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Brainstorming - how to best hold camera 18 feet above the ground.

  1. Sep 2, 2013 #1
    I take high speed videos of tennis strokes for analysis. One of the best and most informative camera vantage points for observing the tennis serve is from above the server.

    Here is an example of one of the rare high speed videos available taken with the camera above the server.

    Unfortunately, the difficulty of locating the camera about 8-10 above the server, or 10-20 feet above the ground, has resulted in hardly any such videos being available on the internet. A 'cherry-picker' of course would be ideal but otherwise how could a high support be made cheaply, quick and easy to assemble on a tennis court, and above all, safe for supporting a camera over a tennis player.

    Camera support -

    1) Hold 8 oz camera
    2) Position 18-20 feet above the ground.
    3) Use cheap structural materials, antenna masts, 2 X 4s, PVC, etc. [Heavy PVC pipes are too flexible in 10 ft lengths.]
    4) Be easy to erect.
    5) Offset from server - The camera and supports must be, say, minimum 4 feet away from the server. Preferably behind, mostly out of sight.
    6) The camera must be started on the ground and positioned within a short time, say, one minute. An approximate framing method is OK as there will be no viewing of the camera's LCD screen.
    7) Most of all is safety, no heavy steel pipes, etc., up high where they could fall, no set-up that could have a tip-over risk, etc..

    I once had a similar problem at work. I wanted to support, adjust & point crudely a mirror about 15 feet above the ground to look back along a projectile's trajectory. As I recall the set up was -

    1) a tripod of 14-foot 2" X 6" legs. It could be carried by one person and set up for support at a height of about 10 feet. The tripod legs extended beyond where they were hinged together. Legs held together with a chain.
    2) the mirror was on a longer pole that nestled in the other tripod legs extended. You could crudely rotated the mirror from the ground. Mirror alignment was very cumbersome and took time.

    In this 2-structure design, a supporting point was placed about 10 feet (or higher?) above the ground. That made it easier to have the second support hold the mirror another 5 feet above, at total of 15'. This structure was made of heavier but still portable pieces. This approach is often used in commercial equipment to support microphone booms, a tripod and boom.

    I'm considering this hard point support and then a pole somehow to hold the camera.

    Closely associated with lighting supports -

    Search: boom tripod pictures

    The option of getting one of those robotic helicopters that are being used with cameras is too expensive and requires a learning curve. But it is a great approach.

    Any other ideas?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2013 #2


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    How about a Quadcopter?
  4. Sep 2, 2013 #3


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    I would use cables.
  5. Sep 6, 2013 #4
    Here is the professional answer:

    http://www.eurocameracranes.com/admin/fck/img.php?cat=NEWCAT&name=DVC200_gallery.jpg [Broken]

    You might be able to rent one of these from a photography store, if you live near a big city. I'd recommend against starting the camera before having it up - that kind of quick setup is when a camera crane is most likely to fall. Better is to have a remote control of some kind, and a wire out of the camera to a monitor so you can see what you are shooting. (No need for anything fancy like HDMI, a long RCA cable is fine for monitoring.) You MUST have someone standing next to the crane at all times to grab it if it starts to tip - preferably not the same person watching the monitor & talent.

    Cancel the shoot if there are even moderately strong winds.

    The crane will cast a prominent shadow and will need to be facing the sun. Check where the sun is at various times of the day, and plan the time/day of the shoot accordingly.

    If you try to build something, a 2x4 this long will be very heavy and will wiggle enough to be a problem. Remember that stiff does not always mean strong!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Sep 7, 2013 #5


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    I guess there are telescopic poles used for photography but they are also used for swimming pools. Either way, rigging something that allows you to pivot the camera up and down from the end of a pole seems straightforward. The big issue is probably knowing where your camera is pointing. Maybe you could put a laser pointer on that follows the camera so you know where the center of your picture is going to be?
  7. Sep 10, 2013 #6


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    Tubes are OK but they need to be large diameter or they will flex. They also have solid shadows.
    To avoid shadows you need to use an ultra-light skeletal structure like a truss.

    I have built spindle = fusilla shaped poles from thin material. I used three compression rods bound together at both ends, with an internal hoop spacer in the middle. I then wound Kevlar fibre around the compression members in crossed left and right spirals. This makes a regular lattice on the fusilla faces. I then painted the Kevlar with epoxy resin. The spacer hoop may be removed once the epoxy has set.

    Under compression it wants to expand in girth but it is restrained by the crossed diagonal Kevlar fibres. These diagonals constrain the movement of the compression rods and so make it possible to use very thin compression members. When hit by a ball it should flex and recover. Wood will flex significantly but then snap, consider bamboo. Aluminium or steel rod can be bent back if it is deformed. Carbon fibre, Kevlar and GRP rods as used for tent poles and fishing rods are also available.

    Once hardened, paint it “Mountbatten Pink” and it will be less noticeable.
    Because the elements are all thin it does not cast solid shadows.

    A fusilla is not the only shape possible. A four rod tetrahedron with line ends and a central bulge, or any spaceframe is possible.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  8. Sep 18, 2013 #7


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    A lot of courts already have 30 feet tall masts for night lighting, right? Won't it be easier to string cables between these existing structures?
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