Being a parent – already a full-time job in itself – also comes with scores of additionally attached vocations. You are likely, on any given day, a chauffeur, a chef, a banker, a mediator and a videographer. And while each of those is positively fraught with individual hassles, the ever-present iPhone has at least made it easier to record your kids’ special moments on the fly.
I’ve recently stepped up my iPhone cameraman game with the help of the Steadicam Smoothee, a wonderful two-piece stabilizing mount that serves to take the shakes out of your precious home movies. Consisting of a light but solidly constructed weighted arm and a phone holder that also doubles as a removable tripod mount adaptor, the Smoothee is an excellent camera enhancement solution. Your iPhone rests firmly and securely in a specially designed clip, making it simple to monitor your shots, though the fit is so tight as to make any additional accessories, even ultra-thin screen covers, incompatible.
The key to the Smoothee’s stability is its front weight, which can be adjusted to create dramatic high or conveniently low shooting angles. Finer tuning is handled via a pair of red knobs; a side-mounted knob allows for tipping left or right along the x-axis, while the rear knob tilts the unit forward or back. But be forewarned; these knobs are very sensitive. This affords an amazing degree of control, but it can also make the Smoothee seem overly finicky.
The same can be said for the device’s control collar, a prominent cylinder above the free-floating handle and directly under the mount itself that is used to manually adjust camera movement and framing. Only the lightest contact of your thumb and index finger is required, but mastering the Steadicam Smoothee’s considerable range takes a lot of practice. Acquiring the delicate touch needed to properly “fly” the camera across the uneven terrain of the local playground can be trying, but the reward is more control of not only video content but actual presentation. In the same way that stop-motion apps make iPhone moviemaking fun for your kids, the Smoothee opens up additional avenues of filming for adults. (Observant viewers will notice that Pen Ward uses the Steadicam Smoothee to record the madcap behind-the-scenes footage included in the recent Adventure Time season 1 collection.)
Though bundled documentation is sparse, Tiffen does provide a series of helpful videos to get you started, and what initially seems like a frustrating mess of a contraption quickly becomes a valuable asset in your smartphone arsenal. Aside from the steep learning curve, the only barrier to adoption is price. The Steadicam Smoothee retails for around $150 via Amazon. It’s no small investment, but those who see their iPhone as a robust replacement for the classic point-and-shoot should definitely check it out. More importantly, Tiffen already produces a series of compatible mounts for additional devices like the GoPro Hero and Flip Mino HD. So could an iPhone 5 adapter be that far behind?
Early Smoothee videos will drift. Your phone will wander and you’ll question how exactly a setup that is rigged specifically to eliminate camera shaking can prove so very unwieldy. But over time, after you learn to modulate a few simple hand gestures, your footage takes on a new level of depth thanks to this consumer-priced piece of elegant film-making tech.
Review materials provided by: Tiffen