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DIY physics guru David Prutchi coveted one of the expensive professional-grade gyroscopic camera stabilizers made by Kenyon Laboratories. “These devices,” he observes, “don’t seem to have changed much since Kenyon’s founder filed the following two patents in the 50′s: US2811042, US2570130.” Referencing those patents, David reverse-engineered the basic geometry of the Kenyon stabilizer using a pair of inexpensive precision gyroscopes from Glenn Turner of gyroscopes.com. These are really beautiful machines, in and of themselves, each of which costs a bit less than $100US as of this writing. Positioned on a bracket suspended below the camera in use, the two gyroscopes are driven by electric motors and mounted on gimbals with their axes crossed on symmetrical oblique angles that provide both horizontal and vertical stabilization components. [Thanks, David!]

d.i.y. Gyroscopic Camera Stabilizer that Really Works!

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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  1. Fred says:

    Stupid.
    Stupid because the goal is a stable camera, right?
    Stupid because you can have a stable camera and only spend $6 at Home Depot/Lowes.
    Screw a half inch sized 18 inch bolt into the tripod screw in the bottom of the camera. And at the the bottom of the bolt, screw on a bunch of washers for weight.
    A poor man’s steady-cam.
    Done.

    1. Fred, uh, I guess you missed the point. A gyroscopic stabilizer is for stablizing a camera *while you are carrying it*, not when using a camera in a stationary setting (like the ingenious tripod scheme you describe to us “stupid” people).

      1. Hugh says:

        He’s not wrong, just using a different approach (linear momentum versus angular momentum).

      2. Bobby K says:

        You miss-understood what he meant using the tripod. maybe before you call people “stupid” you shoudl consider that maybe your the one at fault. you can (as many people do) carry a tripod by one “leg” etc and use it as a steadycam. look it up then come back and name call.

    2. Sean Ragan says:

      Fred, please be careful using a word like “stupid” here. It really does cross the line on our “be nice” policy. But I left it in place because I really should’ve tied this story to the “DIY Steadicam” phenomenon you mention, because we at MAKE are intimately familiar with that back story.

      We published “$14 Camera Stabilizer” way back in MAKE Vol 01,in 2005. Since that time, I’ve seen probably a dozen different designs on the same principle, blogged about half that number, and personally built one, myself. Those designs work by putting the camera on top of a pendulum with a low-hanging weight. The longer the pendulum and the heavier the weight, the better they work. If the savings in money are worth the huge amount of extra weight and bulk they add, they can be great. Gyroscopic stabilizers work just as well, or better, at a fraction of the added weight and size. But they are prohibitively expensive. Which is why David’s inexpensive DIY version is of great interest.

      1. clintatk says:

        Problem is, I think Fred is one of those who prowl the web, looking for places to make comments that start with “Stupid.”, etc..

      2. Thank you very much Sean,

        Those are exactly the advantages of gyro stabilization. Professional aerial and adventure photographers still use gyro-based stabilizers in addition to their lenses’ stabilization because of their superb performance. A blog reader pointed me to the following video from the “Sons of Guns” show where they used a standard Kenyon gyro to stabilize a helicopter-mounted gun with incredibly good results:
        http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/sons-of-guns-mag-58-flying-gun-videos/
        Cheers,
        David

      3. Fred (but not that Fred) says:

        Not to mention the fact that you could use this in conjunction with a quadrotor or RC helicopter and get super-smooth video!

        Hmmm… wonder how long you could run the gyros on a battery. Although, I suppose done right one could wait until just before shooting to spin up the gyros…

  2. Alan Dove says:

    Brilliant.

    Brilliant because the goal is to stabilize the camera in a variety of situations without adding excessive weight and bulk, right?

    Brilliant because if you use any of the “DIY steadicam” designs that are now widely known, you’ll probably end up doubling the weight of the overall rig and adding an inconveniently long appendage at the bottom. Handling one of those setups on a boat, in the cockpit of an airplane, or anywhere else with limited space and lots of motion could be quite difficult.

    He looked up the patents, found the parts, and did a lovely build, then told everyone else how to do the same for a tenth of the cost of the commercial product. The reason Hollywood still loves these gyroscopic stabilizers is that you can use them in settings where using a dead-weight design would be impractical or, you know, stupid.

  3. jamesbx says:

    This looks very well executed, but I can’t help but wonder if motor vibration would be transmitted to the camera on long exposure shots.

  4. h4xx0r says:

    i just saw those p-gyros not too long ago after boingboing led me off into the ether for an hour or so.. very cool stuff. the build looks solid if a bit bulky, and i wonder if the sheet the gyros are attached to isn’t going to add a bit of unnecessary play into the system.

    but hey, that’s what prototypes are for.

    my only real criticism is that, in the before and after videos, i really don’t see much difference. you do mention that the camera is not held by a free-swinging handle, maybe that would do it.

  5. Blake Thomas says:

    I think machined brass flywheels could be added to some low cost rc outrunner motors. The outer casing on an outrunner (as the name implies) spins, so if you made a brass tube to fit over the motor, that should work. I’m not sure what the losses are when you fight the gyros (without added input power they slow down if you fight them) but you can get small motors that will do 50,000 rpm.

    <$20 per motor/controller set (if you don't mind buying from China). do you think a 3 axis unit would be better?

    and a 12v or 4 cell li-po battery, they'd spin up fast, so can easy just triger it right before you need it.

    1. Blake Thomas says:

      It seems the motors he’s using draw about 15w at startup, a ruff guess would be a max power of 30w, the little motors I was looking at have a max power of 100w, ballencing them could be difficult, but doable (not to difficult to machine the flywheel accurately on a laith). They also only hit 12,000rpm, so similar flywheel running at 48,000rpm would have 16* the angular momentum?

  6. [...] DIY Gyroscopic Camera Stabilizer that Really Works! (via Make) [...]

  7. [...] via:Make: Original:David Prutchi:d.i.y. Gyroscopic Camera Stabilizer that Really Works! /* [...]

  8. Will says:

    It seems to me the flaw in this design is that there is no resistance to side to side swinging motion, the result of which can be seen in the demonstration video. Why put the gyroscopes on that axis rather than have them parallel to the bottom of the camera? Then there is resistance to camera tilt in every direction. You lose the resistance to panning action, but is that a feature that you want anyway? Shouldn’t normal camera moves be a lot easier to do than abnormal camera-shake moves, isn’t that the point? Plus, when shooting handheld, especially with some sort of handle above the camera, as you would most likely use in conjunction with this design, the major pitfalls are going to be pendulum-like motions caused by the camera’s center of gravity getting off the vertical axis and resisting gravitational force. The logical way to combat that, it seems to me, is to put a gyroscope spinning on the horizontal axis. Also, I understand that having two gyroscopes spinning in opposite direction is necessary to cancel angular momentum, but would it work to put just one gyroscope on the bottom of the camera and rely on your hand to counteract the angular momentum (my envisioned setup is attaching a handle to the camera mount such that the camera provides its own stabilizing weight (ala Fred/Hugh) and attaching one gyroscope to the bottom of the camera cuz I’m cheap). Thoughts?

  9. Alex Fedin says:

    Man, a couple of questions to you:
    1) where to buy the motors you used?
    2) how did you powered these motors?

    1. Hi Alex,
      The motors come with the gyroscopes sold by
      http://www.gyroscope.com/

      1. Alex Fedin says:

        Hi Dave,

        It looked like the complete set of two gyroscopes + two gymballs + power source (battery and chargers) + that thing to bolt all the devices on + some sturdy box to make it weather-resistant ==> the total price comes very close to 1000 USD.
        I wanted to get it ready to be used out-of-the-box, and ordered it from Kenyon Labs (the model that is next o the basic one).
        Today, it was delivered, and I made a few test shots and videos. Very like what I saw, and planning to use it wherever it is more convenuent than the traditional tripod.

        Thank you, Dave, for the great idea. That would be great if you (or omeone else) could set up a production line for the devices like this for the price under $500, but I afraid this might be impossible with the presence of Kenyon Labs patents. Though, if you create a detailed documentation on what and where to buy, and then how to assemble DIY gyro stabilizer – this might not be breaching the patents, huh?

        I will publish anything good I’ve shoot with my stabilizer and share with you.

        The best.
        –Alex.

        1. Steve Loar says:

          I don’t think that patents last as long as you think they do! I think it’s around 20 years, although I’m not sure.

  10. Jason says:

    I think youll get better results if you put the gyros closer to the center of gravity. Patents should have expired.

  11. Daan Gray says:

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  12. Eric Snyder says:

    Oh the pain, another invention of mine is gone..this time I’m 60 years too late. I have been thinkign of this idea in the back of my mind. Seriously though, if they are spun quickly enough (say 100,000 RPM), the flywheels could be smaller and lighter. Even my kid’s toy gyroscopes require a decent amount of force to alter/move while they are spinning (which is what got me thinking…). All that’s needed are two cheap brushed motors, the flywheels, a “frame” (to hold the motors; etc and connect them to the camera’s tripod socket), on/off switch, and battery. Not sure if the cage/frame aroudn the flywheels are needed – my not just connect them to the motor shaft, and clamp the motors to the frame. Well, holding them tighter (at both ends as shown)would be best, but more complex.

    1. Randy says:

      Just so that you understand real physics. There is no material on earth that can withstand the forces generated by 100,000 rpms. The critical point at which structural defects or impurities in materials may cause complete disintigration is in the 60,000 to 75,000 rpm range.

      The gyros pictured above have many potential dangers if not housed properly and the force they generate is diminished by running in air. I would be amazed if these products will work for longer that 1 year of regular use, before the motor, bearings or the gimbal ceases to poerate properly. In short, I would certainly invest the money into a product that has stood the test of time (50+ years) over something akin to a ramped up version of a childs toy.

  13. […] is what I use….MAKE | How-To: Low-Cost Gyroscopic Camera Stabilizer Amateurs worry about equipment, professionals worry about time, masters worry about light. […]

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