Roxant Stabilizer Pro Video Camera Support
If you’re interested in making your videos look a bit more professional, here’s some hardware to consider. A camera stabilizer gives you the ability to walk and maintain fluid motion with your video.
Unlike “steadicams” with active gyro stabilizers, this inexpensive Roxant Stabilizer Pro is purely mechanical. The smoothing effect relies upon your camera being perfectly balanced on top of a ball-and-socket joint. The stabilizer hardware acts like a long pendulum that slowly swings as you move your camera, continually restoring a level view and counteracting your motion.
The Roxant has lots of adjustability to accommodate a wide range of camera hardware. That said, a successful setup requires very precise balancing in both front-to-back and left-to-right. Before you try balancing your rig, you’ll need to do some thinking ahead.
First, you’ll want to remove your camera strap and lens cap. Believe it or not, even the weight difference between adding/removing a memory card will affect the balance. If you intend to use a filter, then attach it. Set your zoom lens on the desired focal length, too.
If you want to also attach an external microphone atop the camera, make sure you also attach it prior to working on any balance adjustments.
My Roxant unit arrived with a slightly “sticky” ball-and-socket joint (on top of its handle). I added a small drop of high-quality synthetic oil lubricant (don’t use grease!) to the joint. You want this joint as frictionless as you can get it.
Roxant Stabilizer Pro and DSLR
In the shot above, you’ll note that I assembled the silver bottom portion that holds the counter-weights as fully-extended as I could get it. There’s a good reason for this. A long pendulum will swing at a much slower frequency than a short pendulum; this is basic physics. The mass at the end of the pendulum doesn’t matter; the length of the pendulum is what defines how long the swinging motion takes. You want your video to look as smooth as possible while you walk, and the slow-reacting pendulum will achieve this.
You want the bottom of your rig (where the counter-balance weights are) to be heavy enough that it always pivots to the lowest point of your setup while in use. You want front-back and left-right balance, but definitely NOT top-bottom balance.
Camera attachment slot and handle attachment view
In the view above, you can see the long slot (with 3 short cross-slots) for attaching your camera. Lighter cameras such as this Nikon D5300 will typically get mounted toward the rear of the main slot (farthest from the handle attachment pivot point). I avoid using the little cross-slots for left-right balancing, because it’s too hard to get precise adjustments using these cross-slots. Use of these cross-slots also forces you to lose the ability to fine-tune the front-rear balance (via the main slot). I discuss below how to get the proper left-right balance.
There are five holes available for attaching the handle. The attachment locations of the camera and the handle interact with each other, which can be either a blessing or a curse.
The front view shows a couple things of note. First, notice that the silver bottom bar is misaligned with the black upper bar. This misalignment causes the unit to rotate counter-clockwise, as viewed from the rear of the camera. This is how I got the left side of the camera to move lower and become level left-to-right (also from the point of view of the rear of the camera). The left-right levelling adjustment is very simple to make, and you might want to save this step for last. The front-back adjustment (discussed next) should probably be done first (after mounting the camera and the Roxant handle).
The other thing to note above is a pair of stainless-steel bearings (not included in the kit) that I added to one of the standard black counter-weights at the bottom of the unit. Using combinations of the included three weights in the kit, I wasn't able to get the unit perfectly level front-to-back. These bearings were just the right weight to achieve perfect front-rear balance, when combined with the heaviest included counter-balance weight. Washers would have worked for finer counter-balance control, too. You may not need any extra weights to get front-back balance, but just be aware that it’s an easy addition that might save you some frustration. You can also raise/lower the silver part of the vertical counter-balance to affect front/rear balance, but I’d suggest you keep the length near the maximum for the best stabilizing effect. I found that sliding the camera in its mounting slot was too crude to achieve good balance.
My goal with this rig was to place each adjustment at an end of its slot. This way, the pieces can be taken apart and reassembled without having to mess with another re-balancing effort.
Holding the Roxant stabilizer
The photo above shows the unit after it has been balanced. Everything pivots around the little ball-and-socket joint at the top of the handle. There is a lock provided near the top of the handle, if you want to stop the stabilizing effect.
The whole kit (plus my extra counter-weights)
It took me a couple of hours of frustration to get my setup perfectly balanced. The quality of the video you can obtain is worth the effort to get this rig properly leveled. Videos made purely from atop a tripod can get boring. Video captured while walking around without stabilization can make your audience nauseous.
This Roxant stabilizer doesn’t absolve you from using careful technique; it merely makes it easier to get full-motion video without the substantial expense of a full-blown steadicam. It’s also nice to finally have something that doesn’t need batteries and chargers.
If you don't feel that you're up to the challenge of fine-tuning these positioning adjustments to balance your setup, then I wouldn't recommend you buy this hardware. Also bear in mind that changing lenses, etc. will result in the need for a new rebalancing effort.
I hope you will find this discussion useful for avoiding some of the pitfalls I had to endure to get up and running. Happy shooting.