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Build a Fig Rig: Video Stabilization Wheel

Shooting video with a Fig Rig

Shooting video with a Fig Rig

When you're shooting video with a small camera, shaky hands are a big problem. You can try a tripod, but that limits you because you can't follow your subject fluidly.

Moiré Effect Visualization

Moiré Effect Visualization

Recording video handheld lets you follow a moving subject duing the shot. However, the shaky hands problem is made worse because the way digital cameras capture video. They scan down the picture from top to bottom. So a little bit of wobble in your hands can turn an awesome video into a Jello mess due to the Moiré Effect.

On a YouTube video, Man vs. Katamari, I spied image stabilization steering wheel. It turns out this was a Manfrotto Fig Rig.

A circular frame with a crossbar to mount most mini DV cameras, the Fig Rig becomes part of the body to produce smooth, steady travelling shots. It is this very fact which is the secret to the Fig Rig. As the operator walks, his/her muscles and tendons absorb all the shocks, transferring only fluid movements to the camera. As there are no straps or harnesses attached to the Fig Rig, quick and wide movements can be made within the same shot – from ground-level to overhead, in one smooth movement. The camera, accessories and operator become one, allowing you to film scenes quickly and unobtrusively. With the Fig Rig your creativity is virtually limitless. --manfrotto.com

Transient

Unfortunately it is very expensive. The Fig Rig costs $300 even from Amazon (and all the other Professional Video Tripods aren't much cheaper). Well, I knew there had to be a better way given that it is just assembled parts. Turns out, the guys at IndyMogul have a YouTube video showing how you can make a do-it-yourself version for less than $30 -- that's 90% savings! (for the non-math majors)

Here is what you'll need:


Parts to Build a Fig Rig

PVC Pipe

  • 3/4" x 5' PVC pipe (1)

PVC Connectors

  • 45 degree PVC pipe connectors (10)
  • T-shaped PVC pipe connectors (2) 
  • Cross PVC pipe connector (1)
  • End caps (2)

PVC Glue

  • PVC cement (1)
  • PVC primer (1)

Metal Nuts and Bolts

  • 1/4" Nuts (2)
  • 1/4" Washer (1) 
  • 1/4" Butterfly nut (1)
  • 1/4" x 6" Bolt (1)

    Finishing Touches

    • Lawn mower grip (1)
    • Black spray paint (if you had white PVC) (1)

    Tools for Fig Rig Preparation

    • Hacksaw
    • Drill with 1/4" bit

    PVC Pipe

    PVC Pipe

    PVC Pipe Connectors

    PVC Pipe Connectors

    PVC Glue

    PVC Glue

    Nuts and Bolts

    Nuts and Bolts


    Instructions for Fig Rig Assembly

    1. Measure and cut the PVC pipe for the specific lengths of the Fig Rig.

    • 6" (6)
    • 3" (2)
    • 2.5" (4)
    • 1.5" (4)

    2. Create the Camera Mount

    1. Drill hole into end cap
    2. Screw nut halfway down on bolt
    3. Thread bolt through hole in end cap
    4. Screw other nut on bolt down to the end cap
    5. Put the butterfly nut on halfway down the remaining end of the bolt
    6. Slide the washer down

    3. Piece Together Your Stabilization Steering Wheel

    Once you make sure all the PVC segments fit together, disassemble it.
    Put PVC primer on the insides of the connectors and on the outsides of the PVC.

    Once that's dry take the PVC cement and put it on top of the primer.
    Attach all the PVC pieces together. Make sure to do the quickly otherwise the cement will dry. In fact, it is actually melting the plastics of the PVC together

    4. Put the Finishing Touches On Your Fig Rig

    Spray paint it if you want.

    Cut the lawn mower grips to fit on the two sides of you Fig Rig. Attach them with tape or glue that probably comes in the package.

    5. Optional Expansion Ideas for your DIY Fig Rig

    If you're down for spending a little extra cash, get:

    • Foot plate assembly or quick release mount so it is easier to take the camera on and off.
    • Shotgun mic mount to keep everything together in one unit.

    Hopefully shaky videos will be a thing of the past! Let me know how your Fig Rig building goes in the comments below.

    Length Measurements and Layout for PVC Pipe

    Length Measurements and Layout for PVC Pipe

    Camera Mount Screw

    Camera Mount Screw

    Setting the PVC Primer & Glue

    Setting the PVC Primer & Glue

    Assembling the Fig Rig

    Assembling the Fig Rig

    Adding Grips

    Adding Grips