Introduction: Retro Video Camera Prop

I was working on a production of Bye Bye Birdie and they needed a 60's video camera prop for scenes involving the Ed Sullivan Show. This is one of the most functional and sturdy props I've built and I thought I'd walk through it! This Instructable isn't really a step by step guide, but goes through some of the reasoning and techniques to use in prop building.

Step 1: The Base

The Camera was designed to pivot on two axis. It swivels on the base and pans on the camera section. I used PVC as a cheap way to allow it to spin. The base is designed and possibly over-engineered to handle the stresses due to repeated and heavy use.

The four legs interlock to lean on one another and make a kind of arch. The triangle/arch shape means that it evenly distributes the pressure and works to resist rotational torque. This also makes all of the cuts easy as the base is identical on all sides. I needed the camera to be a certain height and wanted it to have a certain diameter base. The legs are conveniently right triangles. Who ever said you'd never need to use trigonometry again!

The PVC pipe has a corresponding hole saw that has a diameter a fraction of an inch larger than the PVC pipe. This makes it really easy to mount the pipe. The bottom of the pipe swivels freely in the square base. The base is two square sections of 2x4. The top 2x4 has a hole drilled into it and the bottom doesn't. I used plywood on the sides to hole the 2x4's apart and most importantly to make it a perfect square. The square makes it fit neatly in the middle of the crossbeams from the four legs. The pipe then extends through another 2x4 at the top which helps to hold the legs together.

Step 2: The Camera

The camera is made mainly from 2 sides of 4, 2x4 sections joined at 45 degree angles. The angles give added support to the joints and also make it way easier to screw them together. The crossbeams that attach the side together must be attached vertically to give it the maximum pivoting angle later.

The fins at the top are cut out of scrap wood and just serve to hold the plywood that will cover them later.

The camera lens at the front is made from trapezoidal sections of 1/4 plywood. At this point you have two choices, do math, or sand a lot. I chose to sand. I sanded the edges of the trapezoids until they sat flush together and sanded the back to let it sit flush with the front of the camera. The easiest way to attach them together, i found, was to use a nail gun and glue. The PVC pipe is installed last and is mounted at the center of balance for the camera. This allows it to pivot very smoothly and nicely. The Red handle is a stage brake. This stage brake extends into the wood holding the PVC and prevents it from spinning. This allows you to lock the camera in a specific orientation.

Step 3: Pivot Mechanism

The pivot mechanism sits atop the vertical PVC pipe and forms a joint with the horizontal one.

The vertical pipe is mounted with three 2x4's. The first has a hole in it and is separated a few inches from the others. The very top of the pipe goes through one 2x4 and rests against the other. The PVC pipe is screwed intoto keep it from moving. This ensures that the camera won't fall off of its mount. The Camera still pivots because the pipe is not attached at the bottom, but it wont fall out because it is very hard for the PVC to pull out from the bottom.

The Horizontal pipe sits atop the mechanism like a T and is attached with two 2x4's with holed drilled in them to the mount for the top of the vertical pipe. The pipe is again screwed to the mechanism because it needs to pivot in the camera for the brake to function.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

The plywood sides are attached and the Camera is attached to the base.

It works great and lasted through many shows.You can apply olive oil to the base and parts that need to rotate to keep it from squeaking and keep it moving smoothly. Hope this has helped!

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