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Rigbuilding: POV Helmet for DSLRs

Stephen Nangeroni
July 9, 2013 by Stephen Nangeroni Staff

Everyone knows POV shots are super cool.  But what everyone (probably) doesn’t know is how to capture such immersive, stylish footage.  Ever wrapped your arms around an actor, while holding your camera, while riding a bike, all in an attempt to pull off an authentic POV shot?  Yeah, no one wants that.  Instead, become your own lean, mean, one-person POV-shooting machine – build a POV helmet rig!  
 
There’s nothing to it – just tape your camera to a bike helmet, and voila!  Okay, maybe it’s not that simple, but thanks to Vlad Jakovlev (with some inspiration from Enrique Rodriguez Bencomo), we’ve got a quick, frugal method for building a sturdy, rockin’ rig.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Motorcycle helmet (everyone has one laying around somewhere!)
    • Screws, bolts, nuts, and washers
    • A drill & wrench
    • Weights
    • Tripod head, baseplate
    • Monitor
    • Monitor mount
    • Common Sense, as with anything head related, please be careful with using your gear in this manner

[clip:48382335]
 
Vlad’s video does a great job of laying out the steps in a clear, efficient manner, but let’s do a brief, written recap:
 
1). Remove whatever visor your helmet may have.
2). Drill a hole in the bottom front and the center back of your helmet.
3). Insert screws through the holes, pointing outward.
4). After securing the screw on back with a washer and nut, put a couple of small counterweights on the screw.  Secure those from the outside with a washer and clamp.
5). Attach a tripod head to the front screw, secure with washers and nuts.
6). Drill a hole in the top center, and screw in a monitor mount.  Be sure to drill the hole at whatever point will allow for optimal monitor placement. Once you’re set, attach your monitor (upside down).
7). Attach a baseplate to your camera, and insert it into your tripod head (upside down).
8). For an extra secure rig, run the camera neck strap tautly around the back of the helmet (use the weights to hold it in place).
9). Admire your wonderful creation.  
 
Once you've double-checked that everything's securely in place, it's time to see what this thing can do! Here are a few important points to keep in mind:

    • Weight: The amount of counterweight you’ll need in back depends on the weight up front. With a heavier DSLR like a 5D, you’ll need more counterweight than if you’re using a lighter DSLR, like a Rebel.
    • Lens choice: You'll want a wide lens for capturing dynamic, full compositions that resemble the human field of view. Vlad used a 16-35mm lens for his rig. Moreover, a wider lens will keep your shots smoother and more stable. A short focal length will also keep more of your shot in focus — saving you the trouble of constant, manual focus adjustments. And when considering lens length, don't forget about crop factor!   
    • The world at your fingertips: Should you choose to include them in the frame, your arms, hands, and fingers will become significant visual elements of the shot. Act accordingly, and vary their distance from the camera until you find that sweet spot.

    Once you've chosen a lens and evenly balanced your rig, it's time to turn your vision into a reality (literally!). If you're looking for some adrenaline-fueled, creative inspiration, be sure to check out the exhilarating results of Vlad's rig in his city-spanning, day-in-the-life POV film "24 in London":

    [clip:48433749] And the atmospheric, long-take POV film "Woken Up" (watch this one with the lights off):

As these videos demonstrate, you can apply this distinct shooting style to entirely different genres of filmmaking. Furthermore, this rig equips you with the means to reproduce the natural, human frame of reference, which is equivalent to a focal length of about 47mm. With this compact, easy-to-wear beast as part of your filmmaking arsenal, you can become the active cameraman you were born to be — all the while injecting a fresh dose of visual style into your latest work. Fasten your camera strap, keeps arms and hands inside the frame at all times, and enjoy the point-of-view! Wearing a helmet just got cool again.

80 Comments

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

We like to think there's room for both GoPros *and* DSLRs in the world of POV shooting :)

Christoph Malin Plus

thanks for sharing! like back in the days ;) as much as I enjoyed working with gopro 1-3 in sports there are also a few gopro drawbacks... wobbling/shaky camera mounts (bad rolling shutter), rapidly depleted batteries, dull sounds (when used in waterproof cage). especially for their original camera mounts which are a pain to fix (the joints will always get loose at some point), I wonder when 3rd party manufacturers will offer sturdy, reliable gopro mounts. an alternative is the contour HD which however can rattle too on its basemount providing for clicking noises. last but not least all that gopro footage gets really boring at some point. good to see an approach like back in the days ;) however I'd prefer smaller, lightweight four thirds rigs or at least D600 / 6D. cheers

Nelson Reyes

jajajajaja I loved the video. But I prefer gopro

Zach Hanover

Built my own helmet rig last year, very similar to the one above. Used a football helmet and mounted the 5D to the facemask:

instagram.com/p/QhopgQwHRs/

GoPros are great but sometimes you really just need that nice 5D look and you simply can't achieve it with a GoPro.

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

Looks awesome, Zach, thanks for sharing!

Agreed, these rigs definitely provide a distinct DSLR quality to POV shooting.

Myles Thompson Plus

Absolutely - I also find the 5D full frame look far more compelling quality-wise than the gopro in this situation.

Myles Thompson Plus

Absolutely - I also find the 5D full frame look far more compelling quality-wise than the gopro in this situation.

Since I sold my motorbike a few years ago to finance filmmaking equipment but still have a redundant helmet, this seems like the perfect solution.

One obstacle I can imagine when using this in the street - everybody stares at you...

Philipp Rudler

Back a while I shot the following video with a Lumix TZ-7 which has been a proper point-n-shoot camera. I cut a hole into a case and mounted it on a belt around my chest. (note: this was a few months before Go-Pro)

The advantage?
Almost nobody recognised the camera at first sight which made the movie better.
For documentary purposes this is great.

The helmet rig is awesome for native shoots of course - but for a party? Erm, nope!

vimeo.com/12759254

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

Yep, this rig might be a bit bulky for a concert ;)

Way to get creative though, Philipp! Very cool final result.

Luis Antezana

Helmets are even better for a party - Daft Punk effect!

krispfilms

I got inspired by Vlads DIY project so I did one a few weeks ago. Check it out --> vimeo.com/69019223

It is bulky & heavy but its CHEAP!!!!!! and You can use DSLRs

Keith H.

Neato! But this make my neck sore just watching it!

Ponti Ramanta

I wish that GoPro4 have a rectilinear lens instead of fisheye

Ponti Ramanta

well, I'm a skateboarder, but I've found that rectilinear are more stunning for moving camera than a fisheye. It's just more human POV looks, haha.

Manuel Peluso Plus

Did you use with smoothcam or similar? I wonder how smooth the original footage is..

Artillery PRO

gopro had an update so you can loose the fisheye look. Gopro will never look as cinematic as a 5D though and low light etc etc. Great work.....smack my bitch up!!

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

4K indeed offers higher resolution, but depending on the project, the image quality of a DSLR may be desirable as well! We think both are worthy options to consider.

Remington McElhaney

Everyone seems to forget it's only 4K at 15fps? How is that useful?

Matt Tesluk

Just to state the obvious to everyone: This helmet is no longer safe for motorsports after this mod. Furthermore, I don't recommend doing anything with this that could result in whiplash (ie: being in a car) as that is a LOT of weight on your neck.

Be careful and use good sense!

Q. Shepard

Anyone know where you can just purchase this already made?

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

Very impressive, Caleb! I like the creative use of POV with the storyline, nice use of color there at the end too. Keep it up!

Justin Self Plus

So you were wearing this helmet around London? Thats awesome. Did you have anyone that asked you to take it off?

Josh Goodwin

We built a cheap one for Lovely Hunted out of a bicycle helmet and PVC using a flip cam. You can see a photo of it in the sidebar: vimeo.com/15773911

Justin Waldman

I don't understand why it's got to be with a DSLR camera. Why not a small camcorder?

Limb Reaper Productions

Cool in principle to obtain high quality DSLR footage as a walk around POV system. Wrong in so many ways, but chiefly three. First: the potential for a severe neck injury and/or death from the neck injury has increased by what percent here? Second: The obstruction of vision via the monitor and camera has to increase the risk of a trip and fall accident. Which brings me to three. All those long steel bolts. Facing in or out, they're still potential spears mounted to your head. Call this a prototype or "test bed" and I may go with it. Don't mind me. I'm about to roll up in my bubble wrap and sleep in a nice safe closet far from harm...

Stephen Nangeroni Staff

We'd definitely recommend exercising utmost caution when using this rig or something similar. Safety first!

Rudy Gold Plus

My buddy and i pretty much built the same rig and shot this video, had tons of fun. thanks for the video. hope y'all dig it. vimeo.com/57907370

Shahid Surani

Creative indeed!! It's like creating 5D as small as a GoPro. Might consider designing a neck brace as well for support and comfort?

Johannes Mutter

Worries! I have built a simliar rig (weighing about 7 kg with all accessoires attached to it). Without neck protectors as we have used them from a snowboard company, you can break your neck easily through careless head and body movements (=you're dead). Chances are also great to seriously damage your backbone and intervertebral discs.
You should use a head mounted camera rig only in an controlled environment, if you have a well trained neck muscles (3 month of exercises are not enough) and if you use protectors that catch up uncontrolled energy!

johannesmutter.com/dslr-rig-v02.jpg

It's smarter to track your head movements and transfer this recordings (in realtime) to a motorized rig attached to your torso, but still in front of your face. Could save your life but also costs more …

Ben Williams

Buy a $399 GoPro, and use the other 2,000 you would have spent on a 5D Marl II + lens to take a vacation. Content is king.

Trin

Heh heh. I'd go for the gopro. Even the gopro is light years better than my D90.

Jason

Hmmm, I guess you will have problem on checking what you are shooting. You may need to have live view to adjust the installation and remote control to adjust settings of the camera. Remote control should be important if you are really working in that way. Maybe you need to check this website: weye-feye.com for a remote control/liveview with your cellphone.

Cyrille Horper

Hello,
just one question: I didn't know that it was possible to film "upside down" with the canon DSLR? Is that really possible?

Shiply

You look like an alien :). Great tricks.

Sean O'Toole

Haha crazy idea but some how works beautifully great job!!!

Portal Vision

Hi,

Does anybody know the measurements for the screws / bolts we need to build this to fit the monitor arm?

Thanks!

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