Stubilizer - the video stabilizer for the action sport junky
Stubilizers are the world's first GoPro mount compatible, actively stabilizing devices for the GoPro range of cameras.
Stubilizer - the video stabilizer for the action sport junky
Stubilizers are the world's first GoPro mount compatible, actively stabilizing devices for the GoPro range of cameras.
RockSolid Technologies Stubilizer™ products have been created to help put an end to shaky action sport videos.
They can also give you some great new creative control, making your action videos even more exciting and engaging.
They are self-contained, need no technical knowledge to operate and can attach to anything you currently attach your GoPro, camera to, via a built in GoPro compatible mount!
Helmet mounted Duo Demonstration
Why are we on Kickstarter ?
After 6 months of development, we have the technology working, we have the design complete, and we need your help to take it forward to production.
So far all the Stubilizer prototypes have been produced with basic 3d printing.
Producing professional consumer electronics cases (via Injection molding, or other similar technologies) is extremely expensive: Stubilizer case tooling alone could cost over £20,000.
Add in the need to buy electrical and electronic components in bulk to get the price down to realistic levels, and we soon arrive at a significant amount of money.
100% of the money we raise from the Kickstarter project will go into fulfilling our rewards and enabling the continued production and development of Stubilizer.
Stubilizer - the GoPro compatible video stabilizer for the action sport junky!
Stubilizers have primarily been designed for the action sport GoPro camera user; with paragliding, powered paragliding (paramotoring) and motorcycling being the main focus during development (since these happen to be the main activities of the creator of Stubilizer).
However, any action sport or activity where there’s lots of movement can benefit from a Stubilizer - and since they all attach to a regular GoPro mount, you can attach Stubilizers to the end of a pole, to your helmet, to your bicycle handlebars, or to anywhere else you can think of!
As a GoPro camera user, how many action videos have you shot, perhaps with a helmet mounted or pole mounted camera, only to find, when reviewing the footage, that it seems far more shaky and wobbly than you remembered the experience itself being?
You're reviewing the footage shaking around all over the screen, and you're thinking to yourself:
"Sure, I wanted a 'Point of View' (POV) video, but this shaky video doesn't seem much like the 'point of view' I remember at the time."
Have you ever stopped watching someone’s YouTube video for the same reason?
Or perhaps, in the case of a sport like motorcycling, you just want to make more creative 'Moto GP' style videos showing your track day riding in a more exciting format? - Keeping the track horizontal in the frame, while we see your bike lean over at crazy angles, while your knee slider sparks along the ground?
With shaky videos, sometimes the activity itself is the challenge - for example a paragliding wing can throw you around quite a bit in turbulence, moving and rotating your entire body through no fault of your own.
Or sometimes the shakiness is caused by your head or body movement itself - perhaps you're cycling along, and you ‘feel’ like you're focusing on the apex of that turn... but your head isn't: it was moving all over the place - up and down, side to side and tilting into the turn.
Only when you watched the resulting video did you find that out!
Your eyes and your brain do a great job of ‘stabilizing’ your vision, but the recorded results often don’t match the ‘Point of View’ you remember from the experience itself…
RockSolid Stubilizer was designed to help stabilize your video from just such activities.
How it came about...
"As a keen extreme sports participant, I've been using various POV cameras for over 10 years, and the GoPro range of cameras exclusively for the last 4 years or so.
I do a lot of paragliding and powered paragliding, and usually take video of my flights - but often find that the movements of my paraglider and my head make much of the footage too shaky to be usable.
Also, being a keen radio control (RC) multi-rotor (drone) pilot, I've been actively participating in the development of the new brushless motor gimbal technology that has taken the RC world by storm over the last year and revolutionized RC aerial video footage.
There are countless of these 'gimbals' on the RC market now, some of which can give great RC video results if you know what you are doing technically: setting them all up and programing them via a computer, assembling, soldering and wiring them up, and powering them with your own sourced RC lithium polymer batteries.
But none of these products are close to being suitable for plug-and-play ruggedized action sports use.
For the last 6 months I have been researching, designing and prototyping an adaption of the technology for more mainstream, action sport use.
My goals were:
1. Usable by anyone who uses a GoPro camera - no need for any knowledge of the technology, programming or DIY skills
2. True ‘plug-and-play’
3. Compatible with the GoPro camera in its protective case, and compatible with the regular GoPro screw mount and foot mount. Simply attach the GoPro camera to the Stubilizer, as you would attach the camera to the screw mount, then attach the Stubilizer to any existing foot GoPro mount as you would attach the screw mount, and start shooting video!
4. Rugged, compact and simple enough to be suitable for action sports use - no wiring dangling around all over the place. No exposed electronic circuit boards.
5. Utilize safer battery technology rather than potentially dangerous non-protected RC specific lithium polymer battery packs.
6. Create a consumer device - professional design, with a clean modern look, in a proper mass produced high impact polycarbonate casing (similar to the material your GoPro camera case itself is made from)"
- Stu Smith, creator of the Stubilizer
Oh, and if you are wondering ‘why Stubilizer?’ - Stubilizer is a (terrible?) pun, from Stu Smith, creator of the Stubilizer: He likes to incorporate his name in his inventions, Stabilizer = Stu-bilizer. :-)
The Stubilizer Models
There are three different Stubilizer models:
Stubilizer Solo £139
This has one axis of stabilization (roll).
The Solo is great for activities that only really require stabilization in the roll axis.
Motorcycling is a great example of this.
Another great use for the Solo is mounting it on a the end of a pole - usually you’ll find that it’s keeping the camera horizontally level that’s most difficult when shooting pole mounted video footage - Stubilizer Solo will do this job for you!
The Solo can be mounted in any orientation and will still function. e.g. you can mount it dangling upside down or mount it to the side of your motorbike or helmet and it will still keep your camera horizontal at all times.
Stubilizer Duo £199
The Duo adds another axis of stabilization (pitch).
For many sports, this extra axis is necessary to give you really smooth stable footage - not only is the horizon being kept level, but the camera is being kept flat too - so any up and down pitching movement is more or less eliminated.
Paragliding, motorcycling (impressive for wheelies!), mountain biking, pole mounted use, skateboarding, kite land boarding would all benefit from the Duo.
If you're not sure which Stubilizer is for you - the Duo is the best best. It has a bit more flexibility than the Solo, but less bulk and complexity than the Pro.
Unlike the roll axis, you don’t necessarily want your camera exactly flat (50% horizon, 50% sky*) all the time - The Duo comes with a rotary adjustment, which lets you adjust the camera pitch at any time. Once adjusted it will maintain that pitch until you change it.
e.g. If you have it helmet mounted when mountain biking, you may want to have the camera pitched down a little to capture more of your handlebars, etc.
Like the Solo, the Duo can be mounted in any orientation and will still function. e.g. you can mount it dangling upside down or mount it to the side of your motorbike or helmet and it will still keep your camera horizontal at all times.
*One great benefit of keeping the horizon dead center however is that you will find that the fish-eye effect of the GoPro lens is largely eliminated – since the horizon will appear straight. You’ll find that this straight horizon focal point greatly reduces the distraction of the fish-eye effect in your videos – and it is only possible thanks to Stubilizer keeping the horizon exactly in the center at all times.
Stubilizer Pro £299
The Pro adds a stabilized yaw (heading) axis to the other two stabilized axes. Only consider the Pro if you are completely sure you need the Yaw/heading smoothing. It can give the most stable and smooth footage of the range, but only if you are prepared to accept the limitations that the 3 axis design imposes.
As a basic rule of thumb:
- if you are prepared to concentrate on maintaining your heading yourself - either with your head if it is helmet mounted, or via a natural heading stability of whatever you fit it to (e.g. a motorbike), then it's best to do this and go for a Duo: The Duo is more resilient, and you'll tend to get a higher proportion of your footage stabilized vs the stubilizer having lost stabilization (see Stubilizer Limitation sections below).
- if you absolutely cannot stabilize the yaw yourself (e.g. running, advanced paragliding) then the Pro is the only model that may be capable of doing so - however bare in mind the Stubilizer Limitations section below. Of the three models it is by far the most experimental and you should only consider purchasing it if you are prepared to experiment. If you are - there is no doubt you can get amazing results like some of those in my videos, but it will require some work on your behalf to achieve them.
Here, the heading stabilization behaves a little differently from the other 2 axes: If all Stubilizer did was keep the yaw (heading) fixed - it would always be pointing in the same direction irrespective of which direction you tried to point it, which wouldn’t be much use for most activities.
Instead, the Stubilizer Pro tries to smooth out changes in heading to give a more slick ‘liquid’ movement. It also tries to ignore little changes in heading, assuming they can be eliminated.
So for example, tiny side-to-side movements of your head with a helmet mounted Pro will be ignored - giving you ‘locked on’ video. But if you move your head more, the Pro will ‘follow’ your head and start to turn towards the movement.
Unlike the Solo and Duo, the Pro must be mounted more or less horizontally and upwards. It cannot be mounted on its side or upside down.
We are working towards developing the ability for the Pro to work upside-down but at this time, it is not within the feature set.
Activities which work well with the Stubilizer Pro tend to be sports which feature lots of low impact movements. Helmet mounted use while Paragliding and Paramotoring work well - here there’s a lot of head movement which the Pro can eliminate, but a lack of high force/impact movements which could compromise the effectiveness of Stubilizer.
A video is worth a thousand words here, so please watch the Heading stabilization video above to see these feature in action, or below to see all movements handled together:
Like the Duo, the Pro also has a rotary pitch control (and can similarly benefit from the fish-eye elimination technique mentioned above), but also adds a heading mode button. This allows the selection of several different heading modes to give you more options for your particular sport:
Heading is stabilized. Large knocks and forces, which cause the yaw to be knocked off heading, will be automatically recovered by Stubilizer Pro. This is the default mode.
Heading is stabilized, but is more sensitive - ‘following’ the direction you point the camera much more responsively. However, large knocks and forces which cause the yaw to be knocked off heading, will be not be automatically recovered by Stubilizer Pro- you may find after such a knock that you have to manually adjust the Stubilizer to point in the correct direction again (just turn it by hand and let go, and it will maintain this heading as the new one)
Heading is not stabilized. This mode should only be used in conjunction with the hardware lock provided with your Stubilizer Pro. It will effectively eliminate the yaw axis, making the Pro act like a Stubilizer Duo (2 axes only - roll and pitch). This can be useful when a particular activity is too extreme to enable the heading axis to be used effectively.
Although each Stubilizer model builds on the functionality of the previous model, they also add to the general electronic and mechanical complexity, size and physical limitations of Stubilizer.
So it does not necessarily follow that the Pro model is the best model for all sports.
For example, Stubilizers become more susceptible to vibrations and large G-force knocks and bumps (e.g. engine vibrations, mountain bike off road trail riding, etc.) as more axes are added.
Also, the Pro can only be mounted more or less horizontally and upwards (base down). So only a subset of all possible mounting options are compatible with the Pro.
So for example, you may find it more difficult to get smooth footage with a Pro on a motorbike, than a Solo. Or with a Pro rather than a Duo for mountain biking.
Also, please be aware of some general limitations of Stubilizers:
1. Stubilizers are not anti-vibration devices. If you are currently capturing high frequency vibrating footage now in your chosen activity (e.g. vibrating/jello like video when mounted to your Harley Knucklehead’s tank…) this is only going to get worse with a Stubilizer. You must eliminate vibration first (e.g. some sort of anti-vibration or vibration absorbing mount, mounting in a different location, etc.) before Stubilizer can perform adequately.
2. Stubilizers stabilize in one or more rotational axes. They do not (and cannot) stabilize spatial axes.. This would require something like the (almost human sized) Steadicam™ products. e.g. if you jump up and down, the camera will move up and down with you (though Stubilizer will correct the ANGLE of the camera).
3. Stubilizer senses its orientation in space using highly sensitive gyroscopes and accelerometers. It compensates for angular movement by using powerful motors to adjust the camera. When the sensors/motors are overloaded by a large force (a knock or bump, an extreme movement, etc) they won’t be able to compensate quickly enough and stabilization will be lost for a moment. Once the force has gone, Stubilizer will recover. If your particular sport or activity is causing this to happen often, you may need to consider alternative mounting locations, or accept that those parts of your activity will be out-with Stubilizer’s abilities to effectively stabilize.
4. Stubilizer has physical limitations around how much rotation each axis can accommodate. Go beyond those physical limits and it will be unable to keep the camera level/stable - oscillation/shaking will occur. This is normal. Ease off those extreme angles, and Stubilizer will recover.
5. Stubilizers are not waterproof. You may get away with using them in light rain, but they have not been designed to be splash-proof or water resistant. They are therefore not suitable for water based activities (e.g. surfing, scuba diving, etc.)
6. Do not expect to shoot an hour of solid GoPro video footage doing the activity of your choice and end up with an hour of super smooth video. Even with the correct mounting and vibration isolation, Stubilizer is going to lose stabilization for some of the above reasons many times during your video shoot. The key is to learn what it can do and what it can't and work within its limitations, editing your footage afterwards to keep the best takes.
The Stubilizer Timeline
February - July 2013
I started to get involved with the new brushless gimbal technologies as they were developed by a very clever guy called Aleksey Moskalenko in Russian . I am active in several RC forums, and was among the first people in the UK to have a brushless 2 axis system working. When 3 axis systems started to be possible via multiple PCB boards, I again led the curve in the UK by getting involved, and building systems that worked in my quadcopter drones.
Around August, Alex’s products were getting sophisticated enough to work quite reliably.
It was by now widely being used handheld, for larger DSLR cameras, and for RC use, but no one had taken it into the action sport market.
I started to wonder if I could build something that would work for my other hobbies - paragliding and paramotoring.
September - October 2013
I started sourcing off-the-shelf 3 axis systems with a view to finding something that could be modified to work, helmet mounted for aerial footage. After a few dead ends, I found one system that I thought was compact enough to maybe work.
At the moment, I had no plans to build a product - just solve the problem for myself.
I stripped the system down and rebuilt it for helmet mounted use. Since it was not going to be used with a radio control, it was necessary to design new electronics for it so that it could be controlled in the air - controls for altering the pitch and yaw, etc.
Towards the end of October, all the parts were assembled and I posted the first tests of the ‘stu-bilizer’ as I was calling it then:
A terrible month for weather, I’d yet to be able to test my Stubilizer in flight, however building it and getting a massive amount of positive feedback from the youtube videos and from the paragliding and paramotor forums, I decided to plow ahead and start taking the lessons I’d learned from cobbling together a ‘Stubilizer’ from off the shelf parts - to design it properly. I concentrated on fixing all the issues that I felt limited its wider appeal currently.
Core to these, was the exposed wiring endemic in all current designs. This could only be adequately solved by creating moulded plastic parts imho.
I Started evaluating different CAD packages to find the best one suitable for developing the stubilizer parts. I’d never did any CAD before; it was going to be a steep learning curve, but wanted to chose a package which was professional enough to take me all the way through to fully engineered drawings for injection moulding. After testing around 10 different packages, a choice was made.
At the same time I started to narrow down the choice of electric motors and controller PCBs that would be suitable. Sample parts were ordered from various manufacturers for testing.
Some good weather, let me actually take the original prototype Stubilizer flying! I got some great footage, and it helped cement my resolve to bring this to market.
I started experimenting with different designs, learning the CAD tools as I went. You can find some of the earlier designs on www.rocksolid-tech.com. I wanted a clean look with no exposed wiring, but I also had to ‘design for manufacture’ - which meant splitting parts, reusing parts, designing ways for them to fit together, etc.
The 3d printer arrived, and I started to be able to actually print out designs!
Now that I had the 3d printer, I could print out designs as I built them. This was invaluable. I lost count of the number of prints I made, only to find dimensions were incorrect, holes in the wrong place, etc. However, the design of Stubilizer is also very sensitive to balance. The centre of mass has to be directly over the centre of rotation of each axis (or as close as possible). Some designs, which looked great, didn’t work well once printed. So another redesign was required.
Of course once printed, that was just the first step. As sample parts started to arrive from China for various designs, I could then build them - fitting motors and PCBs into the 3d prints, setting them up and configuring software and tuning the settings.
At this point I was still aiming for the start of February to reach a level of confidence that I could launch of kickstarter. But I’d set myself a high standard before I’d allow myself to do that: I wanted a design that I can confirmed was fully 100% functional, with the final choice of components all fitted and working.
I also wanted to have confirmed assembly costs - and with that in mind I met with several local electrical assembly companies, walking them through my prototype designs and talking them through the assembly steps that would be necessary to put them together and test them - this required mechanical assembly, soldering, configuration through a computer and a final testing stage. After meeting with several companies, I choice was made and a general ballpark assembly price per Stubilizer agreed.
My story got picked up by The Register at this point, and I got a bit of press coverage:
However, I didn’t feel ready to launch yet - I didn’t want to rush things. Assembling the latest designs had shown that the motors were not powerful enough, and the design balance was not quite as good as it should be. In addition, I had yet to have any professional 3d prints done using the SLS (selective laser sintering process). These would be far closer to quality of the final manufactured parts and I felt it was necessary for me to invest in getting some of these prints, and full models produced before I felt confident in moving forward.
I set myself a new goal of the beginning of March for launching.
Different motors were sourced and ordered from China. At this stage I realized that certain sports that people had expressed interests in supporting did not need a full 3 axis stabilizer. I went through another redesign to create the range of Stubilizers - 3 models rather than just the ‘Pro’.
This was quite a hectic month of design, printing, assembly , testing. Thankfully the hardware choices I had made in January had been the right ones, and as the parts started to arrive from china and I assembled them, I found they were ideal for the job.
Three working Stubilizer prototypes started to take shape.
I could now contact the companies in china and negotiate bulk order prices for the chosen components.
At the same time, I also recruited a professional CAD designer to take my well meaning, but ultimately amateur ,designs forward - designing for manufacture, and in particular injection moulding is a skill in itself and requires a professional with experience. While I continued with the practicalities of building and testing the prototypes, Wayne (my designer) could get on with honing the designs so that I didn’t waste the time.
Once the Stubilizers were all build and tested, I then embarked on trying to do as many video tests with them as I could - on motorcycle, side by side with fixed GoPros, running, cycling, etc. It was important to me that the video I used in the kickstarter video came from the later prototypes wherever possible.
I also contacted a number of businesses that specialize in injection moulding - both rapid and traditional. I sent out the current designs and got quotes, talked to them about ways to make the designs cheaper to manufacture, learned about different plastic materials so that the correct polymers can be selected, etc.
My first SLS prints also arrived and looked great. More importantly - when I assembled them into a Stubilizer they worked great too.
In the last week of February, I designed my storyboard for the kickstarter video, ensured I had all the POV Stubilizer footage I needed, and engaged the help of a friend to help with the final ‘shoot’. Amazingly we got a nice sunny day for it, the prototypes all work great on the day and we got all the shots in the bag.
Two days of intense editing later, and I had a video. Lastly, a friend who has a band (ConspiresTo) was good enough to let me use one of their tracks for the video - so the video was complete.
I was now ready to launch. This is the remaining plan:
Kickstart project runs. I will be spending a considerable time publicizing the project - I have lists of forums for paragliding, paramotoring, motorcycle, mountain biking, photography and action sports. I have tech websites, general news sites. All need to be contacted with details of the project.
I have employed the services of PR person to write a professional press release.
During the month, my primary focus has to be ensuring the Kickstarter target is reached - so drumming up interest wherever I can is priority number one.
However, I don’t want to lose traction on the remaining tasks. Wayne, the CAD professional, continues to work on the designs towards readying them for manufacture.
Towards the middle of March I expect to carry out a limited production run on SLS prints (around 10 Stubilizers) to test assembly, full functionality, etc. I realize this will cost me money, but I don’t want to lose a month waiting for the Kickstarter to finish, so I’m prepared to take the gamble and use my own funds.
By the end of the Kickstarter (around 2nd week of April), I want to be more or less ready to take the final designs to various injection moulding companies for final quotes, and to make a decision on a company to manufacture the cases.
Once the funds have arrived from Kickstarter, I’ll place the case manufacturing order, and start to order the electrical and electronic parts in bulk.
I’ll start to investigate fulfillment companies in April too, walking them though my requirements and gathering quotes.
May - June 2014
First run, and first assembly. In order to test everything is as it should, a small run of around 3-4 of each Stubilizer model will be produced.
This means producing the cases then working with my assembly company, designing and documenting the assembly stages and testing required. We may find small changes that need to be made to the cases, or to assembly methods which we can iron out before hitting full scale production.
Once this has been done, and the changes implements, the full case production run will begin. Cases and components will be delivered to be be assembled. As they come off the line, they will be boxed and sent off to my chosen fulfillment company for delivery to the backers. This will continue through June.
More Stubilizer Videos
A complete flight video from an early Stubilizer Pro, including lots of side-by-side shots and demonstrations of various effects made possible by Stubilizer such as smooth speed-ups, and minimising the GoPro camera fish-eye effect:
Some motorcycle footage using a Stubilizer Solo (Jnr as it was called then). I also talk through the Solo features in detail including the mounting foot and it's ability to be mounted in any orientation:
The RockSolid website carries lots of Stubilizer information:
Risks and challenges
I have already setup a limited company, engaged professional design contractors, agreed a contract with alocal electronic assembly companies and started discussions with local injection molding companies.
There are some technical details that still need to be ironed out, but most of the major challenges are complete.
As a professional IT consultant I am used to managing a team and planning and delivering projects to completion. My degree in Electronics has also been invaluable in giving me the technical skills to complete the project.
However, I've not taken this on lightly, and have already learned many new skills (CAD design, 3d printing, injection molding knowledge, etc), during the countless hours Stubilizer has taken of my time so far.
I have also already invested around £3000 of my own money into Stubilizer.
Problems will almost definitively arise - whether it's components not arriving on time, or design errors in the casing. I've had my share of these already over the last 6 months of prototyping, so you can be rest assured that I will cope with them in my stride.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)