DIY Filmmaking: Make a Gimbal from a Dead Hard Drive

I’m not going to pretend that I came up with this idea, but since it’s the week before NAB and it’s largely the calm before the storm, there isn’t going to be a lot of news this week. And usually that means I start looking for some fun DIY Filmmaking hacks. And here is one that takes a broken hard drive, and turns it into a handheld gimbal for less than $10.

Now this will give you only a 2 axis gimbal stabilizer, and from the looks of it, it’s only for using with a smaller camera like a pocket point and shoot or GoPro. But I’m guessing you could also use a small DSLR with the right amount of counter weight.

The materials for this build are practically self explanatory and comes from “The Q” on YouTube. You’ll need an old hard drive you don’t care about, some PVC pipe, bearings, bolts, washers to act as a counterweight, and some tools. For the bearings, I’ve found a great place to find these is at the dollar store that is selling those toy spinners that were all the rage back in 2017. Those spinners contain four bearings, which gives you all you really need for this project.

First, you’ll need to field strip your old hard drive for parts, including the drive motor assembly, and the hard drive platter. If you have a glass one, i’m betting this isn’t going to work. But if you don’t, then keep working.

Basically, you’re going to solder a brushless motor control board to the motor from your hard drive. This will give you control over the hard drive motor so you can turn it on and spin it up. Then you run wiring to the motor itself, which is attached to the bottom of the mounting area, along with the counterweight, created by some washers. Q used the wiring from a broken set of ear buds, because it has four different leads, ideal for soldering from one board to the motor.

Once you have everything connected via the video above, then it’s time to turn it on from the brushless motor control board to see if your motor spins up. If it does, you can now attach the motor to a PVC cross bar by screwing the mounting assembly into a cavity cut with a Dremel. It all makes sense in the video. Then you’ll want to attach your hard drive platter, which will provide the centrifugal force, which makes the gimbal work. Counterweights on both sides will also help to maintain balance along one axis.

From there, it’s just a matter of cutting your PVC pipes into the dimensions for your gimbal rig assembly. From the looks of it, the Q is using standard schedule 40 1/2″ PVC for the build. Here’s your cut list:

  • 2 – 2 cm pipes
  • 1 – 2.5cm pipe
  • 8 – elbows
  • 2 – t shape connectors
  • 1 – 18.5cm
  • 1 – 20 cm
  • 1 – 5cm
  • 1 – 9cm
  • 2  – 10cm
  • 2 – 13 cm
  • 2 – 18 cm
  • 2 – 21 cm

The Q doesn’t mention the stand in this video, so you’ll have to guess there, but I would build that as well. It helps to have a place to set your gimbal when not shooting with it. Next you’re going to craft the ball bearing joints, which will help your gimbal rig to move as the gimbal motor controller keeps your camera steady.  Then it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

Add some foam insulation handles, and you’re ready to create the mount for your camera. The Q uses some small popsicle sticks here with a rubber band to attach his GoPro, and then uses a pair of steel angle bolts screwed into the crossbar. But, I think a quick release attached to the center of the mount is a better idea.

Then it’s just a matter of getting the counterweight right, spinning it up and getting your shot!  As soon as I get back from NAB, I’m going to give this a try.  Meanwhile, if you give it a go, send us pics and video so we can see how it worked out!

 

About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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