For most of us, when we want an overhead camera rig, we set up a light stand with a boom arm or stick a modified TV bracket on the wall or something. Then we’ll throw up an LED panel, or maybe some Spekulars. But that’s not good enough for YouTuber GreatScott!. Oh no, he built his own custom design using PVC pipe, plywood, aluminium sheets and stuck a computer monitor to it to see the camera viewpoint and made his own LED control circuit to light the scene below.
The construction is fairly simple. It’s basically a cube made from PVC pipe with 3D printed corner brackets. There’s no piece along the front at the bottom, of course, because you want to be able to reach into the table unhindered. The three pieces of pipe that sit on the surface of the desk are also filled with sand to lower the whole assembly’s centre of gravity and help prevent it from tipping over.
On the back is a piece of plywood board holding a computer monitor which is plugged straight into the camera’s HDMI output. On top is another sheet of plywood board, with an aluminium plate sandwiched between it and the top of the frame. This is the plate to which the LEDs are attached. It helps to provide some rigidity and also acts as a heat sink for the LEDs to stop them overheating. A hole is cut in the top of the aluminium & plywood sandwich for the camera to poke through.
What makes this setup particularly interesting, though, at least for me is the LED circuit. For the rig, high CRI LED strips were used, and he designed a circuit specifically for controlling LEDs for video application. He actually built this design a couple of years ago when he built a portable LED panel, and it adapts very well to overhead camera purposes.
It’s a clever design which helps to prevent some of the common issues that photographers and filmmakers often experience when using LEDs. Things like flickering and changes in brightness as lights heat up. And, it’s dimmable.
I’ve been following GreatScott! on YouTube for as long as I can remember, and while most of his projects aren’t really photo or video related, they’re really fascinating if you’re at all interested in electronics or microcontrollers. Well worth a follow.
I’ve been using a Benbo Trekker and some Spekular LEDs for my own overhead camera rig. But I might have to build something a little more permanent like this, as I find myself needing to shoot overhead far more often than I used to.