Introduction: DIY Camera Crane - the Wooster Sherlock 1.0

About: I'm a High School Technology teacher with Creativitis, a disease that doesn't let my brain sleep. I spend my days trying to infect my student's minds with a desire to learn. I lead by example and hope that my …
Building your own camera crane is not as hard as you think. I scoured the internet for examples and came up with a solution based on the materials I had at my disposal. There are many different styles of crane to make and many different materials to choose from. My steps are meant to show you the basics of this build. I have not gone into extreme detail because, you're not likely to build an identical model. Please use this instructable as inspiration for your own model.

Before you start your own build, decide on your budget and the type of shots you would like to achieve. When you do your research, you'll notice that some models feature different pan and tilt options which is sometimes based on the number of poles you decide to use for your build. 

Here are some quick links for some of the ideas I sourced.
Check out the Wooster Sherlock 2.0 with manual tilt.

Step 1: Material Selection

I typically plan out my builds with a few rough sketches before I start. This time around I don't have any to share because I wasn't exactly sure what materials I was going to use. The construction of this first model took a little longer to build because I didn't have a clear laid out plan. When you're trying to build within a budget, sometimes your plan is controlled invariably by the materials you can find, and not the materials you can buy. My search started in the scrap metal bin in the auto shop.

Materials I Had
  1. An old broken tripod
  2. flash mount (found on an old tripod)
  3. scooter brackets (salvaged from the scrap bin)
  4. 'L' shaped aluminum extrusion
  5. Various nuts, bolts and washers (from the miscellaneous bin)
  6. K'nex gears and chain (left over from project coaster)
  7. Tripod handle (removed from a broken tripod)
  8. Various bearings ( removed from scooter wheels and rollerblades)
  9. Barbell handle and weights
  10. fence pole end cap (for bottom pole pivot point)
  11. double-sided mounting tape ( to attach barbell to paint pole)
Materials I Bought
  1. 7" TFT monitor with battery and charger (purchased online through amazon for $250)
  2. Wooster Sherlock Paint Poles ( 6'-12' and 4'-8' poles purchased at lowes for a combined $60)
  3. 10' HDMI to Mini HDMI cable ( purchased online through amazon for $12)

Step 2: Bracket

The first thing I had to figure out was how to attach the poles to the tripod. My design evolved through the use of the random metal bracket that I found in the scrap bin. This is how things went down:
  1. I took my tripod mount apart
  2. I drilled a hole in the center of the bracket.
  3. I bolted the bracket to the tripod mount with a nut, bolt and lock washer.
  4. I then took apart the tripod mount clamp and retro-fitted it with a new handle that I found in the scrap bin.

Step 3: Bracket Extension

I decided to make extension for the bracket out of some 'L' shaped aluminum extrusion I found in the shop. When I approach a project this way, I often find myself wandering around the shops until I see something that might work for the next stage of the project.
  1. I cut the corners of the aluminum to match the angles of the black bracket.
  2. I then drilled some holes so I could mount the aluminum to the bracket.
  3. I attached the fence cap to the end of one of the paint poles with a selp-tapping screw. I put a piece of scrap aluminim tubing on the inside of the fiberglass paint pole so that the screw would have something to bit into. The fence cap is not necessary, but I liked the aesthetic of it.
  4. I mounted the bottom pole to the aluminum bracket with some bearings and washers to provide smooth movement for the pole.
  5. The top pole is simply mounted using a 1/4" -20 bolt . I drilled the appropriate hole through the pole and the bracket itself.
  6. I mounted the monitor to the pole using a bracket made out of a scrap piece of the aluminum.
  7. The battery holder is simply mounted on the other side of the bracket.

Step 4: Camera Mount

The next thing I needed to do was attach the scooter brackets to the end of each painting pole. This was pretty straight forward:
  1. I removed the wheels from the scooter brackets, making sure to keep the bearings and hardware.
  2. I cut the excess length from the end of each bracket using a cut-off saw. (I later sand-blasted the parts and painted them)
  3. The hexagonal ends of the painting poles didn't quite fit inside the scooter brackets, so I trimmed the edges a little on the table saw. Aluminum is quite soft, so this is a simple cut. You could also use a file to shave down the edges.
  4. I attached the scooter brackets to the end of each pole using a self-tapping screw.
  5. I then mounted the camera bracket to the scooter brackets using the original hardware with a bearing on each side to allow for smooth rotation.

Step 5: Weighting

To balance your camera crane, you need to add weight to the end of the top pole. The fact that the Wooster poles come in several different lengths is helpful for this design. I used the longer pole on the top so that it would extend bast the bracket pivot point. I've seen some designs on the internet where people have had to extend the poles somehow.
  1. Simply take the rubber handle off the end of the pole.
  2. Wrap one end of the barbell threads in double-sided mounting tape. If you have the right tape this should be a snug friction fit.
  3. The smallest weights I could find were 2-1/2lb plates. In order to adjust the balance of this rig better with such a light camera on the end, I'm still going to have to make some lighter weights. However, the crane still operates quite easily without being balanced.

Step 6: Pan Function

This particular design of camera crane automatically tilts the camera as you raise and lower the crane. I have seen models that have incorporated a manual tilt control. There is also a model that uses a powered telescope head to provide tilt and pan.

I decided to add the pan function to this crane using some simple k'nex gears with some K'nex roller coaster chain.

It was really quite simple:
  1. I attached two large k'nex gears to the camera bracket using bolts and bearings.
  2. I bent an old tripod handle and attached the drive gear to the shaft.
  3. I attached the handle with the gear assembly to the aluminum bracket with some bearings for smooth rotation.
  4. I installed a support gear half way up the top pole to pick up the slack in the chain when reversing directions.
  5. I installed the k'nex chain.

Step 7: Finished Product

The finished product works quite well. It does take a little bit of care and practice to produce a perfectly smooth shot, but the camera crane does most of the work for you. Although this build is meant for smaller cameras, it does have some advantages over other models I have seen on the internet.
  1. The use of the chain drive makes adjusting length much quicker and easier. Instead of fooling around with tension of a wire, you simply have to add or remove links from the chain which is quite easy to do on the fly.
  2. The availability of different lengths of paint pole, provides for a clean professional look. The adjustability of the paint poles allows the user to quickly change the length of the crane as well as the tilt of the camera. Reducing the length of the bottom pole will tilt the camera down, and reducing the length of the top pole will tilt the camera up.
Here are some quick test shots I made using the Wooster Sherlock 1.0

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