Using the body rig

Constructing the body rig was quite the challenge in itself, but actually wearing the body rig took some getting used to as well! 

At first, before the many adjustments that were made to the body rig, it was incredibly awkward and heavy, and refused to stay in place. Walking around with it on was impossible without supporting it myself with my hands or my arms pinning it to my body, which does not make a very effective tool! But we found solutions, as outlined in the blog below, to all the issues that we faced, and the final product was very sturdy, practical and easy to use. 

Before we perfected it, though, walking around with it proved difficult. Walking down the steps caused the rig to fall down, and even just walking at all caused the phone to droop down instead of facing my face. It kind of defeats the purpose of a body rig if you have to constantly adjust it to make it face in the proper direction, so we decided we should definitely find a way to fix that problem.

Once the body rig was fully assembled and we were satisfied with how it worked, it was time to put it to use. Now, I’m not a photographer, I don’t have a video blog, and I’ve never been involved with any sort of film production, so it was my first time using, or even seeing a body rig, so it was really strange to use at first. I felt a bit silly walking around outside with it at first with people and neighbours around, but it ended up being so fun to use that eventually I didn’t even care. It was sturdy enough not to fall down when I was walking down stairs, spinning in circles, or jogging. And it was really interesting to see how well it worked at keeping the focus on my face and not the background.

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Though it is not something I would use very often, especially a professional one costing $1000, it would be super useful for amateur video bloggers on YouTube looking to add some diversity to their videos – instead of sitting in their bedroom talking at the camera, a vlogger equipped with a $20 makeshift body rig could make more interesting videos outdoors or around the house. 

And hey, in this day and age when Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are so popular and filled with awkward mirror selfies and photos from strange, high angles that are obstructed by the taker’s arm, a body rig could become the ultimate selfie machine! 

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– Kim Maunder

Finished Tweaking – End Result

We added a fixed support rod for the flexible lamp head to solve the problem of it slumping down with time and movement. If we had time for further prototypes, our hypothesis is that the supports could be pushed further with clamps. This would allow it to take advantage of the flexibility of the lamp head with the stability of the support rod.

We were glad we made the switch from the pivoting mirror to the flexible lamp head. With the flexible head, we could move it a little forward so it could be easily reachable by the wearer whether they had long arms or short arms. The rig could be operated entirely by the wearer without helpers.
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Floppy Camera

Small problems:
After assembling and making more improvements, we took the body rig outside for a test run in the elements. We noticed the fixture for holding the iPhone, an old lamp head removed from the base, continued to flop down over time. We liked the lamp head because it would articulate to different positions but it wasn’t stable enough to hold the various positions for long. It wasn’t focusing on the face as we desired if the wearer moved around with it.

This is what the footage looked like with the floppy camera. It wasn’t ideal and it was clear that we had to continue to make a few changes to our prototype.

Prototypes – The Process of Assembling and Testing

After laying everything out on the table, we knew the broom handles would become the rig’s main arms but they required something to hold them together. We found bendable steel cable from Dollarama marketed as a bungy cable that worked well for this purpose. We looped the cable through the end of the handle and twisted for a strong connection. They also served well as the shoulder straps when attached to the broom’s length. We had to try a few times to get proper placement for the shoulder straps. Too short meant the camera would be too close to the wearer’s face and too far meant it would be imbalanced. Our next step was to work on the pivoting head that would hold the camera.

Building the head:
mirror We decided not to use the iPhone holder we purchased as it was too ready made. Instead, we used a piece of plastic packaging. Velcro strips attached to a mirror and the rectangular plastic piece would allow the wearer to move the iPhone to different angles. However, we discovered that the iPhone’s weight was too much for a single strip of velcro so we had to make a bigger surface area to prevent it from dipping forward at the top. We also used elastics to secure the iPhone after we discovered that the phone would fall out if it was tilted at an angle for too long.

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The mirror’s plastic stand could pivot to allow us to angle the camera properly for different heights but it was too heavy for the steel cable. We had to improve the strength somehow so we tried using a metal wall bracket but the bracket was too narrow to hold the end of the mirror without it shifting to the side with any movement. Due to this, we used the adjustable neck of a lamp instead of the mirror base; it was an appropriate width so we could attach it solidly with duct tape.

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The base:
We decided we needed a third support to make it more like a tripod against our body. We removed the chamois end of a small dusting broom; it had a triangular plastic piece that could sit against the wooden cutting board we decided was necessary for rigidity. We cut a piece of a doormat in half and tried attaching both lengths together with velcro in order to wrap entirely around the body. This was a little tricky because the velcro was so incredibly sticky that once it was placed, it couldn’t be moved around. We wasted a full length of the velcro trying to vertically attach it in just the right location. However, after several attempts, we figured out where to place the velcro so it would fit the wearer’s waist and hips. In a future prototype, we would definitely use adjustable belt clips so it would fit more than one wearer. Our next step was fusing the cutting board to the carpet with duct tape to ensure a solid base structure.
Once the carpet base and the rig were attached to each other, this helped create a strong and wearable body rig. waistsupport

Materials

materialsThe items we purchased from Dollarama for our rig included two broom sticks, a dusting pole, a shelving bracket, velcro, an adjustable mirror, a wooden cutting board, and a door mat. We collected other materials from Angela’s garage including tent pole supports, a bicycle hitch, a large hinge of hanging televisions, legs from a broken chair, a towel rod and duct tape. Of those found items, we only used two tent pole supports from a child’s tent, and the duct tape.

Brainstorming

We brainstormed of ideas for our project. Initially we were considering a tripod. That idea morphed a few times, and we discussed some kind of articulated tripod capable of swinging the camera around for different angles. Eventually our conversation turned to using an iPhone as a smart phone is something that most people have available to them. How could we take unique footage with a phone? We thought of putting an iPhone in a hamster ball within a hamster ball, and did a lot of brainstorming about how to suspend the phone so that as the ball was rolled around, it wouldn’t be flung against the plastic or dislodged. The idea wasn’t quite right.

snorriLater we decided to make a version of a body rig device also called a “Snorricam”. This type of rig  produces a face-on shot of the person wearing it while the background is a swirl of motion as they walk around and move. It creates a sense of tension because the viewers aren’t able to see what the rig-wearer is viewing; we are only privy to their facial expressions. This idea clicked with us immediately! These rigs can cost thousands of dollars. We hope to produce one with Dollarama materials and junk we have laying around the house.
Image credit: Photo by Benjamin B for thefilmbook