This is a supplemental article to accompany my Youtube video “Making a camera jib”
For the last year or so I have been filming my youtube videos with the Canon 700D, it started out well and was a big improvement over using my smart phone taped to the top of my tripod, as was the case with my first few videos! The 700D was about the best I could afford to buy at the time, and given I had around 40 subscribers It was not the time to be investing serious cash in this Youtube hobby, but I did invest a little extra in a manfrotto magic arm.
The magic arm can be twisted and manipulated into position, and combined with my cheapo tripod had been sufficient to get most of the camera angles I wanted, albeit time consuming to set up and a little awkward. It also has a limited reach of around 60cm, but at full reach the 700D is just about heavy enough to make it sag in some positions, so for some time I have been planning on building some kind of balanced rig with a longer reach and easier set up, in order to speed up the filming process.
As time has gone by though; some problems had manifested in the 700D, a common problem amongst many of the lower end range of Canon DSLR’s with video mode; the camera will just stop filming at random with a message “Movie recording has been stopped automatically“, this has lead to some frustrating times with none existent footage, sometimes whilst trying to film a process that cant be repeated!
After putting up with this for nearly a whole year I finally solved the problem after trying out various different SD cards, which googling had revealed was the most likely culprit. Certain cards dont have the write speed capabilities for HD recording apparently. Unfortunately though, no sooner had I fixed one problem, another appeared; I started to notice weird oscillating drops in audio at certain times which sounds very annoying to a viewer! this problem is worse since when the video cuts out and displays that fateful message I can at least make an effort of re-filming, but this audio problem is only evident when I get to the editing stage, at which time it is too late!
New (to me) camera; Canon C100
By this stage I have basically resigned to the fact that the filming function on these earlier low end DSLR’s is basically an after thought for the odd bit of filming and never really intended as a full time video camera, and having accumulated around 30000 subscribers I decided it was time for a decent upgrade! Cue the Canon C100…
I discovered the C100 is a kind of all round go to camera for a lot of professional freelance cinematographers because of its reliability and range of features and ease of use. First released in 2013 it still has appeal even today, and has become really affordable in recent years due to newer models with 4K capabilities. The C100 has a really neat trick up its sleeves though; although it doesn’t film in 4K, it actually has a 4k super35 sensor which then scales down to an extremely high quality and hard to beat 1080p picture. The difference between the C100 and the 700D is night and day.
The downside though is while my magic arm just about coped with the small 700D, it has no chance with the C100, weighing in at around 1kg without a lens. So the first project to film with my new camera was destined to be a balanced jib arm.
Jib arm design
When I am filming a project I am constantly moving around the workshop between different machines and work benches, moving from wide shots to close ups and changing the angle, all whilst also trying to concentrate on what I am making, So I wanted the rig to be fairly compact and easy to move around the workshop and in between the machines without being in the way too much, and be very quick to move the camera into position and get the angles I want.
A balance jib arm seemed the perfect solution, having a counter balance means the camera can be raised and lowered into any position and will just stay right where I want it, and a weighted base means it can be moved around without worrying about it tipping over. I design the arm to give a 1.3m reach which gives a wide range of elevation and can reach all the way to the other side of my work benches.
Office chair gas ram?
I put a lot of thought into how to make the the main rotational pivot, and looked at various bearing type options, most of which were either quite expensive or not good enough quality. Id thought of a simple platform with a lazy susan bearing which might work but they tend to have a lot of slack and can be quite noisy.
The office chair gas ram seem like a perfect solution as it can act as a bearing with a really nice smooth rotation and has the added benefit of allowing some height adjustment. They are relatively cheap and can be found for well under £20. The down side is that at full elevation there is a fair amount of movement which manifests as wobble when moving the jib arm around, overall though I am quite happy with the results
Counter weights and balast
For the balast at the bottom of the rig I added two 10kg weights, im not really sure if this is over kill or not but it sure isnt going to fall over and break over £2k worth of camera and lens so ill leave it as it is!
For the counter weight to balance out the weight of the camera I used three 5kg weights and two 2kg weights which is enough to balance the C100, heavy Tamron lens and fluid head etc totalling around 3kg.
- For the main construction I used only 18mm (3/4″) birch plywood and the entire assembly of parts can be cut from a half sheet with a little left over.
- Castors are Tente Levina 100mm institutional castors from rsonline.com part number 729-9923 these are my favourite castors and I have used them extensively around the workshop, they run really smooth and quietly.
- For the pivot pins I used 12mm x 90mm M10 shoulder bolts, when fitted into a 12mm hole these give a really tight pivot with no slack for a nice firm feel to the rig
- The gas lift is a standard 15″ unit found in taller chairs and stools
- The small rubber handles at the camera end are RS part number 918-5361
- the lever locking handles are RS part number 478-383 ( female) and 478-832 (male)
- The M10, M6 and 1/4-20 threaded inserts can all be found on ebay
- One threaded type dumbbell bar and various weights, I happened to have these but could be substituted if required, ie; bag of sand etc.
Below is a 3d skechup model of the Jib arm exactly as I made it, including all the parts separately laid out within the confines of a half sheet of plywood to indicate how they might be cut from the sheet. all the parts are made a components so they can be individually selected and hidden as required.