January 10, 2017

Tutorial: How to Make Your Own Overhead Shooting Rig

Here's a way to build a rig that'll let you shoot some sweet overhead shots.

Overhead shots, like the ones you so often see in Wes Anderson's films, can not only be pretty to look at, but they can also be extremely useful for a wide range of projects. If you're interested in getting some of these kinds of shots in yours, you're probably going to need a rig that'll hold 1.) hold your camera vertically, 2.) bear the weight of your camera, and 3.) allow you to use it properly to get the shot you want. In this tutorial from The Film Look, you get to learn how to put your own DIY overhead shooting rig together with a few materials you can pick up at any old hardware store. Check it out:

The first thing you're going to need is a monitor stand (like this one). These things are relatively cheap—around $20 to $30—and you can find them at pretty much any office supply store. The next thing you need to do is mount a square of wood to the monitor stand, and then mount a quick release plate to the square of wood. 

The rest depends on the space you're shooting in, but suffice it to say you're going to have to mount your new overhead rig to a wall, desk, or whatever to allow it to stand up on its own and support your camera. A quick note: make sure you know how much weight your monitor stand can hold. If you're shooting on a small mirrorless camera for instance, you're probably not going to have a problem. (Also, make sure you've got a place to put a monitor if your camera's LCD screen isn't cutting it.)

Now, you may have your rig all set up, but you also need to make sure that the "set" for your overhead shots look good, too. The guys from The Film Look utilized a variety of backdrops placed on a table to make their shots look interesting and appealing to the eye, so be sure to take those kinds of things into consideration before hitting record.

Director Wes Anderson made the overhead shot super fashionable, so much so that countless filmmakers and videomakers decided to work it into their own projects, whether they be feature films or Shopkins Blind Basket unwrappings on YouTube. (Can you tell I have a kid?) It just goes to show how versatile the shot actually is, and you can successfully include them in your work—just be sure to be intentional with your staging and set design. (Yes, you still design and stage even when the set is a tabletop.)      

Your Comment

8 Comments

The method described in the video works great for objects on a desk, but what about getting a shot of two people lying in a bed? Or what about heavier cameras?

For anyone interested, here's some alternative methods: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/archive/index.php/t-28748.html

January 11, 2017 at 12:03AM, Edited January 11, 12:03AM

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Adrian Tan
Videographer
843

I use an 8-10-ft. length of black iron pipe supported by 2 C-stands (held with super-clamps), a camera head connected to a short stub on another super-clamp, and then the camera on a quick release.

January 11, 2017 at 12:53PM

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Zan Shin
306

Jibs are so inexpensive.... why make some crap yourself?

January 11, 2017 at 2:44AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
335

Jibs cut into that daily Starbucks budget. :D

January 11, 2017 at 12:55PM

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Zan Shin
306

What inexpensive jib would you recommend that can hold a proper cinema camera (Red, Alexa Mini, BMPC or Ursa Mini... with wireless focus and lens)?

January 13, 2017 at 9:19PM

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David Gurney
DP
1294

Overhead shots can also save you a lot of money in set decoration. You don't have to worry about the whole room - just the objects the camera can see.

January 13, 2017 at 12:07PM, Edited January 13, 12:07PM

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How did you mount the quick release plate to the wood? Looks like there is another piece in between.

January 13, 2017 at 3:51PM

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Steven Shaltiel
Video Producer
1

This is such a fundamental problem with rigs of all kinds. I'd like to know what people are doing.

I have a Cartoni tripod. So I figured I'd get a compatible receiver for the plate (that goes on the camera), and mount it on my Steadicam sled. Then I could pop the camera off the tripod head and clamp it right to the sled. NOPE. It's as if this idea hasn't occurred to anyone. I asked Cartoni about it, and it's like they'd never conceived of such a thing or been asked for it. They don't appear to sell the clamping mechanism that's required by their own plates.

Why? Is everyone just laboriously removing the plate from his camera and then screwing the camera onto every rig, then undoing it and re-doing it to put it back on the tripod?

January 13, 2017 at 9:23PM, Edited January 13, 9:24PM

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David Gurney
DP
1294