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Steadicam Inventor Inducted Into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

By Wesley Fenlon

Steadicam gave camera operators newfound freedom in the 1970s, and the added mobility dramatically changed how movies were made in the ensuing decades.

Today our smartphones, DSLRs and other cameras use digital image stabilization to cut down on the jitter and blurriness caused by motions big and small. We can walk, while carrying a camera, and produce video that's relatively steady, something that wasn't possible with early digital cameras. In the film world, that's been possible for decades thanks to the Steadicam, which was invented by cinematographer Garrett Brown in 1976. The Steadicam changed what was possible in filmmaking, and Brown will soon be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame thanks to his creation.

Photo credit: Garrett Brown

The Steadicam isn't Brown's only important invention--his website reveals he's also behind the Skycam used at football games, Divecam, and other frequently used camera systems. Steadicam first showed up in the iconic training montage in Rocky when Sylvester Stallone runs up the steps outside the Philadelphia Art Museum. Brown started working on the Steadicam after being annoyed that walking with a camera was so much shakier than our own vision, which has a sort of built-in image stabilization.

NPR recently conducted a great interview with Brown to talk about the invention of the Steadicam and some of his other history in the movie business. Here's a great quote about the splash Steadicam made when it arrived on the scene in the 1970s:

"I could show up with a demo reel of 30 impossible shots, obviously impossible to anybody that knew anything, and not give them a clue of how it was done," Brown says. "So showing up with a reel just knocked down the doors. It just floored everybody."

Listen to the 17-minute interview on NPR.