How to build sliders and jibs: building two moviemaker must-haves in one easy project.
When MovieMaker’s managing editor, James Kaelan, challenged me to create a piece of gear using stuff from a hardware store, I immediately had two questions: Does it have to be just one piece of gear? And what would be most useful for readers? One thing that always adds value to any shoot is the ability to have smooth camera motion. Motion creates change in an image. Change catches the viewer’s eye—which is what we all want. Camera sliders offer a compact way to get horizontal motion. Jibs handle the vertical part of the equation. Of course, there are tutorials on the Internet for DIY sliders and jibs. But I couldn’t find one that netted both pieces from the same parts. So I put myself to work. After a cut finger and many trials, errors, and trips to Home Depot, I’m happy to share a project that can give you a great slider and a portable jib. To start, just check the tool lists and make sure you can get your hands on what you’ll need—especially the safety glasses. Next, take the shopping list to your local big box home improvement store to get the parts. Most are common items that even smaller hardware stores carry. Just try to get exactly what is specified because, wherever possible, I designed the gear around the existing properties of the parts in order to minimize the required modifications. If you have trouble finding the aluminum tubing, try a welding supply store. For the skate bearings, support your local skate shop or order online. (Even though many Home Depot stores now carry bearings, they charge more than ten times what skate versions cost.) Once you have all the parts, it’s time to build!
1. Cut a 9” long piece off of one of the 1” x 6” x 48” boards. Save the remainder of the board, just in case.
2. Cut your second 1” x 6” x 48” board in half, to create two 24” long boards.
3. Cut off two 9” lengths of the angle steel. After cutting, file off any sharp pieces of metal.
4. Find the center of your 9” wood board and drill a 3/8” hole through it. (Hint: If you have one, use a drill press or a guide to ensure that all the holes you drill are straight.)
5. Lay a 9” piece of angle steel over the long side of the board and mark the apex of the oblong holes that are closest to the edge of the board, as shown. Using the marks as a guide, measure 3/8” from the side of the board and drill two holes with a 5/16” bit. Repeat this process on the opposite side of the board.
6. Measure 2” from the end of the board and 1¼” from the side to mark a hole near the corner. Do the same to the other three corners of the board and drill 5/16” holes in all four.
7. Lay the angle steel on top of the board so that the side with the oblong holes aligns with the two holes closest to the edge of the board, while the other side of the steel sticks is perpendicular to the board. Put 5/16” x 1½” bolts through each of the oblong holes in the steel and press them through the holes in the wood. Use 5/16” washers and wing nuts to loosely secure. Repeat the same process with the second piece of angle steel.
8. Turn the board over, so that it rests on the edges of the two pieces of angle steel. Put 5/16” x 3” bolts with flat washers through the remaining four holes near the sides of the board. Then, turn the board over and secure the bolts to the bottom of the board using one washer and one 5/16” nut for each. If needed, push the angle steel pieces out toward the side of the board (the oblong holes should give you some wiggle room) to ensure that the washers from the 3” bolts do not pinch the edge of the steel. Wrench tighten the nuts on the 3” bolts.
9. Thread a second 5/16” nut onto the 3” bolt until it’s about ¾” down the shaft. Put a skate bearing onto the bolt, followed by a 5/16” jam nut. Adjust the nuts so that the bearing is secured as close to the end of the bolt as possible. Repeat this process for the other three bolts.
10. Put a 5/16” x 1” bolt through the end-most oblong holes on each perpendicular side of the angle steel. Secure each of the four bolts with a regular 5/16” nut, followed by a 5/16” jam nut. Making sure that the bolts are all flush with the ends and tops of the oblong holes in the angle steel (there will be some play), wrench tighten all nuts to lock them into place. Now, put a skate bearing on the end of each nut, followed by a jam nut and wrench tighten.
11. Using a metal-only bit, drill a ¼” hole roughly through the center of one side of one of the 8” angle brackets. Use a ¼” coarse thread tap to create threads in the hole so that it can eventually be mounted to your tripod camera plate. Measure and drill a second hole through bracket to align with your camera plate’s lock pin, if your camera plate has one.
12. Drill three 5/16” holes through two of the opposing walls of the square aluminum tubing, exactly ¼” from the bottom edge. Two of the holes will be 1” from each end of the tubing. The third hole will be 16” from one end. Repeat the same for the other length of square tubing. (Hint: A good wood drill bit will drill through aluminum.)
13. Thread regular nuts onto each end of one of the 5/16” x 12” threaded rods. Turn the nuts until each is approximately four inches from either end of the rod. Slide flat washers onto either end of rod so that they rest against the nuts. Now, feed the ends of the rod through the end holes you drilled in each section of aluminum tubing, so that you end up with a piece of tubing on either end of the threaded rod with the nuts and washers on the inside.
14. Using the pre-drilled middle hole in one of the angle brackets, slide it onto the threaded rod, followed by a 5/16” washer and a wing nut. Repeat with another bracket on the other side of the threaded rod. Turn both brackets so that angled ends are perpendicular to the aluminum tubes and hand tighten the wing nuts to hold them in place. Repeat steps 13 and 14 to create a second set of legs on the other end of the aluminum tubes.
15. Place the slider track on a flat surface so that it is supported by the hand-tightened angle bracket legs. Put your slider carriage on top of the track so that the horizontal bearings ride along the top of the tubing and the vertical bearings run along the inside of the track. If the carriage doesn’t immediately fit onto the track, turn the nuts on the threaded rod to adjust the amount of space between the tubes. Once the carriage is able to roll along the track, fine-tune the fit by continuing to adjust the nuts on the threaded rods. When the carriage slides easily from one end of the track to the other with the vertical bearings running along the sides the whole time, tighten all the nuts.
16. Using a 3/8” x 1 ½” coarse nut and washer in the center hole of the board, attach your tripod head to the carriage. Put your camera on the tripod head and test the sliding movement. If you want added stability for the base of the slider. Attach the bottom of the bracket legs to the 24” wood boards you cut earlier, by drilling ¼” holes that align with the bracket holes and securing with ¼” machine screws and wing nuts.
17. To convert the slider to a jib, start by taking your carriage off the rails and loosening the wing nuts that hold the angle brackets to the rails (as well as the nuts holding the foot boards, if you’re using them). Slide the rails off of the threaded rods.
18. Find the angle bracket that you had previously drilled holes in, attach it to your tripod plate and place it on your tripod head.
19. Thread a 5/16” x 3” bolt and washer through the bottom pre-drilled hole on the vertical side of the angle bracket you attached to your tripod. On the outside of the bracket add another washer and a regular 5/16” nut and wrench tighten.
20. Put a skate bearing on the bolt, followed by a jam nut. Stack ½” flat washers on over the jam nut so that the side of the washer stack rests against the skate bearing. Finally, slide the aluminum tubing on over the end of the bolt, using the hole you drilled 16” from the end. The side of the tubing should now press against the stack of washers. Thread a jam nut onto the bolt and finger tighten against the side of the square tube. Mirroring the other side, add the stack of three ½” washers, followed by another skate bearing and then a wing nut. Hand tighten the wing nut and you should now have a smooth moving fulcrum point for one of your square tubes. DIY_Image_6.tif – Caption: Skate bearings and washers make the jib’s motion smooth.
21. Using the pre-drilled hole at the top of the angle bracket, repeat steps 19 and 20 for the other square tube so that the tubes end up one over the other.
22. Attach single angle brackets to both ends of the square tubes, matching up the top and bottom pre-drilled bracket holes with the holes you drilled through the ends of the tubes. Use the same method in steps 19 and 20 to create the pivot bearings. All of the angle brackets should face the same way, relative to the tripod. Test the motion of the jib by moving it up and down using angle bracket on the short end of the tubing as a handle. Hand-tighten all wing nuts firmly.
23. Carefully attach your camera to the angle bracket on the long end of the jib, using a ¼” bolt or ball head camera mount that can be secured to the bracket through one of the pre-drilled holes. Test to ensure the camera is attached securely.
24. Using sand bags, water jugs or weights that hang off the opposite end’s angle bracket, balance the jib so that it remains level on its own.
The Shopping List.
2 – 1” x 1” x 48” Aluminum Square Tube (1/16” wall thickness) $39.08
1 – 1 ½” x 36” Slotted Angle Steel $7.98
2 – 1” x 6” x 4’ Board $6.64
36 – ½” Flat Washers $6.70
10 – 5/16” x 3” Coarse Thread Bolt $3.10
20 – Skate Bearing $24.00
14 – 5/16” Wing Nut $5.90
28 – 5/16” Flat Washer $3.50
4 – 8” Corner Brace $19.64
24 – 5/16” – 18 Coarse Jam Nut $2.85
4 – 5/16” x 1 ½” – 18 Coarse Bolt $ .80
18 – 5/16” – 18 Coarse Hex Nuts $1.34
2 – 5/16” x 12” Coarse Threaded Rod $2.34
4 – 5/16” x 1” – 18 Coarse Bolt $ .68
1 – 3/8” x 1 ½” Coarse Nut $ .25
1 – 3/8” Flat Washer $ .25
8 – ¼” x 1 ½” – 20 Machine Screws $2.36
8 – ¼” – 20 Wing Nuts $2.36
1 – ¼” x 3/4” – 20 Bolt $ .10
3 – ¼” Flat washer $ .30
2 – Gallon Jugs for Weights $2.00
- Safety glasses
- Measuring tape
- Electric drill
- ½ in. box wrench
- Adjustable wrench
- Wood saw
- Drill bits: 5/16”, 3/8” and ¼”
- ¼” – 20 Screw thread tap
- Sturdy tripod with a good head
- Small metal file
- Drill Press
- Combination Square
- Reciprocating Saw with a hacksaw blade
- Circular Saw
- Ballhead camera mount MM
This article first appeared in MovieMaker‘s Summer 2013 issue.
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