In filmmaking, one of the most useful pieces of equipment you can have in your arsenal is a jib. A jib operates a bit like a see-saw, using counterweights to balance the camera, and it allows for unique camera movements and camera angles that you couldn’t otherwise achieve. Over the course of its run, Film Riot’s series of video production tutorials has had a lot of advice and instruction to offer regarding jibs, including when you should use one and how to build your own. 

Kessler’s Pocket Jib & Lighting Tricks

In Episode 63 (7/28/10), the crew discusses some more advanced camera techniques using Kessler’s Pocket Jib, a mini-crane for home usage, and Kessler’s K-Flex Dolly Track System, a track that allows for smooth dolly movement. These are slightly more expensive than most people are going to be able to afford, so episodes 50 and 53, which we will cover shortly, talk about how to make some cheaper versions of these.

In this episode, Ryan shows different shots he created using this system, dynamic moving shots through windows and above actors, shots that would not be possible without a dolly track or crane.

Episode 63 also goes over a cheap lighting trick, one you see in a lot of music videos where the light focuses on a subject while the background remains dark. A viewer writes in asking if the effect can be done for under $10 and Ryan brings to attention a simple rope light kit, one that can be wrapped around the lens of the camera and shines directly into what you are shooting. The light it gives off is actually pretty amazing, as Ryan shows what the shot looks like with and without the light.

This diverse episode also talks about how to make a blood-spattering gunshot wound to the head using After Effects and some simple assets. As Connolly has done many times before, he shows how the effect is done from beginning to end, telling you all the different assets, effects, and shots you need to take in order to accomplish the desired result.

Episode 82 from January 5 of this year also explains use of the Kessler Pocket Jib for a previous Christmas episode. One shot mirrored, in some part, the Scorsese overhead shot from Taxi Driver, and Ryan shows how that shot was made using the jib and some additional gear.

Also, more special effects using masking, this time a “walking away from the fire” effect that Connolly admits probably should have been done using green screen since doing it in After Effects was a time consuming chore.

The main section of episode 82 talks about all the different gear Ryan uses when he goes out on a shoot. A viewer writes in and asks for an inventory and Connolly is happy to show it all. He goes over the basics, and a few extras, but the checklist is exhaustive and a must-watch for those who don’t know what they might need before going out to shoot a scene.

How To Make Your Own Jib Using A Tripod

Episode 50 (4/28/10) takes the question posed by a viewer in the previous episode about camera techniques and discusses how to cheaply make a jib using your tripod. This technique is simple, leaving two legs of the tripod completely extended while the third is withdrawn all the way. This allows the camera to have some reach and some maneuverability, although the effect is not quite as smooth as the actual jib system. However, those with not a lot of money will find this simple trick a godsend, and with some practice can probably make it look nearly as good as a professional rig.

Episode 50 is a good compliment to a great many episodes, especially to the ones discussing camera angles (11, 116), because once again Connolly goes over some simple angles, but this time tells you why you might use these particular ones.

  • In the high angle, you try to make your character seem small or weak.
  • Low angle, for the opposite effect.
  • Dutch angle, to make something in the scene appear to be wrong
  • Over-the Shoulder, where the objects included in the shot may suggest something about the character in a subtle way, or the Extreme Over-the-Shoulder, where the character can appear trapped.
  • Focal Length, or how much you are zoomed in or out, can change the appearance of the background to be closer or farther away and also suggest something about your subject.
  • Wide Shot versus Close Shot, where Ryan discusses how the close shot is great for when the drama is heightened, and how novice film and video producers tend to use too much of the wide shot in their scenes.

Again, Ryan talks about how these aren’t the only angles, methods, or techniques, but the point is to get creative and learn what works best.

More DIY Jib Creating Tips

Episode 53 (5/20/10) talks about a slightly more expensive way to create a jib, but still less than buying professional-grade equipment. Ryan found a number of techniques on the Internet and basically constructed a best-of to make the best possible jib at the lowest price. The jib they build is for smaller cameras but Connolly explains that if you change the materials from wood to metal then you can use larger cameras.

First the episode displays a checklist of all the items you will need to construct the jib. The episode then shows step-by-step the construction of the jib using all of those parts. This DIY jib is still not as good as a professional-grade, but if you don’t have the money then it is a more affordable way to get dynamic shots. Connolly warns that the DIY jibs are less stable and should require more precaution when in use.

All told, these episodes have a large volume of basic and advanced knowledge about jibs and other tools and techniques for people of all financial flexibilities, and are constructed in such a way to get a novice’s creativity flowing. Film Riot continues to be a tremendous source for DIY filmmaking.