posting all the information/instructions for construction.It is very generous of you :)

    Mike

  • Greg says:

    Amazing Job! I can’t wait to begin the process for my kodak zi8. The only question I have is do you have a link to where I can purchase the flash light? If not do you know of something else that work just as good? Thank you and have a great week!

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi Greg,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have a link for the flashlight. It may require a different design, but most flashlights should work. Just keep in mind that you’ll need one that you can remove the bulb/lens so that you can insert the bearing. Also, if you buy a flashlight with a larger diameter, you’ll have to build an adapter for the bearing. Hope this helps!

  • [...] Shared ProtoDojo: Prototype Sanctuary by Joven » Mini Camera Stabilizer (Flip Float). [...]

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  • Dino says:

    Great job on the stabilizer. I’d like to know how far apart the holes are on the bottom section where you have the handle. Thanks.

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi Dino,

    They are .5″ from the center point of each hole. After using the rig, I realized that I mainly used the first hole in the bottom section and adjustments were more effective sliding the camera in the top channel. Hope this helps!

  • Mike says:

    Nice work — this is just was I was looking for.

  • Dino says:

    Hi Joven. I finally finished my build of your Flip Float. I’m slowly working on the balancing act now. I got it real close and it’s actually working pretty well but I’m still trying to refine the balance. I’ll take a picture of what I did and feel free to share it with others who may be interested in building one. As I was putting it together I thought of a little design change. I’ll start on that build tomorrow. It should be able to handle anywhere from a pocketcam to a small handheld camcorder. I’ll send you a picture of that too when I’m done. I did the handle a little different. I fitted the bearing in a pvc fitting that’s flanged inside. Perfect for the bearing to sit on. Osh has this fitting and is really standard. I used the same U-joint you did. I threaded the metal part and used a 10-32 screw. You wouldn’t need to use the set screw with the metal part of the U-joint threaded but I went ahead and used it anyway. I’ll get the name of the fitting and give it to you so it can be passed along.

  • Deven says:

    Nice job, i just got my traxxas joints in the mail today, im off to the hardware store to find a brearing that it fits into tomorrow :) Do you think this rig would stand up for use while snowboarding? (that is my goal) or would it spin around to much.

  • Armando says:

    Would you consider selling one of those to me?

    Please send me an email–whether you decide to sell one or not.

    Thanks.

  • Maureen says:

    First off, thanks for sharing the Flip Float with all of us and providing info on how to make one.

    I’m really interested in having a Flip Float. I’ve printed up the sketch, the photos, the web pages for the ball bearings and the u-joint, and your added explanations here. I have a Canon FS200 and it’s a very light camcorder. However, I don’t know how to build mechanical things like this. Are your sure you don’t want to make and sell Flip Floats? Perhaps if you made a video showing you making a Flip Float step-by-step, I could follow it and actually make one. Until then I’m just dreaming of having a Flip Float.

  • George says:

    great unit.. I have one almost completed for my ZI8.. just waiting to recieve the u joint and bearings that I ordered yesterday on internet.. all else available at local Home Depot.. actually quite simple to make , a bit tedious but a lot of fun.. Can’t wait for the parts to arrive so I can finish assembly and try the weights to get to the proper balance.
    Thanks for your drawings and video and comments by others..

  • Marko says:

    Well done Joe! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for my Flip, so I picked up the parts and built it in a couple of hours. I made a few tweaks to your design, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without your video and the SketchUp. Thank for taking the time to share this with the rest of us.

  • vizcara says:

    Way cool design.. And seriously thanks for posting and putting all the “Time” and effort to post photos and a video of this DIY project.. Been looking for something for my vado to do the same thing. Question though would it make it a bit more stable to have a more “Heavier” weight at the bottom end of the steady cam? or would that just make it “Sway” more from being bottom heavy?

    • digitaljoven says:

      Hi Vizcara,

      Thank you for your response! As you guessed, from my experience adding weight to the bottom makes the device more unstable. You really want the majority of the weight on top and just enough to balance on the bottom. Another problem with added weight on the bottom is the flex of the aluminum causing bouncing of the weight. To help with this effect though, users have noted that adding a cross bar at the front bend of the arm can decrease this flex.

      Thanks!!!

  • Sam says:

    Why not give the total weight per section on the Flip video versus having folks, repeatedly, guess which take a whole lot of time. For example, “In this section of the design I place X ounces of washers…and Y ounces were placed here…for the Flip video…” This can reduce a lot time fine tuning what someone spend hours doing. Thanks and GREAT JOB! You should be proud of yourself…and/or sure this email with Mom & Dad & family.

  • JLC says:

    Hi I’ve watched your videos and looked at your sketches, but I was wondering if you could make a list of materials you used and post them somewhere? It’s hard trying to figure out what size screws you used and how many nuts and bolts to purchase.

    I want to try to make this, but I don’t know the name of the hardware or what to ask the person for at my local hardware store. How much did it cost you to make this with all of the hardware you have?

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks so much for your comment. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I made this and I no longer have the original build or the flip camera to measure the washers. The balancing of the apparatus is the most frustrating part and given the inconsistency in weight of the individual washers, it’s not exact science. That’s why I designed in ways to adjust the camera position and lower weight position to allow for the most flexibility during balancing. My best advice for people during this phase is patience. Start with most of the weight on the top (5-10), and just add a washer to the arm one by one until it’s balanced. Thanks and hope this helps people!

  • Manuel says:

    Hi,
    i’m just wondering:
    - the 1/8″ (3 mm) aluminum flat bar is not too flexible for this project? I’ve to do one for my camera (Sanyo Xacti SH1), i think that is heavier than your camera so i’m wondering if an iron bar was better than an aluminum; what do you think about this?

    PS: great design and great project ;)

  • CGAR says:

    can you buy a ballbearing with a threaded nut on the end? i guess what im asking is how do you attach the bearing to the u-joint?

  • SeanTheOriginal says:

    So, where the hell is the list of Materials and possible cost of this thing? Seriously, I want to make one of these myself, but without knowing EXACTLY what’s needed to make up, everything here is completely useless.

    I downloaded the PDF, and all I got were 3 pictures that tell what sizes of everything I need. Great, now I know size everything needs to be, but I have NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT THAT EVERYTHING IS!

  • M.P.El-Darwish says:

    Poster #45, SeanTheOriginal, is out of line and used the ‘F’ word. That makes him a dirtbag.
    However, As a project manager and innovations team lead, there are some key elements to the presentation of this DIY that need finesse.
    1) A parts list. Publishing a DIY proto project is like publishing a recipe. It always begins with a parts list that clearly defines: Sizes, Quantities and logical grouping.
    2) Getting started. What do I do first? What primary steps are required if any?
    3) The process. Videos are cute but useless in how-to publishing. Step by step tutorials are what your readers want to read.
    4) Troubleshooting. What issues am I likely to encounter?
    5) Sources. Clear links to sources that actually have the stuff in stock and can sell you enough for one or two units, without requiring a mass purchase.
    6) Donations. Yes. I am willing to send money in exchange for painless, effective tutorials.
    Having said all this, It’s clear from other questioners, that there were a lot of gaps in the instruction. Something that may be obvious to the teacher, may not at all be obvious to the student.
    Dow does the articulating joint fit into the bearing? What holds the bearing in place in the flashlight head. Are there any adhesives required? What tools do I need to complete this project. Finally. How much time did it take you to make it?
    Thanks for everything. Once I can actually locate the needed parts, I’ll try to make one for my readers at GearNinja.com

  • davidesantiago says:

    Any ideas on how to incorporate this into a DIY internal car mount to take shots from the inside (backe seat view out windsheild)?

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi Manuel,

    Although aluminum flat bar does flex a bit, it was the easiest to work with while prototyping different designs. Over the past 18 months people have told me they have had success reducing the flex by placing a cross bar in the lower arm. I’ve never worked with iron bar before, but I always encourage people to try. For me the exploration is the fun part! ;)

    Thanks!

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi davidesantiago,

    I often enjoy drives through the canyons also and tried several setups to mount this rig in my car. Unfortunately, this design doesn’t help much for this purpose. In particular it doesn’t absorb the vertical motion that you get with a car going over bumps and it was difficult to keep the camera fixed with the ball bearing in the handle. In the end, I bought glass suction cups from the local hardware store and just fixed the camera directly to the windshield.

    Thanks!

  • digitaljoven says:

    Hi SeanTheOriginal and M.P.El-Darwish,

    I really appreciate your comments. I’m humbled by the amount of attention this project has received since I posted 18 months ago. I am sorry you guys are disappointed with the presentation, but it was never my original intention to make a how-to video, or step by step tutorial of this project. I am a strong follower of the Maker community and this was simply to show and inspire others to build their own designs. In fact over the past year and half, I have received wonderful emails from other builders with amazing designs that solve the shortcomings of my own design. That is truly beautiful.

    I have a day job and this website and it’s projects are just my hobby in what little free time I have. I usually just post videos of my garage projects to show my friends and family with little or no documentation, but in this case I posted my google sketchup docs and tried to keep current with the comments to support the community of builders. I always find it funny when people feel entitled to more when everything is free.

    As always, I encourage everyone to start with the basics and explore on your own. For me that’s the best part!

    Thanks!

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