Blog Post #96: My $14 "Steadicam"!
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
"Every artform and every artist is struggling against the technology because art is technology... it's using technology to communicate emotion... whether you're telling stories, you're doing plays, you're doing music, you're writing books, you're painting pictures. It's all about the technology." -George Lucas
In 2002, my dad and I built a $14 "Steadicam" (pictured below) using an online how-to guide (which remarkably enough, is still online here: http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy) for my first actual short film production, Mass Education. A Steadicam is, of course, a widely-used tool in the film industry which allows for the mechanical isolation of the camera from the operator's movement in order to produce smooth and steady traveling shots. The $14 incarnation operates on the same basic principle as the more impressive (and far more expensive) genuine article.
I had been inspired to add the device to my starting filmmaker arsenal by films that made spectacular use of the tool, like The Shining, Magnolia, Goodfellas and Russian Ark. Although my use of it was limited to two scenes in that first short film and discontinued beyond that, employing and embracing this technology suggested the alluring and intractable role of technology in art referred to above.
Unfortunately, it's rather prosaic to regard technology with suspicion and haughtiness these days but I firmly believe, when harnessed properly and astutely, technology can serve as a powerful extension of our best impulses, whether we're artists or not.