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I noticed there are a lot of photos and pages on your instructions. It seems like this might be beyond my ability.

You know what? It just might be beyond your ability on some of these rigs. But given my experience with showing students how to build, for example, The Shock Corridor Stabilizer at USC, I really don't think so. We had quite a mix of abilities in that class, and everyone walked out happy with a great working Stabilizer. (And the Stabilizer is probably the most difficult rig in the book to build aside from the Professional style dolly track). Actually, it's because of the USC classes that these instructions are so detailed. I was able to see what wasn't clear and correct it. And these instructions really are step by step. That's why there are so many photos. It's practically a how-to video on paper. To put things into perspective: even though the Stabilizer plans are 70 pages plus, I can build one in about 30 minutes (minus the drying time of adhesives) once all the parts are prepared. In the book you'll find two rigs that ANYBODY can build: The Dark Passage Dolly and The Killer's Kiss Crane. Really, if you can open a jar of peanut butter, you should be able to build these 2 rigs. And they work GREAT. And if you buy one of my plans and get stuck, the guy that designed these rigs is right here. Just e-mail me at:

I want to build your crane, but I've never drilled in to metal before. Can I build it out of wood? could, but it's going to be King Kong heavy, and may still vibrate if you make your boom too long. Look, don't be worried about drilling in to aluminum. There is almost no difference between wood and metal when it comes to putting a hole in it. As I point out in the book, make sure your drill bit is nice and sharp (luckily, they come that way when you buy them). Pick up a little drilling oil at your local hardware store, and keep your bit "wet" with the oil when you drill. It will make things go a lot smoother and protect your bit. Drill at a little slower speed than with wood, and clamp your work down. Grab yourself a scrap piece of metal to try this out on, and you'll see that you were worrying for no reason. It's no big deal, really. There is a whole chapter on working with metal. Just read that and you'll be in good shape.

Are the parts for the rigs easy to come by?

Boy, good question! One of the hardest parts about writing this book was making the rigs easy to build and then building them with parts that are relatively easy to find. I would really be shocked if you couldn't find all the hardware you need. I went to very great lengths to design these things with materials that are readily available. And I think the neat part is the photo shopping list for each rig. Just take it to the hardware store and point to the picture "Do you have one of these?" If you're still having problems finding something, I'm right here. If you live outside the U.S., there are a few things that you'll never be able to find. For example, the short jib The Killer's Kiss Crane, uses plumbing pipe. Australia and the U.K. don't use this type of pipe. But if you need a short jib, simply use the mount for The Double Indemnity Crane and combine it with a short version of the Big Combo Crane.

If I can build your crane for around $100 to $200, how come a commercial crane costs $1000? Is yours just as good?

$1000? That's one of the cheaper ones. Well, why don't we do a test. You go buy that $1000 dollar crane and bring it over here to Angel Dog. You crane up and down with that one, and I'll do the same on my $100 job. We'll post both movies here on the site, and let people see if they can see a difference. A commercial movie anything costs out the whazoo for a couple of reasons: the grip rental and manufacturing industry has been slow to adapt to this new era of DV filmmaking. They're used to the "good ol days" when the movie makers had a big truck load of money. Second, the market is limited. If as many people made movies as made toast, a crane would cost about as much as a good toaster.

Do you sell the rigs you make?

Nope. We just show you how. It's easy!

What about the ones [Stabilizer] you see with the vest and holds a 15 lb camera. Can I build a glide cam type V -20 system?. What's the weight limit on the camera for The Shock Corridor Stabilizer I will build?

You can compare the Shock Corridor Stabilizer to the Glidecam 4000, and hand-held unit. We've actually tested the rig with 20lbs and it held up amazingly well. Now, would you want to haul 20 lbs around without a vest? I wouldn't! Currently, we don't have a vest design for the Shock Corridor.

Does your dolly use skateboard wheels? Just curious.

Nope. Skate board wheels would limit the configurations you can do (like hanging it upside-down for dolly shots over head... for example).

... like your stuff, but wondering if you have any plans to offer hood mounts or hostess trays in the future?

The future is now! It's called The Drive By Night Car Mount (There's a page on the site that shows the table of contents Table of Contents for the book "Killer Camera Rigs That You Can Build" with QuickTime Movie example shots from the rigs). Click on RIGS.

I am already almost finished building the stabilizer I have a few more things to do first but this thing seems like it is going to work beautifully. I think it is amazing that you are offering this to people. I searched the Internet for hours looking for steadicam plans and came up with nothing good that's free.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get your crane plans to move in all directions at the camera head. Left to Right as well as Up and Down. And any ideas on a moveable base instead of a tripod.

I too did a search a few years ago with no luck. The rest is history! In 3 or 4 weekends you can build everything in the book for less than the price of one renting one piece of equipment for a week. Yeah, free plans... I guess you do get what you pay for.

About the crane head moving left to right... I assume you mean just moving the camera left or right. The crane itself DOES move left and right. If you'll look around, you can find electronic pan heads within reason, but you do get what you pay for. Just try them out first, they can move A LOT slower than what you might have in mind, and can be noisy. The remonte pan and tilt heads actually meant for cinema work are pretty pricey; usually over $1000. In the mean time, you can always mount a tripod head to the top camera mount and do it that way. Of course, things have to stay within reach. But you'd be surprised what you can do with a ladder and a couple of well coordinated people. And to move the crane, you can put it on the "Dark Passage Dolly". Just be careful! Make damn sure the entire run of the track is level and sandbag the pajeezus out of the crane. You'll also find "The Killer's Kiss" crane in the book. It was designed to go on the dolly. It's a bit smaller, so it's good for indoor work, and it still cranes to about 10 feet. Not too shabby at all. And the real beauty is, you can make it in less than and hour. Really. My sister put it together, and she can barely open a jar.

I think it would be great if you made a "How-to" video for building your rigs. What do you think?

At first glance, that does seem like a great idea, and it's something I certainly considered. It would be much easier, faster, and cheaper to produce than this book, but it wouldn't be easier on the builders. First you'd have to have a TV and VCR in your workshop. Then there is all that pesky rewinding, pausing, etc. While I think these rigs are easy to build, there are a lot of details to follow. Something that is much easier in book form. Also, you may be comparing my book to other technical books, where visuals are sorely lacking. "Killer Camera Rigs" has well over 2000 step-by-step photos, as well as a "Make it Groovy" section on some of the rigs to really make it great. Which on a video would mean winding ahead to the "make it groovy" section at some point. A video or DVD would really make it much harder on you guys.

Is there any welding involved on the "Shock Corridor Stabilizer"?

Good Lord, no! There is no welding involved on any rig in the book. (But it is something I'd like to learn some day).

I'm looking into purchasing your book, but I'd like to know what certain rigs are going to cost me. Could you give me the estimated cost to build each ?

The cost of materials can vary greatly across the U.S. and from country to country. Here in L.A., I've discovered that aluminum is a bit cheaper than you'll find it on the East Coast. But those in Thailand that have bought the book are able to make the rigs for a fraction of what I can. Also, If you're using a 12 pound camera you're going to need a thicker aluminum than you would on a 2 pound camera. A 15 foot boom will need heavier aluminum that a 12 foot boom. (there's a simple test in the book so you can figure what thickness you need). And are you getting the aluminum from the supplier's remnants pile? Much cheaper. Also a factor is if you're going to add a tilt head, which adds about 25 bucks to the cost. That said, and having made a few of these using aluminum remnants, I'd put the average cost at $140 without the tilt head. With the tilt head, I think if you allot $170 you'll be good. It's just to sketchy to put a hard cost on something. In the first edition, the cost of the Killer's Kiss Crane was $40. The one I built recently cost $75.

Hi Dan, I was in your seminar at USC summer film workshop about a year ago and am currently building your camera stabilizer (steady cam). I was hoping you could tell me where to find the aluminum tubing you use.

Since I had students from all over the world, I don't want to assume you live in Los Angeles! I go to this place on San Fernando blvd. in the valley called Industrial Metal Supply. On that part of San Fernando are a ton of metal shops, but IMS is the only one I ever stopped at. Check your yellow pages under "metal supply" if you haven't already. Also take a look at "commercial window supply". Those big picture windows in department stores are framed with aluminum. They won't have tubing, but you might be able to find who their supplier is, and they might have the bigger stuff for the crane.

See if these guys have a store near you:

I've heard a lot of good things about them.

On-line metal supply places are really price gouging, but here's one of the cheaper places (but still not cheap):

Do you have any plans to include a traditional dolly on tracks in this book? If so, what sort of length would be achievable? Also, I have a Panasonic NV-MX500 DVCAM(DV5000 in the U.S.), do you know if this cam is OK for your rigs sizewise? i.e. Is it not too small? Thanks again for your quick response! Looking forward to your book.

The Dark Passage Dolly uses track, and you can lay it out until you run out of room or money. If you're talking about true pro track, yes, in this new 3rd edition there are plans for building professional track out of aluminum. Keep in mind that Pro Dolly track is simply easier to set up and level. For smoothness of the shot, it isn't any better than the cheaper versions of track available in Killer Camera Rigs.

As for the panasonic: no such thing as too small. In fact, on the Stabilizer I encourage "smallness". The stabilizer works just fine with the heavier cameras, but the extra weight really wears you down, I don't care how big your guns are. And I wish we had a small camera when shooting the demo for the Dark Passage Dolly. It took a lot of extra time to figure out how to fit the camera through the car window.

I am looking at your site to build a crane. The site does not say how high it will go. I need something that can go from the ground to about 20-30 feet in the air. Do you think your plans would guide me in that direction?

Crane height is not really a static thing. For example, we've used one of my cranes on top of an Old Toyota Land cruiser that had a cargo rack on top (I want to emphasize that the car was NOT moving). So in that situation, we had the pivot point of the tripod at 10 feet, so the 18 foot boom easily would reach almost 30 feet high. And my designs go as low as they do high, so it wasn't a problem starting the shot on the ground from on top of the Toyota. I've never actually measured it, but I can tell you that same boom with the tripod on the ground could reach an actor's face on a second story fire escape. The great thing about building your own stuff, is that you can make it as long or as short as you want, the concepts are still the same, but you'd need to add more heft to your materials. The most important thing about making something really huge is the base, or tripod, that has to support it. If your support is massive enough, you can get away with just about anything. In my tripod design, I've never put on more than an 25' boom, so I honestly don't know if it will hold up well beyond that (and I'm talking day in and day out use).

I was FINALLY able to find a metal shop that would sell me rectangular tubing (for crane) for a reasonable price ($68 for 24 feet). But now I have many more feet than I need for the crane. I was wondering if any of the other plans in your book call for 1" x 1.5" x 1/8" rect. aluminum? Also, since the pieces were cut into 11' and 13' increments, I am tempted to make my crane bigger. Is there anyway to beef up the crane to add a few more feet to it, or would this be unmanageable?

The Double Indemnity Crane addresses exactly those issues--plus it breaks down into 4' sections. Better have some sand bags handy! (I'm finding that Aluminum prices vary GREATLY across the U.S.!)

Does your book have plans for a camera mount that can be clamped different places? I just saw a Hollywood movie where it looks like they clamped a camera to the top of a ladder. I guess I could think one up: a metal plate with a camera screw may be all that is needed.

That would work, but it would be good if the plate could tilt every-which-way. The ball and socket design on the Drive By Night car mount could be easily incorporated into a rig like this. Just take off the suction cup bars, and you're good to go.

I was tossing around the idea of a forearm harness that would attach to the stabilizer, thus relieving my muscles (esp finger muscles) from having to grip/hold the stabilier. A few aluminum plates, velcro-ed to your forearm, and bolted to the stabilizer was what I had in my mind (sort of similar to how you hold a slingshot). The 5-inch tube for the handle could be lengthened and a bolt put through it to attach it to the harness while still using the bearings...

I have a simpler soultion that I've recommended a few times now: head for the Drug Store and pick up a wrist support (one of those nylon and velcro things people with a sprained wrist might wear). Some of them have a plastic splint sewn in. This will keep your wrist from falling off after 20 minutes of hauling that baby around. But go for the wrist rocket design--there's nothing like custom making your own stuff.

Would one be in need of any expensive specialized tools in order to construct some of these gadgets?

Boy, it's kind of hard to know what people consider "specialized". There's this thing called a "prick punch" that puts a dimple into metal to keep your drill bit from "walking". It runs about $4 US. A vise isn't absolutely necessary on a couple of the rigs, but almost. I found mine on sale for around $25, and well worth every penny. Highly recommended. A drill guide is a huge help, but I've made stuff without one. And for cutting metal, a hacksaw. Again, pretty minimal as far as cost goes. One of the rigs that does need some specific tools is the pro style dolly track. You'll need a drill press and a chop saw. But most all the other rigs are made with pretty cheap and simple tools.

Will the rigs work with my Panasonic HVX200 HD? What modifications may be needed?

No serious modifications are needed, really. On the static mount on the Big Combo crane you MIGHT have to add a plate to the top of the mount to extend it out a bit unless you're going to use a fluid head on that mount; then you're fine. I prefer using the fluid head! I own the same camera, so I really wouldn't build a rig I couldn't use!


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