I bought the small Rode VideoMicro microphone primarily to use with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 to get better in-camera audio when capturing video. However, another reason I selected that particular model was because with the addition of a $15 (US) cable, I can also use it with my iPhone. I don't know how often I will use my iPhone to record video for making videos to share outside the family, but when I do use it, I want the audio to be good. I am also looking at getting a small LED to use with the iPhone for such occasions. To handle all of those pieces - an iPhone, an external mic, and an LED light - requires, well, three hands. And, since I don't have three hands, I decided to look into ways of holding all these pieces with the two hands I do have.
I am obviously not the only person wanting to do this! A quick search with Google or on YouTube brings up quite an array of both commercial and DIY rigs for smartphones for shooting video. The commercial units seem a bit pricey for my needs and I didn't find a DIY solution that matched what I had in mind. Therefore, I decided to design my own PVC pipe solution. I say "my own," but really what I've come up with, though it is customized to what I want it to be able to hold, is loosely based on a rig I made from a design I found in a Frugal Filmmaker (Scott Eggleston) video three years ago.
I love coming up with designs like this and even if I don't use the rig much, it's fun going through the process from paper sketch to finished product. I started by measuring the things I wanted my rig to hold. I used my wife's iPhone 6+ since I plan to get a 6+ when I next upgrade in a year. I wanted the Rode VideoMicro mic to sit next to the phone on my rig, so I made sure that I allowed enough space on the bottom bar for it. It then occurred to me that I might want to use my Tascam DR-40 audio recorder to record my sound, so I checked how much room I'd need to place it next to my iPhone. I want a place to hold the LED light on the top bar and, since I may want to plug a microphone into the Tascam recorder, I will add another connection point for a mic. This configuration will give me a 1/4 20 connector, bottom bar left, to screw in my ShoulderPod smartphone holder, another 1/4 20 connector, bottom bar right, to which I can attach the recorder or, outfitted with a cold shoe piece, my mic. In addition, I will have two 1/4 20 connection points on the top bar, should I need them.
I already had some 1/2 inch PVC pipe and elbows, so I went with a generous width of almost 15" for my rig's width and felt 7" would be sufficient for its height. With my rectangular frame connected, I laid it on a flat surface and placed the components where they would go when the rig is completed. Yup. Wider than necessary by a few inches! This is, of course, a bit wasteful, but I'd rather waste a bit of PVC pipe than cut it too short, have to redo, and, ultimately, waste a lot more! After checking measurements with the iPhone 6+ and audio recorder in place (the two widest pieces), I figure I could get away with an inside width of 12", maybe 13". I want to leave sufficient space on either side for my fingers as I grasp the rig's side pieces which I will wrap with gaffer tape.
After I reviewed the pictures I had taken for reference, I realized I had forgotten an important piece! I may sometimes want to attach this rig to a tripod and I had not allowed for that! Back to the drawing board! There is, fortunately, sufficient space between the two bottom bar connectors to add another down-facing connector for tripod attachment. Whew!
The next step is to figure out what additional pieces of PVC pipe connectors and nuts, bolts, and washers I need. Then, it's a trip to Home Depot to get them and, finally, assemble the rig. I will probably spray paint it matte black and, as I said, add gaffer tape to the sides. Once all put together and tried out, I may glue the connections, but I'll wait and see if that is necessary. It may be handy to be able to break down the rig for carrying in a small bag. When I have it working, I'll post another article and include exact sizes of all the pieces I use, as I will be cutting the bottom and top bars to add the connection points.
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