Before the camera stabilizing system, a director had two choices for moving (or “tracking“) shots:
- The camera could be mounted on a camera dolly, a wheeled mount that rolls on tracks or leveled boards. This is time consuming to set up, and impractical in many situations.
- The camera operator could hold the camera in his hands. This allows greater speed and flexibility, but even the most skilled operator cannot entirely prevent the camera from shaking. Hand-held footage has traditionally been considered suitable mostly for documentaries, news, reportage work, live action, unrehearsable footage, or to evoke an atmosphere of authentic immediacy or cinéma vérité during dramatic sequences.
A Steadicam essentially combines the stabilized steady footage of a conventional tripod mount with the fluid motion of a dolly shot and the flexibility of hand-held camera work. While smoothly following the operator’s broad movements, the Steadicam’s armature absorbs jerks, bumps, and shakes.