Steadicam changed the film industry with unrestricted tracking shots in films like Rocky and The Shining, and now, it's going after smartphone users. Parent company Tiffen has unveiled the Steadicam Volt, a handheld gimbal up for grabs on Kickstarter for $139. Unlike models you may know like DJI's $299 Osmo, the Volt (built in collaboration with drone-maker Yuneec) is not an entirely electronic affair. Rather, it uses a combination of Steadicam's traditional balance-type gimbal and motorization to give you a smooth tracking shot with more control over tilts, pans and other moves.
Steadicam inventor and camera operator legend Garrett Brown calls it an "electronically gyro-augmented Steadicam for smartphones that weighs one pound, with the inertia an feel of a 40 pound rig." What that means (I think) is that it works like a simple hand-held gimbal stabilizer, but uses a motorized gyro to give it artificial inertia, keeping the phone steady when you move your hand. Unlike motorized three-axis gimbals, it'll work even when the battery is dead.
The Volt can accept iOS and Android smartphones weighing 100 to 200 grams (3.5 to 7 ounces), from 58 to 80 mm (2.2 to 3.2 inches) wide. It comes with an app that helps you balance and tune it, and has dual operating modes for novices or advanced users. The lithium-ion batteries last eight hours between charges, but you can run the device in a reduced way with no juice.
Since it's more of a mechanical gimbal than a fully motorized rig, expect a steeper learning curve than for a device like the DJI Osmo. However, the company says that also makes it more responsive and gives shots a more natural look. In a side-by-side demonstration, Brown shows that the fully motorized Osmo has trouble keeping up with the manually operated Volt.
The Steadicam Volt is less complex than a fully motorized rig (therefore probably less likely to break), and at the Kickstarter price of $139, is a lot less money, too. As with most Steadicam stabilizers, though, some operator skill is required; so don't expect a fully automatic experience.
The product has already met its $100,000 Kickstarter goal after just a few days (the early-bird $119 offer is already gone, unfortunately), and with Tiffen and Yuneec behind it, you can be pretty confident about the June 2017 shipping time. As a bonus in the video below (at around 1:02), see Brown on the set of Return of the Jedi operating a special gyro-equipped,Vistavision steadicam rig used to film the speeder bike background plates at 0.75 frames per second.