How to build a massive DIY orbital spinning camera rig

Jan 24, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to build a massive DIY orbital spinning camera rig

Jan 24, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Making cameras move in ways that are different can be a challenge, especially as cameras and all their associated bits seem to keep getting bigger and heavier. In a recent short film release, Skywatch, filmmaker Jason Levy needed to produce a camera rig which orbited around an object in a scene, early on in the film. There was no commercial solution available, so he made his own.

It’s called the Spin Rig and we’ve seen similar such rigs before, although mostly on a much smaller scale or designed for lighter weight cameras like GoPros. The Spin Rig, however, is much more substantial. If you don’t want spoilers, watch the short film first (it’s at the bottom of this post).

At the beginning of Skywatch, which features upcoming young actors Uriah Shelton and Zach Callison and a brief appearance by Jude Law, a fake commercial is shown to give you some quick background information on the device the short film is about. Essentially it’s a device with which you order products, a drone delivers them, and then they appear inside the device. Think sort of like Amazon drone deliveries, but more high tech. The two teens hack into the system to pull pranks on their neighbours, by switching deliveries, which results in… well, you’ll see if you watch the short film.

In the behind the scenes video above, they don’t go into too much detail about the specifics of how to build it with exact measurements, but they do talk about some of their experiments, what worked and what didn’t, with plenty of information, with things you’ll want to bear in mind if you decide to have a go at building your own.

They used a Sony A7S for its lighter weight to be able to build a rig relatively inexpensively (although the carbon fibre tube alone cost over $300) that could handle it smoothly. The fake commercial involved orbiting around the device mentioned above in several different rooms, so it looked like the camera was continuously spinning around a single point.

Afterwards, some CGI trickery was used to paint out the legs of the rig, and replace it with the drone ordering and delivery device on the wall, all tracked to perfection to look like it’s actually part of the scene.

The rig is cool, the technique is very cool, and the short film itself, which they managed to fund through Kickstarter, looks very intriguing. It’s a proof-of-concept, but hopefully, they’ll be able to get a full-length version based on this idea made at some point. It’s definitely a concept worth exploring with companies like Amazon looking to do something like this in the real world – especially with the privacy & security issues of Amazon-owned products.

Here’s the fulll short film, Skywatch.

YouTube video

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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