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.
Read the full article DYI Jib.
Hi, I'm Tom Benford for Videomaker magazine and today I'm going to show you how to build a jib for your camcorder. The jib is like a crane for a video camera. Undoubtedly, you've seen jib shots on TV and in the movies. They have those wonderfully graceful shots that may start out low and ascend or they may start high and then swoop down, getting in closer on the action.
Jib shots add instant professionalism to any video, and the reason that most video makers don't use jib shots is because jibs are expensive, ranging in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. I know that's beyond the range of most of us, certainly myself included, that's why I decided to build my own jib and today I'm gonna show you how to build one too. It'll cost you under $50.00, it'll only take about an hour. You'll only need ordinary hand tools that you find around the house or the garage, and you don't need any special talent. So if you're ready to put in some elbow grease, we'll get started.
The only other thing you're going to need is a tripod with a removable head. That being said, let's get a look at our bill of materials and then I'll show you step by step exactly how to assemble everything, okay. Let's go.
Okay, let's go over the tools you're going to need for this project first. First and foremost, you're going to need a work surface. In this case, if you don't have a work bench, you can do what I did, which is get a piece of three-quarter inch composition board and lay it over two sawhorses, it'll work just fine for this purpose. Okay, first thing you're going to need in the way of tools is a hacksaw with a decent metal cutting blade, a pair of vice grip or lock grip pliers like these, an electric or cordless drill, a 9/32 inch drill bit, a Number 2 blade Phillips screwdriver, a 7/16 inch wrench, a utility knife or razor blade. You'll also need a 1/2 inch and 9/16 inch wrench, a ruler and a marker or a crayon, and the 35 mm film canister. And that pretty much does it as far as the tools you need.
Okay, now for the materials that you're going to need, and you can purchase these at Lowe's, Home Depot, the local well stocked hardware store or any home improvement center. You'll need a three-foot length of 14-gauge flat perforated steel, 1-3/4 inches wide, a one foot length of 5/16-18 threaded rod, two four-inch galvanized steel corner braces, two 1/4 inch diameter galvanized pipe hangers, two 3/8-16 three-quarter inch length hex head cap screws, three 3/8-16 hex nuts, four 3/8 inch flat washers, two 3/8 inch diameter lock washers, three 1/4-20 by 1/2 inch hex head cap screws, two 1/4 inch-20 hex nuts, two 1/4 inch flat washers, six 3/8 by 1/4 inch diameter fender washers, four 5/16-18 nylon knock – locknuts, and as I said earlier, a 35 mm film canister. And that will do it for materials.
Okay, you're going to need one of these painter's extension tools. This is a thing that allows you to mount your paint roller on one side and it will expand so you can paint your ceilings or walls, et cetera. This particular one is a six-footer when collapsed. It's called a Wooster-Sure Lock, and fully expanded, it goes to 12 feet. And the other principle item that we'll be using is a decent tripod with a removable head. Any decent tripod that you can remove the head from will do fine. The reason that you want to move the head from the tripod, take it off, is because we will be using the center post of the tripod and the stud that the head mounts on to mount our jib assembly. So with that out of the way now we have all our materials and our tools, let's actually begin the assembly of the jib.
Okay, you want to take your piece of perforated steel and measure off a 7-1/2 inch length. The objective is so that you have nine solid holes, so let's count them, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and at 7-1/2 inches, that will put us right in the middle of the tenth hole, so we're gonna make our mark here and that's where we want to cut. If you have a bench vise, that makes life a lot easier for clamping things. If you don't, no big deal, just take your lock grip pliers, your vice grips, and clamp the perforated metal to your work surface and lock it down and then proceed to hacksaw it, once again, right in the middle of the tenth hole. So here we go.
Okay. Now we unclamp it and we're going to bend it now. Now, once again, if you have a bench vise, it makes life easier. If you don't, it's no big deal. The thing is, we want to make our bend in the middle of the fourth hole, so you're gonna have three complete holes and then right here at the half of the fourth hole, we're going to clamp it down once more, try and get it centered on the hole there as best you can, not critical but it doesn't hurt, and then you bend down, so that you have a right angle, and that's good. Now, we're gonna do the same on this side, three complete holes and then right in the middle of the fourth hole we clamp it down and bend again, and there we go. Unclamp it. And this is what you should have, a nice U-shaped bracket and that's great, wonderful, that's what we need.
Okay, now we take our newly made U-shaped bracket and we take the center post of our tripod, put that in the center hole, put on one of our 3/8 inch nuts, tighten it down and use our 9/16 inch wrench to really get it on there good and tight 'cause you want it to be nice and solid, you don't want it to go anywhere. That's good, you can give it a little squeeze for aesthetic purposes and that's what you should have. So far, so good.
Okay, now we're gonna take our 1-1/4 inch diameter pipe hangers and we're going to separate the halves, they unscrew pretty easy. And when you buy these, you're going to get them looking like this, with screws on both sides. You notice that one side has a nipple, that's for the hanger portion, and the other side does not. We're only going to use the side with the nipple, so you can take the other half and put it on the side, we're not going to be using that. Disassemble the other one, and as I say, these come with screws on both sides, I'm just trying to speed things up. Throw the other half away. And what you want to do is put the two halves together, but we're only gonna use one screw at this point and we're not going to tighten it up because we have to put it on our pole next. So that's pretty good for now.
Okay, here is our painter extension pole, and what we're gonna do is just slip this around it and we're gonna loosely put the second screw in right now. Once again, we're not tightening it down because we're not done yet. Okay, so that won't go anywhere, we'll set it aside for the moment.
Our 35 mm film canister is going to provide a sleeve on here so that it will not only cushion the pipe hangers but it will also allow us to make adjustments on here without marring the pole, because don't forget, you have an extension pole inside, you don't want to dent this because that will impede extension and retraction. So we take the 35 mm film canister and get rid of the lid, which we're not gonna use, use our utility knife or you can use a razor blade, either way be extremely careful with this so you don't cut yourself, and what we're gonna do is just go around and cut the bottom off the canister. And there we go, throw the bottom away. Now just slice the side down so that you have an opening, and there we go.
Now, we're gonna put this on the pole, I'm just sliding it around. Now we'll put our pipe hanger over it and we can tighten. Once again, we're not going to get overly tight here because that's not necessary at this point, just gonna snug it up a little bit so it doesn't go wandering around while we go on to the next portion of the operation. Okay, that's good.
Now, getting back to the center post of our tripod, remember that bracket we made, well, here is where it all starts coming together. We slide it in there like that and we're gonna get one of our – there you go, one of our 3/8 inch nuts. Now, these are 3/4 of an inch long, actually 1/2 inch is all you need but the hardware store only had 3/4 inch, so what I'm doing is threading an extra nut on here to take up some of the room and we're gonna put a lock washer on and then a flat washer, and we're going to attach it to our bracket once we get it centered, and that's pretty good right there. Put that in. Put this in here and screw it down. And we do likewise with the other side, and we just snug it up, not overly tight but just so it doesn't go anywhere.
And here we are. I don't know how well you can see this. I'll try and position it, but there is our kind of see-saw action that's going to give us our jib elevation and allow us to move the camera up and down. Now we're focusing our attention to the business end, this is the camera end of the jib, and this threaded insert is held in with a screw on each side, and we're going to remove these screws. It's not necessary to remove the insert, as a matte of fact, I'm gonna leave it in because when this is not doing jib duty, it may very well be used, once again, for its intended purpose as a painting tool.
Both screws are now out of our painter's tool here and I have my drill bit inserted in the drill, and what we're going to do is drill a hole straight through using the original screw hole as our guide post. So here we go. Keep going till we get through to the other side. Here we are. Okay. Okay, good, that fits nice now, okay, good.
Next, I'm taking our two four-inch corner brackets and I'm going to bolt these together temporarily using the 1/4 inch nuts and bolts, and the reason I'm doing this is because we're going to drill a hole right through the center. Now, off camera I already took my ruler and measured it out. We have 4-1/2 inches, and right in the middle of 2-1/4 inches is where I put my black mark and that's our drill point. Just want to make sure that these don't go anywhere. Okay, now we're ready to drill, so what you want to do is position the drill on your mark, bear down on it and start. Now, the drill is gonna wander a little, so I'm gonna try and hold it steady until it starts to bite. I'm using a titanium bit which is good for cutting through steel, but good hardening drill bit should do the trick here. It just takes a little bit of drilling. And there we are, through, just kinda clean the hole up a little bit and there we go.
Now, this bracket is going to be the trapeze for our camera. The camera mount bolt will come through here holding the camcorder and this will be literally a trapeze that swings on the end of the jib which will keep the azimuth or the level of the camera absolutely straight on the horizon regardless of the angle of elevation of it, if the camera. If the jib goes up or down, it doesn't matter, the camera will remain absolutely straight on the horizon. Pretty cool, huh? All righty, good.
So now we're going to mount this to the end of our jib using the threaded rod. Okay, so gonna put the threaded rod in one end of the L bracket, through our center post here, both sides, and then down through the other side. So there we go. Now, we're gonna turn it over, and now you get the idea of how it's going to swing. Well, the problem with the way it is now is it'll go side to side, so what we want to do is actually keep it from wandering, so we're gonna put a couple of thread nuts in here, locknuts rather, to keep it from moving. So let's disassemble it, put those on and do this all over again the right way.
But before I do that, in the interest of good design, I'm gonna take my marker and I'm gonna make a few marks here. This is longer than I need, so we're gonna put a cut mark there, and I have it approximately centered right now, so I'm gonna make a mark here which tells me where one locknut will go, and then another mark here which tells me where the other one will go. And now I'm gonna cut this down to a more manageable length. All righty.
So here is our cut down rod, and as you can see, it was cut at the original mark. We have a stop mark for one of the threaded lock – nylon locknuts and this one is already threaded on, so we're going to put a fender washer on it and insert it through our pole, put another fender washer on it and then thread another locknut all the way down until we reach the mark there. By the way, you'll find that these threaded locknuts take a bit of twisting, so what I'm doing here is holding the threaded shaft with the lock grip pliers and I'm working it – working the locknut down there with the wrench. Okay, that's on fine.
Now, next thing to do is to put our trapeze on. So what we're gonna do is slide it on one end, take a little persuading but – there we are. Come on, get on, all right, and now on the other end, fine. And in like fashion, we're putting on a fender washer on each side and a nylon locknut, and once again we will hold the shaft steady and tighten each one down until we're showing about an eighth of an inch, that's good on that one and that's good on that one, and there we are. Okay.
Here's our trapeze assembly right here. And the camera will mount right in here using 1/4 inch threaded nut and two fender washers. The reason for the fender washers is to bring the base of the nut up flush with these two protruding nut heads here.
Now, before I mount the camera, I want to show you the setup on the tripod. Okay, the center column is inserted in the tripod. Now, the tripod will actually extend up to about here, there's another leg section, but what I want to do here is let you see what's happening. You'll notice that I have the collar positioned up almost all the way, and the reason for that is so that when we extend this section, if we come out just about all the way, now we have what I guess you would call neutral buoyancy. Of course, when we put the camera – mount the camera on there, it's going to be weighted down a bit.
Now, the advantage of doing it this way, and I don't know how much you're gonna be able to see here so I'm gonna try moving this over a bit, but down here is the end of it, and this gives you a lot of leverage and a lot of control for the elevation, you can go up or down a considerable distance with it and also you can rotate your shot. Now, bear in mind, the camera is on the other end which you're not able to see because I don't have enough room to back up with the cars here, but you can also – and let's move this back, if you wish, you don't have to have it extended to 9 or 12 feet, you can keep it at the 6 foot length by keeping the extension part fully distended. You can loosen up your collar and then slide the pole forward so that you're midpoint, you see-saw point, if you will, would be about here. Now, it's not going to give you as much elevation, but it's good for certain situations where you don't need to have a 10 or a 12 foot elevated shot and 6 or 8 feet would be fine for ya.
Well, enough said, now let's actually get some footage here and let you see what you can do with the jib. I'm going to mount the camera that I'm using right now on here, once again, using the 1/4 inch nut and a couple of fender washers, and next thing you'll see after that will be some actual jib footage.
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