If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that my creativity isn’t capped at designing board games. I like to make things, build things, and fix things. I’ve wanted to do various game-play or even prototyping videos in the past, but I’m not exactly well-off financially. I’m doing well for myself… but I like to save whenever possible. I live a simple life and I’m happier for it, but I can’t afford to run out and buy a video camera and tripods on a whim. Thankfully, most of us carry a pretty good quality video camera in our pockets now and I’m fortunate that my job likes to buy me cool toys. The problem with these cool toys is that they don’t fit traditional camera tripods. You can buy fancy base plates and stuff… or you can get creative.
So, the challenge was to find a way to solidly support my camera phone while recording video. Tripods work great for this but can get quite expensive. Also, if I wanted a table-top tripod (for up-close) and a floor-model tripod (for wider shots), I’m doubling my expenses. I wanted a flexible system I could use to be able to record all sorts of different videos. I set my mind to it in the past few days and came up with my own system… which cost me all of about $7.
This is all the parts that I had to buy, but to be fair, I already had the wood and bolts at home to finish the design. You might need to spend another $1 or so if you don’t have stuff laying around. Here’s the parts-list breakdown:
1 – 10ft length of Schedule 40 1/2″ PVC
5 – End Caps
3 – “T” joints
3 -Elbow joints
1 – 1/4″x1.5″ bolt
2 – 1/4″ nuts
2 – 1/4″ fender washers
1 – 1/4″ wingnut
1 – Small piece of 1/4″ plywood
2 – rubber bands or small bungee cords
If you don’t know what Schedule 40 is, just ask for it. It refers to the wall-thickness of the pipe. There are thinner pipes and they won’t work well for this application because the thinner wall makes the whole rig more… bouncy. Too bouncy and the thing flexes and responds to bumps and table shakes pretty violently. The Schedule 40 is still bendy, but doesn’t cause as many problems. A traditional tripod doesn’t have this problem, but I’ll be using thee anti-shake feature of the phone to overcome this. I’ve tested the camera rig with a four foot extension and the anti-shake feature handled all the vibration flawlessly.
3 – 1.25″
6 – 6″
? – various lengths
The 1.25″ pieces are used between the elbow joints to give our tripod 4 points of articulation. You don’t want these pieces to be unnecessarily long because they will make the camera shake more. I kept them as close as possible because I don’t see myself tearing this section of the mount apart. If you want to pull yours apart, pulling out these little pieces can be difficult. The last piece sticking out of the elbow gets an end cap… check out the pictures later.
The 6″ pieces will make up the base and legs. Place one end cap on four of the pieces to make the legs. These keep it from being wobbly because the “T” joints are thicker than the PVC.
The “various length” pieces can be whatever you want for the application you need. These are the stand that raise and lower your camera. They connect the base to the elbow joints.
As you can see in the picture, I cut the 1/4″ plywood to roughly the size of my phone… only a little wider to make room for the bolt. Drill the plywood and the end cap on your elbow joint to accommodate a 1/4″ bolt. Push the bolt through the cap from the inside and put a nut on the outside. Tighten it down to prevent the bolt from backing out. The two washers sandwich your wood and the wingnut on the outside secures it all in place. This is also your fourth point of articulation as you can rotate the phone around the mount.
After it’s all said it done, you end up with a functional mount something like this! Just playing around with it after building, I found all sorts of awesome ways to configure it and bend it. I also discovered a distinct advantage it has over a traditional tripod. Because the extension is a single piece of PVC, it is a very narrow mount. This allows me to stand behind it and use both of my arms around it without bending my elbows in some sort of unnatural configuration. I was able to record a short test video and as you can see, it’s almost as if I’m wearing a steadycam on my chest.
So, if you want to build your own rig, I hope I helped. If not, that’s cool too… but all this leads up to my future plans. I want to start recording game-play videos of my games. That’s all promotional and boring, but I think it’s a great way to introduce players to my indie games that may not have tons of trustworthy reviews. In addition to game-play things, I want to record prototyping videos, prototype testing sessions, and even just my weekly game night. I have goals… we’ll see how many of those I actually achieve.