Saturday, May 07, 2011

Creative Process: Building Overhead Video Supports

Finished (but not painted) upright floor joist clamp and horizontal support bracket.

"I love it when a plan comes together."

I love the whole process, actually, from conceptualization to execution. I often fizzle before getting to execution, so it's particularly sweet when I get there. The creative process is no mystery. Processes are not generally a mystery, by definition.

Step 1: Have an idea, an urge, or a problem. Define it. I find it helpful to start with words.

Problem, I need a way to secure my expensive video camera over my work area while I'm shooting in the studio... I mean basement. 

Step 2: Ideation. This part has no tangible output. It's not something you can force, either. You just have to give yourself room to think about the problem. That usually means time. Don't try to think about it either, or at least don't keep trying. Do other things, especially menial things. Thoughts will come to you and you just need to let it happen. The danger is that you give yourself so much time that you stop thinking about it even subconsciously. It's hard to gauge, but eventually you get the hang of it.

Since I have Camera A shooting from the front, I don't want a tripod in the picture. Also want the camera looking straight down. First thought is to use bar clamps on the floor joists and suspend a rod or 2x2 between them, but that scared the dickens out of me. 

Step 2: Visualize the idea (thumbnail)

Step 3: Repeat ideation, then refine idea.

Enough to go on before shopping for materials. Bought stuff at Home Depot, and got to thinking. Why cut the 2x4 when it already came in a handy 92" length? It would be stronger and easier to handle if it was just one piece. Got to drawing again.

Step 4: Test your idea. In design and engineering it's called prototyping, but in all creative endeavors there are ways to mock up your idea and experiment with the things that bother you the most from your refined idea. What part would you like to validate?

Step 4: Begin working. Now you have to be a bit fearless. You need to be confident that as things progress you can solve unexpected problems. You have a plan, and that should give you courage. That all sounds touchy-feely, but it's the honest truth. Psychologically that's the state we're in (i.e., fear) at this stage. So, pshych yourself up and get at it.

I glued two pieces of 2x4 together to form the clamp, secured at the bottom with a bolt and tensioned with another bolt through the hole in the picture below. This way the upright support will come in just two pieces, and will be easier to handle, like I'd hoped.

Step 5: Solve problems and strive for simplicity.

In the drawings I had considered what to do with the two bolts going through the bracket. What I drew was a inset in the middle piece of wood. While working I realized this would be difficult to align, and I didn't need two bolts going through the clamp at the bottom. In fact, that might make the clamping less effective. So, first I cut the clamp short enough that it would be above the bolt. Then I realized that the bolts I'd gotten weren't long enough to go all the way through the 2x4 and the clamp anyway. I routed out the cavity that was going to be in the middle piece in the first place, but in the main board itself. Then I realized that with this design I could leave the clamp loosely joined to the main support and it can swivel down, making setup easier. Simple solutions tend to be more elegant.

Step 6: Finish. Don't stop. Don't skimp. Don't cut corners. Fight impatience. Don't be a perfectionist either. Get it done and let it be.

It worked! Set it up and called Desi down to see what I'd made. Just need to let the glue dry and paint it all white. Then I'll be done. The camera will be suspended from the horizontal 2x2 by a Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom. $35 on Amazon. 

Step 7: Enjoy your success. You did it!

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