Introduction: PVC Overhead Camera Rig

About: I'm a husband and father that loves working in the garage. From sewing to welding to wrenching on engines and everything in between.

My wife wanted to be able to record a time lapse video of her painting. I used scrap materials that I had on hand and a few techniques demonstrated in earlier projects to setup a temporary overhead camera rig.

If you prefer to watch the video, you can find it here. PVC Overhead Camera Rig

Materials used:

  • 1/2" pvc pipe (roughly 7' long)
  • 1/2" pvc elbows
  • 1 1/2" thin wall pvc pipe (used a scrap a few inches long)
  • 2 x 4
  • 1/4" plywood scraps
  • 1/4"-20 bolt/screw
  • misc nut and bolt
  • painters tape

Step 1: Build the Support Frame

She's been using a folding table to do her paintings. I cut a 2x4 to the width of the table. I marked the center of the board 1 1/2" from each end and drilled a 5/8" hole most of the way through the board (~1 1/4" deep). I had two equal lengths of PVC (~24" long) that were leftover from a previous project. These will be the upright supports. I wrapped one end of each piece with a few wraps of painters tape. This allows for a snug fit when inserted in the holes drilled in the 2x4. I installed an elbow on each of the uprights. I held a piece of PVC up to the upright poles and marked the length needed to fit into both elbows, then cut it to length. I assembled the support frame.

Step 2: Make a Camera Mount

I recently made a video on how to make some clips that could be mounted to a wall to hold a tarp, sunshade, etc. I didn't make an instructable, but the video can be found here (Wall Mounted Tarp Clips). I'll quickly explain how I made these. The process to make these clips will be used to make my camera mount.

To make the clips, you'll need a mold and a form. The mold is made from a scrap of 2x4 with a few strips of 1/4" plywood attached to form a channel. The width of the channel is determined by the width of your form, factoring in double the thickness of the PVC that is being used. The form is a strip of plywood attached to a length of 1/2" PVC pipe.

I used some thin wall PVC that I had as the "raw" material for the clips. To get PVC to a "useable" state, you have to heat it up. There are many methods of doing this, some more dangerous than others. Take all precautions when heating PVC. I use an old "shop dedicated" toaster oven for this. I used a section of thin wall PVC that had been split lengthwise and threw it in the toaster oven (set at 225*F) and waited for it to get pliable.

Once the PVC is pliable, it is removed from the oven, centered over the mold, and the form is pressed into the channel in the mold. The remaining PVC is pulled up around the form and held in place until the PVC will hold it's shape. This gives you a clip that fits tightly around a pipe, but has a base that will allow room for a bolt head. The pictures included are of the tarp clips and have already been trimmed. To make the camera mount, leave the ends on the clip and drill a hole through both flaps. Use a bolt and nut to adjust the tension of the clip on the pipe. Drill a single 1/4" hole through the base of the clip and install the appropriate length 1/4-20 bolt to thread into your camera or tripod adapter.

Step 3: Mount Your Camera and Start Filming

My wife will just be using her iPhone to shoot the time lapse. I mounted one of my DIY Smartphone Tripod Adapters to the overhead rig to hold her phone. If you don't have one, click the link above to see the instructable showing how to make one. If you use a heavier camera, the camera mount may not have enough tension to hold. You could try adding a strip of sandpaper or a short section of bicycle inner tube or a few thin rubber bands inside the mount to provide more friction, but those will make the mount harder to adjust.

This was just a quick build to get her going. It's not a rock solid rig compared to some of them I've seen, but I think it's going to work great for us. I had planned on adding some LED strips to the frame to improve lighting, but the roll of LED's that I purchased a few years ago no longer works. I may order some more and add those later, but for now we'll just position lamps to achieve sufficient lighting.

You can see the overhead rig in action in the video linked in the introduction.

Thanks for checking this out. I'd love to hear your comment or feedback

Digital Life 101 Challenge

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Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

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Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016