How to Set Up a Steadicam?

How to Set Up a Steadicam?
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A steadicam is an incredible tool that lets you take professionalquality shots. Its effective use requires proper know-how and practice. Setting up this tool can also be challenging and somewhat intimidating. Thus, knowing how to set up a steadicam is essential to ensure proper functioning and minimize the risk of damages.

Anatomy of Steadicam

Before setting-up the unit, you should first familiarize yourself with the main components of a steadicam.


With an adjustable harness, the vest ensures proper fit and comfort for the operator. It allows even distribution of the combined weight of the camera, the arm, and the counterbalance. Good posture is maintained with the shoulder padding, back straps, chest pad, and lumbar support features of the vest.


The sled supports the camera mounted in the platform. It is composed of several notable parts.

  • Stage

A platform where the camera is mounted. The power and video connectivity switches are ergonomically located at the back for easier reach and better functionality. It has a handy feature that allows tilting and trimming of the camera while the main post remains in its original position.

  • Post

A discrete part of the sled. It varies depending on personal preference and workflow. Some units have telescopic posts that can extend from several points that allow the operator to achieve better shots without any additional equipment.

  • Monitor

An optional part that allows the operator to have a real-time view. It is usually mounted on a bracket that allows different screen directions and movements.


The arm serves as the link between the vest and sled, making it one entity. It is specifically designed to mimic the human arms and load an equal amount of force for an effortless movement of the sled.

Requirements for Setup

Be sure to set aside ample time to check on your unit and prepare the following items within your reach.

  • Steadicam package – Be sure that the parts are complete.
  • Camera or Camcorder – It should be fully charged.
  • Camera settings list – This indicates the number and size of forwards and lower weights, arc size, mounting hole letter, stage position, and the number of turns.
  • Screwdrivers – The small and large flat head types
  • A pencil and tape measure

Factors to Consider

Several factors should be considered in setting up a Steadicam unit. This includes the following:

  • Back Weights
  • Front Weights
  • Right Peg
  • Horizontal Stabilization
  • Vertical Stabilization
  • Lens Weight
  • Lens Focal Length
  • Camera Weight

How to Set Up a Steadicam?

Folding and Unfolding the Steadicam

Upon unboxing, you will notice that the unit is in a compact, folded mode. Be sure to fold and unfold in the correct sequence to avoid damaging the unit. You should regularly practice unfolding to flying mode and folding to travel mode for familiarization.

Identifying the Parts

Other than the main components, you should also familiarize yourself with the following:

  • Gimbal

Know its range of motion. It has delicate bearings that should be kept within the natural capacity.

  • Grip

Acts as support and positions the unit in place. It should be held facing forward on the Velcro side, in contact with your fingers. This is to avoid impeded movements and damage of the unit.

  • Guide

Provides minimal interference between your thumb and fingers. This black ring allows better aiming and assists in tilting your camera.

  • Trim Roller

Allows fine adjustments of the unit’s balance–fore-and-aft and side-by-side.

Balancing the Unit

Set the balance of the entire unit. You should have slight bottom-heaviness to achieve stabilization. This can be done through:

  • Weights Adjustments

Adding or subtracting weights gives the bottom-heaviness its coarsest adjustments. Steadicam usually comes with several stainless steel weights.

  • Caliper Hinge Adjustments

Increasing or decreasing the angle of the lower spar gives bottom-heaviness a finer adjustment.

  • Guide Ring Adjustments

Raising or lowering the threaded guide ring gives the finest adjustment at the bottom-heaviness.

Installation of Plates

Prior to mounting of the camera, the plate should be properly docked on the stage. There are stage markings to show the correct positions.

Preparation of Camera

Grab your camera and determine its accessories. It has a big influence on the balance, so better take them off if they are not necessary for operating your camera.

Keep the following important things in mind.

  • Make sure that your camera has a memory card installed.
  • Remove your lens cap and shoulder strap while shooting to prevent swinging.
  • Put a narrow strip of duct tape at the mounting hole of the camera’s underside.

Some mounting spaces are small, irregular, and weak. The use of plate increases friction for an improved tightness and fitting.

Attach the camera to the plate. Each model has their center of gravity giving variation to the positioning.

Mounting and Balancing the Camera

Be sure to inspect the trim rollers before mounting the camera. It should be properly attached to the plate to ensure correct weights and proper adjustments on the arc size. Several points should also be considered.

Whenever the locking lever is unlocked, keep a hand on your camera to prevent it from falling off.

Learn how to release the caliper hinge. Never rush in adjusting or it may result in bents and other damages.

Horizontal and Vertical Trimmings

The trimmings should be considered for perfect balance. Some units have preset settings and position on the stage. Know how to adjust unbalanced units and to what direction.

  • For cameras that tilt forward, large fore and aft adjustments can be applied.
  • For cameras that tilt to the left, side-to-side trimming can be done.
  • Consider top heaviness to prevent upside-down flipping.
  • Excess bottom-heaviness should be absent to prevent pendulum effect.
  • Perform drop test to calibrate the quality of bottom-heaviness.

After following these steps, you are now ready to proceed with the exciting part—operations. This determines the performance of your unit and allows you to make the necessary adjustments.

Final Thoughts

Setting up a steadicam may vary on different models. These are just the basic principles involved.

With this information, knowing how to set up a steadicam should be easier. It should allow you to pull off the task with more confidence and no hesitations. You’ll soon realize that you are already a pro not only in operating a steadicam but also in setting it up.

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