16/52: DIY Camera Jib/Crane

I was recently inspired by several things: Chase Jarvis’s “Cameras at Risk” blog entry, and a cheap DIY camera jib/crane at colvins.ca. This week’s project was building my own DIY camera jib/crane for getting interesting shots when shooting video.

DIY Camera Jib/Crane

I basically followed the same idea as the colvins.ca version mentioned above. This is very much a version 1.0 project, however, as there are a number of things that could be much improved. For one thing, the colvins.ca version uses 2″x2″ lumber, and when I picked up lumber for this project, I got 2″x4″ lumber. That makes the crane arm twice as heavy as it could be, although maybe it resists deflection (bending) more, too. There are other future improvements I’ll mention along the way.

To start with this project, I measured out the 2x4s and cut off a 14″ section from each one, so the crane arm is just under 7 feet long. Then I drilled holes in the long sections, to allow the whole arm assembly to be bolted together.

DIY Camera Jib/Crane
DIY Camera Jib/Crane

After I had assembled the crane arm (using a small piece on the end to hold the whole thing together temporarily), I built a quick-and-easy stand. The colvins.ca article mentioned using a work light stand (which I have!) but it wasn’t working for me – the stand wasn’t sturdy enough, and I didn’t feel like fabricating the necessary bracket, so I just built a version using 2×4 lumber.

DIY Camera Jib/Crane

For the end where the camera attaches, I used a piece of flat aluminum stock, bent at a 90-degree angle and bolted to the end of the crane arm. A standard 1/4 x 20 bolt comes through the end, and a Manfrotto Micro Ball head attaches to that to give the camera a forward-looking orientation.

DIY Camera Jib/Crane
DIY Camera Jib/Crane

I didn’t get much of a chance to shoot test footage yet, as I only finished it late this afternoon, but I did get a couple of quick shots before I had to put it away. You can see the test footage here:

Things that could be much improved:

  • The stand is pretty wobbly – the vertical 2×4 is somewhat warped, and it only has ground support on one side.
  • It would be great to make the whole thing much more portable. I’m thinking of something perhaps made from PVC pipe or something similar that could be quickly assembled, but broken down into smaller pieces for transportation (4-foot long sections at maximum would make this much easier to take other places).
  • The bracket that the camera attaches to is pretty bare-bones; it’s not that stable, and it would be nice if the bolt that the ballhead and camera attach to was vertically oriented.
  • There’s no way to see the camera’s output, so a small video monitor would be a good addition
  • Long-term, I’d like to use pan/tilt brackets and servomotors to make the camera remotely controllable!

For now, I’m quite pleased with this version 1.0 jib/crane, and I’m looking forward to shooting some more interesting video with it.

5 Replies to “16/52: DIY Camera Jib/Crane”

  1. I tried building one out of PVC pipe a few years ago, but it wasn’t rigid enough. The whole thing flexed a lot, so I then tried filling the tube with expanding foam to make it stiffer.

    Unfortunately it wouldn’t set properly and remained liquid in the core of the tubes.

    Properly dried and treated wood shouldn’t bend, but the only alternatives to that would seem to be metal (the lighter the better) or carbon fiber (if you can afford it).

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