Tuesday, May 28, 2013

DIY Fig Rig: DSLR Video Stablizer

by Tina

Lately I've been shooting a lot of video and creating show reels for several clients.  But rather than dish out $300 for a Monfrotto Fig Rig (which I'm sure is a great product) I checked out a number of DIY fig rigs from various photography forums.  Several people highly recommended the particular DIY fig rig that I ended up using.

Turns out the rig was super simple to make and so far I'm pleased with the results.  I do want to figure out a few improvements but for the time being this serves the purpose I was hoping for.  I've included the video that I used for creating my fig rig.  Thanks to the guys over at MediaUnlocked.  Please check out their site for other useful tips and tricks.

By the way, I checked out several of the DIY youtube videos.  I feel the one I've embedded below is by far the most thorough.  By following their instructions it was super simple, easy-to-follow and I am very happy with the results.

To start out you will need the following supplies:
  • One - 5' of 3/4" PVC Pipe (White, low end.  No need to go for anything fancy)
  • Ten - 45 degree PVC pipe connectors
  • Two - T-cross pipe connector
  • One - Cross PVC connector
  • Two - end caps
  • PVC primer and cement (sold together at Home Depot)
  • Two 1/4" nuts
  • One 1/4" butterfly nut
  • One 1/4" 2" Bolt (I think I'm going to try a shorter bolt to provide better stability)
  • Lawn Mower Grip (cut to size)
  • Black spray paint
  • Drill with 1/4" bit
  • PVC pipe cutter (or do as I did and see if someone at the store can cut all of the pieces for you. The also provide some of the tools to use in the store. Try that and save a little money.)
You will need to cut the PVC pipe in the following sizes:
  • Six - 6"
  • Four - 2.5"
  • Two - 3"
  • Four - 1.5"
Next it is important to connect all of the pieces before you prime and glue.  This will stretch out each piece and helps ensure you have all of the pieces you need in the right order.  I took a black sharpie and numbered the pieces in sequence to make sure I had everything ready for priming and gluing.

“DIY fig rig"Next, prime and glue each section starting at the 12 o'clock position based on the photo you see here.  Alternate the left and right sides and make sure everything is aligned as you glue.  The primer dries fast as does the glue.  So once you set each piece of PVC pipe together (making sure each piece is inserted fully) it will glue quickly.  There's isn't much wiggle room for mistakes once the glue sets.

One change I made to this fig rig is I did not glue the mount to the PVC pipe.  I'm thinking of creating a different piece where I can mount and dismount my camera more easily like you have on a tripod.  

I used an old hook stand (many fabricators have something called a Shepard's hook) to rest the glued pieces while I spray painted the entire rig.  I put on 2 coats of paint and rotated the fig rig to be sure I got all of the undersides of the device.

The video will explain how to assemble the mount with one of the end caps, bolt, washer and butterfly screw.  What I want to improve is the bolt.  I think it should be shorter, more like a 1.5" bolt.  But I went with the recommendation that the video shows.  While it looks a little precarious sitting on that bolt it is actually very stable.  But there's really no need to have it this tall.  So below are a few more photos.  We tested it out and I'll post some more examples later on with and without the fig rig so you can see the difference.  They show that in the video below as well so you can see it right away if you view their DIY video.  Thanks to the folks over at Media Unlocked for the great Youtube tutorial!



  1. Thanks for the tutorial- I'm wondering how you would use manual focus while holding this though? Does that work?

    1. Hi Nicole - it really wouldn't be much different than if you did not have a rig. I think the key is to plan what you're going to film so you anticipate what distance and focus you want ahead of time. I can still hold the camera and focus when I need to blur or zoom on something. Overall the rig gives a much smoother feel when there's motion involved. Check it out, it's inexpensive fun!


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