VIDEO RIG TROUBLE?
Welcome to a list of ways to create a top-down video rig. Are you planning to do product unboxing and review videos? DIY crafting tutorials? Art instructions? Yep, a top-down shot will do great, but that was the same problem I had. It wasn’t easy to set a video rig up for that kind of angle.
So after much online research, considerations, and tests – I have finally settled on my setup. But here is a compilation of all the possible ideas that other YouTubers have shared, and may it spare you from countless hours of research. Read on!
P.S. The list is not in any particular order.
1) BENDY SMARTPHONE ARM
This is probably one of the easiest and most common setups that YouTubers have shared. All you need is to get one of those lazy bendy smartphone arm thing. While this basic rig works, I personally don’t quite like it… It may be flexible, but any small movement on the desk will cause the arm to wobble and you will get shaky videos. Plus, this gadget cannot take a lot of weight.
2) TRIPOD ON DESK
If you have a good solid and stable tripod, this one will work pretty well and is able to hold up a lot of weight. But I have been there and done that before… Setting this one up is an absolute pain with a lot of twists and turns – Wide-angle lenses have a tendency to catch the tripod legs in the frame, and the camera has to be up high enough.
So it turns into a battle of getting the right frame every time, and overall, it is just very time-consuming. This rig is good if you only do top-down once in a while and don’t mind the hassle.
3) MOUNT MONOPOD TO CEILING!?
This one made me cringe at first, but it later made sense. A permanently mounted monopod is just going to save you a lot of time in not messing around with a tripod setup. There is only a “one-time” effort to get the frame and settings right, and that’s it. Future setups will be a breeze… But of course, you will need to live with a monopod stuck to the ceiling.
4) DIY CARDBOARD CEILING CRADLE
This is one of the laziest DIY that I have ever seen. Just get a box that is big enough to fit your smartphone, cut a hole for the camera to peek out, and tape it onto the ceiling (or below your desk). That’s it. You now have a top-down rig… If not a little ugly. Personally, I don’t like this shady DIY, and it is not very flexible in design.
5) TOWER OF BOOKS & FLOWER POT
An actually pretty interesting setup that costs almost nothing. Just stack a pile of books to as high as you need, and use a heavy flower pot as the “smartphone stand”. A crude rig, but it works and is quite flexible in the height/angle adjustments.
P.S. I will personally tie a selfie stick to the pile of books for greater flexibility, maybe use Blutack to further secure it into place.
6) BACKDROP KIT WITH CAMERA CLAMP
In a nutshell, put a camera clamp on a backdrop kit. Even though this will cost a little more than usual, but it is also a stable top-down rig. Quite convenient too – Setup at where you need it, and it can also be taken down… Although one big disadvantage is that it requires a lot of space to set up.
7) DIY PVC PIPE RIG
This is the DIY version of the above setup. Personally, I think it is too much effort for something simple. But if you like DIY or don’t have enough space for a full backdrop stand – This may be the solution for you… Plus, you get to customize exactly how much width and height are required, paint whatever funky colors you like.
8) PHOTOGRAPHY STAND WITH BOOM ARM
This is kind of the “lightweight” portable version of the above backdrop rig – It only involves a tripod (or microphone stand) with a boom arm. As it does not have as much base area, it is not as stable as a “full backdrop rig”. Just don’t mount a crazy heavy camera and this will do just fine.
9) MICROPHONE ARM CONVERSION
This is my current setup and chosen solution. Just attach a smartphone clip or ball head to “convert” the microphone arm into a camera arm. Very flexible and versatile – It can easily extend to various positions for different angles, can be folded away to free up the desk space, and can be switched back to hold a microphone.
One small minus is the weight limit, it can hold up to a small mirrorless camera at best… But that should be good enough for most cases unless you are planning to shoot a movie or something.
10) MANFROTTO FLEX ARM & CLAMP
Not sponsored by Manfrotto… But remember the flexible arm thing earlier? There is actually a heavy-duty one specially made for cameras… Be warned though, it is expensive.
EXTRA) MISC PARTS
Having trouble mounting your phone or camera to the rig? Here are a couple of extra parts that may help. Small note, there are 2 standard screw sizes in the world of photography – 1/4″ and 3/8″. If you got the wrong size, don’t throw the entire rig away, just buy a size adapter.
Personally, I just use a cheap Ikea scissor arm light. But if you want “softer light” or “adjustable light”, go get yourself an LED light panel or ring light. There are no rules, just whichever that suits your needs the best.
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope this has helped you to set up a better top-down rig, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the cyber force be with you.