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iFixit Teardown Camera Setup

Hey Everybody! I've been working on a top-down camera setup for documenting projects and teardowns. I'm looking for some input. What do you guys use?

I just implemented this rig the other day. So far, it has been working pretty well. I like this solution because it positions the camera square with the table and puts the camera up and out of the way. Having the camera at this elevation allows me to easily document my projects and do teardown timelapses. It also frees up my hands and lets me continue to use my swivel chair without hitting into a tripod. I control the shutter and video button with a remote trigger, so there's no vibrations from hitting a button on the camera. The camera arm also swings closed to it doesn't hit me in the head when I'm not using my camera.

I had a Kodak external flash unit sitting around from a brownie camera, so I just re-purposed the mount and attached it to a swinging aluminum tube sourced from a walker that was discarded. The walker would have went to landfill, and it's a nice aluminum tubing, so it really came into use. I'm using the rest of the walker to make a gimbal stand in the future.

What do you guys think? Thanks.

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Answer this question I have this problem too

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Looks great! We personally use tripods (and trip over them a lot), rather than the top-down view because we prefer the "first-person" feel, but top-down is a popular angle and it works well!

Our biggest fixation is light, and the elimination of shadows, so we have tons of lights on all sides, as well as a white backdrop for reflecting more light in on the device. We find limited shadows makes for better viewing and fewer distractions. The shadows on your Lumix shot (4th image) really aren't that harsh, but you can try using diffusers on your lights, or add more lights to eliminate those shadows.

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I think that reflections and flash problems are just an unavoidable problem with overhead photos. I've had that problem before, but with that being said my strategy for good photos isn't as thought out as this. What I normally do is put the item on my desk (which is brown), back off and zoom in as much as I can while retaining as much content as I can and keeping a distance so the flash bounce is minimized. It isn't perfect but the one space I'd have room to do that is taken up by my printer(s). I think the reflection problem usually lies with reflective parts with little to no room to break the light down. I still have it on larger reflective parts like optical drives, but it's nowhere near as bad. It seems to be worse if you use the camera's flash.

I do sometimes have cropping issues because of that, but it typically isn't bad enough to cause serious problems most of the time. If I know it'll be a problem I'll take a wider picture with less zoom and 2 close-ups and see which works better and retains the most content.

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So just for clarification, I was not focusing on perfect lighting for the 4th photo, I just quickly took it. I am still experimenting with lighting though. I am planning on using the diffuser sheets from broken LCD displays to get a wider, more even fill light. Sure, reflections and shadows are hard to minimize, but I am trying to reach that happy medium where the photo (or video) is not too full of contrast, but not so overexposed that it hurts my eyes to work :D.

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It seems like matte surfaces dither some of the light and deal with the problem better, as you can see here with this picture of the optical drive installed. While I had trouble with the first 2 pictures and decided to come in the middle, I had better luck with side shots, even with the flash.

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Yeah, sometimes shiny or patterned surfaces are tricky. I find that manually adjusting shutter is usually the best way to reduce such effects, but you can't always do that in video since 1/(2xframerate) = shutter speed. If you deviate shutter speed too greatly from this value, your footage results in unrealistic motion (footage looks sharp, even when shifting the camera suddenly).

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Awesome! Honestly it sounds like you already know what you're doing, I'd say just keep iterating! Great job on this!

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@salvagedcircuit looks absolutely awesome. I really love the idea of repurposing the old walker. Hopefully you'll post some drawings of this so I could replicate your build. Excellent idea!

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I'm glad you like it! It's rather a custom setup, but I'll attach some dimensions if you want. It was rather an easy installation. The walker already had a center-drilled hole collinear with the pipe, towards the middle of the bend radius, so all I really had to do was cut the desired length of pipe with a pipe tube cutter. I wanted to keep a few inches of bent tubing to give the arm a bit of structural rigidity. I was thinking of adding a second camera arm to my work table, but I realized that one was enough for filming setups. I do have that other segment measured though and I'll snag a quick photo.

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Anthony Kouttron will be eternally grateful.
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