Steadicams come in all sizes for most
shooting rigs. The latest is the Steadicam
Smoothee—a camera stabilization device
designed for iPhones (namely the iPhone 4, 4S
or 5) and also the GoPro Hero 2 and 3 video
cameras. Doing exactly what the full sized unit
does (as well as the Merlin and Flyer), you can
now have stabilized shots with your iPhone.
The Steadicam Smoothee comes packaged
in a lightweight box complete with the mount
for the camera—in my case, the iPhone 4. The
only assembly is mounting your phone to the
top plate, which is no different than mounting
any camera to a tripod.
The next step is balancing, and the Smoothee
is the easiest Steadicam device to balance
of all those I’ve been privileged to review. The
initial or “rough” balance is achieved by sliding the plastic Steadicam name plate up or down
the stabilization bar. Fine balance is accomplished
by using two red knobs: the knob on
the back, which controls the fore and aft movements,
and the side knob, which adjusts left
and right tilt. These minor adjustments help
fine tune the Smoothee’s stabilization and may
require a few moments to adjust, depending on
the wind conditions you might be experiencing
and other factors. The comfortable handle
fits easily in your hand and takes no effort to
Once the Smoothee has been balanced, you
might want to consult the great online tutorials
that Tiffen offers. They visually explain exactly
what the Smoothee can do and it’s well worth
spending 20 minutes or so to watch the video,
which is available at www.tiffen.com/steadicam_smoothee_operations_video.html.
However, the Smoothee is probably the only
device I’ve reviewed that needs no instruction
manual due to its very intuitive nature.
I’m not a big fan of shooting action
with an iPhone, as I have access to all of
the video capture goodies stored in our
school’s equipment cage. However, a lot of
my students had been bugging me to obtain
a Smoothee to provide better shooting
with an iPhone. I’ll admit that iPhones have
come a long way in image quality, and the
next logical step was for someone to create
a stabilization device that could make
good shots look even better.
In attempting to achieve a fluid shot
in one of our university’s cornfields, we
mounted a student’s iPhone 4 to the
Smoothee and took off running.
Right out of the box, the Smoothee
needed only minor adjustments with
the red knobs for leveling. The student
then ran through the cornfield shooting
a smooth point of view shot of someone
else running. A heftier DSLR or standard
video camera would have been a lot more
awkward to use in this situation due to
size. The Smoothee’s small profile was
much easier to maneuver through the
stalks of corn. We quickly learned though,
that the trick in moving quickly with
the device is to make sure your legs—or
in this case, corn stalks—do not brush
against the Smoothee.
Wanting to get the reverse angle of
someone running through the cornfield
was as simple as mounting the iPhone so
that the camera portion was facing rearward.
It would have been much more
difficult—and possibly dangerous—to
run through the cornfield backwards. Instead,
by mounting the camera facing toward
the rear, the operator had a pretty
good idea of where to shoot. Holding the
camera slightly higher, the student again
ran through the stalks and never got her
shoulder in any of the footage.
The last shot in the sequence was of
the actor’s feet during the run through
the cornfield. By simply holding the
Smoothee with the camera upside down
(pointed toward the ground) and flipping
the image on the iPhone, we got a great
low-angle shot of the talent’s feet. The
Smoothee certainly makes these types of
tracking shots easier, without a lot of wear
and tear on the operator.
If you’re shooting with an iPhone or
GoPro and need stabilized shots, look no
further than the Steadicam Smoothee.
With its extremely short learning curve,
anyone can master the device in a short
period of time. And as with any stabilization
device, the more you use it, the more
adept you become.
Chuck Gloman is chair and associate
professor of the TV/Film department at
DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa.
He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding smooth, stabilized shots
using your iPhone or Go Pro as
Ready to use right out of the box,
compact and easy to carry and
Steadicam Smoothee, $170
MSRP; iPhone 4/4S mount, $25
The Tiffen Company