Monday, July 26, 2010

Make a Camera Stabilizer Rig for Under $5



The latest episode of TFF features a gizmo I use all the time--a PVC two-handed stabilizer rig. It functions on the same principle as the FigRig, which only requires a pair of hands to operate. I've totally thrown out the "steering wheel" look, added feet so I can set it on the ground and created a simple spring-loaded camera platform. It all works well.

This video covers some history of this rig, which shows the original version I came up with over a year ago for the web series Midnyte, and the evolved version which allows camera control without letting go of one of the handles. I also got rid of the $12 camera mount featured on the table dolly, which serves no purpose, since the rig can be positioned to adjust the angle on the fly.

There's a lot of stuff crammed in this episode, so I hope it was worth the 4 weeks it took to produce it. On a humorous note, it took me about 30 TAKES to nail that intro. Yeesh.

Enjoy, comment, build!

PARTS LIST

4x 1/2" PVC pipe 6" in length
4x 1/2" PVC pipe 4" in length
1x 1/2" PVC pipe 3 3/4" in length
1x 1/2" PVC pipe 1 1/2" in length
5x 1/2" PVC T-joints
4x 1/2" PVC 90 degree elbow joints
1x 1/2" PVC plug
1x 1/4"-20 machine screw 2 1/2" in length
2x 1/4" nuts

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very nice! Can't wait to try it!

DAVID FREY said...

That's an awesome rig. Versatile, and cheap, and multifunctional. Very cool.

Chris said...

Im interested to see what you were going to use that front open socket for. GREAT RIG! Got a cam caddie but this rig might serve a better range of purposes.

Matthew said...

I built one of these yesterday. My first PVC project. It is very cool. I did have some issue with the 2.5" bolt being too long (and perverting the camera from coming flush with the top plug). I fixed this by adding another nut on the outside of the t-joint. I also changed the rear lower elbow to a t-bar so the whole unit can rest on a table. After playing with it a bit with my GH1 I realized I needed to do something so I could get at the focus ring, so I changed the left hand side to be two 6" pieces giving me enough room to squeeze my hand in to the focus ring. Really nice thing about this is how easy it is to tweak it for what you need. Thanks for publishing this, I doubt I'd have made it without the push.

Scott Eggleston said...

Matthew, send me a picture and I'll post it!

Balian said...

What did you use to keep the separate PVC pieces from coming apart? An adhesive?

Can't wait to build one, by the way.
Thanks for posting this!

e-cig said...

I am going to get the parts this evening to build one for myself. QUESTION: Where did you get the "hinged" piece for the LED light? I can find no referrence to them. Thanks.

Scott Eggleston said...

Balian, our friend friction keeps it all together (and allows me to easily modify).

E-cig, try searching for "PVC snap tee", which is the correct term for this piece I've since learned.

R n R Productions said...

Hey, I built this Rig! for My HDSLR, can i post some pictures?

Scott Eggleston said...

RnR, send me the pictures with a letter and I'll make them their own blog post.

I love that stuff!

Anonymous said...

I want to go make one tonight for my T2i. do you see a size problem with that camera?

Colin Leach said...

I just made a stabilizer for my Gopro camera. It works great. I made a few design changes for strength and versatility. I used a Manfrotto 143BKT to mount the camera its sweet.
Thanks for the idea.

Colin Leach said...

Image of Camera Stabilizer.
Check it out.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10150128029726458&set=o.334368756043&theater

Gails Avon said...

This is great thanks for sharing going to attempt this at weekend :)

Anonymous said...

hey scott, what audio adapter rig do you have attached to the camera? Powered? XLR/balanced inputs as well?
I'm making myself one of these. Thanks! :)
-Panfro

S. Smart said...

Where did you find the spring to use for the camera mount? I searched at Lowe's but couldn't one small enough.

Scott Eggleston said...

Y'know, I just had that spring laying around, so I don't know what to tell you. Try taking the screw to different hardware stores to see if you can find one that fits.

I've since abandoned the screw mount idea altogether:

http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/03/quick-release-puck-plate-for-868.html

Ryan Ankeny said...

Pretty awesome. Gonna give this a try. Looks like it would be perfect for my T1i.

Frank said...

Scott, Just "stumbled" onto your website and discovered the wonderful world of Frugal Filmmaking. The PVC stabilizer is awesome! I have a Canon HF S100 and wonder which XLR box you're using? Thanks for all the great projects!!

Scott Eggleston said...

Frank,

Glad you like the blog! The XLR box is the XLR-PRO from Sign Video.

Raj Rana said...

I got my stabilizer done!!!
here is a test shoot i did on it with my family on the beach
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YH5HusFATM

Thanks a lot!

Doug said...

Built one of these babies tonight and did some test shots around the house... LOVE IT! Thanks for all of your great tips!

Anonymous said...

Nice rig. just reassembling same parts you could use it to hold your camera upside down and have fun with your presenter upside down. Yes, i know you could turn your camera upside down in post but you might not notice things like needing to light from below.

|PSI live in UK where it seems to be much harder to be as frugal as you!!

swier said...

Scott, your rig concept is alive and developing. I've made one with a few improvements. I used 16mm (just over 1/2inch) aluminium tube, with pvc joints. Only T-joints: on top 3 bolts for accessories. On one of the top front tubes I put a small spirit level. And I've put on a sun shade: black plastic card, attached with parts from a 'helping hand' soldering thing. Costs: a few euro's extra. Watch it at http://www.mijnalbum.nl/Album=JGY7VCTK
Swier

carolyn said...

Hi, I am in the middle of making this rig and wondering if you would make it for me, how much would that cost? I'm having problems getting the hole drilled properly or with the spring thingy. I have all the parts except the plugs I'm finding are a little bit different than yours, which may be a problem. Basically I need help getting the holes drilled properly. They are very close to center but the angles are off or something else is wrong and the spring thingy doesn't have the spring yours does. Any advice/help would be appreciated. Thank you, love your site!

carolyn said...

I'm trying to make this but I can't find the right plug. How much would you charge to make this for someone (regular one and suped up one)?

Thanks!

Alex said...

Any thoughts on how to quickly mount the rig on a tripod?

adal said...

check this device i found on amazon. it is the mount piece for an iphone 4 to be used in the new steadycam smoothie. it is under $30 and added to your camera stabilizer rig, could be just like the steadycam device, only a lot cheaper...
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004CJ8CU0/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_3?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B004CJ8CS2&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0TZFFGZKM7Q1WQFRY27X

Anonymous said...

Just made one of these using gray pvc pipe, as it's cheaper. In Oklahoma, the tees and els are the same price, but the plug is the most expensive item! I used a hex-headed screw that i can make a slot in for a coin. I hope you come up with a plan for an articulated arm stabilizer, as I have a drum vest, and no idea on how to make the arm! The $5 Stabilizer is a great rig!

Anonymous said...

what kind of spring did you use ?

Joe Lemas said...

Hey Scott,

Love your posts and I made the dolly and rig which are great! I do have a question though. You added bicycle grips to the rig and I wanted to do the same. How did you put them on? When I try they only go on about two inches then stop and it seems the friction between the rubber and PVC is too high. Any suggestions?

Joe

Sebastián said...

Pretty cool!
Sorry but i don't speak english too much, so i want(if you can)a write list of the materials please.
Again, i'm sorry of my English...
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

DLSR-compatible?

Anonymous said...

Use soap as lubrication

S Hunsaker said...

Scott,
Great piece, and nice addon with the quick release. I built it like you laid out, but took a 1/4 x 2 inch bolt, drilled a hole through the "t" and mounted the quick release base plate to the top of the "t". It carries my D5100 just fine, with plenty of room on the left side to swing the lcd screen out. Thanks again!

HotBoyRob1105 said...

hello, i am trying to figure out where you get the Balanced XLR mic mount from? Its on the bottom of your camera in this video, or it came with the camera you got. Or did you buy it from a store or online store , or from some web site. Help me out ok....lata man.

Simon Tay said...

I just followed your instructions and made my own rig for my iPhone 5 with slight modification! :D

Thanks for your instructions!

http://www.simonvideo.com/accessories/d-i-y-iphone-stabilizer-rig/

freeskatefilms said...

hey just wondering if this would work well with a go pro?

Boris Xu said...

Hi Scott,

First, I gotta say thank you, you showed me kinda the best way of building a camera stabilizer rig with PVC. I really like your idea that I built one myself today. I have done some improvements and adjustments of your design thru. 1, In order to have better weight balance between front and rear, I added four 90 degree elbow joints on the front frame to move those two handle bars backward a bit. It works wonderful and move like a charm. 2, I moved the "Multi functions joint" to the left side so that my 7D can fit in it.

After all pipe works have done, i got a question thru. What kind of black tape were you using to cover this rig?

Thank you again for sharing this with us.

Boris

Anonymous said...

I just built this. I was only able to try it out for a moment, but love it so far.
I did end up spending about 50 dollars not 5. Just to make sure I had plenty of PVC, spray paint, nuts and bolts and I bought some lights.
Luckily there is a Harbor Frieght here in Spokane,so I got the PVC cutter for under 5 bucks, rather than the over 15 that Lowes was charging.

I got rhino liner spray paint type stuff.

I think I will make a video of my reassembling it post it to youtube. I'll give you props.
Thanks for the inspiration. You are good.

Nick

Anonymous said...

Hello! Excellent post!!! I built the rig it is AWESOME!!! I pimped mine out a bit as I use my rig for Ghost Hunting...... I modified the two front bottom 4" sections with two T bars and mounted two more screws to hold my Infrared lights.....PERFECT! I also covered the unit with Hockey tape and installed bicycle hand grips...Thanks for the idea. You can tune into our Facebook page ghostriderstv Our first episode airs on Halloween night 2013!!

Nick Parrott said...

I love it, so I built it. I am not even a film maker, but now I want to be. I put a pic of it up. Thanks for the inspiration.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og2FZZgHecM

Jeff LeClair said...

In days of old I used to make some videos. Having this kind of contraption back then would have greatly enhanced the experience as well as the end product. Great design, easy to build and use and does exactly what probably 99% of people shooting video could benefit from - better raw footage.

I do have a Harbor Freight type of flashlight but mine has a 1/4" female hole in the base of the flashlight. Thinking about your light idea and perhaps adding another PVC T joint along with another 2" long 1/'4 screw to hold it.

Thanks for the inspiriation Scott!

Tim said...

I built this for my needs in the paranormal field. Here are some photos. It turned out awesome.

http://ctghost.org/images/IMG_5317_small.jpg
http://ctghost.org/images/IMG_5318_small.jpg

Ken Shepherd said...

Nice. Thanks for showing the evolution. Ttttalking 'bout an evolution wellll you know...I added wheels to the rig that use the open ports in the bottom the t-joints. These were attached using the side of the vertical 3 inch pipes. I drilled holes thru the pipe and used a three inch bolt with lock washers on each side for spacers and to contact only the skate wheel bearings/bushings. I designed in 4 for better stability. If these are aligned properly I can use it on a dolly track too, per your other so purposed rigs. Though since I got 8 wheels in my ebay order I am building a dolly track out of pvc lumber to affix to my pickup side rails and/or roof. The four wheels can rotate with a twist of the pipe for dolly zoom or a slider effect. They can be easily removed, though they are light so not sure if I will. Using a coupler and more pipe I can elevate the rig for shooting taller objects on a table or on the floor or to tilt up or down, (ball head on order). Also sized it up a bit for my older video camera and DSLRs.

Ken Shepherd said...

PVC snap T? Now ya tell me. I used a 1 inch PVC pipe t-joint, a hacksaw and a rasp to make my flashlight holder.
8^)

Lisa Elfers said...

I got this one on Amazon. It doesn't work for heavy cameras, but for cameras about 2 lbs and under it does a nice job.video camera stabilizer

Roel John Bobis said...

I really like this article. It taught me so many things about pvc pipes.

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