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A device that stabilizes a hand-held camera so that the operator can move freely without jiggling the camera. The Steadicam liberated camera operators from dollies and tracks -- the camera could move anywhere that the operator could walk.

The Steadicam was first used by its inventor, Garrett Brown, in the film Rocky (most obviously in Rocky's run up the art museum steps, but also in the fight scenes). Brown eventually won both an Oscar and an Emmy for his invention.

A Steadicam rig for a motion picture camera is very heavy and attaches to the operator's torso with straps; the operator "wears" the camera. Smaller versions (such as the Steadicam JR) are available for video production, and these are often light enough to hold with one hand.

How the SteadiCam works

It's pretty easy to improvise a Steadicam equivalent


Examples:

  • Used extensively in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • Also, Firefly, and even in effects shots.
    • According to the DVD commentary, in a lot of scenes the camera operator was operating without a steadicam harness, but was so good at operating handheld that it looked like he was using one.
    • Supposedly, the reason the shaking effect looks so real is that they could actually rock the Serenity sets back and forth. Steadicam cares not.
  • While we're at it, Battlestar Galactica, too.
  • Steadicam harnesses were repurposed for the Smart Guns in Aliens.
  • Used to great effect in Das Boot, where it enabled camera operators to work within the confines of a real-size replica U-Boat and produce tracking shots following crew members through bulkheads and around pipes.
  • Used extensively in The Shining, for an example Danny riding his bike through the corridors.
    • Rumour has it that Kubrick, due to his legendary perfectionism, kept screwing up shots by reaching in to adjust the camera. The operator, Garrett Brown, allegedly got him to stop by conducting a conversation - staged where he knew Kubrick would overhear it - in which he claimed to have punched out Sylvester Stallone for doing the same thing on Rocky.
  • The Steadicam long take is a staple of ER's visual style.
  • Steadicam is the sine qua non of the Walk and Talk, and hence are indispensable whenever Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are on the other side of the camera. Sports Night and The West Wing were particularly notorious.
  • Scream has a scene which starts with a establishing crane shot, which then descends down to ground level and proceeds to follow the walking cast without a cut. This was done by having the Steadicam operator simply standing on a platform and stepping off when the crane reached the ground.
  • WALL-E was meticulously animated to contrast Steadicam-like shots aboard the Axiom with Jittercam-esque shots on Earth to add another layer of Technology vs. Nature to the film.
  • In Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese uses a steadicam for a three minute shot that follows Henry Hill and his girlfriend as they enter though the back door of the Copacapana restaurant, through the kitchen and up to the bar, stopping to meet patrons all the way.
  • The Steadicam operator Peter Robertson reportedly collapsed after filming the epic Oner on the Dunkirk beaches in Atonement.
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