We’ve shown a few overhead camera rigs here on DIYP. Some have been quite simple using things you may already own. Others have been created from Open Source hardware. A few have been quite versatile, letting you quickly switch between vlogging & overhead setups. One thing many of them have in common, though, is that they’re not very space saving. They’re often built over fixed desks or tables, or require a lot of room for a stand, boom arm and counterweight.
This one from the guys over at The Film Look is a very elegant and simple solution to achieving these sorts of shots. Especially if you’re short on space. Based around a desk mounted monitor stand, this is a complete top-down solution. As well as the mount for the camera itself, there’s a place to put an external monitor, a backdrop holder, and even a folding flat surface to look down on.
This rig is a permanent setup offering quite a lot of working space. Although it still packs up extremely small getting it out of the way when you want it to. The idea of monitor or TV mounts isn’t new, but the implementation and the overall setup is rather unique.
So, let’s start with the table itself. On first glance, it just appears to be a standard sheet of MDF like you may find on any workbench. It’s been varnished on top to help seal and protect it. But, it connects to the wall through hinges. The entire back of the surface is supported by the wall. Two legs at the front are also connected with hinges with magnetic locks to hold the legs in place when folding it out of the way.
Even without the rest of the rig, this is a fantastic solution for creating temporary surfaces on which to work, or hold equipment. You’ll probably want to look into a better hinge system for the legs, though, if you plan to put any kind of serious weight on it.
Mounted vertically on the wall behind it is another piece of MDF with a wider horizontal piece across the top. This kind of simulates the edge of a desk, where one might typically find such a monitor mount. It also provides as a platform on which to place things like your external monitor. If your camera doesn’t have a flip out LCD, then a monitor of some kind is pretty much essential.
In the photo above you’ll notice two other pieces of wood, each with a notch cut out, affixed to either side of this piece, covering the full width of the table surface. This is the backdrop holder. This allows for quickly changing the colour on which you’re shooting. Throw in a roll of white, black, or any other colour or pattern you wish, pull it down, and clip it to the front edge of the table.
Or, you can dispense with the backdrop completely and just lay something on the table surface. Like a cutting board.
So, how about mounting the camera? Well, this is done using an adjustable height desk mounted monitor stand. While designed for desks, it mounts to that horizontal bar across the top of the back board.
In the video the monitor stand features a vertical pole. This allows the arms to be moved up and down at will. Which allows you get a wider view without having to go to a wide angle lens and risk distortion or other issues. The arms themselves allow you to pull the camera forward, backward, and side-to-side to get perfect alignment no matter where your subject’s placed. It also allows you to rotate the camera slightly to get things looking level.
Instead of a monitor, though, the mount screws into another small piece of wood. On the other side of this is a tripod mount. The guys at The Film Look went with the Manfrotto 323 RC2 quick release system. Then the camera just mounts to the plate as normal and clips into place.
You’ll want to check what kind of weight limit the monitor stand you choose can hold. Most desktop monitors, though, tend to weigh a lot more than cameras. The one linked above is capable of holding 19.8lbs. Far more than any camera system I’ve ever used.
It really is an elegant and versatile DIY solution. Quick and easy to setup when you need to use it. Just as easy to get out of the way when you need to reclaim the space. It’s an ideal system for working in a small room, or one that has a dual purpose.
What’s your overhead rig solution? Do you use yours in a small space? What other tips or ideas can you offer? Let us know in the comments.