Monday, September 2, 2013

How to Build a Camera Mount

Hand held filming can be bouncy and jarring. You could spend a lot of money on different set ups or you could build the equivalent of a Fig Rig for $16.

Designed by director Mike Figgis, the Fig Rig helps produce steady shots.  Your arms absorb the shock of walking without transferring those movements directly to the camera.

The Fig Rig camera mount.

What you need:

-3/4" x 10'-0" PVC schedule 40 pipe
-(10) 3/4" PVC 45 degree slip elbow
-(2) 3/4" PVC tee slip connectors
-(1) 3/4" cross tee slip connector
-(2) 3/4" slip plugs
-1/4" Hex bolt; 3.5" long
-(2) 1/4" x 1" washers

This is going to run you roughly $16. Make sure all your connections are slip and NOT threaded.

All the pieces before assembly.
Cut (6) 10" lengths of PVC pipe to form the perimeter of the frame.
Cut (4) 4.5" lengths of PVC pipe to form the frame at the 'T' connectors.
Cut (2) 6.5" lengths of PVC to form the cross bar.
Cut (2) 1.5" lengths to form the crossbar tee to 45 frame connections.

Use a hack saw to cut the PVC pipe.

Drill a 1/4" hole centered in each PVC plug. You will run the hex bolt through the bottom plug and out the top plug after final assembly. With the two washers at the head of the bolt, the bolt is just long enough to protrude through the top PVC plug, and when it slides out the bottom plug  it hits the bottom PVC pipe and doesn't fall out.

This is how it fits together.
You can use PVC cement or super glue for the slip connections. I used super glue.  Before you start gluing, attach everything as you see in the picture WITHOUT glue. This is your test fit to make sure you cut the right lengths and everything fits together. Assemble on a flat surface.  If you are happy with the test fit, proceed to final assembly.

The test fit is a success.
I dabbed the glue inside the connectors to avoid glue seepage at joints.  The PVC pipe will slide fully into the connections with a moderate amount of force. I sanded the entire thing with 400 grit sandpaper in preparation for paint.  You don't have to paint it, but it make it look more professional. I went with black. A wire coat hanger is an easy way to hang the rig during paint.

Once you've let it dry overnight, you can put the hex bolt, with two washers, through the bottom plug.  The two washers serve to shorten the bolt head at the top. The bottom PVC pipe will flex enough to get the bolt in the plug and stop it from sliding out. The flat top surface of the plug provides additional support for the camera.

Bolt protruding through the top plug.
Screw the camera to the mount and you are ready to start filming.

Camera mounted.
See the video below for a comparison of with and without the Fig Rig.

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