Introduction: Overhead Camera Mount for YouTube Etc.
I was asked to look into making an overhead camera mount suitable for YouTubing etc. All the designs I found on-line comprised gantry-type constructions, mounts hung from ceilings or tripods fitted with extension arms. I wasn't keen on anything hung from the ceiling and all the other designs were quite large or looked like they'd get in the way at some stage.
A chance find of a small tripod in the attic led me to this design, which has the benefit of being very compact and extremely cheap (in my case, free) to put together. It also retains the degrees of freedom of a tripod mount.
A couple of points - you need to have a shelf at a convenient height and mounting the camera this way causes the videos/photos to be inverted relative to the normal over-the-shoulder view. The latter could have been a show-stopper but we found our film-editing software (HitFilm Express) has a rotate feature, as I suspect most similar software packages do.
It's unlikely your circumstances will match mine exactly so this design is a little unspecific in terms of screw sizes, batten sizes etc. but I hope you'll find this design useful as inspiration for your own custom design and if you have any comments, suggestions etc., please leave a comment and I'll do my best to respond.
[Edit 13th May 2018] Here's a link to a YouTube video made using the camera mount. It uses mostly natural light aided by some yellow LED fairy lights, so I wasn't called upon to rig up any lighting.
Step 1: Parts and Tools
If you're lucky, you'll have a wooden shelf at around the right height above the workbench, in which case you won't need some of the parts listed below. My shelf is one of those hollow Ikea 'Lack' floating shelves, so some extra wood is required to add strength.
Small tripod (approx 440mm tall)
4x pipe clips (size to suit the tripod's legs)
2x lengths of plastic pipe**
10mm wood batten (for size see text)*
9x wood screws (length to suit batten thickness)*
4x wood screws (length to suit pipe clips)
* required if extra strength is required.
** required if you don't have the right size pipe clips (see text)
Drill and drill bit (size for screw clearance)
Step 2: Preparing the Tripod
As the tripod's design permitted the legs to be simply unscrewed, I removed the unneeded third leg. This isn't strictly necessary but doing this removes the possibility of the leg flopping down and also gives you a bit more clearance underneath the shelf.
The idea is to secure the two remaining tripod legs to the underside of the shelf as shown in the photo, so we need to measure the tripod leg diameter and find some clips to suit. In this case, the leg diameter was 20mm. In my junk box* I had a couple of 20mm pipe clips and four or five 22mm clips. The 20mm size is unusual in the UK and probably harks back to the days when plumbers used 3/4" pipes. Nowadays, 22mm is more common. I've no idea where the two 20mm clips came from so I reckon the Fates must have (half) wanted me to make this thing!
As the 22mm clips are too loose to grip the tripod leg, I found some old 22mm OD plastic piping and cut two 50mm lengths to slide over each tripod leg. The increased diameter gives a good tight fit with the 22mm clips and the plastic tubing can be seen at the bottom of each tripod leg in the photo.
* actually a number of boxes with something of the capacity of Mary Poppins' carpet bag.
Step 3: Fixing the Tripod to the Shelf
Make a mark on the shelf where you'd like to position the camera mount. In my case, this was 800mm from the edge.
Remove the shelf from the wall and turn it upside down. Using the mark as a guide, draw a faint pencil line across the width of the shelf to allow you to align the clips (or batten) .
The next step depends upon what type of shelf you have. If you've a solid wood shelf, you're in luck as you can screw the pipe clips directly to the wood (skip to the asterisk). As mine is an Ikea 'Lack' floating shelf, the clips can't simply be screwed to it as there's very little substance inside (they're basically hollow).
One time-honoured way around this is to use a batten: A 10mm thick piece of wood is thick enough to fix the clips to. The length is determined by the depth of the shelf (in my case this was 265mm so I used a 230mm length) and the width (in my case 95mm) is determined by the clip separation.
*The tripod's legs have to be separated a little to prevent the central shaft fouling the clips and I found the widest dimension to be 70mm.
Having attached the clips to each leg, offer the tripod to the batten and mark the position of each clip with a pencil (taking care to separate the legs as described above).
Detach the clips and screw them into the batten (or shelf, if solid) with some suitable length wood screws (I used 16mm types).
Fit the tripod back onto the clips and check everything can move satisfactorily.
If you're using a batten, drill and countersink a number of clearance holes for the fixing screws. I drilled nine holes which may seem like a lot but each one on its own doesn't have much grip, so the more the merrier!
Position it so the bottom of the tripod's legs are in line or slightly ahead of the back of the shelf and line up the centre of the batten with the pencil line made above.
Using suitable length wood screws (I used 25mm types), attach the batten to the underside of the shelf and check it's held firmly (it should be with nine screws). Wood glue or similar could be used in addition if you want to be absolutely sure it won't work loose over time.
Step 4: Refit the Shelf and Try It Out
As you can see, the finished article is pretty compact and permits a range of adjustment backwards and forwards, as well as in roll and pitch. The only way it can't move is from side to side but that isn't a requirement in this case, so the job's done!
You can also detach the tripod and reuse it if you've retained the third leg. I wouldn't recommend doing this too much though as the clips/batten will probably work loose over time.
Additional lighting is a problem for another day....