July 30, 2022

The $15 Dog: A shaggy alternative to a $200 gimbal.

Back in the days when gimbals and steady-cams weren’t priced or practical for iPhone, I came up with the Dog. It’s a gravity-based, steady-cam that gives you a dog’s-eye view. The cost of building one is about $15. The point to the Dog is that it lets you shoot dramatic, close-to-the ground video that’s fairly smooth, but with a realistic feel.

How to make a Dog

This article doesn’t give you detail build instructions, but it’s simple enough that you can customize one for your height and needs with:

  • a few pieces of Schedule 40 1" PVC pipe
  • two 1" elbows
  • a 1" end cap,
  • a 1" to ½" converter elbow
  • a 3" length of threaded stud (¼" x 20)
  • a ¼" x 20 wing nut
  • a ¼" x 20 standard nut

Only one hole needs to be drilled in bottom of the 1" to ½" elbow. I glued the wing nut to the end of the stud, but didn’t cement the pipes. That lets me twist the camera around and use it for overhead shots. I put the standard nut on the stud inside the elbow so the stud doesn’t fall out while not connected to an iPhone mount (which you’ll also need.) I’m using the Shoulderpod G1 here.

I made the “dangle distance” on mine short for a few reasons (my legs are short and it’s backpackable) but mostly because I wanted the ability to walk fast and not risk dragging it on the ground. The handle at the top might seem a bit long. This makes balancing and tilting easier.

How to use a Dog.

Just rest the handle on the palm of your dominant hand. Find the point on the handle where it’s balanced. It’s actually more stable if you don’t grip it. When held about waist high, you can easily shoot for a half hour without your arm getting tired.

The video below was created from a 25-minute take shot with the Dog:


  • Track on an Apple Watch. The Camera app on the Apple Watch lets you view what the camera is seeing. This is easier than trying to track the iPhone screen when it’s low or at an awkward angle.
  • Try it with both the Ultra Wide and Wide cameras. It work great with both. I like it with the .5x camera for the poetic movement.
  • Tilt up or down by holding the handle further out or in. Or for steeper angles, you can use a ball head between the Dog and your camera mount. This Giottos is packable, inexpensive and sturdy.
  • You can also grip the Dog by the dangle pole to shoot straight down. Again, it’s best to balance it for the smoothest shot.

My take.

The Dog is inexpensive, lightweight, packable and doesn’t require batteries. It’s not really a replacement for a gimbal, but gives you a smooth, realistic, low view and one-handed, ease-of-use that powered gimbals are not designed for. It’s really useful for shot transitioning from place to place and for trail footage when backpacking.

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