Monday, November 14, 2011

Downunder DIY Fig Rig

Joe's down-under DIY Fig Rig!

Why did he do it?

Some background information first.

During the last six years or so I have been on a monster of a project that really has no end. That is to get every bit of personal video and every photograph I have ever shot (as well as video already "pre"-edited from my nightclub VJ days), digitized and available on DVD. Thus far the project has seen me editing over a hundred and fifty hours of video footage and creating roughly 90 DVDs, numerous YouTube videos all of this work includes sound, musical backgrounds, titles, transition and the occasional goofy special effect. The footage comes from a variety of activities from mundane cat video to tropical vacations as well as the seemingly endless round of birthdays, anniversaries, parties, picnics at the beach, Christmas, funerals and weddings. 

At this juncture, I feel I have at the very least developed the editing skills to do far more ambitious things. However as I have looked at all those hours of footage despite my best and oft clownish efforts also to a degree limited by whatever technology was available (that I could afford at the time, VHS, Hi 8mm, mini DV SD) a good deal of it has... an amateur-ish look (duh) especially when it was taken with a hand held camera. So, from here on out  I want to make my video look less... shaky-then maybe sound better, which I think would be a pretty good start. Over the last few years me and my wife (who also handles the camera a lot) have been very conscious of creating a more narrative flow to our personal documentary complete with establishing shots, didactic information and self-conducted interviews.

I have some confidence now as well as some ambition and want to make a short film in the near future, you know, one with a story, an actual narrative with a point and a conclusion. While I am writing my screen play, working on the story-board for a couple of projects I wanted to address the more technical side of my camera work and production skills. But, before I shell out for some more gear like a really good camera, a dedicated external microphone, a nice dim-able LED light, or an on board monitor, what can I do or make on my own? First things first, (well more like cheapest thing first) I really feel I need something to give me some stability for the hand held shots and hopefully something that would also accommodate the extras I want to add to my production gear.

My Internet research provided me some great web-sites that gave me heaps of information to start. Probably one of my most favourite sites of late has been  it is here where I learned of the "Fig Rig" invented by the director Mike Figgus. Cheesy Cam's most popular video is the DIY Fig Rig after watching it I was all like yeah, I can do that! The video and the ensuing stream of comments, modifications and pictures from everybody else who has done it sure helped as well. Now you have to keep in mind this was made in the USA so if you do not live there then you do not probably have a "Home Depot" store nearby. Thus the parts they use are not quite the same as what might be available in say... France, or in my case, Australia. We don't know WTF Home Depot is here (I am an American, so I do). Anyway, with that in mind, if I wanted to DIY my version of the fig rig, I was ON MY OWN. So for me Aussie Mates, yes, it can be done here as well. I got everything I needed to do my own DIY down-under "Fig Rig" right on the Sunshine Coast where I live. I got a lot of the hardware at Bunnings, a few more bits at North Coast Plumbing and the bicycle grips at K-Mart. 

Here are some of the costs:

Bike handles-2 pair-$10.00 K-Mart
hardware from Bunnings and local plumbing supply store $23.87

Total cost (drumroll) $33.87

But wait...

flat black spray paint (the good shit!)  $9.30
new hacksaw blade  $4.59
drill bit  $7.64

so I had to add another $21.53

I also had a dozen Large washers from a previous DIY household repair, a black cap left over from a curtain rod and I unscrewed the ball mount from my   $29.00 mono pod to use until I replace it with a Manfrotto 323 RC2 Quick Release plate (BHPhoto). I figure I got away pretty cheap as the least expensive decent one I found to purchase on-line was the ALZO DSLR rig

Okay I had to do some work, I hack-sawed the steel shelf strut, threaded rods and black pvc pipe, drilled holes with my Foredom flexible shaft outfitted with a drill and my Makita drill as well. It took me 20 minutes of measuring and thinking how to get the shelf bracket/strut to center up with the length I wanted at around 16 inches... had to bounce back and forth between the metric system and the old school measurements both of which are used here depending on the trade... confusing but not a deal-breaker. Took me say, five hours of work as I had to do all that cutting, so less than a day with the pre-preparation and clean up. Here are the pictures! I will put up some video comparisons with and without my rig when I get the chance. Hope this helps somebody else out. Thanks to all the other folks that have posted their versions as it really helped me to do mine!

I moved the handle down on the left to show the black pvc pipe.

Coming soon, some video!

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