The Amazing PVC Rectangle
While shooting our web/tv series, Midnyte, I ended up creating a wonderful gadget that I used on almost every shooting day. I needed to be able to shoot scenes fast, but didn't want to eliminate tracking shots and I didn't want to shoot handheld. A Stedicam was out due to cost and the practice needed to master such a device (which means lots of re-takes). A dolly took to much time to set up. A FigRig (essentially a steering wheel with a camera mounted in the middle) was the most logical choice, but I didn't want to spend the $300 bucks to get one.
So, I created a cheap version based on the same principle (using the operator's two arms as a balancing device), which worked quite well. I took PVC pipe and some elbow joints and made a rectangle with a quick-release camera mount taken from a plastic tripod. The camera sits on the top pipe (instead of the middle like the FigRig) and is gripped on the two short ends. I even made the thing more practical than the expensive version by putting two feet on the bottoom so I can set it down.
How did it perform? Wonderful, and every tracking shot in Midnyte was created with this $10 device. It's not a dolly or a Stedicam, but it's as good as a FigRig and way better than shooting handheld. It's one of those things built from necessity that more than proved itself in the field. And on the screen.