Overhead Camera Setup for Drawing

Overhead Camera Setup for Drawing


Hey, Eric here with 30 by 40 Design Workshop,
today we’re gonna do a quick video on my overhead sketching setup, a lot of people have been
asking: what do I use? how do I set it up? I thought I’d take you to the other side of
the lens and show you a couple of really simple ways I use to do this. Okay so this is kind of my preferred setup
here. DSLR: this is the 70d I also have the 6D mark
2 – then it’s a tripod and this is the Manfrotto 055 this has a center column which moves up
and cantilevers out and that allows me to position the camera directly over the work
surface. Now this has a video head on it the video
head allows me to tilt the camera up and down but you don’t need something certainly this
fancy though. The important thing with this is getting the
camera directly over the work surface and you want the plane of the camera’s sensor
to be parallel with the work surface here and the reason for that is if you were to
tilt this camera out of vertical plane here it ends up skewing the work surface. You can see – as you’re recording – this is
actually upside down, so when I get this into post, into Final Cut Pro, I’m going to end
up rotating this 180 degrees so it looks like it’s right side up if you skew the camera
like this it skews the work plane of the work surface and then when I rotate it 180 degrees
it looks like it’s upside down it looks awkward it’s difficult to watch. Now one of the other reasons why I like using
a DSLR is because I can put a lens on here – a zoom lens – that allows me to change the
framing of this. This column here allows me to bring the camera
far enough away from the legs that I can capture a fairly large work surface. If you only have access to a small tripod,
like this, oftentimes you’ll get these tripods free with a – with a camera purchase and you
want to mount your camera in here you’re gonna need to find a way to tilt the back leg up
so you can position your camera like this so that it’s not capturing the front two legs
here. Having the center column is nice because it
allows you to counterweight and counterbalance this so that your camera can be very far away
from these legs and it gives you a lot of working room. The other components of the tripod that make
this work you can see I have a bungee cord here and if I didn’t have that bungee cord
you can see how the center column and the weight of the DSLR just basically unweights
the entire tripod so all this does is keeps it from tipping over and I have a chair there
with a backpack that has some stone samples in it so it’s acting as a counterweight. That allows me to move this camera very far
forward and I don’t have to worry about the field of view here. Changing the field of view with a zoom lens
is really nice it allows you to focus and recompose and also it helps with the diversity
of shots that you can get because you can get real tight shots and real wide shots of
your work surface here. Okay so the next component here is a light. This is the Aputure 120D this is a daylight
balanced single source LED light this is paired with the Light Dome that is creating this
large diffuse light element here which is nicely illuminating this work surface. When you’re thinking about lighting you want
to think about the direction of light and also the hand with which you’re sketching. So being a right-handed person ideally this
light would be coming from this side I want you to be able to see it that’s why I’ve positioned
it here. If you’re left-handed this is a great direction
because it illuminates your work surface without casting a lot of shadows on to what you’re
actually drawing. It may actually be counterintuitive but you
actually do want some level of shadow on the drawing. If you were to completely diffusely light
this work surface so that there were no shadows it’s actually gonna appear unnatural. So you want to evenly illuminate the surface
but you also want to have some directionality to that light. If you don’t have access to a light like this
and this is a pretty expensive light, you can just position your desk near a window
or a door. So natural daylight is the best light source
you can possibly find but it can be difficult to control that if you have bright direct
sunlight and the shadows are very harsh you get a very contrasty look. So what’s nice is being able to have some
diffusion membrane you can actually hang a piece of paper up in front of that if the
bright sunlight is too much or you can control it in some other way with some Mylar, sheeting,
or something like that. Okay next we’re gonna talk about work surface
here. This is one of my all-time favorite work surfaces
this is the self-healing cutting mat made by Alvin. It’s got two colors there’s a green side to
it which I don’t use very often and the black side here. I think one of the best cases for choosing
this cutting mat as a surface is it helps you to align the field of view with your camera’s
sensor so having these gridlines allows you to tilt and turn and make sure that you’re
perpendicular to the field of view in your lens. Think about contrast when you’re choosing
a background. With the Kraft paper I really like the black
the black also works well with white or cream-colored sketch paper there’s also natural wood surfaces
and textures, there’s melamine, MDF, there’s MDO, there are veneer plywoods, there are
tile samples, there’s the concrete floor, which I absolutely love. Neutral surfaces that provide contrast to
your sketching media are really the best that you can find. So this setup is probably the top of the line
setup. You have an expensive tripod, you have an
expensive DSLR, you have an expensive lens, you have an expensive daylight balanced LED
light, but you don’t need all this gear to record an overhead sketching video of yourself. Let’s look at another option. So the less expensive alternative. Now this is a friction arm. Now I use this for recording things above
my drafting table here so I have my computer set up here but this is also a great place
for me to just sit and sketch and also I can record my computer screen if I tilt it the
right way. So you can see, right here, this is a friction
arm that’s mounted to the loft framing member and I’ll show you how I did that in a minute. So the difference here is we have to use a
much lighter weight setup to work with the friction arm. The friction arm is essentially a floppy articulating
set of joints: there’s a joint here, here, and here, and there’s a c-clamp on one end. You have the ability to take the c-clamp off
which exposes this threaded screw here and this can be screwed into a threaded nut which
I’ve then drilled into the framing members up here. Now that threaded nut can be drilled into
Homasote, it can be drilled into wood paneling, it can be drilled into a 2×4, that you just
sort of prop up somewhere, so it’s really versatile. But the way this friction arm works is that
there’s a crank here and when you crank down on this it locks all of the articulating joints
for moving. The c-clamp allows you to mount these friction
arms almost anywhere. So you can see here I used the C clamp just
to mount to the tip of a microphone boom that I picked up on Amazon these boom arms are
about 15 dollars each, I’ll put all the links in the cards for all of these materials. Pair that with the friction arm and a mount
for your smartphone and you have a really simple quick effective way of recording your
process. Interesting thing about the friction arm is
that allows you to get into places and capture perspectives that you wouldn’t be able to
capture with the DSLR because the DSLR is so bulky. They make larger friction arms but none so
large as to hold say a full frame 6D Mark 2 – like I’m recording on here. So really these are geared toward sort of
smartphones and smaller sensor cameras. But they actually work fine just for documenting
your work in a real basic fashion. So these are inexpensive enough that you can
grab three or four of them and position them all around. And chances are you probably haven’t even
noticed them in the studio. I have one on the opposite loft, I have one
here and then I have one on a light stand which just allows me to mount a whole series
of cameras and capture process, that’s what’s cool about these that you know just popping
your cell phone in one and hitting record is so easy now that really there is no excuse
not to record and document your process. Alright so I hope this video was helpful I
hope you found something here that you can take and go make things with. Gear is not important at all, it is what you
do with the stuff you have on hand. So please go out there and make things and
we’ll see you again next time. Cheers my friends!

100 thoughts on “Overhead Camera Setup for Drawing

  1. Pics + gear details here: https://thirtybyforty.com/blog/how-i-record-overhead-sketching-videos

  2. Hello, just found this. Super cool and have always wanted to do this. Do you think I can still do alot through Landscape Architecture? Or do you think I will be disappointed by the limits of the job. I want to design not just exteriors but also interiors.

  3. thanks for the work reinholdt! Keep it up – you have absolutely inspired me to go my own path. Thank you!

  4. I was trying To do a setup with my Phone but it was even not a little bit professionnal. Thanks for the video and the link for the parts.
    Forgot the C clamp ! D'oh !
    I have the knowledge, motivation and the capacity of doing great project but lacks media presence. Your vids come at a great time for me and my practice. Keep up the great work!

  5. I think this is the best video I’ve come across to record top down. I appreciate the details of lighting tips mentioned!!!!! And alternate ways to create this setup!!!!! Thank you!

  6. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for such awesome video!
    I have one noobie question: how did you make this cool effect in the very end with camera moving(like pan effect)?

  7. Hi, could someone help me please? I would like a tripod which enables me to record my drawings. I have recently purchased a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera. Which type of tripod or which feature do I look for when buying a tripod, to allow the centre column to extend over head? Most of what I have been looking at on Amazon do not mention about centre columns etc. Does anyone have any recommendations for a cheap one? Unfortunately the Manfrotto tripod is way out of my price range 🙂

  8. Great video! Although my 18-200 canon lens is not possible to lock in a certain needed position like a particular width of the lens. And 50mm would be too tight (I have canon 70d). So say if to film something handmade probably phone with some rigs would be the only option.

  9. you just helped me out a ton. Im a start recording my music production with these tips. Ty again i just subbed and turned on notifications. I wanna learn how to draw also and you seem like the person to watch.

  10. This is exactly i wanted to know. I'm an architect so i totally like this kind of instruction haha. Also an aspiring illustrator wantng to record my process . Thank you

  11. Thanks for explaining what happens when you rotate 180 degrees and the camera head is tilted while recording. I needed to understand that.

  12. Oh my gosh…I’ve been using these tripods for years and I never thought of putting the front two legs ON the table! Brilliant! 🤯

  13. Vanguard Tripods are cheaper They won the best design awards for the center column to cantilevers out that was their concept for a way to position your tripod in any hard location for photography even you can take the center column out and mount it upside down so you can get an angle that even tiny short tripods cannot do where the only way to get that low is to prop your camera on the ground with a sandbag under heavy lenses but your camera body is on the ground. I have a Vanguard Alta pro it comes with tilt-shift head for photography but not for video but you could still get a video head to pan and tilt. You can still use the head it comes with to tilt just doesn't have the handle to pan with… Another reason why I like Vanguard is it has a hook so you can hang a sandbag the weight down without using the bungee cord. The legs lock in different positions not just in one open position 
    Friction arms and super clamps can be bought for DSLR cameras they just cost a lot more.

  14. Hack – If you don't have a tripod like this simply use a fordable ladder and your normal tripod. Then also use a sand bag. Then tie the sand bag with the legs of the tripod. Then put the tripod on the ladder horizontally. Simple.

  15. Thanks really helpful that work also for keyboard player or beatmaker like me MANY Thanks for all the tips

  16. I got a camera jib and realized that it was perfect for this. Plopped a pan-tilt head on the end to make it point straight down and voila!

  17. What it exactly called the tripod.
    Because I search on Amazon and flipkart as overhead tripod but it doesn't shown the right tripod. Plz rpl. It's request

  18. hi this video is really helpfull for a begginer like with small budget..im starting with my phone and loved the idea of boom stand with phone mount.so how can we attach the phone mount to boom stand??using a thread adapter or something??pls help.and how to edit videos recorded on phone for better output.mine is cooking videos top down mostly

  19. Hi there. A great video you've made here. Thank you so much!
    I am new to YouTube videos and was wandering what software you use to create your videos. I have a MacBook Pro and a Logitech C922 webcam. Thank you again!

  20. Great video! Thanks! Do you like using your phone or regular camera more? I stress over the video recording the whole time and not shutting off in the middle. This has happened then I feel like I need to check the camera every 2 sentences! Uhg. Also do you store all of your videos once recorded in case you tube deletes them? Thanks!! Great video!!!!

  21. Thanks for your video. It would be great to have a tripod with a clamp so you could attach it to the desk… 🤔

  22. right at the end you showed a light stand? total newbie here trying to learn lol can you show me this set up with the light stand please? does it have the swival clamp thing on it too? 🙂

  23. Thank you!! Finally recording drawings and calligraphy. Setting up was the hard part before I found this video. I will have to get that light source as well. I have been eye balling it for months now. Lol. Thanks for the detailed video.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing this! Its helping! Does it film upside down? I'm a total novice. I need software that will flip it back. I don't have anything except a camera and standard tripod and do not use apple.

  25. I personally find drawing on a flat table most uncomfortable and being stooped over is not good. I'm trying to find a setup with an easel and a camera.

  26. what would be the solution for the over had angle on the camera if the desk is up against a wall in front of a window?

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