Utility Stability
Rory Wimberley
St Thomas Aquinas
Floor Location : J 027 D

I decided to do this science project to combine my passion for building things and for film-making. The theme of the project is camera stabilizers. I aimed to test which is the best method of stabilization, and whether I could design and build a camera stabilizer that would perform as well as the more expensive commercially available stabilizers. My hypothesis is that if there are more axes of movement and a stronger moment of inertia, then the mounted object will be more stable. The effectiveness of camera stabilizers is based on the axis of rotation (which provides counter-rotation to outside forces) and the moment of inertia (which provides the balance through the counter-weights).

My inspiration for the design and build of the camera stabilizers came from the original, ground-breaking invention of Garrett Brown, who created the Steadicam. Mr Brown filmed a show-case reel titled "30 impossible shots" showing the effectiveness of the Steadicam. This reel caught the attention of many famous film directors. He went on to use the Steadicam in many movies, such as Bound for Glory, Rocky, the Shining, Indiana Jones and Return of the Jedi.

I made three stabilizers, namely: a) Shoulder Mount, b) Horizontal Counterweight and c) 3-Axis Gimbal and bought two stabilizers, e) Yelangu s60t and f) Zhiyun Smooth Q. The control for the experiment was a hand-held camera, with my arm providing the stabilization. I planned my experiment to test the stabilizers on different surfaces, including smooth pavement, a rougher trail and steps, and at different speeds, both walking and running. I created a Scoring Rubric to assess the camera footage for each test, that gave a score of 1 to 3 for three criteria, namely total number of movements, average number of movements and frequency of movement. The total score per test was the sum of the individual three scores, with a higher score indicating more effective stabilization.

My results are summarized against three expectations, namely:
Expectation 1: The higher quality stabilizers with more sophisticated components would score score higher than simpler and cheaper versions. This was proved correct in that stabilizers e) and f) had the higher scores.The exception to this was stabilizer b) which had high scores even though it was hand-made and simply designed.
Expectation 2: Walking results would score higher than running results. This was proved correct. There was a decrease in the average score for all running tests versus walking tests.
Expectations 3: The self-built stabilizers with more sophisticated components would have higher results. This was proved incorrect. The self-made 3-Axis Gimble has more sophisticated components compared to the other two self-made stabilizers, yet scored lower.

I proved my hypothesis correct, in that stabilizers e) and f) showed higher scoring due to their three strong axes of movement used to counter outside displacement, and their very strong moment of inertia providing balance and stability.

I plan to use this work to develop a better range of camera stabilizers that perform well against the more expensive commercially available stabilizers.