Shooting overhead video is an art; it takes a little more effort than simply holding your camera up in the air. If you’ve ever watched a cooking or crafting tutorial shot from above, you know that good overhead shooting helps your video look clean and professional. Want to try overhead shooting yourself? Read on to learn about the most effective ways to shoot overhead video.
Overhead Shooting Setups
Finding the right setup for shooting overhead video takes a bit of effort, but there are a variety of methods for doing so on any budget. Different setups require different filmmaking equipment to work properly, so choose the best option for you and your project. Some of the most effective ways to shoot overhead video are detailed below.
One of the most convenient ways to shoot overhead video is with a rig designed specifically for that purpose. These rigs usually have two or more legs with a bar running between them parallel to the ground which the camera is mounted on. You can place the rig on the ground or a table above your subject for easy overhead shooting. This type of rig is available as an overhead DSLR rig or a rig for your smartphone.
C-Stand and Boom Arm
Another professional overhead shooting setup uses a C-stand and boom arm. For this setup, you’ll need a C-stand, boom arm, monopod or tripod, and some sandbags. A C-stand, or a century stand, is a piece of filmmaking equipment designed to hold lights, mics, boom poles, and other film accessories. Attach your camera to your monopod or tripod, then attach that to the end of your boom arm. Position your C-stand close to where you’ll be filming and stabilize it with the sandbags. Then attach the boom arm with your camera to the C-stand and adjust the arm until your camera is positioned directly over your subject, and you’ll be ready to film!
For this method, all you need is your camera and a tripod tall enough to position the camera above your subject. Place the tripod as close as possible to your subject without its being in the shot. Then tilt the camera until it’s as close to a 90-degree angle as possible above the subject.
This overhead shooting setup uses a mirror positioned at an angle above the subject to help capture overhead footage. You’ll need a C-Stand, a large mirror, and a way to attach the mirror to the C-Stand. Always remember to stabilize the C-Stand with sandbags. Once you’ve attached the mirror to the C-Stand and adjusted it to the correct angle, you’ll be able to shoot the mirror from below to get your overhead shots.
Swing Arm and Clamp
If you’re on a tight budget, a less expensive alternative to these methods is to use a swing arm and clamp. Keep in mind, this method will only work if you’re using a smartphone or a very lightweight camera to shoot. A jointed arm with a clamp can be attached to a table, shelf, or other tall object to achieve an overhead angle.
Another similar and inexpensive method is to use a flexible tripod to film overhead shots. These tripods also work best with phones or lightweight cameras. The legs of a flexible tripod can be wrapped around objects such as beams, branches, or railings to position the camera at an overhead angle.
Professional Shooting Equipment Versus DIY Methods
As you’re learning about the different methods of shooting overhead video, you’re probably beginning to realize just how wide ranging they are. Some setups can be achieved with basic, relatively inexpensive filmmaking equipment that you probably already have in your collection, or even basic household materials. Other setups require specialized filmmaking equipment designed specifically for shooting overhead video. But is one option better than the other? It depends on a variety of factors, including whether you’re using a phone or a professional camera, the type of video you’re shooting, and your budget. While professional equipment is more advanced and convenient if you want and can afford it, a DIY method may work just as well in certain filming situations.
What To Consider When Choosing a Setup
In light of the many different methods of filming overhead footage, there are a few details you should consider before deciding on a particular setup.
First, determine what type of camera you’ll be filming with. Will you be filming with your smartphone, a point-and-shoot camera, or a DSLR camera? How large and heavy is your camera? If you’ll be shooting with a heavier camera like a DSLR, some of the DIY setups may not be able to support its weight. You’ll also need to ensure the phone or camera you’ll be using to film is compatible with your rig.
You’ll also need to know what type of lens you’ll be using on your camera during shooting. If you only have access to a wide lens but want to take a closeup shot, you’ll need to choose a setup in which your camera can be positioned close enough to your subject. If you’ll be using a closeup lens, pick a type of rig that positions your camera further from your subject.
Who or what will you be shooting? Will your subject be stationary, or will your rig need to be able to capture movement? The rig you would choose for filming a tutorial of a recipe will likely be different than one you’d need to shoot a human subject from above. Consider how easily you’ll need to be able to move the rig and choose accordingly.
When choosing an overhead shooting setup to try, don’t forget about your budget. Even if you’d like a fancy rig specifically designed for overhead shooting, that may not be immediately justifiable or necessary in the short run if your budget doesn’t allow for it. Use a more affordable option to shoot your videos. If you still need or want more advanced equipment, you can always upgrade later.
With so many ways to shoot overhead footage, it shouldn’t be hard to find at least one method that works for you. If none of the methods in this article work for you, don’t worry—all it takes is a little creativity, innovation, and the right film equipment to shoot overhead video well.