Happy New Year! DIY Shoulder Rig Project

This project starts with what may be one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. During the month my wife and I spent as refugees in Pennsylvania, I shared a particular frustration with my brother in law. See, living in Israel is not exactly conducive to DIY-type projects, and visiting the US often reminds me of this fact. There are hardware stores of various sorts scattered across most towns in Israel but nothing resembling the impressive excellence of a Home Depot or Ace Hardware. Actually, we do have Ace Hardware, but it shares the same three flaws as most hardware stores. It consistently has about half of the components needed to do a good job, a not-particularly-helpful service staff and painfully high prices on those parts that are in stock. This has led me on many occasionally to peruse the local dumpsters in my neighborhood in search of materials for my DIY projects.

After hearing my belly-aching, my brother-in-law decided for Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 9.02.14 PMChristmas he would give me some relief from that. On Christmas morning, I opened a box that contained all the component parts to build a DIY shoulder rig system. Few people would get as excited over a bag full of PVC pipes, fittings, electrical tape and wing nuts. I'm just weird that way. I was psyched as hell to get back to Israel and start working on my first new piece of tech. In an effort to share the joy, I decided to document the process and do a fun little instructional. So here goes.

DIY Camcorder Should Rig Project

IMGP0991So the components my bro-lo gave me were for derived from a LifeHacker project found here. I won't go into all the parts because they do a very good job of that. What I wanted to do was elevate the project to something truly baller.  The idea I ended up going with was to somehow integrate a remote control into the rig itself so I could keep both hands on the shoulder rig while operating functions such as zoom, start/stop and the photo capture feature of my Canon camcorders. I tried to find a placeIMGP1000 where I could reach the remote control with my thumb on the handle that allowed the IR signal from the remote to successfully reach the receiver on the flip-out viewfinder. But the I hatched upon a significantly more awesome plan.

I started by busting open the remote control to see the extent to which I could re-engineer the little guy. Luckily the wiring connecting the IR bulb to the circuit board was long enough that I could cut the leads and still have eIMGP1004nough metal to work with on both pieces. I scavenged some insulated electrical wire (from my yard) and added a 12-inch extension wire from the bulb to the remote. I should note that I paid attention to ensure the bulb leads were not revered when they were reconnected, but I don't know if that detail ultimately matters.

I was actually surprised to see that the remote still worked once the wire extension had been added but the next step was integrating the remote into the rig in an ergonomic fashion. I returned to my yard to IMGP1026scavenge something that could be fashioned into a casing with which to mount the remote control to the handle. I should point out that my landlord is a handyman so I'm often able to find random components for these kind of projects in the courtyard of our apartment building where he has a shed full of tools and materials. A piece of plastic that looked like it came from a picture frame was successfully cut up and glued into something resembling a bracket for the remote and I super-glued it to the handle. Next I drilled entry and IMGP1018exit holes so I could run the wiring into the handle next to where the remote was mounted and have the bulb just barely protrude from the plastic tubing next to where the camera is mounted ten inches away.

A couple coats of black paint later and this thing was ready to assemble. The final product required a little tweaking of handle angles and a shortening of the shoulder brace to make it easier to carry, but I'm extremely happy with how it all turned out. There's a couple projects coming up where I think I could really make use of the stability offered by this rig in a mobile setting.

In the end, this certainly turned out to be an epic Christmas present. Well done Nate.