Introduction: 16 Feet Pan-and-tilt Camera Crane for $60

Picture of 16 Feet Pan-and-tilt Camera Crane for $60
For about $60, you can build a camera crane for a lightweight videocamera. The nifty thing about this design is that you can not only the move crane up and down and rotate it, but you can also pan and tilt the camera at the end of the crane. Plus, it's pretty lightweight and can be easily disassembled and transported.

The design is really simple: on both sides of a telescopic extension pole sit a fixture that can pan and tilt, using two hinges. The fixtures are identical, except for the camera mount.
The fixtures are connected to each other by 3 pieces of wire. The resulting effect is that if you move one fixture, the other fixture copies the exact movements.
The range of motion is about +/- 45 degrees left&right and up and down. As there are no pulleys or complex lever systems, the motion is pretty smooth. The hinges need some more work, they tend to stick a little and make some noise. I'll remove some material to make it smoother.

Here is the crane itself:

And here is some footage I shot with it

Step 1: Stuff You'll Need

Picture of Stuff You'll Need

- A videocamera. Don't use a 10-year old one, as I'm not sure this crane will carry the weight. A regular Mini DV camera should work great.
- A telescopic extension pole. These things can be used for painting, changing bulbs, etc. I got a 16 ft one at OSH for $40. That's the most expensive part of this crane. I'm sure you can find a cheaper one if you shop around.
- About 2 feet of 1x1 inch square aluminum tubing (OSH, around $10)
- this is where it gets fuzzy: various pieces of aluminum (I had these lying around) and wood.
- 60 feet of nylon rope
- various screws, bolts. (screw to mount camera is 1/4")

The most critical thing in the desing is the double-hinge that allows for pan and tilt. A ball joint is less preferable, since that will also allow the fixtures to rotate around the axis parallel to the extension pole.

When building the double-hinge, make sure that the rotating axes are as close together as possible. You'll have to make some smart trade-off's there: bring them really close together and you might limit the range of motion. If you have them far apart, the tension in the wires will change with varying angles. This can be overcome by adding a spring or rubber band in one of the wires.

I'll might post a detailed how-to-build list, but as you can see, it's pretty simple. I built it in a single afternoon...

The pole flexes quite a bit if extended fully, but that doesn't seem to be a problem. Getting smooth motion and aiming the camera will require some more practice.


sensoryhouse (author)2011-09-27
I'm working on something similar but my pan and tilt is electric.  here it is so far - version 2.0

Um, WOW!
Excuse Me While I Pick My Jaw Up Off The Floor.
Not only amazing cinematography and shots,
but also beautiful engineering, ingenuity and attention to detail.
Keep Up The Good (Read: Amazing) Work!


jdavison1 (author)sensoryhouse2011-11-05

If you do how much would you sell it for?

georion (author)2013-03-27


soultight (author)2007-04-04

anyone know how to add a monitor to this?

Cerafem (author)soultight2009-02-22
I found one on ebay awhile back for $30-40, but I don't know if you can find them there now.

Aud1073cH (author)soultight2007-07-03

You could get a 7 inch LCD screen between one and two hundred dollars. The ones made for iPods are often battery powered, though you'll have to make sure they have an input you can use. Ones made for use in automobiles may have better mounting options, but you'll need to create a 12V power supply. Run the composite video from the camera to the screen using a long shielded RCA cable. Make sure to use a coaxial cable to reject noise (and a static-filled picture). Mount to the controls of the boom with a home-made adjustable bracket. A hood will also come in handy made from black cloth, foamboard, or whatever you have to shield the screen from outside light, so you can see the screen better.

ilovetea (author)Aud1073cH2008-04-19

Why don't you get a cheap, small, B&W TV and hook it up with some cables like this:

w00ll3y (author)2008-02-19

very cool low-cost jib. i just built my own but in researching plans etc i studied yours closely. it would seem that due to the cable system, the 'head' could only pan so long as it wasn't tilted. is this true? on my limited budget i built mine with a simple tilt head. anyway very pleased with the final product and thanks for posting your design

jimwig (author)2008-01-28

i hate empty compliments but this is way too cool to not say this is way too cool. i could do the same with theatrical lights. a follow spot on stage. yeahhhhhh!!! thnaks

bubba77 (author)2007-10-30

this is a great instructable! the only problem i had was when i needed to put my shotgun mic on it, but i figured it out. right after i built mines my frend found one for 21.50 on ebay. :-) but i had a lot of fun making it.

zbramsfan (author)2007-07-11

Check out

matthijs (author)2007-07-03

It's been a while since I posted this one. I have ideas and plans to build a new one, much more stable and smoother, but still low cost (I'm cheap). When / if I get there, I'll post some decent instructions. I just moved (back) to the Netherlands from California, and the next few months we'll be busy getting readjusted.

sybyabraham (author)2006-10-16

I hope the crane is not very steady.I need steady cranes, and also if i keep heavier cams it would be hard to control

Aud1073cH (author)sybyabraham2007-07-03

You could take this design, and simply make it out of stronger materials to accept heavier cameras, although the cost would increase.

One simple addition would be to add what they call a "jib truss" to add rigidity by using triangle geometry.
Crane with jib truss
Another crane with jib truss

NikonDork (author)2006-09-09

Hey Matt, awesome idea. Have you thought about replaceing the ropes with a set of rigid linkages?

Aud1073cH (author)NikonDork2007-07-03

I tend to agree. Rigid linkages would give much finer and smoother control. However, you'd have to build 6 more dual axis hinges. - Which would certainly be worth it. I might suggest another option as well: using thin steel cable and some small turn buckles. The cable wouldn't stretch like the rope, but would allow simpler connections. Small turnbuckles would let you keep them tight from the control end without having to take the rig apart. -This may put more pressure on the boom arm, so if it telescopes, you may want to put a cotter pin through the overlapping section to keep it from sliding.

Thunderexpress (author)2007-03-20

Thanks man! That clears a lot up. After I saw your design not to long ago, maybe 3 days ago, i thought i might want to build one. I really want to make one this summer and that helps a lot. Thanks!

Thunderexpress (author)2007-03-20

You did a pretty good job with this! I'm impressed, seriously. one question though. what did you use for the boom. Also, how do you do the hinges and the rest of the mechanical parts. more detail would be GREATLY appreciated. thanks! and once again, nice job!... good footage, too...

matthijs (author)Thunderexpress2007-03-20

Thanks! For the boom, I used an extension pole from a hardware store (OSH). These are used, for instance, to paint heigh ceilings. One end has a screw-base that mounts to paint rollers, lamp changers, brushes, etc. For the hinges, I used square aluminum tubes that slide onto the extension pole and a piece of wood. You'll have to be a bit creative with this, depending on what you have lying around. The main trick is that there are 2 axes to the hinge, perpendicular to each other. In other words, the piece of wood has two holes, perpendicular to each other. If you have a 'swiffer' lying around, look at how that is constructed. It's basically the same idea, just a little larger and stronger. Hope this helps a bit. I just never took the time to do a decent explanation, mainly because it depends very much on what parts you can get your hands on.

gezortenplotz (author)2006-07-17

If you're only using the small monitor for aiming purposes, I'd recommend the quarter-sized (25 cents, that is) color cameras with the UHF transmitters and a small Casio-type color tv. I used one in the gondola of one of those toy RC blimps and it worked quite well. Good job on this. I had a small inkling to build something like this, but I'm glad to see you went ahead and did it. I, for one, would like a few more detailed instructions. Kudos & all that!

Fully agree that these are very good ideas (mounting cheap camera and Casio-type color TV for aiming purposes).

Azzazal (author)2006-11-08

Loved the Vid! for a few Quid or $, > steady cam! Nice one.

steveo (author)2006-11-06

Just pony up the money and buy a glidecam 2000 pro to get crane shots. this is way too unwieldy

NoExcuses (author)2006-11-01

Brilliant idea! I'd love to make one myself, but as you didn't give much instruction, I doubt I'd get very far. But still - excellent job!

crispy (author)2006-07-17

This is incredible...I will try to make one also. I am thinking about adding a small (3") monitor to the other end so I can see what the camera sees. If you could post the hinge system in more detail I would greatly appreciate it. Great Job the footage you shot looks awesome.

matthijs (author)crispy2006-07-17

I was thinking of adding a small monitor as well. They should come really cheap, though I haven't found one yet. I'll post some more details of the hinges soon.

ArmChairQB (author)matthijs2006-09-06

Most portable DVD players take video inputs. Plus have a battery power source.

camscam (author)2006-08-08

have you attached a camera to it? I dont know if I'd risk droping an expensive camera if somthing broke. what weight do you consider it good for?

matthijs (author)camscam2006-08-22

As you can see from the videos, I did attach my camera, a Sony TRV10 to it. The camera is a 5 year old miniDV. Any miniDV cams should do fine, though I wouldn't use one of the semi-pro or larger cams. I dropped the camera once (on the grass) because my tripod buckled. Make sure you have a good tripod!

vjoshi (author)2006-07-27

Cool, very nice.

TallDrinks (author)2006-07-25

Very cool! For those that don't have a video camera, I recommend the cheap (about $100) Aiptek video cameras. They sell them at Target (or, and I love them! Easy to use and all. Otherwise, try modding one of the CVS video cams, which were recently software hacked...

wappentake (author)2006-07-19

Awesome! The resulting video is great!

bumsk (author)2006-07-17

you will def. want an external mic for that one mate..

wombat7 (author)2006-07-17

that is cool.

TheCheese9921 (author)2006-07-16

Thats so awsome but I don't have a video camera :(

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