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Well, I’ve been doing a little bit of more searching around on this stuff. To answer my own question, it seems like the higher quality ones that have the two shock segments in the arm are for a few reasons. First, it does help keep it smoother, as you now have more of the arm able to move with little motion. Secondly, it allows the camera operator a bit easier time to move the camera up or down, should he/she choose to do so. And the last reason is, it allows for the arm to extend further from your body if you want the camera further away (and since the arm is longer, we might as well use that segment of arm as another shock segment, hence the two).
Now, I read one idea, during my google searching, that using those extendable arms for a desklight will work, assuming you put a heavy enough spring in there. Supposedly, Peter Jackson did this to save money. What do you guys think about this? Trying to hold 20-25 pounds it seems like those arms wouldn’t be strong enough. Also, those things aren’t really meant to be constantly moving, and I don’t think they have any bearings or anything, so it seems like this isn’t really worth the cheapness. What do you guys think?
I’m still not really sure what I would build this with. Cody Deegan (CodyDeegan.com) sells plans to build one for 35 dollars. He says that for his ‘low budget’ version, it costs about 100 dollars for the aluminum and about 300 dollars for the other hardware and that you should either talk to a machine shop or have the tools yourself because you will be bending aluminum and should be drilling with a drill press. I feel like I could do it a bit cheaper than that, though, if I just had a few hours to spend at Home Deopt and other hardware stores looking around for what kinds of aluminum pieces they sell.
Forgot to mention, I’ve seen a lot of people using rollerblade wheel bearings. One set of pictures I saw, actually had a whole rollerblade wheel in the sled pole to be used for the gimbal. I’m not so keen on that idea as then you can’t move the gimbal up and down the pole, but I think the rollerblade wheel bearings are a great idea for fairly cheap bearings for the arms of the rig!
Also, people said that metal crutches can make great/light poles as well (made out of high-strength and very light weight aluminum).