I've begun filming some of my project builds and one thing has been consistently frustrating: It's very difficult to get good overhead shots using just a tripod. I was inspired by John Heisz's camera extension video to build my own but with a pivoting camera mount that would let me get a good overhead position. I put this together pretty quickly over a few nights after work off of a couple rough ideas in my head. Throughout the build, I realized that I was doing things the hard way. When I get to those points in this instructable, I'll make a note of what I should have done. I have a miter saw and my trusty cordless drill, but apart from that; this was a limited tools build.
I used 1/4" plywood through this build, and some scrap pieces of 1x4 cedar board left over from another project. All the fasteners used are 1/4"x20 threaded fasteners as that's almost the universal standard for threaded camera mounts, might as well keep it consistent!
To build this you'll need the following supplies:
6 x 1"x8" strips of plywood. Mine were cut to 1.25" and that was slightly too wide for me to open the LCD screen on my camera. 1" to .75" thickness will be fine
4x 1/4x20 Threaded Bolts that are 6" long. I used threaded rod, but carriage bolts or regular bolts would be juts fine. If you do use anything other than threaded rod, buy an additional bolt that's roughly 1.5" long for the camera mount.
5x 1/4x20 Wing Nuts
4x 1/4x20 Tee Nuts
1-2x 1/4x20 Lock Nuts.THAT'S A LOT OF NUTS!!!
1-2 Neoprene washers
12" of 1x4. I used cedar as it was lightweight, relatively strong, and free!
1x Line Level. Optional
Loctite or super glue
And the following tools:
Various Drill bits
Eye and Ear protection
Step 1: The Arms
Firstly cut your plywood strips to their length and width. After building this, I'd recommend .75 to 1 inch thick, but this will depend on how much clearance you need to open your camera's LCD screen, if you even do that. Mine were cut to 1.25" thick and roughly 8" long. Go longer or shorter as you desire, just remember that more length means more weight, greater leverage, and a better chance of tipping over your stand.
After cutting the strips, find the center of the width and make a mark near each end. Mine was 5/8" thick. You'll also measure in from each of the smaller sides that same distance (5/8" in this case) and make a second mark. Where those two lines intersect is where you'll drill your holes.
To make all the holes line up with each other, I clamped all six pieces together and drilled the holes in one go.
If you're using the threaded rod/tee nut combination, or you want to use tee nuts period, pick two pieces, enlarge all four holes so the tee nuts will fit, and carefully hammer in the tee nuts.
Step 2: The Mounting Blocks
From the 12" piece of wood, we'll be making our two mounting plates and two hinge pieces. The two hinge pieces are roughly 1" long, the camera mount is roughly 4" long, and the tripod mount is going to be the remainder of the board (roughly 5-6" long).
When we assemble the whole rig, the two hinge pieces will be sandwiched between the plywood. To keep everything fitting snugly together, you'll need to cut a 1/2" off of one side of those two pieces.The hinge pieces will also have a hole drilled through them in the middle. The camera mount and base plate have their holes offset on my rig.This isn't necessary, but I thought it would help with counterbalancing the weight. Simply measure in 1 to 1.5" from one end on each board, and then drill your hole.
In the photo I'm demonstrating a second way to find center. Drawing two lines, connecting opposite corners, and where they intersect will be the center of your Square or rectangle. Provided everything is square of course.
Cedar especially, but all wood in general, has a tendency to split when being drilled. To minimize this, drill a pilot hole and then work your way up to the final size. Also, only drill about halfway through, this reduces the chance of tear out.
I used a bit that was two sizes larger than my 1/4" bit to give me a little bit of wiggle room if my holes didn't line up perfectly straight.
Step 3: The Camera Mount
If you're using a quick mount system with your camera, skip this step.
On the side opposite the through hole, measure in 1" and find center. Drill a pilot hole and then drill the 1/4" hole for your bolt. We're going to use the lock nut to act as a holder for the the bolt, but it needs a recess to sit in or else you won't be able to mount your camera securely.
Drilling out a recess is simply a matter of using a large enough drill and going just deep enough into the wood. Forstner or spade bits are perfect for this. I ended up using a spade bit, but even a standard drill bit will work.
Make sure you have the same number of threads sticking up above the surface as your camera mount does. This just makes sure you'll get a secure fit.
The threaded rod is almost an inch and a half too long for each joint, so I used a hack saw to cut off a piece that became the bolt used for my camera mount. Most hardware stores have 1/4x20 thumb screws that would be a much better option than this.
You can see here that I glued a line level and neoprene washer to the mount. Neither is necessary, but they add a bit of functionality to the mount.
Step 4: Assembly
At this point, we're ready to begin assembly! It's just a matter of sandwiching everything together. Starting from the tripod mount, you'll simple slide the bolt through one side, a washer, the mount, another washer and then through the other side.The next section will be identical, except you'll add the pieces of plywood that make the next section of the rig. Rinse and repeat.
Make sure your bolts all go in on the same side, as this makes adjusting everything much easier.
Step 5: FINAL ASSEMBLY
Here's the final product. I left most of the threaded rod long, they can double as mounts for any camera accessories I need. Having three sections and a separate pivoting camera mount, gives me incredible flexibility to position the camera into the exact right spot. It's lightweight, but sturdy enough for my small handycam or go-pro. An added bonus, that I didn't realize would be there until the very end, is that the whole thing packs down into roughly a 10" x 4" x 4"box. Yeah space savings!
You can see in the final picture, where I had to trim down the plywood so I could swing my camera's LCD screen open and close.I haven't gone over how to attach this to your tripod, because it's going to be different for each tripod. In a pinch, just use tape or a clamp