I will be having a closer look at an old smart phone, and also present you ancient electronic technologies I found in old books. So for pleasant viewing experience, I want to record the objects on a table with the camera facing them right above them. Now of course, such a shot can accomplished with a tripod. But it is certainly not the optimal solution. So in this video,
I will be showing you how I created my own overhead camera rig. Which not only allows you to secure the camera right above the objects, but also features a monitor to see the camera image and two potentiates to fine tune warm white and pure white LED strips to perfectly illuminate your shots. The rig is constructed mostly out of PVC pipes and wood, and thus is pretty simple to replicate, and also easily adjustable in size to fit your needs. So let’s not waste anymore time and let me show you how To start off,
I got myself a bunch of one meter long PVC pipes from eBay. Which come with an outer diameter of 32mm and an inner diameter of 27mm. (1.25in, 1.06in) Those will form the outer borders of the camera rig, and thus I obviously needed some couplers to interlock the PVC pipes with one another. But no matter how long I surfed on the internet, I didn’t find a budget friendly version… So I designed my own couplers and model it in 3D design, sliced it, and 3D printed it with my Prusa i3 MK3.
Which took around two and a half hours for one, and I needed eight of them… After a day of printing though, all of them came out pretty nicely. Which means it was time for me to head into my garage and perform the mechanical work. Before that though, I drew a blueprint with measurements for each PVC pipe.
So that the rig will ultimately feature dimensions of 71 by 61 by 71 centimeter. Which might sound small, but is certainly enough for my intended shots. Now if all I wanted was a cube, it would have been easy to decide on the PVC pipe lengths. But since I also got those T pieces, which I will use to secure extra bars to mount the monitor, it took a bit more effort to calculate all the lengths. But as soon as I got all of them, I mount them onto my PVC pipes and started cutting them with a simple handsaw. This process was a bit boring… but definitely worth it. Because after also sanding the ends of the pipes,
I basically got all the components for the main structure of the rig. So I added PVC glue onto two of the three links of the first coupler, and push the first two pipes onto it. While the glue was drying, I cut open a bag of sand. Which I used to fill up the rig’s base PVC pipes in order to give it a lower center of mass and thus stability.
Then I added the next coupler and pipe with the help of the PVC glue, filled them up with sand, and basically continued this working procedure until I got the completed base part. What I forgot though was that the lower front couplers do not require three links… but a handsaw solved this problem in no time. Next I repeated the same gluing and pressing fitting process, but without the sand in order to form the upper part of the rig. To connect the base and ceiling, I used normal sized pipes for the front,
which I filled up with sand as well, but had to create special pipes with two T couplers in the middle and the bars for the monitor between them for the back. After securing this construction to the base, all I had to do was to mount the upper parts onto the whole structure. At this point, the main body of the rig was complete! So I continued with the ceiling, by bringing in a big square of 5mm thick beech plywood and a 0.8mm thick aluminum.
I marked a 71 by 61 centimeter square onto both, and started creating those new shapes with a circular saw and a jig saw. Afterwards, I marked the center on both of the materials and also square around it with measurements of 15 by 12 centimeter. Which are the minimum dimensions for my camera, so that it can later look through the upper part. So I drilled through the center of the wood and aluminum, and used that as a reference point to align them on top of each other.
At this point, I drilled four 4mm holes through both materials near the edges, and used those holes and M4 screws with nuts to permanently combine them. While the wood is mostly used for stability, and the aluminum will act as a heatsink for the LEDs. So next, I finally cut out the previously mentioned camera hole, and continued by bringing in another piece of beech plywood with a 10mm thickness.
Out of which I created another square with dimensions of 15 by 6 centimeter. I then drilled a hole through its center, which I will later use in combination with a special camera mounting screw, and added the square with brackets and M4 screws onto the ceiling part right next to camera hole. To finish off the the ceiling, I placed it on top of the PVC pipe structure, marked a couple of holes along its edges and drilled those, so that I can later secure the ceiling to the main rig body with the help of zip ties. Last but not least for the mechanical work, I marked a 71 by 16 centimeter square onto the 10mm thick piece of beech plywood and cut it out with the circular saw as well.
After marking its center point, I measured out the placement of the mounting holes of the monitor that I got from Amazon for this project. As soon as I was sure that they all featured a distance of 10 centimeter to one another, I marked them around the center of the wood and created them with a 4mm drill. After then securing the monitor to the wood and lifting this construction into place, I marked four more additional holes, which I then created in order to properly secure the monitor to the overhead camera rig with zip ties.
And that means I was basically done with most of the mechanical work! And thus it was time for the electrical one, which means it was LED time! Now the LED strips I got are 6530 warm white and pure white ones. Which, not coincidentally, are the same ones I used in my portable LED panel project. From which I will also be utilizing the control electronics. So make sure to watch it if you want to understand how the dimming circuit functions.
To start off though, I cut off myself four warm white, and four pure white strips with a length of 24 LEDs each. Afterwards, I secure them with their adhesive backside in alternating order on the aluminum piece of the ceiling. Additionally, I also used four smaller strips with 9 LEDs each in order to fill out the big gaps. Next, I connected the big strips with the same color temperature in parallel with a bit of wire, and then drilled another hole through the ceiling to guide the four wires through.
There I tested with a 12 volt power supply whether all LEDs function correctly… which they did! So I gathered all the components for the dimming circuit, and started soldering them onto a perf board, and of course to one another according to the schematic from my LED panel project. Which I only altered slightly, by replacing the two TC4420 MOSFET drivers with one TC4427 MOSFET driver.
As soon as that was done, I secured the PCB to the ceiling with screws, hooked up all the wires, and tested with a 12 volt power supply whether everything still functioned correctly. Which it still did! So to end this project, all I had to do was to secure my camera, connect it with a mini HDMI cable to the monitor, and basically start shooting some new interesting electronics content which you will hopefully enjoy.