Published on April 3rd, 2013 | by Greg
Steadicam Smoothee: An End To Shaky iPhone Footage
The principles behind a camera stabilization system are fairly simple- use weights to counter any shakes and help even out movements. Each time your hand trembles and with each footstep, you’re adding tremors to your footage. And while some services, including YouTube, will help correct for them, and some software programs now help fix a bit of that in post-processing, it’s still much better, faster, and more effective to avoid it in the first place.
That’s precisely where the Steadicam Smoothee helps! Available in a variety of models, Tiffen basically just swaps out a set of mounts for different video capturing devices, including GoPro and multiple models of the iPhone (4/4S, 3GS) and even the new iPhone 5, which is what we tested with. The hardware remains the same for the most part, with a comfortable ergonomic grip below the device and a longer, curving set of rails and weights. Professionals have been using similar gear for years- we tried out the Glidecam for DSLRs long ago to some success- and we should note that it does take a bit of practice to achieve solid results, as well as bit of tweaking to get everything setup properly.
As you might expect, you’ll first need to slip your device into the custom case that will hold it while on the Steadicam itself. The case for the iPhone 5 was nice enough, but certainly nothing that you will want to use when not attached to the Smoothee, thanks to the large protruding attachment for mounting the smartphone. It’s flat base allows you to use it as a sort of tripod on level surfaces, and it clicks into the Steadicam simply enough with a nice, solid lock. That part of the process takes only a minute or so, but the next part is the critical and time-consuming section. You’ll need to zero in the weights, using the red knobs for fine tuning, and though there aren’t any weights to add or subtract or lost, it can take awhile to get this right (and they don’t always stay locked in between uses, so you’ll need to do this each time you take your phone out and put it back in).
Once you’re ready to go, though, you can choose from three ways to hold it. We tried all three- two-handed at first, and graduating to hand-and-thumb, while also testing out the one-hand-plus-thumb-and-index-finger method- but found the middle the best overall approach after we got comfortable with the unit. With a light touch of your thumb on the dial, you can pan and tilt your iPhone 5, and when it’s properly balanced the effect is almost magically smooth. Walking with the unit will still result in motion, of course, but it’s not jagged or distracting. And the learning curve is much shorter than any competitors or other systems, not that there are many out there for the iPhone 5. The power button and necessary ports are functional in the case, though it would be nice to have a way to start and stop footage without needing to awkwardly reach up and around- the first and last few seconds of any video will be a bit shaky.
It might not be practical for all circumstances, and the five pound weight does pull down on your hand over time. But the results speak for themselves, and anyone who has found their videos a bit hard to watch with all of the shaking will find the Steadicam Smoothee a welcome addition to their arsenal of accessories. It’s handy, effective, and available now online and in stores for only $150 or so.