Ultra portable, lightweight telescoping jib

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Most camera rigs must choose to either leverage the agility of hand-held and body-worn mounts or to deploy larger, less portable equipment to achieve the more interesting camera moves with wheels, tracks, or booms. My innovation allows solo videographers to perform cinematic camerawork, while smoothly transitioning between monopod and sweeping camera moves; all while taking advantage of a form-factor that is as agile through a crowd as a hand-held or body-worn camera.
The heart of my system is a Shur-Line painter’s pole, which telescopes and retracts with a very smooth motion, and locks and unlocks into variable lengths with one hand. A tilting camera head is mounted on the Shur-Line pole, and the tilt lock is extended. Already, this combination allows the operator to perform both tracking moves similar to a dolly or track; as well as extended moves similar to a camera jib arm. The ability to control the tilting of the camera head adds Degrees Of Freedom to the jib-like effect.

So far, the rig can function as a monopod, with enough extension to see over a crowd, carried, and used handheld. Another extension can telescope from the rear of the Shur-Line pole, which holds a water bottle counterweight. This provides the operator the option to add water to balance the camera, head, lens, and accessories, but not have to adjust this weight if the Shur-Line pole is extended. The counterweight can simply be moved using its own extension, which has the effect of adjusting the counterbalance. The rear extension can also add height to the rig in monopod mode.

Also attached to the above rig is a tripod plate, so the monopod rig can be mounted upon a tripod. I used a tripod that is sturdy, and heavier than my most lightweight tripods, but is still lightweight enough so the entire rig can still be carried. Everything also packs up very small when disassembled. The rig can be operated from the camera side of the pole, or from the counterweight side with the aid of the head's tilt extension and another extension that controls the supporting tripod's pan and tilt mechanism.

The rig is extremely versatile, and has great benefits for documentary and Electronic News Gathering video. The rig also allows a stable platform for photography at interesting angles, such as overhead shots and macro photography. The artists who will get the most use out of the rig are those who shoot with tethered cameras. That means that the camera is controlled remotely, and usually with more creative control than remotely triggering the shutter. I am able to control my Nikon D5200 DSLR with my Android phone or my netbook. On Android, I use DSLR Dashboard or Helicon Remote. I use a Wi-Fi dongle, but a natively Wi-Fi camera like the Nikon 1 V3 would also be able to leverage the options of tethered shooting.

  • 1
    Step 1

    From Home Depot, get a Shur-Line Easy-Reach 60" Adjustable Extension Pole (SKU: 206986). You'll need something that adapts the thread used on the paint pole to your camera.

  • 2
    Step 2

    I hacked two broken tripods for this project, plus a fully-functioning tripod as the main tripod base. Tripods differ in construction, so YMMV. Try unscrewing everything to remove the head, or the tube which holds the head. You may need to use a pipe cutter to cut the end of the central tube to free the tube which holds the head. I also removed the legs from the two tripods. If the tripod has a spreader, you can possible remove screws to free the legs, or if the legs are riveted to the spreader, you can crimp an end of a rivet with pliers, and then saw the crimped metal off with a metal hacksaw or mototool. Save the legs for later.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Alternately, if you don't already have a tripod to disassemble, you might consider another option for mounting your camera to the Shur-Line pole. Home Depot also sells a Project Select Adjustable Pro Yoke Roller Frame, which expands to hold rollers between 12" and 18". At about $20, this costs about as much as the Shur-Line Easy Reach pole. Many camera mounts use #¼-20 screws, and you could probably fit one into the long slots on the adjustable roller frame.

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