DIY Camera Rig – Mark 2

Check out this week’s adventure with tools – making an improved camera rig for filmmaking and my first video tutorial.

Shining Tor

After the success of my first DIY camera rig I quickly started the work on the Mark 2.

I learned from the first rig and improved the design with a rail system, so I can add a follow focus or matte box at a later date if I want to, I also lengthened the arms and made them adjustable so I can get the setup as comfortable as possible.

Clare cannibalised a memory foam bath mat to make padding for the shoulder and I added some counter-weights to help balance the load and take the strain off my arms.

This design was more complicated as it had more components to it, but I’ve been testing it out today and it seems to perform well, so I’m pretty pleased with it.

Check out my first video tutorial on both the Mark 1 and 2, along with some test footage:

Next on…

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Almost Diving at Trefor Pier

The plan was to make our first dive of the year a simple, easy one at Trefor Pier in Wales.

That was the plan anyway.

I was diving with Mark Rogers and my wife Clare.  None of us had dived Trefor before but we’d spoken to people who had and it was a nice easy dive along the wall and then under the wooden pier where we were promised  lots of exciting wildlife including giant spider crabs – sounded ideal.

First test was the tide times.  To get into the water just before high tide we’d have to be there at approx.  8am .  Which meant setting the alarm to 5am so we could set off before 6am.

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No problem, got there dead on 8am and the weather and conditions looked great, relatively calm and sheltered with sunny blue skies.  Mark got there just after us and we started to kit up.

As we were getting ready a local asked us if we could attach a buoy to an old one just off the pier.  When we looked it was 30 meters away in the middle of nowhere.  He explained that they’d tried to do it themselves with a boat but they’d got tangled in nets and had to call out the lifeboat to rescue them.  Needless to say, we made our apologies and politely declined our chance to get lost in the Irish Sea dragging a bright orange buoy and chain with us.

Once in the water we soon realised that the visibility was not as good as we had hoped.  In fact it was virtually non-existent.  Probably less than 6 inches in reality (see the video below).  Hoping it would get better, we moved further along the wall but nothing improved.  Laughing that we’d have done better diving in a bath full of gravy granules we headed back.

I think I got down to an amazing depth of 4 inches.  Essentially we were the best equipped snorkelers in Wales as we simply surface swam along the wall and then back again.

I took some time to walk the beach and take a few shots but then we headed home.

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Trefor is still on my to-do list, but probably in Summer.

I made a short video of our ‘dive’ as my alter-ego Jack Custard (Lancashire’s answer to Jaques Cousteau) – enjoy.

Until next time fellow adventurers,


DIY Camera Rig

Not many adventures this week as I’ve been busy building a DIY camera rig. Read about it here on my Shining Tor blog.

Shining Tor

Lately I’ve been contemplating the best way to film the short film ‘Escape‘ that I wrote last year.  We were set to film it before Christmas, but we struggled to cast the lead role so it got pushed back and we shot ‘Sonnet 18‘ instead.

A big part of the film is set on Kinder Scout in the Peak District and this has give me a few headaches logistically.  Shooting can be stressful at the best of times but add in a hike up the biggest hill in the Peak District with all the ear and the unpredictability of the weather makes for a very difficult and risky project.

If the shoot goes over two days we could get dramatically different weather on both days and the shots won’t match, so the best approach would be to shoot everything on the same day, but that makes…

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Searching for Solitude on Kinder Scout

This week’s adventure has been a climb up Kinder Scout in the Peak District with my lovely wife Clare.

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Kinder Scout is the biggest hill in the Peak District, and at 636 metres it’s not really that big on a global scale but it’s got lots of character, can still be challenging, and is the first proper hill I ever climbed so I like it.

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Now as much as I love climbing Kinder with Clare, I had another agenda on this excursion.  I’ve written a short film set, in part, on Kinder Scout, so I wanted to scout (forgive the pun) a few locations and take a bit of test footage with my DSLR camera to see how it came out.

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So, everything looked great right, weather was good, sunny and unseasonably warm, Care took our dogs, Bobby and Jet and I organised the camera, etc.

All we needed was a bit of quiet.

That became the problem.  We just couldn’t escape everyone else.

We parked the car in Edale to discover there was a 45 mile fell run finishing there.  There was also a helicopter loudly transporting materials up and down the valley all the time we were there and that was before we started.

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Once on the hill we joined a queue of hikers making their way up to the tops.  If we walked they chased us, if we stopped, they stopped right next to us.  At one point we I thought we were being stalked as every time we waited for one particular group to go passed they sat down and waited for us to move on so they could stay with us.

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The Peak District is apparently the second most visited national park after Mount Fuji in Japan, and yesterday I could believe it.

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After a while I gave up trying to shoot video and switched to photography.  This helped to alleviate my stress as it was a beautiful day, but I may need to re-think my strategy for the film as I’m aiming for haunting and desolate, which could be a challenge if there’s a constant procession of loud, brightly dressed ramblers stomping through every scene.

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Anyway, here’s what video I did manage to get from the trip.