Category: Build Over Buy

DIY Boom Pole

DIY Boom Pole

The easiest and cheapest piece of filmmaking equipment I have ever made!

Boom poles will cost you anything from £80 to £200 depending on what material the pole is made of, its length, and if it has any advanced features like an internal XLR for what is essentially a long stick that holds a microphone. Filmmaking equipment is already an expensive niche so why does something so simple have to be so expensive?

Amazon Search Result for "Boom Pole" 2019
Amazon Search Result for “Boom Pole” 2019

My simple DIY solution is just a 2m broom pole and a 1/4 inch bolt. Total £10.25 broken down to £10 for the broom pole and 25p for the bolt.

Drill a hole at the top of the pole and put the bolt through, then attach your microphone holder onto it, and presto! One boom pole.

Problem, solution. THINK! I’ve seen students on my course fork out big bucks for a Rode Boom Pole only to try and sell it once they’re done with it, not knowing they could have saved all that money if they found another way of getting a boom pole in the first place.

Student Selling Boom Pole on Course FB Page
Student Selling Boom Pole on Course FB Page

Like a broken record I’m going to repeat my mantra on filmmaking equipment and the reason a lot of my gear is either DIY or second=hand. I follow two rules when it comes to growing my filmmaking arsenal; The Law of Diminishing Returns, and The Broken Hammer Analogy. The Law of Diminishing Returns is that the first £1000 you spend on equipment is going to do so much more for you than the 2nd £1000, or the 3rd £1000 and so on until you get to the 6th or 7th £1000 spent on equipment and it doesn’t do anything for you as you’ve already learnt so much from the very first instalment you invested. The Broken Hammer Analogy is taken from one of my favourite people Adam Savage, and it is so relevant it’s annoying when I see film students go against it, and the analogy is like this; go to a junk shop, thrift store, or charity shop and buy the cheapest, nastiest, and broken hammer there is. If you use that hammer every day on every project you do until it can be used no more, then you are entitled to purchase the fanciest new hammer there is. If you’ve only used the old hammer maybe a couple of times, then there is no reason for you to fork out on something expensive and fancy.

The boom pole is a prime example of the Broken Hammer Analogy – I am not a sound guy and never will be, I may only use my DIY Boom Pole a handful of times, therefore I have no reason to spend £80 and up on an actual Boom Pole. But if it turns out I use this DIY piece of kit at every shoot I go on, then I might be inclined to invest in something more professional – and thus the Law of Diminishing Returns then kicks in.

I’ve seen students purchase Drones, Gimbals, Boom Poles, Sliders, and all sorts of ‘unnecessary’ expensive filmmaking tools to only use them once or twice and shelve them indefinitely as they have no further use for them on a daily filming basis. They think “oh I NEED this expensive piece of gear therefore I MUST have it” without thinking how long they may use it for, what this investment will do for them in the long term, and if there are any alternatives. Identify your problem, find a solution, and THINK.

DIY Apple Box

DIY Apple Box

Apple Boxes are tools used in filmmaking to serve many purposes. But quite simply, they are just wooden boxes with handles.

Apple boxes are used all over film sets to prop up or support equipment, furniture, or people. A collection of apple boxes can be used to level dolly track, while a single apple box could be used to steady a C-stand or lighting setup. A lot of the time, however, they are used to give height to an actor, or as a quick and easily accessible stool.

Due to their constant use in film, apple boxes have a standard for their dimensions.

  • Full Apple is 20″x 12″ x 8″
  • Half Apple is 20″ x 12″ x 4″
  • Quarter Apple is 20″ x 12″ x 2″
  • Pancake is 20″ x 12″ x 1″

This modular design allows for combinations of sizes for different set applications. In short, an apple box can come in very handy on a film set, which is why I decided to build my own.

On the market, apple boxes range from £50 to £150! Film equipment is already an expensive niche but to charge that much for what is essentially a glorified crate is outrageous! And as it is such a simple design with standardised measurements, it is an easy piece of kit to make. Additionally, apple boxes don’t have to be pretty; and even if they were, they would only get battered when used on set – which is why building it out of scrap wood was an added bonus.

Scrap Wood

So, taking two sheets of scrap ply from the shed, I began measuring and cutting the pieces. I used the unpainted piece for the top and bottom of the box as it would give a nice finish when sanded, and the blue piece for all the sides. Further, the bare piece of ply was the perfect size to get two cuts of 20″ x 12″ with only one strip of waste.

The box needs to have a handle on one of its sides – this is usually done by having two channels cut into the front piece. I cut four holes using a brace and bit and then connected them with a jigsaw.

Scrap Wood - Handles

The whole box is fitted together using screws and glue. I used 8×1″ screws, spaced at 3″ intervals. This in itself gave the box a really nice look. But because these boxes are used and abused on set, their finish, joining methods, and look aren’t important – only their function. They must be strong enough to hold substantial weights and pressures without bowing. In my case, the use of ply made it incredibly strong due to its layers, and the amount of screws used added to its structural integrity.

Some apple boxes you will see online will choose to hide their joining methods by using biscuits or brads, while others may choose to exhibit their aesthetics by using comb joints and routing the edges or corners. This is probably why apple boxes become so expensive online.

This piece of filming equipment is a great example of building over buying. Apple boxes are incredibly simple to make, and if you already have scrap wood lying around and a method of joining them together, an apple box is incredibly cheap to make.

DIY 3rd Person Over-The-Shoulder Rig

DIY 3rd Person Over-The-Shoulder Rig

Using PVC pipe, I have built a body-mounted camera rig which gives a unique over-the-shoulder perspective when used.

This was a really fun build and took around twenty minutes from start to finish. The components are easy to work with and incredibly cheap, with the solvent being the only thing over £5 – but I used so little of it that its expiration date isn’t for another 10 years, so it’s a pretty good investment. The design comes from Indy Mogul and follows the same building process outlined in their instruction video. But anyone who wants to build the same or similar rig I definitely encourage you to do so; you may not use it often, but it’s a great accomplishment to build your own equipment.

Indy Mogul - PVC Over Shoulder Rig
Indy Mogul’s Build Instructions

Each rig is built to the size of the wearer and what angle you want the camera to be at. These are Indy Mogul’s original instructions for the sizes of each part and their assembly:

Using 1/2″ (21.5mm) PVC pipe (it’s bigger than that, but that’s what it’s called), cut the following 13 lengths of pipe:
-(6) 1.25″ pieces (These are to connect fittings together. When inserted, the two fittings will cover the entire piece.)
-(2) 8.25″ pieces for the tall, vertical sides of the rectangle
-(2) 2″ pieces for the short, horizontal sides of the rectangle
-(1) 12.25″ piece for the long camera support arm
-(1) 5.75″ piece for the short camera support arm
-(1) 4.5″ piece for the camera support column

Bag Strap HooksTo attach the finished rig to the body, I used three adjustable shoulder-bag straps I found at my local charity shop. Being shoulder-bag straps, both ends have clips, where one is fixed, and the other is on an adjustable loop. To use these straps on the camera rig, the fixed clip needs to be cut off, whilst the clip on the other end needs to be taken off. This leaves the strap with the adjustable loop and buckle intact which you’ll need when you want to change how tight the rig rests on you when its worn.


Fold over 3″ of the strap from where the clip was cut off, this is how it will be connected to the rig. This loop is sewn around the top pipes using a blanket stitch. To make sure they would not slide down the rig, I took a scrap piece of pipe and used that for the sizing of the loop and made sure it was a tight grip.


When gluing the rig together, the first pieces I permanently stuck together were the top pieces (two 90° connectors and one 2″ horizontal piece). This was due to the strap loops being made and sewn before any assembly of the rig, so they could slide snugly on the much larger diameter 90° connectors, ensuring the straps would not move down the rig at a later time.

With these steps taken, it’s then a simple matter of assembling the rig together. Mimic the top horizontal bar first and feed it through the two adjustable loops of the straps at the bottom so that they are part of the rig during assembly. That way, you don’t have to dismantle the rig part way through to add back in the straps.

Two fully adjustable straps fixed to the top horizontal bar of the rig

When using the PVC solvent that bonds the pieces together, it sets almost immediately leaving you very little time to adjust if there’s a mistake. So make sure you mark up the parts in the places they go beforehand and only glue when you’re 100% certain.

When the rig is fully assembled, the straps will begin to slide up from the bottom. To make sure they remain at the base of the rig but continue to be adjustable, drill two holes in the base with enough room for the two straps to be side-by-side. Feed a small length of string through the holes and around the straps and tie it in place to secure the straps from sliding up the rig.

After the two shoulder straps are in place, the last strap to add is the hip strap. Again this was found at a charity shop and luckily for me was twice the width of the shoulder straps making it perfect for use as the waist strap. It also had a large buckle too! This strap weaves through the vertical sides of the rig, and to make sure it doesn’t slide up or down, the same approach from the bottom is added to the sides, where two holes are drilled, and string is used to secure it.


I built this rig specifically for the Chalke Valley History Festival. Prior to the event, we we tasked with pitching ideas for additional video content, and I put forward the plan for a third-person video of historical reenactors. The video would look like a video game with a Heads Up Display and mission objectives and cover various time periods. But the rig ended up being used for so much more – just to give a variety in shot type when making videos for the festival.

Over Shoulder Rig (1)
Rig being used by historical farmer

The rig was a resounding success – it’s strong and durable, lightweight, and gives a fantastic shot from my GoPro. And thanks to the adjustable straps, the rig can fit on people of any size. It’s a lovely talking point too, for when I was wearing it at the Chalke Valley, people pulled me aside to ask what it is and how I had built it.