An overhead camera rig is great for any maker, tinkerer, photographer or videographer who wants to document their project or process from an interesting point of view. In terms of wood, all you need is a 3x5 piece of 3/4 inch plywood for this build. This is a very useful set-up for anyone who's looking to take better photos or video, and much easier and more stable to use than an expensive tripod head.
Step 1: Camera Frame
The camera rig is made up of three parts. We have the frame, the camera track, and the paper roll holders.
Let's start with the frame, you're going need the following cuts.
- A: #4 @ 1 1/2 x 34 1/2 " - legs
- B: #4 @ 3/4 x 34 1/2 " - legs
- C: #6 @ 1 1/2 X 22 " - leg braces
- D: #2 @ 35 x 1 1/2 " - leg braces
- Q: #2 10 " 45 degree bevel - brackets
- Z: #4 8 " 45 degree brackets
You're also going to need a drill, a 1/8" drill bit and some 1 1/4 "screws.
Step 2: Frame Method
Pre-drill four holes in Cut B, attach each to cut A with screws. Proceed with all four legs.
Next predrill two holes at the top and end of cut c. Line it up with two legs on each side facing inwards and pre drill into the legs as well to avoid splitting the plywood. Attach with screws. Attach the other side to other leg and then repeat on the bottom so you have one frame complete. Then do the same again, until you two separate frames.
Now attach two of the brackets cut Q on each frame. Rest it on the lip and screw in, and pre drill the angles as well and attach with screws. Attach on opposite sides of the frame. And repeat with the second frame.
Use the remaining two cuts C. One on each frame. Attach it right under the top leg brace and screw it in on both sides.
Now, we need to connect the two frames and make one. Pre drill holes on both sides on cut D. Start the screws to put them in place.
Stand the two frames up and make sure that the brackets are in the front. You will attach the connecting braces in the back. Now turn the frames around so you can screw the braces in place. Lay the connecting brace on the top and screw in. Repeat on the bottom
Now attach the remaining two brackets, perpendicular two the other brackets, on the side which will be the top of the camera rig.
And the basic frame is now complete. Next up we have the camera rig.
Step 3: Camera Rig
Next up we have the camera rig.
For the rig you're going to need these cuts:
- E: #2 @ 1 1/2 x 22 " - rails for track
- F: #1 @ 2 x 34 7/8 " - main track
- I: #1 @ 2 x 28 " - top track with nut
- H: #2 @ 1 1/2 x 9 " - track sliders
- G: #1 @ 2 X 30 " - camera slider
- K: #1 @ 1 x 2 " - slider cap
- J: #2 @ 7 x 7 "- camera knobs
You'll also need a drill, drill bits (1/8", 1/4" and 3/8"), 1 1/4 " screws, epoxy, #2 1/4 - 20 - 1 1/2 " coarse screws & #1 1/4 " nut.
Step 4: Rig Method
First, prepare the tracks.
Cut E needs to be attached on top of the top rails, so pre-drill holes on the lower end of each side and screw in.
Now let's work on the main track, find the center of cut F. Then find the center of cut I. Align the to center points and mark the sides. Turn it around, and pre-drill where the piece will go.
Next get the two track sliders, mark out 2 inches on each, and align the main track, cut F on that point and screw down.
Now before we assemble the complete track, let's find the center of cut I, because we need to insert a nut here. Place the nut in the center and trace around it.
Drill a 1/4 inch hole in the center, then chisel out a hole just big enough for the nut to fit in. Put the nut aside for later.
Now on the finished track, the nut will be on the back side of the rig. Turn the piece on its end and attach the tracks which you already prepared. Pre drill again through the same holes, so as to not split the plywood it's going in to and then attach with screws.
Using cut G, prepare the camera slider. Mark the piece at 20 inches. Mark the middle line, and measure out 3/16 on each side, then draw the lines until you have a grove marked in the middle. Clamp the piece down and drill a hole at the end with a 1/4 inch bit.
Mark a hole 3 inches in, find the center and drill a hole there as well. Cut out the marks until you have a groove all the way to the drilled hole.
Cap the piece at the end with cut H. To make the knobs, start with two pieces of J glued together. Mark out two circles about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. I'm using a compass here. Dividing the lines using angle bisecting.
Once the sections are completed, draw the lines on the ends to form an octagon. Mark out the head of the screws in the center, and use the chisel again to clear out the area so the head will fit. Then cut out the shape of both the knobs.
Paint all the parts if you want. I used white to reflect light better.
Step 5: Paper Holders
The last part, which isn't necessary, however it's very practical, is to put up two paper roll holders where you can keep craft paper to draw on or use as a background when taking photos.
- 6 ft 1/2 copper piping
- pipe cutter
- #4 copper fasteners
- rolls of craft paper
You'll also need a drill and drill bits (1/8")
On the back of the frame, add copper holders, two at 5 inches, and two at 10 inches. Cut the copper pipe to desired length. Then insert a roll of craft paper and feed it through.
Then all that's left is to assembly, put the track sliders onto the track. Connect the camera slider to the track with one of the knobs. Insert second knob in the bottom hole, and screw it into the camera. Now you can raise and lower the camera, and you move it back and forth as well.
This is also a very flexible rig, because you can move it to different work surfaces and it's not stuck on one table.
Step 6: Conclusion - Watch the Video
For a much better perspective, watch the very instructional and to the point video of how to build this overhead camera rig.