Stedicam Smoothee

Stedicam Smoothee

Posted On: August 16, 2011
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The Steadicam Smoothee™ is specifically designed and engineered to work with an Apple® iPhone 3Gs.

Based on the same technology as the big $60,000 rigs used in Hollywood, it allows iPhone 3Gs owners to capture incredible video without the shakes normally associated with hand-held video shot on the go, right out of the box, the very first time. The Smoothee can be used with the Apple iPhone 3GS, 4, the Flip Mino video camera, or the iPod Touch with additional models to follow.

“Whether you’re a novice or aspiring videographer, the Steadicam Smoothee™ allows iPhone 3Gs owners to have a richer experience and more fun with their iPhone,” said Steve Tiffen, president and CEO of the company.

The Steadicam Smoothee™ is small and agile enough to take on vacations or follow the action at sporting events.

The Smoothee™ let’s you “fly” wherever the scene takes you–up and down steps, indoors and outside, through crowds–almost anywhere, with precise, elegant control and ease. Its quick release mount lets you instantly swap camera connections between your Smoothee™ and any tripod.
While designed for the Apple i-Phone 3Gs, the patented quick release removable i-Phone mount also serves as a tabletop stand or can be mounted to any tripod with a standard ¼ x20” camera mount.

The comfortable ergonomic hand-grip folds up securely when not in use. Also included with the Steadicam Smoothee™ is a quick guide DVD on how to get the best possible shots, along with a carrying strap.

Big Steadicams can cost over $60,000, carrying cameras up to fifty pounds, and they get those smooth steady shots you see in movies where the camera runs through a submarine, orbits an actor in the middle of nowhere, flies effortlessly through a party, opens the Jay Leno show, or moves naturally over terrain that would be impossible for a camera dolly to negotiate.

Announced at CES in January, the Smoothee is a scaled-down version of a Steadicam that has been created for the iPhone 3GS, Flip HD (Ultra), and Droid. It’s a two-piece rig with a product-specific camera holder that clips onto your video device and a pre-assembled, pre-balanced arm in the shape of a giant comma. The unit we reviewed is a pre-production prototype, but represents the final product right down to the fine points.

Permanently attached to the arm is the gimbal and grip handle. The grip handle snaps into a storage holder when being stowed.

You clip your video device (in my case, an iPhone 3GS) into the camera holder, clip the holder onto the arm, and grab the handle, letting go of the rest of the rig. Immediately, the rig uprights itself and levels off. All the camera holders are pre-balanced to the same standard and even though the video device in them may have a different center of gravity and overall weight, you can interchange them without having to re-balance the Smoothee.

If any tilt or tipping is present, two red knobs let you adjust the up/down and side to side balance of the Smoothee, a process that takes just a few seconds. I found that I didn’t even need to stop walking while adjusting these, and wherever you leave them, the next time you use the rig, your last setting is remembered, just where you left it.

Since not all shots are straight out to the horizon, small adjustments to forward/back tip are common. The rig has enough adjustment to cover about 80 degrees in equal amounts up and down. For “Dutch Angle” shots, you can adjust about 20 degrees off horizontal either way.

Everybody who owns an iPhone 3GS (today it’s probably around 20,000,000 of us out there, around the world) knows that iPhone video… erm… sucks. There, I’ve said it, but it’s the truth, and there is no going back.

In the iPhone’s defense, ALL small fixed lens video devices shoot video that sucks, and it’s all because they can’t possibly be held steady. Unless you put the camera—cellphone video camera, Flip camera, Droid or other weight-free camera—on a tripod, your image is going to be more of an electrocardiogram of how poorly you can hold the thing, than it will be a clean record of whatever it was you were trying to shoot.

In the case of the iPhone in particular, you shoot video in constant fear that the slippery thing will squirt right out of your grip and head for the floor. Not any more. The iPhone grip has a tripod screw. Now you can shoot time-lapse scenes with your iPhone. Ohboyohjoy.

The Smoothee literally gives these small video devices a whole second life. It will take the average user (I predict) about ten minutes of practice to learn how to run the thing, and by the end of the first half hour of playing with it, that person will be getting into the fine points of camera moves, dolly shots, boom shots and floating shots you only ever see in the movies.

To give the rig a good workout, we took it to the J Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, one of the world’s leading art museums, and started taking pictures of every kind we could think of. You can photograph without flash at the Getty, but NO TRIPODS ALLOWED.

None of the shots required any extra gear, or received processing in editing. The shots you see in our demo movie are just like the shots anybody could take with their bare hands and a Smoothee.

Flat, level shots, images at up and down angles, moving in the cable car, walking into the plazas, dollying sideways, moving up and down stairs, booming the camera over people’s heads, capturing a subject being interviewed, trucking into scenes, orbiting subjects (panning while moving around a subject), going for arty patterns, covering subject matter traditionally, shooting in low light, shooting into the glare of the sky, shooting straight up, shooting as stable as can be, moving backwards, shooting at floor height, pushing the camera into the subject, trying to tell a story in as few shots as possible, and even using the balancing system as the driver for shots that pan up to the final subject.