Remember the scene from The Shining where Jack chases Danny through the hedge maze? Or Rocky Balboa's famous run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Those iconic tracking shots are courtesy of the Steadicam, a stabilizing mount for movie cameras invented in 1976. Try using your camcorder to shoot a video following your kid through your house and you'll see how difficult it is to get a smooth shot with a handheld camera.
You could spend $849 on a real Steadicam for camcorders, but if your camcorder itself cost well under that, this probably seems excessive. Well, you're not out of luck -- here are a few ways to achieve a similar result on the cheap with your own camcorder:
The $14 "Poor Man's Steadicam" is a popular DIY version invented by the prolific Johnny Chung Lee, who provides step-by-step instructions on building your own and sells pre-built units by popular demand for $39.95.
If you're up for a more involved project (and spending a little bit more), YB2Normal.com has several versions of a DIY camera stabilizer made from PVC pipes, fittings, fender washers, and the like. The video above was shot with the first version of his stabilizer.
Finally, if you're not willing to spend another nickle but still want to have your steady shot and eat it too (and you have a tripod on hand), you can try this "Zero-cost Steadicam" otherwise known as the balancing tripod trick.