The original reason I bought a DSLR camera was to shoot short films. I wanted something that produced more professional results than a camcorder, and if you’ve spent any time looking at DSLR information online you’ve likely come across articles about the revolution that is happening in the “film” industry because of these cameras. Interestingly, when I finally settled on a Canon T2i as a great entry level camera for video purposes I fell in love with still photography.
As it just so happens, a good friend of mine is getting a book of his published, and the publishing company wants to see video trailer for the book. With no budget at all, he turned to me. So I’m back to looking at the video capabilities of camera and recently purchased an Lilliput external monitor on eBay for better focusing (that 3 inch screen makes it tough to keep strong focus). I quickly realized that mounting the monitor on the hotshoe of the camera works, but it doesn’t provide a ton of stability. Plus, DSLR’s don’t have real strong sound recording options so external sound recording accessories have been added to the list as well.
I looked online for DSLR support systems, and they were all ridiculously expensive. Being a bit of a Bob Villa wannabe, I looked for DIY solutions and found it at CheesyCam.com. However there were some adjustments I made based on what I needed from the cage. Those are below.
When I started buying the pieces I realized that it was getting pretty heavy because of all the steel. The struts needed to stay for the support across the top, so I swapped out the steel handles for PVC pipe.
Next the original instructions also seemed to be a bit larger than I felt I needed. There were nine inches between the top of the camera and the top strut, so I shortened the height down to 10 inches total from top to bottom.
Then I decided that I would also like to use the cage to mount all of the camera accessories on a tripod as well for still shots. Instead of mounting the camera directly to the cage, I decided to utilize my Manfrotto quick release system. So I mounted a tripod head onto the bottom of the cage that allows me to make subtle movements when the cage is mounted to the tripod.
The last major modification I made was in the handles again. Instead of buying the rubber bike handles that are common, I grabbed styrofoam pipe insulation. To me this seemed a bit more comfortable when holding the cage for a while.
Now that I’ve covered the alterations, here are pictures of the pieces.
So, the most difficult part was cutting the steel struts. So I tackled that project first. Then I cut the PVC pipe, making sure to put together a “mock” cage to test out the size. After wrapping the PVC pipe in the insulation, the rest is fairly straight forward. Thread the hex bolt on one side of the strut and PVC pipe and the carriage bolt on the top strut. Connect them within the PVC using the coupling nuts. Tighten accordingly. Using the existing holes in the struts I fastened the tripod head, a small ballhead and the battery for my external monitor. Here is the picture of the cage thus far.
The camera obviously clips right into the tripod head and can be quickly interchanged between tripod heads that have the same quick release system. On the top I can mount my monitor on the mini ballhead with the battery mounted on the other side of the rig for good balance. If I was inside, I could plug the monitor directly to an outlet. But the cage is made for movement first so the battery is essential.
The next step is to create a way to mount this to my tripod easily. I might also create a handle on the top similar to the Cheesycam version for low shots. So for now I’m happy, but will update this post when/if I make the changes.
I would love to see your projects if you’ve used this tutorial to build a cage or have built your own using the Cheesycam posting.