Moving shots using a jib or crane provide an added dimension to any video, allowing the camera to sweep from a high establishing shot as it follows the action to a worm's-eye perspective. But the price of a good jib or crane can tax even the most established and well-paid video producer.
Search the internet, and you'll find dozens of designs for DIY video equipment, from simple one-legged monopod supports to elaborate cranes and dollys. This issue's Tutorial focuses on two do-it-yourself crane and jib designs. The crane, designed by Brian Peterson, is one you might use in your big-budget productions. It costs about $500, which is thousands of dollars less than a similar Hollywood device. Read the article here. The jib, by Tom Benford, is an easy-to-assemble design to get those quick-and-easy moving shots that anyone can operate for about $50. The differences between the two all come down to what you want to shoot, ruggedness, smoothness and flexibility.
This text guide follows along with the video tutorial, which can be viewed here. But before you get out your trusty toolbox and strap on that toolbelt, think first about your needs. Will you be shooting mostly outdoors? If you're doing interiors, you need to plan for ceilings with low height. What size video camera are you using, and do you plan to upgrade? Think about transport: once you've built it, can you get it into that 1977 Pacer hatchback? The choices are yours... your circumstances will determine your equipment needs. The good news: you don't have to be a major builder or tech guru to build these.
Tom Benford's jib is a quick and easy-to-build device that anyone who knows how to turn a wrench and place a drill can build. Tom's JVC DF550U camcorder is small and lightweight, and he used a ready-made painter's extension pole to achieve his jib design. A list of the tools and materials you'll need can be found at the end of this article.
STEP 1: Cut Perforated Steel
Measure off 7 inches - 9 holes on the perforated steel. Clamp off and cut at 10th hole.
STEP 2: Create Support Bracket
Bend the cut piece of steel after the 3rd hole on both ends, making a squared-off U-shaped bracket.
STEP 3: Attach Bracket to Tripod Post
Using 3/8" nut, attach bracket to your tripod post.
STEP 4: Pipe Hangers
Separate both pipe hanger sections, and thread the nippled sections together on one side only (other halves not needed). Loosely attach both sides of the hanger.
STEP 5: Film Canister
The 35mm film canister works as a sleeve for the pipe hanger. Cut the bottom off the canister, and slice one side open. Slide it under the pipe hanger and tighten the hanger slightly.
STEP 6: Attach Tripod Post
Attach the bracketed tripod post to the pipe hanger using the 3/8" nut and the 1/4" lock washer, followed by the 1/4" flat washer (don't screw too tightly yet). This should give you a see-saw motion for camera movement.
STEP 7: Enlarge Pole Extension Holes
Remove the screws holding the threaded end of the painter's pole head, and, using a 3/8" drill bit, enlarge holes and drill all the way through. Check that threaded rod fits through hole.
STEP 8: Assemble Trapeze Bracket
Loosely bolt the 2 corner brackets together temporarily, using 1/4" nuts and bolts. Then drill 3/8" hole through center of the two (at 2 1/4"). The camcorder will sit on this, to keep the camera straight as the jib is raised or lowered.
STEP 9: Mount Jib to Brackets
Place the threaded rod inside the new hole on the painter's pole, and mark along the outside of both sides of the rod. Cut off excess rod, thread it through the painter's pole, then place fender washers, followed by lock nuts, on both rod ends at the marks.
STEP 10: Attach Trapeze Bracket
Attach the bracket "trapeze" to the threaded pole on the painter's pole.
STEP 11: Attach Camera to Trapeze Bracket
Camera mounts to the trapeze, using 1/4" threaded nut and 2 fender washers.
Camera mounted on jib POV
You'll be able to get dramatic ground-level low shots like this one... or soar to the top of trees for really awesome aerial shots, using our gizmos that you build yourself.
You don't need a full-blown machine shop to make a jib or a crane - simple hand tools and a little elbow grease are all that's required.
- Work bench
- Vice-grip pliers
- 9/32" drill bit
- #2 Phillips screwdriver
- Utility knife or razor blade
- Marker or crayon
- 35mm plastic film canister
- 7/16" wrench
- 1/2"- 9/16" wrench
The materials are common hardware items you'll find at the local hardware store or home improvement center, and they won't cost you a lot of cash, either.
- 1 - 3' length, 14-gauge flat perforated steel, 13/8" wide
- 1 - 1' length, 5/16" -18 threaded rod
- 2 - 4" [or 6"] galvanized steel corner braces
- 2 - 1 to 11/4" diameter galvanized pipe hangers
- 2- 3/8" -16 x 3/4" hex-head cap screws
- 3 - 3/8" -16 hex nuts
- 4 - 3/8" flat washers
- 2 - 3/8" lock washers
- 3 - 1/4" -20 x 1/2" hex-head cap screws
- 2 - 1/4" flat washers
- 6 - 3/8" x 11/4" diameter fender washers
- 4 - 5/16" -18 nylon locknuts
- Painter's extension tool
- Tripod with removable head
Any sturdy tripod will work, as long as it has a removable head that allows you to mount your jib assembly. A painter's extension tool expands from 6 to 12 feet. Get one that locks, for added support.
Interactive Tutorial Content
To view the tutorial video for DIY Jib, click here.