Q&A with Adam Sidman, inventor of a unique, gyro-based, camera stabilizing rig


posted Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:48 PM EDT


Earlier this month, photographers and cinematographers got pretty excited about a new "game changer" device unveiled by Freefly Systems: a virtually unshakeable, gyro-based handheld camera stabilizer called MoVI. But once the dust (and hype) had settled on that announcement, some potential MoVi customers began having second thoughts about the stabilizer's head-turning, $15,000 price tag.

Wasn't there a way to offer the same gyro-based camera stabilizing technology for less money? It turns out there might already be just such a device, and it was invented way back in 2005. Described as a "handheld, multi-axis camera stabilization device utilizing MEMS gyro sensors (stabilizer)," by its inventor Adam Sidman, the device looks like a stripped down version of MoVi. (You can see it in action in a video clip here.)

We recently interviewed Sidman about his device and found out a little more about how it works and his plans for it.

Imaging Resource: Your invention looks very similar to the MoVi camera stabilizer. Are the two products related at all?

Adam Sidman: I have no relationship with the MoVi or Freefly Systems and, in fact, only recently learned about them.

The rig that I invented in 2005 and patented was surprisingly effective at stabilizing. I approached the age-old camera stabilization at a unique time when the sensor/servo technology was ripe to be applied to a low-cost, accurate camera stabilization. While my rig was built with a two axis gimble, the patent covers three or more axes as well as other features like translational stabilization, introducing controlled wobble and shake, and panning and tilting.

IR: What's the current status of your invention?

AS: I have been granted two U.S. Patents on this technology and am hashing out licensing the technology. 

IR: Can it also be used with a DSLR?

AS: A DSLR is ideal. The rig is adjustable to support a variety of cameras from a GoPro to a Red or even larger. The technology certainly covers a variety of payload shapes and sizes. I originally designed it for the Panasonic DVX100.

IR: If it was ever brought to market, what do you think the price would be? If it's not possible to answer that directly at this point, do you think it would be a less expensive than the MoVi, which will sell for $15,000?

AS: It is too early to answer this question. I hope to be able to serve a variety of filmmakers. 


IR: What do you think is the future for this type of stabilizer rig?

AS: The goal of stabilization, in my opinion, is to make it as transparent to the operator as possible. A stabilizer should be as user friendly as picking up a bare camcorder and pointing and shooting. That was my goal when I developed my rig.

In order to evaluate the performance of Sidman's stabilizing system, it was compared to several other setups, while walking down a measured path. The vertical axis shows peak angular rotation (how quickly each setup rotates, i.e. how much "shake" there is). The lower the number, the more effective the setup is at stabilizing erratic motions transferred from the operator walking down the course. Sidman's gyro-based stabilizer is on the right of the chart.