Introduction: Super Awesome Digi-Cinema Camera Rigs!!

About: I'm actually a professor... Go figure.
I'm a film teacher and photographer, and I've learned that most photo/video accessories are tremendously overpriced. This instructable will teach you to make a variety of camera rigs that can improve the technical quality of your images and digital video. Most or all digital cameras now have video capability, and these rigs are most useful for that application—shooting video on your point and shoot or dSLR. Included are instructions for a Cage/Fig Rig (AKA Mr. Shiny), a Lumber Dolly, and also some modifications on a sturdy and cheap, ready-made Shoulder Mount.

With these tools, you can document the most important things in the world—your inventions :)  ...and perhaps loved one's birthday parties and other required events, with extreme cinematic stye! Following is a little description of each rig built within this instructable.

Mr. Shiny is great for 2 reasons. First, you can handhold your camera more smoothly at many angles, allowing better and safer handling and smoother handheld shots. Second, if you have other accessories (like flashes, lights, microphones, etc) you can mount them all to it's frame.

The Lumber Dolly is a great little dolly. It can be used without a track, rolling on a smooth surface, or it can use lumber up to 6 inches wide. Here's a video of the dolly in use, with a tiny point and shoot camera.

The coolest thing with my design, is the SPRING MECHANISM. It grips itself to the board, and can be used with less than perfect, cheap lumber you find or buy for this use. One rail of the wheels is removable, and if you flip that rail over, you can have it ride the edge of a table or counter-top. Also if you just switch which side the mounting screw is on (effectively flipping the unit upside down), you can use this design on any smooth surface without a track.

The Shoulder Mount, is sort of a hack on a ready-made solution. The ROI on designing and building a DIY shoulder pad just wasn't worth it for me, but feel free to make your own of course! My modification is built on a self-gripping shoulder pad that is sturdy and cheap, and only $30 from Amazon (CowboyStudio Shoulder Support Pad). My modification makes it much more useful and customizable for the digital cinematographer. By customizing this design for your own cameras and applications, you'll have a cheap, extremely handy, and somewhat macho looking, piece of equipment.

Together, the professional versions of this equipment would cost over $1000, and you can build all of this for under $200!
The most expensive parts are actually the skateboard wheels and bearings, just so you know. I could have gotten a much better deal, but I was on a deadline when I built this...

Tools required:
1. Hack saw
2. Metal File
3. Needle Nose Pliers
4. Pliers or Crescent Wrench
5. Ruler + Sharpie
6. Hammer or Mallet
7. Dolly only: Jigsaw OR box-cutter + metal ruler.

Parts lists and sizes are included individually for each rig within this instructable, but here is a COMPLETE SHOPPING LIST for building all the rigs:

1) 3' Aluminum 1" square tube
1) 3' Aluminum 3/4" tube
1) 3’ Steel 1" square perforated tube
10) 1" Square End Caps (furniture tips)
2) 3/4" Round End Caps (furniture tips)
4) 5/16"-18 x 12”All thread
8) 5/16-18 x 2-1/2" hex bolts
4) 5/16"-18 Cap Nuts (acorn nuts)
10) 5/16-18 Lock Nuts
6) 5/16-18 Nuts
24) 5/16" washers (some are used on 1/4 inch rod, but it is fine)
8) 3/4 x .385 x 13/64 Nylon Spacers
2) 8-32 x 1-1/2 machine screws with nuts
4) 8-32 x 3/4" machine screws with nuts
1) 1/4-20 x 12” All thread
3) 1/4-20 Flange Nuts (you could use other nuts, such as 1 cap nut and 2 regular nuts)
1) 1/4-20 x 5/8" thumbscrew (or steal one from the CowboyStudio Shoulder Pad :)
1) 1/4-20 x 2-1/2" thumbscrew or bolt
4) 1/4 x 1-1/2" fender washer
4) 1/4-20 wingnuts
4) 3/16 x 2-1/2 J bolts with nuts
2) Extension Springs 1/4 x 1-916 x .032"
1) 1/2" Two-Hole Strap (for EMT conduit)
4) 1/4" Nylon clamps (5/16 works too)
1) 3-1/2" x 7-3/4" baseplate: 1/4" inch plywood or similar material (Jigsaw) OR 3/16 or 1/4 plexiglass (box cutter + metal ruler, but be careful!)
8) 54mm Skateboard Wheels
8) Skateboard Wheel Bearings
1) CowboyStudio Shoulder Support Pad
1) 3/8 to 1/4 tripod head adapter bushing. (Amazon link, or your camera store)

Step 1: Cage/Fig Rig AKA Mr. Shiny - Pg. 1

Mr. Shiny is a very versatile and durable rig. I'd suggest making a cardboard cutout of the size you think you want for your camera before cutting metal. The sizing is completely left to your preference—the size I built is great for a standard sized dSLR (like a 7d).

Parts required:
2) 12" Aluminum 1" square tube
2) 9 3/8" Aluminum 3/4" tube
1) 5 1/2" Aluminum 3/4" tube
2) 5/16"-18 All thread, 12" long
4) 1" Square End Caps (furniture tips)
2) 3/4" Round End Caps (furniture tips)
4) 5/16"-18 Cap Nuts (acorn nuts)
5) 5/16" washers
1) 2 1/2" 1/4-20 thumbscrew or bolt
2) 1/4-20 wingnuts
1) 1/2" Two-Hole Strap (for EMT conduit)
2) 8-32 x 1-1/2 machine screws with nuts

Assembly info:
The box channel / square tube will be the top and bottom. The round tube will be the sides, and they will enclose the all thread. The all thread will go through hols in the box channel, and will secure everything together. The top handle is attached with a two-hole strap, that is too small for our pipe, and the camera will mount inside onto a 1/4-20 threaded thumb screw, that will we have "float" with the rig.

First Steps:
1. Measure and cut the tubing.
   a. Cut the square tube or box channel into 12" sections.
   b. Cut the all thread into 12" sections.
   c. Lay out the square tube and all thread. The all thread will go through the square tube, and have a washer and cap nut at the other end. The round tube will enclose the all thread, between the square tubes. Verify the length of the round tubes you will need (9 3/8")
   d. Cut the round tubes

2. Debur or file your cut edges. Cutting metal makes sharp little edges, Make sure you debur or file them.

3. Mark and drill holes.
   A:  You will need 4 holes at the edges of the box channel/square tube for the 5/16" all thread. You will want the holes in about 5/8" or so, so that the 3/4" tube's edges don't extend over the edge. The holes need to go through both sides of the box channel.
   B:  You will need 2 holes that go all the way through for the two hole strap, on one of the box channels. You should center these holes, and verify hole placement with your hole strap. The holes on my rig are 1-3/4" apart. Make sure the holes are on the same sides as the all thread holes. For my design, I used 8-32 machine screws.
  C:  You will need one hole for the camera mount location. the bolt is 1/4-20, and you will need to drill all the way through. Again, make sure the holes are on the same sides as the all threads' holes.

4. Lay it all out.

Step 2: Cage/Fig Rig AKA Mr. Shiny - Pg. 2

5. "Float" the camera bolt. The wingnut is too wide to complete a rotation within the box-channel, so that means you can thread into it and it will hold the camera bolt!
   a. Thread a 1/4-20 wingnut onto the thumb screw, with the flat part towards the top of the threads, not towards the thumb screw part. Put a washer on it. This is what will tighten the camera to the rig.
   b. Place a second 1/4-20 wingnut in the box channel that has the singular center hole for the camera bolt. Shimmy it down until it is sitting over the hole you drilled.
   c. With patience, carefully and slowly try and thread the bolt into the suspended wingnut.

6. Attach the hand grip to the other square tube. It doesn't matter which side, but the grip should be on the top of the rig when it's finished.
   a. First attache the strap tot the round tube. It is "too small" for it, but it turns out it should work perfectly. You'll need to slightly force it onto the tube. you want 1/2" to 5/8" of tube to extend behind the strap, and the rest out in front for the grip.
   b. Bolt it down, you should need to go back and forth tightening, again because the strap is too small. Why use one that is too small? Because it will be super tight and I bet you don't want your camera-loaded rig to slip away from that hand grip.

7. Final assembly.
   a. Thread and bolt up the all thread. A washer and cap nut on each end please. Lookout for over-tightening, you will start to squash your square tube.
   b. Push in the plastic end caps. You may need a rubber mallet, or just use a hammer and a magazine.

8. Attach camera and go nuts!*

*NOTE: you could break your camera if you thread the bolt in too far. Thread it gently until it won't go any farther, back it off a 1/4 turn, then tighten the wingnut. This will protect your camera and still have a super-strong connection.

This is a great rig for attaching accessories to, you just need to modify it as you wise. You can simply drill holes and thread 1/4-20 thumbscrews to them, or you can drill holes and attach flash-shoe posts. You can use rubber bands if you want, but in the meantime, the rig will be useful for steadying hand-held shots, and it will be shiny.

Step 3: Lumber Dolly - Pg. 1

This lumber dolly is great! It's compact, works well, and it is really easy to set up and use.

Parts List:
2) 1" x 12" square perforated tube
2) 5/16-18 x 12" all thread
8) 54mm Skateboard Wheels*
8) Skateboard Wheel Bearings*
8) 5/16-18 x 2-1/2" hex bolts
8) 3/4 x .385 x 13/64 Nylon Spacers
16) 5/16 washers
10 5/16-18 Lock Nuts
6) 5/16-18 Nuts
4) 1/4" Nylon clamps (5/16 works too)
4) 8-32x3/4" machine screws with nuts
4) 3/16x2-1/2 J bolts (with nuts)
2) Extension Springs 1/4 x 1-916 x .032"
4) 1" square end caps (furniture tips)
1) 3-1/2" x 7-3/4" baseplate: 1/4" inch plywood or similar material (Jigsaw) OR 3/16 or 1/4 plexiglass (box cutter + Ruler, but be careful!)
1) 1/4-20 x 5/8" thumbscrew (or steal one from the CowboyStudio Shoulder Pad :)
2) 1/4x1-1/2" fender washer
1) 3/8 to 1/4 tripod head adapter bushing. (Amazon link, or go to your camera store)

*Buy the wheels and bearings online for some savings. You will need to press the bearings into the wheels, you can follow instructions online, or take them to a skate-shop. I bought mine from a shop and they pressed them for me.

First Steps:
1. Cut and arrange materials
   a. Cut box channel / perforated tube into 12" pieces
   b. File/debur the edges

2. Assemble main wheels on first rail. These will be the wheels for support (vertical orientation).
   a. Insert bolt into the last hole of one of the tubes.
   b. Put on a spacer, wheel, washer, then lock nut. Tighten/loosen according to your preference.
   c. Do the same thing at the opposite end. Note, the wheels should be oriented the same way, and be as far as possible from each other.

3. Assemble side wheels on first rail. These wheels will hug the edge of the lumber.
   a. Move to the other set of walls of the tube, and see how many holes you need to move down. For my 54mm wheels, I needed to leave a hole empty and use the next one (my second bolt is 2 inches and 90 degrees from the first bolt).
   b. Put on a spacer, wheel, washer, then lock nut. Tighten/loosen according to your preference.
   c. Do the same thing at the opposite end. Note, these side wheels should be oriented the same way, and should be closer in than the other set of wheels.

4. Assemble second rail. Follow above steps. It actually doesn't matter about the orientation of the second wheels, you can rotate the rail until it's correct for assembly.

5. Layout the rails. The horizontal rails should be on the bottom, and the vertical wheels should be inside the box channel.

Step 4: Lumber Dolly - Pg. 2

6. Attach the frame to the "Front" Rail. This is the one that stays stationary, the other rail could be adjusted in or out.
   a. Slide the all thread through holes parallel with the main wheels, as close as possible to the edges of the rail, just past the side wheels bolt.
   b. On the outside edge (the side opposite the main wheel (see illustration if needed) slip on a washer and a lock nut.
   c. Repeat on other side of the rail.
   d. On the inside of the rail, slip on a washer and thread a nut. Tighten up.

7. Spring hooks on rails.
   a. Front Rail: through the the adjacent hole to the all threads, place the J hooks. You want the hook on the inside (same side as main wheels), and a washer and nut on the other side.
   b. Back Rail: place the J hooks in a similar orientation, leaving a hole on each side for the all thread to go through. The hook part should be on the same side as the main wheels.

8. Attaching Back rail to Front rail and frame.
   a. Thread another nut onto each all thread, a little more than halfway up. These nuts will be a stopper for the Back rail.
   b. Slide Back rail onto the all threads. Make sure the Main wheels are on the inside, and the side wheels are on the bottom.
   c. Thread a nut on the back end of the all threads
   d. Connect the J hooks with the springs.

9. Attaching the baseplate.
   a. Slip 4 nylon clamps onto the all threads, inside the two rails, with the flat side of the clamps facing up (away from the side wheels which are the bottom), and with the hole on the outsides of the all threads.
   b. Adjust each all thread's set of clamps to be 2-1/4" between holes. Measure the distance from one all thread's set to the other. The holes should be about 6" apart.
   c. Mark and drill holes in your baseplate to match the measurements of your clamps.
   d. Find the center of the baseplate by drawing a diagonal line from each corner. Drill a center hole for the thumbscrew.
   e. Bolt up the baseplate to the rod clamps. Have the screw heads on top, so it looks nicer.

10. Attaching the ... attachment bolt.**
   a. Place a large fender washer onto the thumbscrew
   b. Slip through the hole in the baseplate
   c. Slip on the other fender washer
   d. Thread on the 3/8 to 1/4 Tripod head adapter bushing. At full tightness, the 1/4-20 post must not extend past the bushing.

**Depending on the bolt/thumbscrew you use, and the thickness of your baseplate, you may need to make alterations. You do not want too much screwpost sticking out than your camera or tripod head can accept. Over tightening could ruin equipment. You can simply add washers to take up some of the extra length, but you need it to be as low profile as possible, in case you want to flip the thumbscrew assembly upside down to use the dolly on a flat surface (the side wheels would be facing up, disengaged from anything).

Step 5: Shoulder Mount

This Shoulder Mount is very handy, incredibly adjustable, and super useful. You can additionally mount other gear to the horizontal bar, and the vertical riser can quickly be swapped out and adjusted for different used. If you use CowboyStudio's shoulder pad as a base, it can also be hands-free! Of course you can build your own, or use another, but realize you'll need to modify the lengths of materials too.

Parts List:

1) CowboyStudio Shoulder Support Pad
1) 1" x 12" perforated square tube
2) 1" Square End Caps (furniture tips)
3) 1/4-20 Flange Nuts (you could use other nuts, such as 1 cap nut and 2 regular nuts)
3) 5/16 washers
2) 1/4 x 1-1/2" Fender Washers
2) 1/4-20 Wingnuts
1) 1/4-20 x 2-1/2" all thread (for horizontal bar)
1) 1/4-20 x 5" all thread (for vertical riser)
1) About 12" worth of 1" Aluminum Square Tube, cut to your sizing preference.

1. Cut your materials.
   a. Cut the perforated square tubing to 12"
   b. Cut the Aluminum square tube into other lengths for different uses applications with this mount: 1", 1-1/2", 2", 2-1/2", and 3". This will allow you to adjust the vertical raise from the platform of the shoulder mount to your eye level. Personally, I use the 2-1/2" piece for using the Shoulder Mount with Mr. Shiny.
   c. Cut all thread for the vertical riser and for the horizontal bar.

2. Disassemble the CowboyStudio unit.
   a. Remove all thumb screws. Use needle nose pliers to grip the nut hiding under the rubberized grippy material, and unscrew thumbscrew.
   b. Ditch the little attachment plate/lifters that came with unit.
   c. On the platform attached to the main unit, lift up the rubberized gripper, and remove the nut.

3. Attaching the Horizontal bar.
   a. Decide how far you want the bar to extend to the side, based on your shoulder pad, body, and preference, and slip the shorter all thread though the hole you choose.
   b. Put a washer and wing nut on one side, that side is now the top.
   c. Thread the harvested nut from the shoulder pad's platform onto the other side of the square tube.
   d. Push the nut through the rubberized gripper pad, and thread the bolt down.
   e. Underneath the shoulder pad, slip a washer and Flange Nut (or Cap Nut), onto the all thread and tighten down. For adjustments, you can loosen and tighten the wingnut.
   f. Hammer in the 1" end caps

4. Attaching Vertical Riser
   a. Decide how far out you'd like the riser. Directly above the riser would be whatever you attach, a camera or rig.
   b. Slip the loner all thread through the hole you choose, top/bottom.
   c. On the Bottom, place a washer and wingnut, you will adjust this to tighten into whatever you put on top, and to adjust for different length vertical rises.
   d. on the top side of the channel, slip on a large fender washer, a nut, and leave room between nut and washer. This will need to be adjusted and left loose for each different riser you insert.
   e. Slip on the Aluminum Tube riser piece of your choice. I assembled this with a 2-1/2" inch riser for attaching Mr. Shiny and camera.
   f. On the other side, slip on another fender washer.

5. Attach whatever you want.
   a. If you want to just attach a camera, adjust the nut inside and the wingnut on the bottom util you have a proper amount of all thread sticking past the top fender washer. 1/4 inch is almost always safe. Again, you must be careful to not over tighten the bolt into the hole, instead, you thread it in, and tighten the other end, the one with the wing nut.
   b. If attaching the Cage Rig through it's camera mount hole, you will first need to un-thread it. Don't worry about re-aligning the wingnut inside, it's pretty easy.
   c. Attach it and tighten it up.

In the picture attached, I've got the Shoulder Mount supporting Mr. Shiny, who is holding my 7d, with an LCD viewfinder attached. The great thing about these units are that they're completely customizable and have a good amount of adjustment possibilities, allowing you to use them for many different applications.

I hope you have a great time building these, and find these rigs helpful for making better photos and videos.

Best to you! and your DIY spirit! Long Live Instructables!
-MattoSaurus Rex

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