CheesyCam Exclusive – DIY DSLR Cage / Stabilizer / Fig Rig


Since the dawn of HD Video DSLR's there's been some random and weird stabilizers being made by so many different companies. One thing is for sure, they are out to capitalize and mark up equipment from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not to say they aren't functional. In fact many of these new DSLR cages and Fig Rig style stabilizers work well for these small cameras. You know me though, there's gotta be a way to make something cheaper, just as functional, and still look damn good.

Well i've been looking at a couple of different designs, and thought about what I needed from each one of the stabilizers above. First, I wanted a handle. Handles are a great way to get some really low shots. Secondly, my hands needed to be spaced apart. It's proven that spacing your hands further from the camera can really help stabilize your footage, even helps when walking. Third, I needed something to mount extra gear like a DSLR Cage. Finally, stay away from PVC. PVC is great, but doesn't give it that professional look or feel. After careful consideration and a trip to Home Depot, here's the latest DIY Camera Stabilizer from Cheesycam.com.

My goal was to merge a couple of different products and functionality into a very very Cheap DIY DSLR Stabilizer with Cage function. Another goal was to step up my game and make it look a bit more techy and something not so 'DIY'. I think I did well this time around for approximately $30.00. Actually it can come down much cheaper if I could find a shorter rail and cheaper handlebar grips. Unfortunately I wasn't shopping for a deal, I had this idea stuck in my head that needed to get out. It's a bit of a rush job, but I really wanted to share it with the community. I'll go back and refine it later with some hot shoe adapters and a quick release plate.

I have a ton of photos, and a parts list i'll put together later if anyone is interested. The video should explain more about what you need and how I put it together. The hardest part was cutting this rail. I have more information about this rail in my photo gallery, I was able to take a picture of the Price tag / Description from my iPhone. After cutting the rail, I was able to purchase everything for straight bolt on without any further modifications needed.

Here's a real basic parts list:

  • 2 Hex Bolts (6" long 3/8 size)
  • 2 carriage bolts (6" long 3/8 size) Use these for the top, they give you nice finished look
  • 2 3/8" coupler nuts
  • 2 - 1/2 X 12" pipe rods
  • 1 - 1/2 X 10" pipe rod
  • Bike handle grips
  • Black flat matte paint
  • 1 - 8-10 ft strut channel bar
  • Enjoy the DIY video on how I made it (below).

    Update: Really good questions coming in, i'll try to answer a few.
    Reader: Have you thought about off setting the camera so that with the lens it's balanced front to back?
    CheeseyCam: Yes, this is where the quick release plate comes in. I decided on the Monfrotto 357 (found here) to give me that lateral as well as something to quickly move from the DIY cage to my 701HDV Fluid head. I wanted the camera more forward originally so that it is actually balanced with the handle (above). For shots that require using the Handle, it's much more balanced being slightly forward. Hopefully the Monfrotto 357 will help by sliding the camera either foward or back depending on what shot is being taken.

    Monfrotto Quick Release 357, click image

    Reader: If you were to use electrical conduit for you end pieces it might make your rig lighter.
    Cheesycam: Yes, I wanted to get something as close to 'off the shelf' as possible. I may try Conduit on the sides, but the top Handle I feel will work better if it remained as a Steel pipe. Conduit normally comes in super long lengths and requires additional cutting. It is lighter, and cheaper, just a little more time consuming though with the cutting. For information on the HotShoe mounts I plan on using, check out this article http://cheesycam.com/?p=723

    Ok well it's getting late, i'm tired and i'll get to showing it off more later. Leave some comments, ask some questions, and please don't forget to share, twitter, facebook, digg, etc. (use the icons below).



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    132 thoughts on “CheesyCam Exclusive – DIY DSLR Cage / Stabilizer / Fig Rig

    1. Jasen

      This is a really cool DIY! Looks amazing! The Galvanised pipe is called Unistrut- Used for hanging pipes with clips ect... For the side of the frame you could also use thick 20mm pressure pipe i guess for a light travel option but the galv gives that strength! Definitely giving this one a go

    2. Nick

      I saw this design the other day, and thought that it was awesome. I've just finished putting it together, but was wondering if there was any way to add some sort of extension to either go over your shoulder or a pad to press against your shoulder, kind of like the shoulder support for the Opteka CXS-100. Any ideas?

    3. Carlos

      Congrats on a very practical, thoughtful and inexpensive design!

      Some suggestions that I put on my Figrig clone that I built in 2007.

      1) Try using two separated levels made off clear acrylic plastic, 1/2" thick or so. On the upper one you put the quick-release camera base. On the lower one you put a small mixer (e.g.: Sound Devices) and a digital recorder (e.g.: Zoom).

      2) Add a short piece on the lower bar, in X with it, so you can place or rest the whole rig when you are not using it. Even when shooting you may want to lean or rest on some surface and that will be handy.

      I'm not so sure I support your selection of steel parts for the bars and handles, as they are rather heavy. Painted pvc can look quite good too.

    4. Shawn

      This is an awesome project and just what I was looking for. I see a lot of people asking if you would build them.... I am building 4 per Strut channel rail by doing 2 16inch Rigs and 2 14inch rigs. There is a good chance I will sell these if enough people are interested ....

    5. Raymond

      Thanks for the parts list plus SKU numbers, that was really helpful, JJ.

      I was just wondering what you put on the bottom rail to hold your camera? Would you just get the macro rail you linked and screw that on, or is there another piece I should get? I'm almost done with my rig, just wondering what the heck I'm supposed to attach the camera with, and where I can buy one that is economically sound.

      Thank you for the amazing work you put on this blog!

    6. JJ

      Just built this in about 3 min. Super simple and extremely sturdy. For anyone looking for a complete parts list minus the conduit, here's a transcribe of my Home Depot receipt:

      030699191369 - 3/8" rod coupling nut (2 pack)

      019442150969 - 1/2"x12" black nipple pipe (side pipes)

      019442150938 - 1/2"x10" black nipple pipe (handle)

      hex bolt BMB - 2 3/8"x6"

      carriage bolt BOA - 2 3/8"x6"

      2 FENDER washers - 3/8" (for the bottom)

      2 FENDER washers - 1/2" (to fit around the square of the carriage bolts)

      To anyone having issues with the coupler nuts fitting in the pipe, they will do it, you have to hammer them in. They will fit very snug once you do and be a lot more stable then the 1/4".

    7. Vincent

      why not make this so you can mount it as-is on a tripod? just quick release and you dont have to move the camera itself. also makes it easier to change lenses i guess.

      also, would you think the handle works better at the front than facing backwards?

    8. pancho

      Just saw this yesterday and built/painted it already. Excellent rig and detailed instructions. THANKS.

    9. Gynna

      WOW, I just found this blog and I am amazed with you creativity. I cannot wait until to tomorrow to go and get the pieces to start putting mine together. I was just wondering, what pieces did you use to get your camera on the rail?
      Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

    10. Bob0mb

      I had the same problem the previous Bob had the 3/8 coupling nuts just will not go in the pipe. maybe the nipple at the end is slightly smaller than the ones you've purchased previously.

    11. I was thinking about slapping one of these together today for a wedding I will be shooting tomorrow night...Seems like a way better idea and formulated setup then the pvc pipe one, and risk it looking very amateur at a wedding. Thanks for the tip 😉

    12. Austin

      Awesome tutorial, just about done with mine just need to tidy things up and paint it...problem is I'm stuck with a solution for mounting my camera onto it. I have a few cheap tripods laying around the house, and managed to take off the part where the quick release plate goes in on one of them. any suggestions?

    13. Dylan

      Hey man, great rig, I built myself one last weekend.

      However, the 3/8 coupling nuts I got from Home Depot didn't fit inside the steel nipples, so I had to switch to 1/4 bolts and couplers.

      Just a heads up.

    14. Emm

      Post author

      @Austin - Sand and clean before you paint. Most metals have a layer of oil when stored on shelves to prevent them from rusting and such. Sand it down, clean it with some type of oil remover like Paint thinner (in well ventilated area). Paint before you assemble. Just make sure you paint it well. Spray one very thin coat and let dry. Spray another coat and let dry. Do this over and over until you have everything covered. Don't rush it. Use good paint too.

    15. Austin

      Okay thanks, had me scared there for a moment XD One last question if you don't mind answering. Would it be better to sand it then paint it and then assemble or sand it, assemble, then paint? Didn't know if it makes a difference. Thanks again!

    16. Emm

      Post author

      @Austin - I think actual Bike Handles are pretty standard. It's a tight stretch over the 1" 1/2" pipes, so use hairspray or dishwashing soap to slide it in place. Once it's dried it's pretty stuck.

    17. Austin

      Just got to go pick up some bike handles (or order some offline as I might go for some blue or green ones for a personal touch) But is there a certain size handles I am looking for?

    18. Emm

      Post author

      @trehug - Thanks, I wanted to tackle the project in a manner I felt other people could do it too without investing in tools and be able to tackle something like this in an apartment. Anyone could tackle this project with a simple hacksaw.

    19. trehug

      - just wanted to recommend to you, the best way to cut steel bars and generally steel things is to use an angle grinder with a metal blade on it.

      Angle grinders can be picked up (with a general purpose blade on) for like $20, and they are useful all over the place...just sayin - they are a *really* useful tool

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