I was filming a science video for my YouTube channel when a fascinating thought hit me: It would look incredible if I had a camera rotating around me while I spoke, keeping the listener engaged and making my videos a lot more fun the watch. I started brainstorming how I could make this a reality. For my first attempt, I took a wagon that is used for sporting events and placed my tripod inside of it. It was very difficult to control and was not as exciting as I was hoping. I searched online for different ways to make a camera trolley when I ran across a camera rig. I had heard of steady cams and camera trolleys, but never camera rigs. I started devising a plan to make my own camera rig that worked well and cost very little. I decided to place a 5 pound weight on the back to stabilize the camera. It works great and helps stabilize the camera as shown in the video above.
Step 1: Gather the Parts
This build is fairly simple and little experience is required. The total cost of this project is around $25, but the price will vary depending on how much you spend on recommended materials. Please use the pictures as a reference. I also have placed a written list below.
- 8 feet of 1/2" PVC pipe (Schedule 40)
- 3x 1/2" 90 degree elbows
- 3x 1/2" tee fittings
- 1x 1/2" end cap
- 1x 1/2" 90 degree spigot
- 3x 1/4"-20 nuts
- 1x 4 1/2" long 1/4"-20 threaded rod
- 1x 2 1/2" long 1/4"-20 threaded rod
- 3x 1/4" washer
- 1x 5 pound weight
- Blue Glue or any other PVC pipe cement
- Camera mounting nut (you can get this from a horseshoe mount or any other storebought camera mount)
- Flat black spray paint
- 4 feet of 1/2" foam pipe insulation
- 1/4" wrench or any other way of securing the nuts.
- A vice
- A drill or drill press
- 9/32" drill bit
Step 2: Assemble the Structure
At this point, you do not want to blue glue the structure together. This is just a dry run to make sure that all the parts fit together. Before you assemble the structure, you will have to cut PVC pipes to length. If you are clever about this, you can easily do this from 4 precut 2' PVC pipes, but if you would rather go the cheaper way and buy the PVC in bulk, that will work fine. At the bottom of this step, there is a list of all the PVC pipe lengths you will need. If you don't choose to use 4 2' PVC pipes, you can skip this next paragraph and just cut your 1/2" inch PVC into the lengths specified by the list. Make sure to watch the video to see how to assemble the structure.
Start by taking 2 of your 2' PVC pipes and make a mark 14" from one end on both pipes. Cut your PVC pipes at this mark. You now have 2 14" pipes and 2 10" pipes. The next step is to form the handles. Mark and cut 12" from the end of one of your 2' pipes. This yields 2 12" inch handlebars. Grab the last pipe and make 2 marks at 9" and 18" from one side of the pipe. After cutting the pipe at the marks, from the remaining pipe, cut a 2-inch section. Now you can assemble the structure.
2x 14" pipes
2x 12" pipes
2x 10" pipes
2x 9" pipes
1x 2" pipe
Step 3: Attach the Foam
Now we can attach the foam. Even though I said this was only recommended, your cameraman will like you a lot more if you add padding (ask me how I know). The foam pipe insulation only costs 2 dollars, so there is really no reason not to buy it. I have included (another) list of the recommended lengths to cut your foam.
2x 11" foam
2x 8.5" foam
1x 7" foam
Step 4: Blue Glue the Structure
After assembling the structure and proving to yourself that all the lengths are correct, it is time for blue glue. Make sure everything fits together just like you want it to in the end because blue glue sets in only a few seconds. Remove the foam from the structure. Also remove the camera mount, which is on the end of the tee above the handlebar. Set these aside; we will come back them later. Go ahead and blue glue the structure. Give each connection a 1/4 twist and then set the connection aside. Continue like this for the entire structure. There are some connections that need to be at a ninety degree angle. If you have a square, use it. If not, make sure to get it as close as possible before you blue glue. You need to do this in a well-ventilated area. To prevent wrecking your hands and work surface, wear gloves and place down something to protect your work surface. Don't think spills won't happen.
Step 5: Make the Camera and Weight Mount
Before we blue glue the camera mount to the structure, we need to drill a hole in the middle of the end cap all the way through to the back of the 90 degree elbow. We will mount our threaded rod through this hole, so make sure it is level. Now we will drill a hole to mount the weight. Mark the center of the 9 inch pipe in the back of the structure. After drilling that hole, you can blue glue the camera mount to the structure. Keep in mind that it may be easier to drill the mount for the weight before the structure is blue glued.
Step 6: Spray Paint
Even though this step is optional, I highly recommend it. Spray painting your structure will make it look professional and cover up the text on the side of the pipes. The foam also really clashes with the white PVC pipe. I chose to use flat black spray paint, but what spray paint you use is really at your discretion. To get a nice even coat of spray paint, hold the spray paint can about 1 1/2' away from the structure and spray in very quick passes. You will know you are doing it right if the paint job starts off sparse and eventually makes a nice even coat. You definitely don't want any dripping paint. If that happens to you, it's probably because you are too close to the object you're spray painting or your lingering on one spot and moving the can too slowly.
Step 7: Assemble the Camera Mount
When you assemble your camera mount, use a wrench to tighten the nut to prevent the threaded rod from moving around. If you really want to, you can refuse to use a storebought camera mount's tensioning nut, but it will be a lot harder to secure the camera onto the camera rig. If you go this route, it will help to glue the washer and nut together using JB weld or epoxy.
Step 8: Finishing the Project
All that's left is to add the padding and weight. Place the pipe insulation onto the structure just as you did in step 3. This time, you can remove the tape. If your foam is moving around and coming off, you can use tape or zip ties to secure it. I suggest using electrical tape. If you go this route, you may want to place down blue tape first, then use electrical tape. This will prevent the foam from getting wrecked if you ever need to remove the tape.
Once you have the foam attached, you can secure the weight to the rig. Use 2 washers and a nut to secure the weight to the rig. I recommend you watch the video.
Step 9: Conclusion
Finally, the project is done. As you have seen in the video, this camera rig greatly stabilizes your footage. In my experience, the best way to use the camera rig is to walk with bent knees to absorb some of the shocks of your walking. Also, try to stop the handle from shaking by holding it firmly.
It may also help to buy two extra 90 degree elbows and an extra 1/2" 2' PVC pipe. You can cut 9" from your 2' pipe and add the two 90 degree elbows. Now you can attach it to the bottom of the handlebars and blue glue your new addition. This should help remove some of the shakes in the camera. If you have a shot where you need to follow an actor who is walking, this camera rig can greatly help. It also is very convenient to use. Thanks for viewing this instructable. If you build this project, please click the "I made this button" and leave a comment!