Phone Gimbal

Made by Xavier Apostol

Created: March 5th, 2018



As a filmmaker, I'm always looking for opportunities to take video. One of the greatest tools I use sits in my back pocket - my phone. Whenever I'm inspired by an image or see the potential in a moment, I use my phone to document it. It's fast, it's convenient, and it's readily available. Especially with improving camera quality, our phones allow us to transform initial prototyping shots into usable, cinematic scenes. The biggest problem that still lies, however, is shakiness - it's still very easy to mess up footage just by walking and not all phones have internal, stabilizing technologies yet. I propose the creation of a one handed, analog phone gimbal. Although phone gimbals exist, they're rather expensive and often rely on battery powered mechanisms. The item I plan to create will be light-weight, compact, and in-expensive to everyday people. Although this iteration will lack the key component for the gimbal, the stabilizer, it will be the basis for a realistic tool.  


Research & Context

I was inspired to make a 2 piece gimbal, as I thought it would be the most material efficient system. The handle is relatively close to where the phone is inserted. This helps minimize distance, and hopefully wobbling, between the phone and the user's hand. Especially since the stabilizing mechanism would not be added at this point, it's essential that movement is minimized. More inspiration from this design came from current electronic phone gimbals, which use the 2 piece setup.


Process & Procedure

Designing the initial iteration was pretty straight-forward. I had the idea of a 2 piece system from the get go, as this seems to be the most efficient system. The biggest trouble in the design process was figuring out how I would mount on the handle to the frame without blocking the phone from being placed inside. To address this situation, I thought I would use the plastic layering from my phone case and place it within the frame itself. I would then super glue the handle on, making sure that the placement was centered and sturdy.

Things were going as planned, until I actually began printing. The frame print came out fine, I attest this to its form being relatively flat. The real trouble was from the handle, which was rounded and required a decent amount of material - it needed to be strong enough to handle a person's grip. My first attempt at printing this led to the base being dislodged and then eventually everything bundling up into a mess.  My second attempt I decided to switch from a rectilinear infill pattern to a honeycomb one, which worked very well until the printer failed to extrude material (probably ran out).

At this point, the handle is only halfway printed, but still functions if pressed tightly against the frame.





The final product for this iteration ended up being a very basic layout for a phone gimbal. It definitely requires more iterations, especially for figuring out how implement the analog stabilizing system, but does the minimum job for holding a phone and minimizing movement.


Semi-Pro Photos



I've learned a lot from this project. Most things didn't go as planned, which was actually great! This was my first time 3D printing anything, so the fact that some things worked was encouraged. I feel like I have a better understanding of the system settings for printing and how important each setting (i.e. - infill percentage, pattern, etc.) is to developing the piece you desire. I've also learned a lot about time management and how 3D printing times vary - it's definitely important to start early and print often. Moving forward with this project, I really hope to nail down my printing mechanisms and hope to utilize the final product for future films / videos. I already have an idea of creating multiple of these systems and attaching GoPros to them as they follow me around campus - rather simple concept right now, but will show off the functionality of this tool!


Update 03/09/18

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Digital Tooling (DigiTool) provides a platform for any CMU student to learn Digital Fabrication processes; all of which are very hands-on. Like these processes, this class is also very hands-on. I...more