Category Archives: DIY

I Made A Futuristic DIY LED Commuter Backpack

Here’s a fun little project for anyone who would like to be a little more visible at night when commuting on a bike, skateboard or personal electrical vehicle. With the help of my friend Landon, we put together a super affordable, DIY LED Backpack kit that can be applied to just about any backpack that you may already own. Please note, you’ll need some basic tools and electrical skills to put something like this together.

I chose to use my classic Lowepro 650 camera backpack. It is extremely comfortable to wear with plenty of storage room for camera gear, a laptop and other miscellaneous items. It’s also my favorite pack to wear when cycling or skating because it feels very balanced across my back.

For the LED lights, we went with these super bright COB LED lights that measure about 7″ x 1″. They are extremely lightweight, waterproof and have a clean design that doesn’t scream cheap LED’s. They are also aggressively bright at full power but can be tamed using a dimmer which I’ll get to in a moment. To attach the lights to the bag, I used standard adhesive velcro strips along with fabric glue to reinforce the bond.


2x Super Bright White COB Car LED Lights 12V

We used four 18650 Li-Ion cells to power the lights which might seem like overkill, but provide some serious long lasting work life. Additionally, I’m using the Nitecore i2 smart charger which is an affordable but high quality charger that’s compatible with a wide array of Li-Ion bateries.


LG HE4 2500MAH High Drain 35A IMR 18650 Battery


Nitecore New i2 Intellicharge Universal Smart Battery Charger for 18650 Li-Ion

The batteries are connected in series using a generic 18650 cell case to output about 16.8v. That may seem like too many volts to push to the 12v lights which is why I opted to use a dimmer control with a 12v regulator.


Battery Holder Storage Box Case For 4x 18650

The best part of this build is the ability to control the lights wirelessly using a small RF controller. Since it’s an RF signal, it’s able to pass through the bag easily and has a long controlling distance. Other features include custom brightness levels, dynamic modes and speed adjustment for dynamic modes.


12V Mini Wireless RF Remote Controller Dimmer Control

I just ordered another set of lights but this time with red LED’s which I’ll wire to the back of the bag as a rear stoplight. It’s really easy to get creative by combining a wide variety of backpacks and COB LED colors while also remaining safe and visible when riding at night. If you have any questions or suggestions for this build, hit me in the comments below.

How to Survive a 24 Hour Film Shootout

The YPSI 24-Hour Shootout is a popular filmmaking competition that asks teams of filmmakers to produce a short film in the span of 24 hours. At the start of the shootout, several “ingredients” are announced. They may include a line of dialog, a prop, a location, or any other requirement for the film being produced. This element forces teams to think on their feet. As a filmmaker who has participated in two YPSI24 events, I’ve put together a few tips to help you survive this intense experience.

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A pre-determined style or technique will help inform your script.

TESTING THE WORKFLOW
Before each 24 hour shootout, I think about a style that would be challenging to implement in 24 hours. A pre-determined technique will also force you to create a story that will fit within the parameters that you set. At this year’s YPSI24, I wanted to execute a continuous one take shot across multiple locations. This would be extremely challenging without testing so I experimented with a range of equipment to create the right recipe. Too much equipment would bog us down and too little gear would compromise the production value.

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The unsung hero – my cheapo $80 fisheye lens for the GH4.

Our main gear list included my trusty Birdycam Lite gimbal, the Panasonic GH4 and a super cheap $80 CCTV Micro 4/3 8mm f3.8 Fisheye Lens that I bought off eBay. My goal was to shoot 4k with a very wide focal length that I could defish in post if necessary. The lens provided a very interesting image that simulated surveillance footage while also giving off some interesting flaring effects against the sunlight.

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8mm f/3.8 Fisheye CCTV Lens for Micro 4/3 Cameras

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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Sometimes enthusiasm trumps experience when it comes to 24 hour filmmaking – choose your crew wisely.

CREATE YOUR TEAM
As a team captain, you are involved in every step of production but assembling your cast and crew to delegate roles is an important, if not THE most important part of a successful 24 hour shootout. This does not automatically mean choosing the most experienced filmmakers (obviously it helps), but rather, the most enthusiastic group of people who are willing to put in a lot of highly concentrated time into their roles. People who can think on their feet and discover creative solutions on the fly are some of the best folks to work with in a 24 hour shootout.

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For our 24 hour short “The Delivery”, the concept was simple – a heated argument between a couple gets resolved. It’s the sci-fi elements that happen in between which add flavor.

GET TO THE POINT
Telling small stories with a simple conflict helps to streamline your script and give the audience a way to connect with your film without being bogged down by long exposition shots or monologues that don’t move the plot along. Think about classic conflicts in literature – man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. self and man vs. technology. Having a basic conflict thought out in advance can make it easier to implement your ingredients and create obstacles that your protagonist must overcome. Don’t let your film be the one that makes the audience check their watches during the final screening. Remember, every minute counts. Don’t waste them!

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Always keep things social and fun, especially when your team is going above and beyond the call of duty.

STEER THE SHIP
How you organize your shoot depends on your script, the equipment and how much experience you have but there’s a few things that can make a set run more efficiently. Always keep things social and fun. Having the cast and crew together will create a natural camaraderie that’s reflected on screen but with such a tight time crunch, you want people around who are great under pressure and don’t lose their cool by the slightest change in plans. Keep the entire team involved and active during the shoot and they’ll be more inclined to chime in with ideas that can improve the script.


“The Delivery” 2nd Place Winner of the 2016 YPSI24-Hour Shootout

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
Participate in a 24 hour film shootout because you want to have fun and challenge yourself. Taking it far too seriously can lead to unnecessary frustration. Sure it’s a competition but it’s more about enriching your current artistic relationships and forging new ones. Get rid of the idea of winning awards and know that your 24 hour movie will always be remembered as a bold experience amongst your peers. Check out our 2016 YPSI24 short “The Delivery” above and remember to always stay inspired!

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Photo Credit: Jessica Bibbee

Our Electric Skateboards Got Mobbed at Maker Faire Detroit

This past weekend, our local electric skateboarding crew A2ESK8 participated at Maker Faire Detroit, a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker Movement.

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Makers ranged from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. About 25,000 people attended the event to check out ordinary individuals rolling up their sleeves to create inventive solutions for everyday needs.

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Sometime last year I began to search for other DIY ESK8 builders so I created a Facebook group to draw others in which birthed A2ESK8 – Michigan’s largest social hub dedicated to the building of DIY electric skateboards. Our booth was graciously sponsored by our friends at Carvon Skates and Polar Pro whose products are seamlessly integrated into our local ESK8 culture of building and filming.

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Attendees were able to get hands on with some of our boards as they were able to throttle and brake using our realtime display bench rig to test RPM, temperature and current.

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For those were interested in the tech, we had live demos of VESC (Vedder Electronic Speed Control) and LiFePO4 battery assembly. We also provided insight on the open source community and the emergence of ESK8 as a major player in the personal electric vehicle movement.

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We took turns riding the boards around The Henry Ford which provided a glimpse at what ESK8 feels like. Many of our riders describe ESK8 as an alternative to snowboarding and longboarding where you get a similar feeling of “flying” on the ground.

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All around us roads are changing, structures go up and having a “spotter” who you are communicating with through Bluetooth intercoms creates a sense of gamified exploration. Every turn we make can be something new and its all about living in that moment with zero distractions. Essentially it’s meditative and can relieve any stress that’s built up throughout the day.

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Who knows what the future holds for A2ESK8 but one thing will always remain clear – our mission is to combine safety, reliability, art and design to inspire others to be part of a growing DIY community that will innovate the electric skateboard industry.

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product information button runplayback Carvon EMC2 Dual Hub Motor Electric Mini Cruiser

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro GoPro Frame 2.0 Professional Filter 6 Pack

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro DJI Phantom 4 / Phantom 3 Filter 6-Pack

Why I Built a Carbon Fiber Electric Skateboard Mini Cruiser


Shot exclusively with the LanParte LA3D Action Gimbal, DJI Phantom 3 and Polar Pro Filters

My original DIY Electric Mini Cruiser Skateboard still holds up quite nicely even after 6 months of hard riding and natural wear and tear. But as with all things DIY, parts can always be upgraded. One key feature that I wanted to improve upon was weight, so once again, I researched the right combination of components to make an already awesome commute even better. I’ve nicknamed this build – the A2ESK8 Mini Cruiser.

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My original 29″ mini cruiser was the perfect size thanks to the unique design of the now discontinued Jet Spud deck. But I wanted to do something different, which is why I chose the Hi5ber Ion 30 mini cruiser deck. Hi5ber has built a great reputation for manufacturing the best carbon fiber longboard decks available. They are lighter and stronger than typical wooden longboards which create a more controlled, responsive experience for the rider.

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The Ion 30’s design is the definition of stealth with it’s ultra thin rails that gradually curve thicker towards the wheelbase. The added benefit is an enhanced wheel clearance that looks so damn futuristic. Other than the low weight, the characteristics of the Ion 30 include high rigidity, high tensile strength, corrosion resistance and fatigue resistance. And unlike wood, carbon fiber doesn’t warp when exposed to water.

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product information button runplayback Hi5ber Carbon Fiber Ion 30

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Before electricfying the Ion 30, I tested it out with Gullwing Sidewinder II trucks alongside 72mm ABEC11 Freerides and it was a blast. That combination of an ultra lightweight carbon fiber deck and double kingpins was so much fun I was a little hesitant to throw electronics on there. But my curiousity got the best of me so I got to work.

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The next step in weight reduction was the battery. My original build contained the 10s3p Enertion Space Cell, a wonderful battery pack, but 30 cells demand a lot of real estate in the wheelbase for a small mini cruiser deck. With a wheelbase of 16.25″ on the Hi5ber, I knew I had to figure out another power solution.

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I ended up creating a custom 12s1p LiFePO4 battery pack with the help of my friend Landon who is an electronics wizard. LiFePO4 batteries are the safest type of lithium batteries as they will not overheat, and even if punctured they will not catch on fire. The cathode material in LiFePO4 batteries is not hazardous, and poses no negative health or environmental hazards. Due to the oxygen being bonded tightly to the molecule, there is no danger of the battery erupting into flames like there is with lithium-ion. We used 12 cells in series for a total voltage of about 36v. Paired with a BMS, voltage display, charge port and power button, the pack ended up having a more compact size – perfect for the Hi5ber deck.

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Once again I designed a custom 1/8″ ABS enclosure using my homemade vacuum former. This time I wanted the buttons to be located on the side of the enclosure as flush as possible. This created a more pleasing appearance that complimented the look of the carbon fiber. The length of the enclosure came out to 11″ and width at 5″. This meant plenty of room to spare on the Ion 30 wheelbase.

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product information button runplayback A2ESK8 Apone V1 Electric Skateboard Enclosure

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Another big upgrade I made was swapping my original Torqueboards 2.4ghz Mini Remote with an even smaller 2.4ghz Nano Remote that features a thumb throttle instead of a trigger throttle. As far as how it feels in my hand, it’s pretty awesome. Granted, I’m not a big guy but it’s the right size for stealth in the city. It’s as if they took the best features of the Yuneec EGO and Boosted Boards remote and put it into a no frills casing. I like the short throw, knob throttle which is a much better design than Boosted’s long throw thumb dial and trigger button. Shout out to Kaly over at ESK8 builders for the hookup on this remote.

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The only components I ported over from my original build are the Ollin Board VESC and the Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor. Because of months of wear and tear and a few moisture issues, Landon and I decided it was best to clean the VESC up with some gentle scrubbing and a coating of anti-corrosion spray. Even so, the VESC is still going strong with no issues or errors – a testament to Ollin Board’s high quality manufacturing practices.

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My Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor was upgraded with authentic 90mm ABEC11 Flywheels and is really the backbone of my entire mini cruiser build. I’ve put the hub motor through the ringer in every harsh road condition imaginable and it continues to perform flawlessly. Carvon continues to push the boundaries of eboard drive trains and I look forward to seeing what they do next with their V3 hub motor design and EVO series.

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Dialing in the VESC settings is critical for creating a safe and fun mini cruiser. My original build was capable of hitting 31 mph but the sweet spot for a board this small is around 15-18 mph – more than enough for carving through a dense city filled with intersections and pedestrians. Also, the 12s LiFePO4 battery delivers a stronger punch than my 10s lithium ion with a more stable discharge and minimal voltage sag. As much as I enjoy releasing the full power and speed from a DIY eboard, there’s something quite satisfying about taming a mini cruiser eboard that has the ability to hurl you but won’t because you’re keeping it on a leash. More importantly, this build never feels like it’s struggling or straining and that kind of confidence transfers into longer range and fun, safer rides.

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Skating the A2ESK8 Mini Cruiser around the city proved to be a blast. On FOC mode with the Carvon V2 hub motor, the sound is nearly silent. The ultra light Hi5ber Ion 30 board makes acceleration from standstill fantastic and it really feels like your riding on some kind of space age material because of how responsive it is. Carbon fiber handles bumps slightly differently than wooden decks but in a good way because vibrations don’t transfer as much harsh energy to your body. Oh and did I mention how light this thing is? Seriously I’ll take carbon decks over wood any day of the week.

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DIY electric skateboard builds have been getting better and better in just a few months yet there are still just a handful of 30″ and under DIY mini cruiser builds. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stigma to purposely limit your top speed on a smaller deck but I feel like it’s our responsibility to be ambassadors of this technology everytime we step on a board. I’ve already seen friends who’ve hurt themselves on eboards and in almost all cases, the problem was either an inexperienced rider or a road obstacle and not a board failure. Going over 25 mph instead of 13 mph on a non electric board meant crashes that have caused broken bones and serious concussions. Believe me, I’ve had first hand experience with this and it’s made me a very visible advocate for eboard helmet safety.

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This mini cruiser was not designed to be a land missile and it shows. It’s become the ultimate conversation starter whenever I ride in the city because I’m seriously just having fun. The weight reduction made a huge difference and carrying it on public transportation is even easier. If you’re in the Detroit area at the end of July, check out this mini cruiser build in person at the Detroit Maker Faire where will have an A2ESK8 booth and demonstrations. For more information on the products I used to create the video above, please check out the links below.

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product information button runplayback Lanparte LA3D Detachable 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal

polarpro
product information button runplayback Polar Pro GoPro Frame 2.0 Professional Filter 6 Pack

My New Film “Force Touch” Is Streaming For Free


Force Touch is now streaming for FREE

Check out my latest short film “Force Touch”, shot entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Lite and the Panasonic GH4. Synopsis below:

When four friends discover a smartphone that takes pictures of the future, things go from bad to worse as their darkest secrets are revealed. Written, Shot & Directed by Rik Cordero. Produced by Arbor Day Pictures & Neutral Zone. Executive Produced by Nancy Mitchell.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

The sold out screening at the historic Michigan Theater was a huge success. The power of independent storytelling, community and inspiration is a potent combo and it was evident from the positive feedback from the audience. A big thank you to our sponsors – Camera Mall, Aspen Mics and Polar Pro for the wonderful raffle gifts, Neutral Zone, Sunday Afternoon Pictures, YPSI24, our photographer Katie Alexis and our friend Jason Buchanan who conducted the interview below about the making of “Force Touch”.

I sense an influence from The Twilight Zone here. In particular, the episode “A Most Unusual Camera”, was that show an influence on you as a storyteller? Could you talk about some of your influences in writing and directing?

Yup that episode of the “Twilight Zone” was a major influence, especially with the voiceover narration that provides just enough exposition to pull you into the story. Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” was also a strong influence as I wanted to explore the consequences of modern technology on a specific group of young people who aren’t very likeable. I imagined these characters had big dreams in college which never fully materialized. It’s like that weird time in your early 20’s when you’re not young enough to be dependent yet not old enough to be jaded by the grind.

My wife Nancy (Executive Producer of the film) and I, moved from New York City to Ann Arbor last July. We shot a ton of music videos and commercials during our time there but the work life balance sucked. Once we moved, the creative quality of our lives improved almost immediately through meeting many diverse folks with common interests.

With more time to focus on storytelling, I came up with the idea of “Force Touch” and my goal was to capture elements of the college culture here from an outsider’s point of view. I’m a college football fan but maybe not to the degree as some of my friends who have lived here their entire lives so I wanted to explore those emotions and how they would bounce off the characters in the story. Also Ann Arbor was a new canvas for me to employ a layer of sci-fi and technology which is another passion of mine.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis


Neutral Zone Promo video produced by Arbor Day Pictures

Can you expand on the role that the Neutral Zone played in producing the short? What was it like working with them?

I was introduced to Lori Roddy and Mary Moffett at Neutral Zone through Dug and Linh Song. After getting the tour of the facilities I was instantly inspired to contribute something to their video program that’s run by Alysha Schlundt-Bodien. Once we set our shoot dates, I reached out to Neutral Zone to help produce it. From our script rehearsals with the actors to camera assisting, lighting and sound, we provided some Neutral Zone Teens first hand experience with independent filmmaking. It was a tough shoot, especially since our first day landed on a major snowstorm but we made it through and hopefully some of the kids will stick with it.

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Force Touch pre production meeting at Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor

As a relatively new transplant to the area, what are your impressions of the local filmmaking scene? What do you like? Anything you wish you could find but haven’t?

I met the majority of our cast by participating in last year’s YPSI24 24 hour film competition and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. There’s a special sense of camaradrie and collaboration here that’s been missing for awhile in New York City. It’s easy to stay busy in NYC but most video creatives including myself were often stuck hustling multiple gigs just to pay the bills. There’s a better work life balance here that’s very refreshing and reminds me about why I got into this business in the first place – to share stories and stay inspired.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Can you talk a little about your work with Duo Security?

Duo Security reflects a lot of why the Ann Arbor community is appealing to me. Our CEO Dug Song, Creative Director Pete Baker and Multimedia Specialist Martin Thoburn have embraced my thirst for living a creative life which motivates me to think about creative video solutions for Duo. Things like recruiting videos to brand awareness and case studies are not often big priorities at most tech companies but Duo is unlike any other company I’ve worked for. Our creative team can go toe to toe with some of the best creative agencies in any major city and it’s a testament to the forward thinking goals of the leadership here.

One thing that most filmmakers have in common when it comes to doing the corporate grind is – how much of my artistic integrity do I have to give up just to fit in? I’ve retained 100% of my artistic integrity since working here and that comes from having an office culture that doesn’t force you to conform to tradition.

My value at Duo may not have a direct measurement as someone in Sales or Engineering and while metrics and procedures are important, nothing is more valuable than offering up creative solutions that keep our street cred intact. There’s a reason why our website doesn’t look like an out of the box template or why our videos entertain some of the most successful tech people in the world. We must be doing something right.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Lastly, are there any video projects in development that you can talk about?

At Duo, I’m working on a huge marketing stunt called “Duo in Space” where we will launch a weather balloon equipped with a phone and prosthetic finger that will perform a Duo 2-Factor Authentication push from close to 120,000 feet above the earth. In my spare time, I’m sharing DIY techniques on my blog runplayback.com and building electric longboards with my crew A2ESK8.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro Trippler 3-in-1 Tripod/Grip/Pole

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

My Homie Jeff Made A 45 MPH Electric Longboard!

Just wanted to share a new video series I’m developing titled “Duo Meet Your Maker” which profiles local hackers, tinkerers, hobbyists, and the tech-savvy makers to learn about their processes and highlight the things they create. My goal with this series to look beyond the gadgets themselves to explore the people behind them and what makes them tick. My first subject is Jeff Plott, a local mechanical engineer, who built a 45 mph electric longboard! Yikes! If you’d like to know more about how I shot those action shots check out my electric longboarding action rig here.

I Made an Action Cam Rig for Electric Longboarding

After racking up hours of DIY electric longboarding videos, I’d like to share some of the tools that I use for capturing high speed action. If you recall from my original DIY Electric Longboard build article, I was initially inspired to use an eboard as a dolly when paired with my camera gimbal. As I got into high speed riding with eboards I needed a way to capture the action and feel of a ride through inventive, hard to reach camera angles. Here’s a very compact setup that’s easy to handle while in the midst of all the action.

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ACTION CAM
The Xiaomi Yi has been my main action camera for quite some time. At around $80 you get a wi-fi action cam that records 2k videos with natural colors, definition and solid low light ability. The quality is comparable to the GoPro Hero3+ and the best feature is the 1/4-20 female thread on the bottom which allows better compatibility for clamps and rigs instead of GoPro’s proprietary mounting system. The Wi-Fi app is super easy to use for live preview and remote recording. You could pick up three Xiaomi Yi’s for the price of one GoPro Hero3+ which is a value that’s really hard to beat.

Price: $78

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Xiaomi Yi Action Camera with Wi-Fi

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ACTION CAMERA GIMBAL
The Came-TV 3-Axis Action Gimbal is a 32-bit gimbal that features brushless motors with Encoders. Encoders are often used in Robotics for highly accurate monitoring of motor position. This helps prevent motors from losing synchronization and skipping steps, provides important information about frame and camera angles, increases battery life, increases torque and the precision of stabilization.​ The gimbal is constructed from aluminum alloy, weighs in at a very light 300 grams, has a 1/4-20 female thread and is compatible with the Xiaomi Yi.

Price: $300

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product information button runplayback CAME-TV CAME-Action 3-Axis Gimbal

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PAINTER POLE ADAPTER
This DIY Painter Pole Adapter is designed to connect to the top of a standard paint pole and turn it into a very long monopod. It’s made of CNC machined aluminum with an anodized black finish and has a 1/4-20 male stud to fit perfectly with the Came Action Gimbal. Alternately, you can use this with a small ball head for accessories or even as a microphone boom pole.

Price: $15

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DIY Boom Painter Extension Pole Adapter

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PAINTER POLE
The Shur-Line Easy Reach 60″ Adjustable Extension Pole extends from 30″ to 60″ with almost no flex. It also features an ergonomic handle and is great for capturing hard-to-reach shots. With a painter’s pole I’m able to get the camera as close to the action as possible. One shot I like to do is having a rider cut in front of me as I raise the pole from bottom to top to create a booming effect.

Price: $18

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Shur-Line 60 in. Adjustable Extension Pole

TECHNIQUE
Mileage may vary depending on your stance on the eboard but since I ride goofy and use the eboard trigger remote on my right hand – I keep the painter pole tucked under my left shoulder while balancing the whole rig on my left hand. This position lets me use my whole body to maneuver the camera while still being able to lean and carve on the road.

For safety, I’d advise wearing full safety protection (helmet, pads, etc) and always keep your eye on the road through peripheral vision. Communication is also key so be sure to direct the rider and let them know if you see something cool. You’ll know that you’re nailing your technique when you forget that you’re filming and are focused on composition.

CONCLUSION
Electric longboards are super fun to ride and combine the feeling of longboarding and snowboarding except you can eboard anywhere with large, smooth pavement. With speeds that hover around 30mph and over, having a compact, lightweight rig is essential to capturing the rush of excitement that comes from eboarding. Also get creative – shoot some drone shots, capture B-Roll of your homies or clamp the action cam on the board itself. If you have any questions or suggestions hit me up in the comments below!

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Carvon Electric Mini Cruiser (Pre-Order)

I Built Another DIY Electric Longboard With More Power

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My original DIY Electric Skateboard is quite possibly one of my favorite things I’ve built so far and the feedback has been phenomenal. Every ride is an opportunity to discover inventive ways to capture the board on video. However, the communal experience of riding with other people is where the real fun begins. The performance gap between my DIY Single Hub Eboard and my Yuneec EGO is too wide so the only solution was to build another board. Do I really NEED more than one? Absolutely not. But the shared experience of riding with others is priceless.

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DOING THE DUAL

I had the option to either replicate my original DIY Single Hub or go for something a little different. Perhaps a single belt drive or a dual setup. I ended up choosing a dual hub motor system. There’s a bit of a perpetual debate on belt drive vs. hub motors and it always comes down to personal preference. The stealth and coasting ability of the Carvon Single Hub is incredible. But the best feature to me is that it can withstand some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Harsh conditions during a Michigan Winter include rock salt, potholes, uneven pavement, snow, black ice, etc. Once I decided on using Carvon Dual Hubs for my next build, choosing the rest of my parts was fairly simple.

CHOOSING THE PARTS

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JET TOMAHAWK “PEACE OUT” DECK
I knew this build would not be a mini cruiser like my last one, but I loved the quality of my Jet deck so I wanted to find something similar but with a longer wheelbase. I ended up going for the Jet Tomahawk because of it’s freeride design and variable wheelbase from 23.75″ to 28.25″. The Tomahawk shares similar wheel wells like my Jet Spud but has more of an aerodynamic, missle-like shape. When it comes to choosing a deck, Muirskate is a great resource for all things longboards. Shout out to Scott!

Price: $79.95

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Jet Tomahawk “Peace Out” Deck

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CARVON V2 DUAL HUB MOTOR + MATCHING TRUCKS + WHEELS SET
As I mentioned, the durability of the Carvon Hub is what did it for me. Jerry at Carvon knew how much fun I was having on a single hub but said a dual would be even more of a blast. Since I pretty much committed to a big boy board, I ended up going with massive 97mm wheels which is recommended for 10s-12s Li-Po packs. Like last time, the Carvons arrived on time with a clean, professional build all around – heavy duty 2250W brushless outrunner motors, 10″ black trucks with matching black anodized motor sleeves and ceramic bearings. There’s been some questions about why the motor isn’t completely hidden inside of the urethane and I would assume it’s to create the actual feel of riding on a wheel as opposed to riding on a motor. I haven’t tried the thin urethane hubs on an Inboard or Stary but I’d be hesitant about riding those anywhere but pristine, paved roads in California. Where I’m from, the roads are tough and I have no hesitation blasting through them with Carvons.

Price: $599

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Carvon V2 Dual Hub Motors + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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ENERTION 10S SPACE CELL BATTERY
The Enertion 10S Space Cell has been so reliable and convenient that getting another one was no question. I haven’t had the chance to perform any range tests yet but it’s more than enough juice for a full day of riding on single hub and it will be interesting to compare the duration with a dual hub. The new version of the Space Cell also features an improved power switch and Jason’s customer service is top notch.

Price: $343.38

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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OLLIN BOARD COMPANY VESC – OPEN SOURCE ESC SPEED CONTROLLER
I doubled down on the Ollin Board Company’s VESC, still the best electronic speed controller created specifically for electric skateboards by Benjamin Vedder. Like I said, I’ve been riding hard in single digit Michigan weather in some of the most adverse conditions ever and have had no problems with the VESC at all. Honestly I don’t even think about it, which is a testament to the quality (heavy duty wiring, clean soldering, military grade, gold plated PCB’s, firmware testing) and is also coated for moisture and corrosion protection. The price on the Ollin Board VESC has gone up a bit but with the warranty and repair guarantee, it’s well worth it. Also be sure to pick up a CANBUS Connector to power the VESC’s together.

Price: $165

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

Price: $5

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CANBUS Connector for VESC

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FLITE TEST XT60 POWER Y-HARNESS
This 14AWG Y-Harness comes with presoldered XT60 connectors and is used to connect the dual VESC’s to the Space Cell.

Price: $7

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Flite Test XT60 Power Y-Harness

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TORQUEBOARDS 2.4GHZ MINI REMOTE CONTROLLER
Once again, I went with TorqueBoards 2.4Ghz Mini Remote from DIY Electric Skateboard. I’ve dropped it a few times and it’s still going strong. And it really does seem to last forever on only 2 double A batteries.

Price: $50

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TorqueBoards 2.4Ghz Mini Remote Controller

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MISCELLANEOUS
Some odds and ends that I needed to complete my build.

$4.95 – Khiro 1/4″ Shock Pad Large Skateboard Risers

$4.95 – DBS Dank Bolts 1.25″

$6.19 – CCNS Neoprene Sheet 1/4” 12″x12″ Self-Adhesive

2 x $1.18 – 2 x #8-32 x 1 in. Phillips Flat-Head Machine Screws (5-Pack)

2 x $1.18 – 2 x #8-32 Stainless Steel Machine Screw Nut (4 per Pack)

$1.18 – #8 Zinc-Plated Steel Flat Washer (30-Pack)

THE ASSEMBLY

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Like last time, I prepped the Jet Tomahawk deck by sanding away the paint job and spray painting it with glossy black. Covering those raw wooden wheel wells also looks a little better in my opinion.

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Once the VESC’s arrived I programmed it with the BLDC Tool here and tweaked some of the settings based on my previous build. A few things changed when switching over to a dual configuration. Here’s my settings that I used for each VESC.

MOTOR CONFIGURATION
Motor Max: 60.00
Motor Min: -30.00
Bat Max: 15.00
Batt Min (Regen): -12.00
Absolute Max: 130.00

CURRENT CONTROL
Startup Boost: 0.030

APP CONFIGURATION – GENERAL
Controller ID: Input “0” for VESC 1 and “1” for VESC 2
Enable Send status over CAN
Enable PPM

APP CONFIGURATION – PPM
Enable Multiple ESCs over CAN
Enable Traction Control

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Then, I binded the TorqueBoards remote to the receiver. Be sure to bind it properly to enable fail safe. If not, the board will go full throttle when you turn off the remote which is a major safety hazard. Next I added a JST cable to VESC 1 and the CANBUS Connector to connect VESC 1 and VESC 2. I also added some hotglue to all the connectors to prevent the connection from coming loose. Finally I added some velcro on the bottom of the VESC’s and the receiver. This will keep things secure inside of the enclosure.

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Next I prepped the Enertion Space Cell battery by adding velcro to the top. I found three strips placed equally across the length of the battery was enough.

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On the other side I added weatherstripping as a cushion. This side faces the skateboard deck so it’s important to have a little bit of cushioning to guard against vibrations.

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Next I prepped the RunPlayBack enclosure with corresponding velcro strips for the battery, VESC and receiver. I’m really happy with the size of this enclosure and the two piece design. Everything fits like a glove, especially the VESC’s.

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I carefully placed the Space Cell into the enclosure, making sure to align the power button, charge port and voltage display with the corresponding holes and connected the VESC’s with the Y-Harness. I also added a small flap of rubber as a cover.

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The Carvon Hub Motor and wheels were next. I picked up some 1/4″ Khiro shock pads and 1.24″ DBS Dank Bolts to mount the trucks to the deck. Finally, with everything in place I secured the enclosure using #8-32 machine screws, washers and nuts from Home Depot.

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CONCLUSION

Although my original DIY single hub eboard gave me the confidence to attempt another build, moving up to a dual build was no simple task. By doubling the major components, everything had to be bigger and beefier – from the choice of my deck to wheelsize to the enclosure. Once complete, I realized I created a beast – a literal land missle that dwarfs the nimbleness of my single hub board. I’m not quite sure I could use this as a daily cruiser but for the times when I have a lot of open road to let loose, this is the perfect build, especially as a weekend warrior.

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However, no matter how you slice it, moving up to a dual build isn’t cheap. Doubling the price of a VESC and hub motor presents a challenging value for those who are looking to get into DIY. Starting on a single hub build is more affordable and will definitely give you the confidence to move into a dual build if you crave more power.

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In my first article, I said that building a DIY electric board made me a better person and I still believe it. In only 2 months I’ve been able organize a local DIY eskate group called A2ESK8, engage in interesting conversations with the online DIY community as well as local tech and maker folks who find electric longboards fascinating. Right now the big barrier of entry is the price. But like drones and other electric vehicles, once manufacturing costs go down and battery technology improves, eboards will become more accessible. Until then, pushing the limits of emerging technologies is a blast and now that I have a second board, it will make that experience even better. So whose ready to ride? #A2ESK8

Warm Weather Means DIY Electric Skateboard Cruising

When it hits 57 degrees in February in MICHIGAN, you must take full advantage. 🙂

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure

How I turned my Ztylus iPhone into a DSLR Killer

Ztylus has been releasing some of the best iPhone accessories for quite some time and their latest product, the premium Z-Prime Lens Kit is no exception. The Z-Prime claims to be a professional grade solution for serious photographers. But I’m mostly into video so in the clip above, I pair it with the Varavon Birdycam Lite to see if a Ztylus equipped iPhone could produce professional DSLR-style results. In short, I was blown away.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Telephoto Lens for iPhone 6

Both the wide and telephoto lens contains 5 glass elements in 4 groups that enable corner to corner sharpness with ultra low distortion. Packaged with the two lenses is the iPhone Metal Series Case, a lens carrier, a pouch and lens cloth. Once again, Ztylus has reinvigorated the power of the iPhone. Be sure to click the banner below to receive 25% off all Ztylus products with our special RUNPLAYBACK referral code.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Lens Kit for iPhone 6

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base

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WF717 Replacement Quick Release Plate

Here’s a Manual on a DIY Electric Skateboard

Took another ride with my DIY Electric Skateboard and my buddy Robbie did a manual on the Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor. I had no idea it could do that. 🙂

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure

My DIY Electric Skateboard Hit 31mph!

Here’s another cruising video with my DIY Electric Skateboard. This time we hit 31mph on the Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor. Pretty sure that once we find some paved asphalt we can go even faster. Till then, stay tuned!

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure

Here’s What 28mph on an Electric Skateboard Feels Like

My obsession with DIY Electric Skateboards is at an all time high at the moment and as promised, here’s a follow up video of my DIY build cruising through a college campus parking lot courtesy of my boy Patrick. After a few weeks of optimizing my VESC based on the Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor and Enertion 10S Space Cell, I came up with the best all purpose BLDC Tool setting for this configuration:

Motor Max: 60.00
Motor Min: -30.00
Bat Max: 30.00
Batt Min (Regen): -12.00
Absolute Max: 130.00

In BLDC mode, we hit a top speed of 28mph despite the rock salt, pot holes snow puddles and rough terrain on these Michigan roads. My RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure was definitely put the test but held it’s own and protected the electronics from the elements. Check out the video above to get some more insight on how I make these things.

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I was able to film Patrick while riding the Yuneec E-GO but it was nearly impossible to keep up with him. The torque of the E-GO’s belt drive has a bit more throttle snap than a VESC + hub motor combo but it’s simply no match when it comes to the top speed and coasting ability of the Carvon. Once you taste the speed of a DIY Electric Skateboard, it’s really hard to go back. I will conduct some range tests when the weather gets better but for now, I may need to build another electric board just to film this one. Stay tuned!

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure

How I Built a DIY Electric Skateboard and Became a Better Person

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Full disclosure – as a kid, I’ve always enjoyed cruising around on a skateboard, mainly because I was terrible at doing tricks and too worried about getting hurt. Naturally, I gravitated towards computers and electronic hobbies from RC cars to drones and eventually Miniquad FPV racing. Fast forward to present day – the popularity of personal electronic vehicles has grown and with it – the electric skateboarding community which combines the gratification of DIY tinkering with a broader communal experience.

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My earliest memories of electric skateboards were of metal behemoths fitted with lead batteries like something out of a science fiction movie. These days, parts have gotten smaller and slimmer which have allowed manufacturers such as Boosted and Yuneec to carve a out a very unique market of consumers who are not just skaters or tech nerds but those who are looking for alternate modes of transportation. To be fair, someone using an electric skateboard for the first time looks pretty ridiculous but those who fully embrace the technology make it look they are having more fun in life than everyone else.

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YUNEEC EGO

I was first introduced to the Yuneec E-GO by Emm from Cheesycam. Paired with a gimbal, we used it as a camera dolly for super smooth tracking shots. While the experience was fun, I didn’t have an immediate gut reaction to purchase, which is what typically happens when Emm shows off some new gear. I was intrigued, but the price point kept me at a distance. It felt a little gimmicky, like a big boy toy for guys my age who don’t like to hurt themselves.

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Yuneec E-GO

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After about a year, I started seeing electric vehicles crop up around town and I began to feel left out. I was compelled to get my own big boy toy. And since I live about 2 1/2 miles away from my office, I figured an eboard would be the perfect way to commute. So with a little money saved I bought a used Yuneec E-GO display unit from eBay and immediately customized it with a new paint job and lights.

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The E-GO is a rock solid entry level board, perfect for those who want to get their feet wet with electric skateboarding with little maintenance. Ask any hardcore DIY eboard builder and the Yuneec is not really a part of the conversation. But compared to a Boosted board, the E-GO has a very pleasant price tag for it’s components – nothing more, nothing less. It maxes out at 13mph which is slow for most but very reasonable for downtown city commuting where there’s more obstacles, unpredictable terrain and limited straightaways.

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DIY ELECTRIC SKATEBOARDING COMMUNITY

Initially I thought about upgrading the E-GO to push it’s performance but after some research, it felt a little risky to modify a board whose only fault was being reliable. Like I never felt “cheated” by the E-GO if that makes sense. Plus having a production board to study for design research is always a good thing. Next, I started lurking in the Endless Sphere and ESK8 Builders forums, a cornucopia of knowledge for all things related to electric skateboarding. One thing that stood out to me was the pleasant attitude exhibited by many of the stakeholders in the community. Compared to some of the guys in Miniquad FPV groups, this was like a breath of fresh air. This is how I took my first plunge into DIY eboards.

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FINDING THE PARTS

Every DIY eboard currently relies on components developed by many companies springing up to serve the market. These companies are developing batteries, writing code, engineering motor systems and figuring out pieces of technology at every point in between. This is a constantly evolving scene with DIY’ers providing some valuable nugget of R&D research hidden in posts across two major forums. It’s deep, but not alienating if you dedicate the time. With about a month of lurking, I felt I was caught up with the technology to make informed purchases. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these products are built by DIY’ers for DIY’ers which means its best to do your homework before hitting them with a barrage of questions. This isn’t like shopping for a sweater at Macy’s. Like all communities, it pays to play.

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Supporting these guys with a purchase or two puts your skin in the game and as a customer they will give you personal attention and support for your build. You’ll need to have patience as products are made to order. My expected delivery times were off by about a week or two but since I placed my orders before Christmas and New Year, it was understandable. Waiting is hard. Really hard. But on the flipside, having something made to order feels special. Essentially, having a good customer attitude can mean the difference between someone going through the motions, versus someone really giving that extra attention to detail and a once over for quality control. I won’t get too wrapped up in specific components as parts will evolve way past what this article can provide but I can detail what informed my purchases which are entirely shaped by my personal needs.

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CHOOSING THE PARTS

JET RADAR SERIES SPUD NIPS LIP DECK
I found this board through posts by Torqueboards and Siggs from ESK8 Builders. It’s 29″ length with a 21.25″ wheelbase seemed like the perfect size for my body dimensions and commuting distance. The nearly 40″ length of the Yuneec E-GO was comfortable but definitely a hassle for taking it on a bus or other form of public transportation. One thing that worried me was the rather large wheel wells and extreme concave but more on that later.

Price: $65.95

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Jet Radar Series Spud Nips Lip Deck

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CARVON V2 SINGLE HUB MOTOR + MATCHING TRUCKS + WHEELS SET
To stay within my parameters of a stealthy, low key look, I went with a single hub motor from Jerry at Carvon. Carvon’s website FAQ answered all of my questions in regards to the advantages of hub motors and up to date photos of customer builds. Jerry was really helpful with shipping times and let me know that mounting the Carvon on the 29″ Jet Spud deck was possible but challenging due to the short wheelbase. Not one to shy from a challenge, I placed my order a week later and when it arrived, the product looked even better in person than the pictures. This may seem like common sense but being on the fence or wishy washy can only go so far when it comes to DIY. Once you soft commit to a purchase, be honest and follow through. It goes a long way to establishing a solid customer relationship.

Price: $299.00

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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ENERTION 10S SPACE CELL BATTERY
Jason at Enertion Boards has been developing and innovating within the electric skateboard scene for quite some time and it shows. From complete builds to individual components, Enertion is proof of concept that DIY and ready to run solutions can co-exist peacefully. So when it came time to choose a power solution, I knew the Enertion Space Cell was the best bang for the buck hands down. Without getting too deep into battery comparisons, the 10S Space Cell is a self contained unit with a battery management system, power button, charging port and voltage display. Jason was also kind enough to give me advice on my components, measurement specs for my enclosure and overall encouragement to see my build through. It’s almost like he’s on a personal mission to outfit every man, woman and child on earth with an electric skateboard and I look forward to where he takes Enertion by next year.

Price: $314.87

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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OLLIN BOARD COMPANY VESC – OPEN SOURCE ESC SPEED CONTROLLER
The VESC is currently the best electronic speed controller created specifically for electric skateboards by Benjamin Vedder. Jeramiah at Ollin Board Company was another helpful resource for providing recommended settings on my build and constant updates on the VESC’s features. Once it arrived, the VESC quality was top notch with heavy duty wiring and clean soldering all around. Like a master chef preparing an expensive meal, Jeramiah uses military grade, gold plated PCB’s along with a re-flow oven for soldering components and various stages of firmware testing to ensure maximum efficiency.

Price: $120.00

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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TORQUEBOARDS 2.4GHZ MINI REMOTE CONTROLLER
I wanted an affordable, reliable, small remote so I went with this TorqueBoards 2.4Ghz Mini Remote from DIY Electric Skateboard. It isn’t fancy and is not really in the same league as slick production board remotes but it seems to last forever on 2 double A batteries and well – it just works like hell. With it’s small compact receiver, zero dropouts and transmission errors, this remote had my attention but now has my confidence. TorqueBoards is also very active on social media so sharing your build with him there is a quick and easy way to get immediate feedback.

Price: $50.00

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TorqueBoards 2.4Ghz Mini Remote Controller

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RUNPLAYBACK SULACO V1 ENCLOSURE
To house all of these electronics I created my own DIY vacuum former oven that was inspired by Psychotiller from Endless Sphere and James Bruton from XRobots. Using feedback from Jason at Enertion and Jeramiah at Ollin Board Company, I created an enclosure code named the Sulaco V1 that is designed to house the Enertion 10S Space Cell, a single VESC and a standard 2.4ghz receiver. No more, no less. The specs are L: 20″ W: 8″ H: 2″ and features 1/8″ thick ABS plastic for lightweight performance, flexiblity high impact resistance, and added durability. Since I live right next door to a major ABS plastic supplier I can provide these at a good cost.

Price: $40

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A2ESK8 Sulaco V1 Enclosure

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MISCELLANEOUS
Here’s a few odds and ends that I needed to complete my build.

$4.95 – Khiro 1/4″ Shock Pad Large Skateboard Risers

$4.95 – DBS Dank Bolts 1.25″

$13.79 – MOB Grip Super Coarse Longboard 30 Grit 11″x40″ Griptape

$7.99 – 180 pc Rubber Grommet Assortment Set Firewall Wiring Electrical Wire Gasket Kit

$5.95 – 5 Pairs XT60 Male & Female Bullet Connectors Plugs For RC Hobby Lipo Battery

$6.49 – 127pc Heat Shrink Wire Tubing Assortment Wrap Electrical Connection Cable Sleeve

$6.19 – CCNS Neoprene Sheet 1/4” 12″x12″ Self-Adhesive

$4.70 -Small 13 X 23 X 1/16 Mechanics Shop Non Slip Black Rubber Tool Box Drawer Liner

$11.99 – Cowles Products/Black StyleGuard edge trim

2 x $1.18 – 2 x #8-32 x 1 in. Phillips Flat-Head Machine Screws (5-Pack)

2 x $1.18 – 2 x #8-32 Stainless Steel Machine Screw Nut (4 per Pack)

$1.18 – #8 Zinc-Plated Steel Flat Washer (30-Pack)

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THE ASSEMBLY

As I waited for parts I decided to prep my deck by sanding away the sweet Jet Spud Lips design and spray painting it with glossy black. I figured the artwork would be covered with my enclosure so I didn’t feel too bad.

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Next I added the MOB grip tape which is super coarse and probably too extreme for most folks. My hand actually started bleeding laying this stuff down so I threw on some work gloves. Ouch.

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Once the VESC arrived I programmed it with the BLDC Tool here and tweaked some of the settings based on the VESC FAQ found on ESK8.

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Once that was done, I binded the TorqueBoards remote to the receiver, then connected it to the VESC with a JST cable that was provided by Ollin Board Company. I added a ziptie as a cable lock to prevent the connection from coming loose and squeezed some hotglue to both the VESC and receiver for extra safety. Loose connections are a safety hazard so be sure to test the strength of every wire. If it can be pulled out with little force, it’s best to start over and do it right. Also adding some velcro on the bottom of the VESC and receiver will help keep things in place once you house it in the enclosure.

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Next I prepped the Enertion Space Cell battery by adding velcro to the top. I found three strips placed equally across the length of the battery was enough.

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On the other side I added a few strips of 1/4″ Neoprene as a cushion. This side faces the skateboard deck so it’s important to have a little bit of cushioning to guard against vibrations.

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Next I prepped the RunPlayBack enclosure with corresponding velcro strips for the battery, VESC and receiver. I can’t stress how important it is to have an enclosure that fits your electronics like a glove. Everything should be firmly enclosed and not swishing around like loose change in a jar.

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I carefully placed the Space Cell into the enclosure, making sure to align the power button, charge port and voltage display with the corresponding holes.

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Next I added the VESC and receiver by first pulling the motor wires through the holes and securing everything into the velcro. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I connected the VESC to the battery and added a small flap of rubber as a cover.

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You can get creative here and add an entire sheet of neoprene and rubber across the whole enclosure like the Yuneec E-GO battery system. Mileage will vary depending on your deck design and weather proofing needs. I highly doubt I’ll be riding mine through inclement weather so I didn’t go too crazy.

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The Carvon Hub Motor and wheels were next. I picked up some 1/4″ Khiro shock pads and 1.24″ DBS Dank Bolts to mount the trucks to the deck. Similar to the Yuneec E-GO design, the rubber shock pads are great for added flexibility and a smoother ride.

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I then mounted it all to the board, ensuring that each screw was tightened equally. I didn’t go crazy here, just wanted to get the tension secure.

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Finally, with everything in place I secured the enclosure using #8-32 machine screws, washers and nuts from Home Depot. There’s many different ways to mount an enclosure to a deck. Most folks like using tee-nuts for a cleaner finish and as a faster way to pop the enclosure on and off. I personally don’t mind the extra time using nuts and washers and with the crazy curvature of the Jet deck, I needed a little more play in the mounting holes.

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CONCLUSION

From my initial DIY product inquiries on 12/7/15 to 1/18/16, it took me approximately 41 days to complete the build. Slap on the downtime during holiday season and the process took much longer than expected. Yet the results were well worth it. There were a few times when I hit some speed bumps, particularly in the vacuum forming process where each failed pull felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. Like my brief time spent with Miniquad FPV’s, there were moments that zapped my creative energy. I wondered why was I spending all of my time on a glorified big boy toy while everyone else around me was living in the moment. It’s like, why didn’t I just buy a Boosted Board Dual Plus and call it a day?

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Fortunately, with the help of a loving supportive family and encouragement from friends, this build became more than just some kind of self serving prophecy. With DIY electric skateboards, there’s an immediate gut reaction when you see one. Like the kid inside all of us suddenly leaps through the soul in our eyes and peeks through smiling. Once I tapped back into that emotion, everything made sense. Sharing each technical step with my 6 year old daughter and seeing her wide eyed reaction brought me back to reality. I didn’t make this build for me. I made it for anyone who ever felt weird in school. Who felt more comfortable tinkering on their computers and in their garage than on the football field. The minute you understand you can build something, however you get there, you’ll want to improve it and share it with the world. Once you DIY, you’ll never be the same again. Hit me up in the comments if you’d like to discuss and stay tuned for part 2 where I actually take this thing on the streets.

Build a DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer for Under $100

As camera gimbals have grown in popularity, many folks take for granted how much strength it requires to hold a gimbal, even a lightweight mirrorless one, for an extended period of time. I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t fly my Varavon Birdycam at chest level for more than 1 minute without straining my arms and shoulders. Once I start shaking, my focus shifts away from the composition of the shot to my body endurance which is never an ideal situation. I bought a camera gimbal to create interesting, unique scenes, not to work out my upper body.

Gimbal Backpack

So I searched the internet for some gimbal stabilizing options and the cheapest one I found is the Came TV GS01 for $400. On the other side of the spectrum is the slick Ready Rig for $2,000. Both of these options are beyond my budget so I decided to make my own. While there are a few DIY tutorials on Gimbal Backpack Stabilizers, I thought Cheesycam’s DIY Gimbal Support Backpack and Modest Reaction’s riff were the best options out there. With a few key items from your local Home Depot and eBay, I’ll provide a step by step guide on how to make your very own DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer for less than $100. You may already own a lot of these items so you may spend even less but the ingredients I’ll list are the best balance of cost, assembly time and performance.

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Came TV GS01 Gimbal Stabilizer

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Ready Rig Gimbal Stabilizer

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The first item you will need is the backpack frame. A rigid frame, combined with heavy duty shoulder straps and waist support is the most important element to distributing the weight of the camera gimbal from your arms and shoulders to your entire torso. The best option I found is a U.S. Military MOLLE II system. MOLLE is a modular attachment system that’s been adopted by the US Army. Basically it’s built for troops to carry 100lbs of supplies for up to 25 miles so you know these things are built for serious situations. The frame is constructed from ABS plastic which are known for impact resistance and toughness and the shoulder straps and waistbelt are constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura and nylon threading which is mold and mildew resistant, water-repellant and the same material as the Ready Rig. Since it’s a modular system, you can also add a rucksack to the frame for additional supplies or you can paint it to add a touch of customization.

PRICE: $40 (shipped)

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All New USGI Molle II Frame, Belt and Shoulder Straps DCU Desert Camo COMBO

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Next you will need 4 fiberglass tent poles that are 27″ long and 9.5mm in diameter with metal ferrules. The rods are used to soften the Y axis movements during walking shots to provide a more stable and less jittery image. I found these super affordable Coleman Fiberglass Tent Poles on eBay but they can easily be found at your local sporting goods or camping store. To secure the poles to the frame you’ll need a package of standard 8″ zip ties.

PRICE (4 Fiberglass Tent Poles): $15
PRICE (20 Zip Ties): $2.18

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Coleman Fiberglass Tent Pole Replacement Kit

zipties
Commercial Electric 8 in. UV Cable Tie – Black (20-Pack)

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To connect the rods together you will need 100lb rated metal braided wire used for hanging heavy picture frames and mirrors. The wires are pulled through the rods and together they act like a crane to hoist the gimbal over your chest.

PRICE: $7.48

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100 ft. 20-Gauge Multi-Purpose Wire

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Next you will need 2 small washers and 2 150lb aluminum carabiners. These will be attached to each end of the metal braided wire.

PRICE (Washers): $3.14
PRICE (2 Carabiners): $1.96

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3/8 in. Zinc-Plated Flat Washer (25-Pack)

carabiner
2 x 150 lb. 80mm x 8mm Bright Aluminum Spring Link

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To protect the exposed metal braided wire I bought these cable covers that are used for organizing computer cables. You’ll need 3/8″ for the metal wire and 1/2″ for the fiberglass rods. These are purely a cosmetic feature but I think they add a more polished look.

PRICE (3/8″ Tubing): $2.48
PRICE (1/2″ Tubing): $2.48

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3/8″ Flex Tubing

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1/2″ Flex Tubing

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The adjustable straps are used to customize the height of the gimbal for framing a scene. I went with these heavy duty Husky Hang-Alls which are commonly used to hold tools, bikes and other heavy equipment. Since Husky has a great reputation for quality and are very common in almost every Home Depot store, this is a much more convenient solution than buying lashing straps and carabiners separately.

PRICE (2 Hang-Alls): $9.94

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2 x Husky 18 in. Zinc-Plated Steel Hang-All

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To attach the rig to the gimbal, I used standard 1-1/2″ key rings on the gimbal’s horizontal support secured by velcro straps.

PRICE (2 Key Rings): $1.94
PRICE (Velcro Straps): $3.74

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2 x 1-1/2 in. Split Key Ring

velcrostraps
8 in. Cable Ties (5-Pack)

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STEP 1: ASSEMBLE THE BACKPACK
First you’ll need to assemble the Molle II frame to the shoulder straps and waist support. Since it isn’t very intuitive and there are no instructions that come with the package, it can be a little tricky to assemble. Fortunately I found this awesome tutorial that can walk you through the process. Be sure to follow the directions carefully as the rig’s structural integrity is centered on the location and firmness of the straps.

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STEP 2: ASSEMBLE THE RODS
Next, assemble the rods by inserting one pole into another using the metal ferrules. You should now have 2 pairs, each one 54″ total length.

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STEP 3: INSERT METAL WIRE & MEASURE
Then, take the metal braided wire and carefully push it through the first pair of poles using a needle nose plier. Be sure to do this slowly so you don’t bend the wire which will make it much harder to push through the pole. Once you get it through the end, let about 12″ of wire hang out of it.

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STEP 4: SECURE CARABINERS & MEASURE
Next, using a pair of needle nose pliers, take the metal braided wire and wrap 2 tight loops around the small end of the aluminum carabiner then wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Measure 12″, edge to edge, from the top of the pole to the end of the carabiner. This distance should be exact so if you accidentally tug on the wire, just re-measure and adjust.

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STEP 5: SECURE WASHERS & MEASURE
You’ll want to secure the other end of the wire using the metal washer. Measure 6″ from edge of the pole and cut the wire. Next, measure 1″ from the edge of the pole and bend the wire at that point. Place the washer at that bend and wrap one tight loop around it using the needle nose pliers. Again, wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop around the 1″ length of wire. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Repeat Steps 3-5 for the second pair of poles.

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STEP 6: SECURE RODS TO FRAME
Next, take an assembled pole and secure it to the left side of the Molle II frame by inserting it into the bottom two straps of the waist support. You may want to loosen these straps to get the pole in and tighten them to secure it. The edge of the pole should rest against the bottom plastic ridge with the metal braided wire and washer hanging off to the side. Then, secure the pole to the frame with the zip ties. I chose to secure the pole on every other strap opening all the way to the top. Be sure to have the zip tie ends facing inwards and tighten all of them evenly once the pole is fully attached. Make sure each zip tie is tight then snip off the ends using a wire cutter. Repeat this process for the right side of the Molle II frame.

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STEP 7: ADD HUSKY HANG-ALLS
Add the Husky Hang-Alls to the poles by connecting it from the strap to the aluminum carabiner. The Husky carabiner should hang from the bottom and will be used to connect to the gimbal.

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STEP 8: ADD FLEX TUBING
Next you’ll add the flex tubing. Uncoil the 3/8″ flex tubing and stretch it across the exposed metal braided wire to measure the distance. Cut the 3/8″ tubing and wrap it around the wire by using the slit in the middle. Repeat this for the other side. Next, take the 1/2″ tubing and stretch it across the top fiberglass pole. Again, measure the distance from the top of the Molle II frame to the end of the pole, cut it, and wrap it around. Repeat for the other side. In my opinion, this looks more aesthetically pleasing than exposed tent poles and picture wire.

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STEP 9: ASSEMBLE KEY RINGS TO GIMBAL
Add the key ring to the end of the gimbal upper support plate near the handle and secure it using the velcro strap. Loop this a couple of times through the key ring as tight as possible to keep it secure. Repeat this with the other side.

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STEP 10: TEST THE RIG WITH GIMBAL
Finally, put the Gimbal Support Stabilizer on and adjust the shoulder and waist support straps to a comfortable level. Everything should be tight but not uncomfortable or constricting. To attach the Gimbal Support Stabilizer to the camera gimbal, carefully bend down and maneuver yourself to a proper angle that makes it easy to attach the Husky carabiners to the key rings. Grip the handles on the gimbal, stand up and everything should feel stable and secure. You will have to adjust the Husky Hang-All straps to get the proper height but otherwise, everything should be good to go. With all of the weight now distributed across your torso there should be an immediate feeling of lightness with the gimbal. You’ll still have to move like a ballet dancer but with the ability to properly frame a shot and rehearse a move without getting tired, there will be a much deeper creative connection with the camera gimbal.

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CONCLUSION
This is by far one of my favorite DIY projects ever. Although you’ll get a lot of funny looks and comments in public, it makes using a camera gimbal a breeze. I can literally hold it for over 20 minutes straight without fatigue. This gives me more time to block a shot and really think about the creative composition of the scene. I would totally encourage anyone who owns a gimbal to give this DIY project a shot. Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions and please share any ideas to make this DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer even better. Thanks!

The 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit

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Last week Arbor Day Pictures aka Nancy Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell and myself participated in YPSI24, a 24 hour shootout competition where we won second place amongst 40+ entries. It was an awesome experience to witness so many filmmakers of all levels express themselves using a variety of video techniques within experimental and narrative storytelling.

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However, with a 24 hour time limit and a 3 person crew including myself (2 of whom were acting on camera), it was vital that I assemble an equipment package that worked for our story. Too much gear and I’d risk a lot of unncessary setup and breakdown time. Too little gear and I’d lose the visual storytelling that was essential for characterization. We were super honored to win an award and it may not have happened without our 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit. So here’s how we did it.

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THE STORY
A few weeks before the shoot, we bounced around some preliminary ideas, some that either proved too difficult or too time consuming. Finally, the night before YPSI24, Nancy assembled all of our initial ideas into a creepy story about supernatural revenge. Next, I fleshed out the summary into a rough, 5 page script which would be our blueprint for the day. We all agreed that the concept would remain loose in order to incorporate the YPSI24 “ingredients” that we would be given. Creating a script as a guide for our shotlist/schedule was definitely a critical part of our planning.

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THE SUPPORT
For Camera A support I went with the heavy duty yet light and portable 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs which are typically built for jib cranes but work great with a Manfrotto fluid head and Konova K3 slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. It even has a super convenient mid level spreader for added stability and adjustable rubber or spiked feet for all kinds of terrain. At $120 shipped, the ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are an exceptional deal for the quality.

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proam
product information button runplayback ProAm USA PROAMFT Pro Tripod Legs & Bag Kit

manfrotto
product information button runplayback Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Video Head with Flat Base

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product information button runplayback Konova Slider K3 100cm (39.4-Inch)

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THE LIGHTING
Lighting was very minimal as we were mostly daylight dependent. For the ending interior shots we used a pair of budget friendly ePhoto 600 CN600HS LED Lights with Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Batteries. The Kayo Maxtar is a new addition to my kit and one of the best V-Mount battery options out right now. Fully charged, the Kayo can power these lights for up to 6 hours straight. Very impressive!

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ePhoto 600 Led Dimmable CN600HS Video Photography Light

kayo
Kayo Maxtar 177Wh(12000mAh/14.8V) V Mount Battery

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THE SOUND
To keep our sound kit as light and simple as possible, I went with the Zoom H1, Rode Micro Boompole, Rode VideoMic Pro, Aspen HQ-S Lav Mic, P&C Handgrip and an audio extension cable. Our rule was that whoever wasn’t on camera would be the Sound Recordist. With some easy to remember sound recording basics and having a kit this simple ensured that no one would have to be a pro to capture quality sound.

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product information button runplayback Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder

rode
product information button runplayback Rode Micro Boompole – 3-Section Boom Pole

rode
product information button runplayback Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone

aspenmics
AspenMics Lavalier Microphones

p&c
product information button runplayback Dot Line P&C Handgrip

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THE CAMERA A KIT
Having some early success with the latest Panasonic V-Log color profile, I decided to use my workhorse GH4 mounted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and classic Canon FD glass – 20mm, 28mm, 50mm and 35-105mm. This combination would create a vintage, lived-in look that I thought would be perfect for a horror film.

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I kitted out my GH4 shoulder rig with a Varavon Armor Cage, Aputure V-Screen field monitor, Fotga follow focus, Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate and a Kayo Maxtar BP-GL175 Li-Ion Battery. With the Kayo, I was able to power the Aputure monitor and use it as a counterweight for the GH4. There’s also a convenient USB port located on the side which kept my iPhone charged at every location.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster GH4
Metabones Speedbooster Canon FD Lens to M43 Adapter

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Varavon Armor II GH4 & GH3 Cage

aputure
Aputure VS-3 V-Screen 7″ IPS Field Monitor

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Fotga DP500IIS Follow Focus

ikan
ikan Tilta TT-C12 HyperDeck Shuttle Mount with V-Mount Plate

kayo
Kayo Maxtar 177Wh(12000mAh/14.8V) V Mount Battery

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THE CAMERA B KIT
Our story included many scenes of walking through the woods so I wanted to incorporate gimbal tracking shots without having to spend any time balancing or breaking down the Camera A Kit. For this situation I went with the Ikan Fly-X3 Gimbal paired with the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera aka the $80 Chinese GoPro. Since these walking shots would include both Hannah and Nancy in the shot, it would leave me as the Sound Recordist. The Ikan Fly-X3 doesn’t have a 1/4-20 thread so I rigged a Joby GorillaPod to the handle and fitted it with a Rode VideoMic, Zoom H1, an audio extension cable and a pair of lightweight Auvio Headphones. With the shotgun mic I was then able to capture realtime location sound while also performing stable gimbal shots while walking backwards through the woods. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

flyx3
product information button runplayback Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Kit with GoPro HERO3/4 mount

xiaomi
Xiaomi Yi Action Camera with Wi-Fi

Joby Action Clamp GorillaPod Arm
product information button runplayback Joby Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm

auvio
Auvio Black Ear-Cup Foldable Headphones

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Another interesting rig we built was an Indy Mogul style DIY 3rd person POV action camera backpack. Designed with cheap PVC pipe from Home Depot, we mounted an Oben Mini Ballhead and the Xiaomi Yi on the rig to create the over the shoulder look during the “search” scenes in the woods. With the Xiamoi’s Wi-Fi app, I would be able to monitor the shots while giving direction to Nancy. We wanted to present an unusual sense of vertigo during these scenes since her character would become more desperate as day turned to night.

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product information button runplayback Oben BD-0 Mini Ball Head

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THE CAMERA C KIT
For a 24 Hour Shootout, it would be tempting to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional as a shortcut for production value but we didn’t want to go that route. Our initial thought was that an aerial would take up valuable time that we could put towards characterization. Also, because of the hazardous weather conditions on the shoot day, flying a drone would prove too risky. However, nature was on our side when we had a small 10 minute window of clear weather. It was a tricky manuever as I had to fly through a 10 foot clearing in the trees towards a height that revealed just enough of the forest without showing any residential homes or highways. I fitted the Phantom 3 with a Polar Pro Polarizer Filter to prevent glare off the water and was able to get the shot in just two takes. However, flying the drone back to home point was nerve racking as I clipped a few small branches due to the wind and unstable GPS lock. Luckily I had Nancy and Hannah as my spotters on each side of the clearing to prevent the Phantom from going down into the water. The shot was definitely worth it as it created a vast sense of exploration for the Alice character, establishing the forest as a kind of supernatural playground.

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product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal

polarprofilters
Polar Pro DJI Phantom 3 Professional Filter 6-Pack

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THE POST PRODUCTION
We finished our last shot at about 11:30pm and after ingesting all the footage in Adobe Premiere, post production began at 12 midnight. By this time, I was exhausted but not completely tapped out. I knew that once I got past the hump of assembly I would go into creative mode, driven by pure adrenaline. With the help of a large iced coffee I finished assembly by 2:00am and edited straight until 9:00am. The GH4 V-Log setting was especially helpful in color correction for each clip. After dropping in the Panasonic Varicam 35 LUT, I simply adjusted exposure within Lumetri Color and did my best to match the Xiaomi Yi and Phantom 3 footage.

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As the sun started to rise and the 10:00am delivery deadline looming, I did a few last touches and exported the file onto a flash drive. Since the YSPI24 rendevouz was a half hour away, I wasn’t able to do a final preview. At this point, I was completely delirious and just grateful that we completed our film.

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THE EXPERIENCE
YPSI24 was an insanely inspiring good time. From the cordial and energizing meetup with our fellow filmmakers to the hack-a-thon like shooting experience to the final screening at the 500 seat venue, YPSI24 reminded me of why I got into video in the first place. It wasn’t to win awards or make commercials. It was to tell a story using a language that didn’t require an army of people pontificating about the laws of Cinema. It’s a relief to know that the DIY spirit that’s shaped both my personal and professional life has never left me. Hashtag #setlife is not enough. Old traditions and new technologies are not enough. It’s the communal experience of being vulnerable with people that I care about which matters most. Check out our 2015 YPSI24 short “Always Alice” below and remember to always stay inspired!


Always Alice (2015 YPSI24)