DIY IPhone Video Rig



Introduction: DIY IPhone Video Rig

I love the iPhone for its photo and video capabilities. I was looking for a way to get more out of these features and came across video rigs like the Owle Bubo, but I didn't want to put that much money into it. I figured I could make a similar rig for much cheaper. The rig adds five main features, for less than $30: 1) interchangeable lenses, including wide angle and macro, 2) external microphone, 3) additional weight to steady the camera, 4) a tripod mount, and 5) extended handles.

Here's a video I shot using just the iPhone 4s:

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Step 1: Design

I based my design off the Owle Bubo, but with considerations for the material (wood vs. aluminum), and the different microphone and lenses. While drawing up your design, think about those five functions that the video rig should provide: tripod mount, stabilizing weight, extended handles, microphone, and interchangeable lenses. Remember to leave space to access all necessary ports including charger, built in mic and speaker, volume, camera and microphone. You'll see later that I ended up changing a few things, but having thought about a design in advance helped in the construction process.

Step 2: Tools and Materials

-Drill with bits
-Table Saw
-Jig Saw

Materials (links at the bottom of page):
-Block of wood, about 6" tall, 6" wide and 2" deep $2
-1/4-20 press in wood insert $.50
- iPhone lens kit with included case $10 on Amazon
-iPhone compatible microphone $15 on Amazon

About a week of waiting for your lenses and microphone, and 4-6 hours constructing

More Info and Links:

Microphone - It's tough to find a microphone out there that works with the iPhone. I waded through tons of articles and videos trying to find one that would work. You can't buy just any microphone, but there are a couple good options out there. I went with the Brando Mini Mic ($15). There's also the Vericorder Mini Mic ($25) and Blue Mikey ($45). Here's a video comparison of the three microphones. If you get the Brando Mini Mic, be careful! It's as small as a pill and I lost it after two days...

Lens Kit - You can get a three lens kit for under $10. I chose one for about $15, but you can go well above $100. Bottom line is it's still an iPhone. Lenses can't improve the hardware in the phone, so if you're serious about high quality video, invest in a DSLR camera. The lenses in the $10 - $20 range will give the phone a bit more functionality and give you a few options to play with without breaking the bank.

Step 3: Construction

1. Start with two planks of wood, each 6" by 6". One is 1/2" thick and one is 1/4" thick.
2. The first 1/2" piece will encase the sides of the phone. Trace your design onto the 1/2" board. Start by drilling holes through the wood where the corners of the phone case are, then cut out each individual piece with a jigsaw. My design is comprised of four pieces.
3. Place the iPhone case on the 1/4" plank, and place the encasing pieces of wood in the correct spot, tracing around them. Mark where the camera is. Drill a small pilot hole through both of the uncut planks, centered on the camera. Now drill the appropriate size hole in the 1/4" piece to fit the lenses. Drill a hole to allow the microphone to be turned away from the camera screen.
4. Place the camera case and encasing pieces of wood back onto the 1/4" piece. Glue them in place with a snug fit.
5. Drill any necessary holes in the remaining 1/2" inch plank to allow the lenses and microphone to fit. 
6. Use a jigsaw and sander to shape your rig.
7. Drill 1/4" holes where you want tripod mounts. I chose bottom right and top left. Tap 1/4 - 20 nuts into the holes.
8. Seal with four coats of water based polycrylic.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

You should now be able to interchange lenses, add an external microphone, and get more stable video out of your iPhone. To finish it off, download a video capture app. I use FiLMiC Pro. It's $5 and lets you adjust quality settings, lock exposure and focus, and of course, upload to facebook, youtube, etc. Here's a great FiLMiC Pro Tutorial.

Like I said earlier, this won't give you the quality of a DSLR, so if you're looking to invest more than $100, invest in a higher quality camera. But if you're looking to tell a story and play around with your phone's video capability, this is a great option. 

Step 5: Video Demonstration

Here's a test of iPhone alone vs. the iPhone Video Rig:

Make sure you watch in 1080p to really see the quality differences.You'll notice the picture isn't in focus in the first shot with the fish eye lens. That's not the fault of the lens - I just forgot to refocus. The later shot of the patches is a better demonstration of the focus. And sorry I can't demonstrate audio difference - still bummed that I lost that microphone...

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