by Lisa Long
DIY Overhead Camera Rig: You’ll learn three ways to shoot videos overhead. I will share with you what I like and don’t like about all three ways so you can choose a way that’s best for you.
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I love shooting overhead video of my work to create time-lapse videos for YouTube or tutorials on Skillshare. In 2017, I started shooting my watercolor painting process and creating time-lapse videos. To film those, I bought an attachment that clamps to my table top and holds my phone with a magnet, but I don’t like using it anymore as it hovers in front of my face. When something becomes a nuisance and not a help, it kinda makes you want to not do what you love anymore. Having to set that up each time and wiggle it into the right angle for each video just became a hassle I stopped wanting to deal with so I started researching other ways I could DIY it for myself.
In this post, I will share with you all the methods I’ve used to take overhead videos and how I made them and which one I like the best and why. Click the links below to skip to each section. I’ll share with you:
- My first set-up and the pros and cons: Flexible Arm Table Clamp.
- The “poor man’s” version of the DIY set-up: PVC Pipe Rig.
- The final rig that I created and LOVE: Galvanized Pipe Rig!
Let’s get started!
The first thing I wanted was hands-free at a low price, so I did some research and realized I hated the clips because sizes can change, and I had a rather large phone that may not fit all the clip attachments, so I went for something magnetic. I ended up buying this guy for about $15 at the time.
I like the magnet attachment on this one because I don’t have to fiddle with a clamp, but I would probably buy a clamp one if I had to again so that anyone could use it. Some of my students like to videotape themselves on my wheel at work, and the clamp would have been perfect.
It’s actually a very decent tool for what you want to accomplish, but here’s where I started having issues. It bounces quite a bit when filming – nothing too bad you can’t work around, but it was just kind of annoying when my videos were a little shaky. The worst part is that it attaches to the desk and hovers over my work in front of my face to get the angle I want without it collapsing due to the weight of my iPhone 6 Plus, and I had to maneuver my hands and arms around it in order to film at that angle, so it was very awkward trying to work without bumping into my camera constantly and shaking the video.
Eventually, I started dreading creating time-lapse videos because of the hassle. I do love the portability of this device and will take it to work to use to create impromptu videos of me working on my iPad or on my pottery wheel, so I do indeed still use it from time to time and love it for that! So it’s not a loss at all but still a gain and for a great price!
I started doing research on overhead rigs by searching YouTube, of course! I immediately found a few decent tutorials; I especially loved this one:
I also found the one below and figured I should try out the PVC version to save some money!
I created what was essentially in the first video, but with PVC pipe, and I was super excited because it worked! However, the fact that my camera still bounced every time I touched it left me wishing I had just splurged for the galvanized steel rods instead.
- (4) 2′ sections of 1/2″ PVC Pipe or buy one and cut it down into 4 2′ sections
- (1) Wooden 2×4
- (2) 1/2″ PVC elbows
- (2) 1/2″ PVC Threaded Connectors
- (1) 1/2″ PVC Connector or just cut your PVC pipe to 36″ or 48″ inches depending on table size
- (2) 3/4″ Floor Flanges – these were the items that cost the most
- (8) 1″ #12 Wood Screws
- (1) Quick Release Camera Clamp
Here’s the video I made when putting this thing together – even my son helped out some! Enjoy!
I lost sleep over this thing! I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how it wobbled and might possibly fall apart with my camera attached, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I jumped out of bed and immediately took it apart to see if I could return anything to the store. Well, sure, I could have returned some of it, but it wasn’t worth the few bucks I’d get back. One of the parts wouldn’t unscrew from the floor flange, so I just ate the cost and vowed to myself to get galvanized pipes the next day.
I went straight to the hardware store in the morning after losing all that sleep and got my new supplies. This time I bought:
- (2) 1/2″ x 24″ Galvanized Pipe
- (1) 1/2″ x 48″ Galvanized Pipe – get the side you need for your table size
- (2) 1/2″ 90 degree Galvanized Pipe Shoulders
- (2) 1/2″ Galvanized Pipe Floor Flanges
- (8) 1″ #12 Wood Screws
- The wood I already had from making it with the PVC Pipe, so yay!
I put everything in my car and went to work wishing I could go straight home and set this baby up. When I focus on something, I have a one track mind! Compartmentalize, Lisa!
Once I got home, I immediately started setting it up. I cut the remaining wood into two 2′ segments, sanded them down, and then attached the flanges to the wood with the help of my son. I then realized I probably should attach the piping together first with the elbows, but I just moved everything to the floor of my garage and kept attached everything together in a circular order starting from one piece of wood and working my way to the other piece of wood. It worked out quite well, and I moved it inside to my office, attached the camera clamp and tested out my camera. It worked so well without any of the bounce! I wasn’t worried by camera would fall or anything would come apart because it was all tightly screwed together, and I’m so excited to continue using this amazing setup to film more content. The angle is perfect and will easily accommodate larger paintings, and if I need it to be taller, I can always add more wood or books under the legs to raise it up! I haven’t played around with that, but I bet it would work until it got to a certain height.
This set-up is definitely the winner! I love it, and since it spans the outer reaches of my table top, it doesn’t really get in the way!
I hope you found some value here and are inspired to shoot some overhead video without the bounce!