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Build Your Own Shoulder Brace and Camera Gun Stock
On the cheap construct your own digital video camera shoulder brace.
By Ryan Foss

This hardware tutorial is aimed at the independent and hobby filmmaker who is tired of holding their camera for long periods of time. For the filmmaker who wants a cheap alternative to expensive shoulder support rigs and gizmos for their basic video cameras.

GL1 on the camera brace

This design is simple. It uses common parts found at the local hardware store. Fully assembled, it cost me under $7 to put together.

While making a documentary I found it difficult to hold a long, steady shot because of the awkwardness of my GL1 and my weak muscles. The GL1 is a great camera, but it isn't designed well for 30 minute impromptu interviews outside. To alleviate myself of horrible arm strain, I came up with a simple design to share the weight of the camera with my shoulder and other arm. Unknowingly, I stumbled across a very valuable camera accessory.

Not only does it make it easier to hold the camera for long periods of time, it also helps keep it steady. The design allows for various holding positions, including what I call the Camera Gun, which allows the brace to act like a gun stock, effectively allowing you to aim the camera like a rifle.

This design was inspired greatly by Johnny Chung Lee's $14 Steadycam.

Ryan uses the Shoulder Brace
shoulder resting position

Ryan uses the camera like a gun
gun-like aiming position

Tools

  • Saw, for trimming PVC tubing
  • Drill with 1/4" drill bit, for drilling the camera mount hole
  • Screw Driver, for tightening the camera mount bolt
  • Wrench, for tightening the camera mount nut
  • Hammer, for denting the fender washer

Parts

Qty.

My Cost
Description
1
$1.19
3/4" PVC piping, 5 ft section
1
$0.58
3/4" 90° Electric PVC Elbow
2
$0.25
3/4" PVC Tee
2
$0.36
3/4" 45° PVC Elbow
1
$0.15
3/4" 90° PVC Elbow
1
$0.10
Bolt, 1-1/2" 1/4"
2
$0.19
Lock Washer, 1/4"
1
$0.05
Hex Nut, 1/4"
1
$0.39
Wing Nut, 1/4"
1
$0.39
Fender Washer, 1" dia., 1/4" hole
1
$1.94
PVC Cement (or other glue)
$6.99
TOTAL

The PVC and fittings will be found in the piping or plumbing section at a hardware store. The 90 degree electrical conduit elbow is for electrical wiring, so it may be located separately from the normal PVC piping. (Alternatively, a 90 degree elbow and some cut PVC can be substituted.)

camera brace PVC parts
Piping parts needed,
with associated cut lengths.

First off, cut 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 inch lengths from the PVC piping.

Assemble the pipes and fittings as shown to make sure it feels right. Adjust the PVC lengths as necessary.

camera brace assembled


Drill a hole in the tee fitting for the camera mount. If you have a vice, use it. Using a drill and a 1/4" drill bit, put the hole through the tee as pictured.

Its a good idea to dent the fender washer to help distribute the stress at the connection point to your camera. This can be done by using a hammer and the bolt and a small section of PVC piping.

Get the bolt and put a lock washer on it. Feed it through the hole you drilled in the tee. Using the other lock washer and the nut, fasten the bolt tightly to the tee. Secure the bolt tightly using a screwdriver and wrench. The wing nut and fender washer are what secure your camera to the bolt.

Reassemble the brace and attach your camera. Make sure it feels ok before you make it permanent. Also, make sure the camera has enough room to rotate freely onto the mounting bolt. If the section of piping you choose is shorter, the camera may collide with the shoulder support portion and be unable to spin onto the mounting bolt.

Using the PVC cement, reassemble the brace piece by piece, gluing each one. PVC cement is recommended, but an alternative glue could be substituted. Gluing the sections and fittings together is necessary, for structural reasons because you don't want it to fall apart. Additionally, the joints will squeak and moan unless secured with glue.

I painted mine with a black spray paint (about $3) to give it a more professional look.

Tips

  • Don't over tighten the wing nut. Doing so may damage your camera mounting or strip the threads.
  • For another $0.60, get a 1" rubber washer with 1/4" hole and use it with the fender washer.
  • Consider filling the piping with a foam sealant, such as Great Stuff (~$3.24), to help reduce handling noise (noise transferred through the brace).
  • Use the extra tee as a standing support.

Don't forget to checkout our entire Tutorials section.

Disclaimer: Your use of these instructions is at your own risk. Quantum Petshop is not responsible or liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or exemplary damages or loses resulting from the use of these instructions.

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