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My Custom DIY Beam-splitter 3D Camera Rig Project Beta Stage 1

January 20th, 2011 · 14 Comments · Shooting in 3D

I’ve been working on a DIY beam-splitter camera rig for shooting stereoscopic 3D video for a while now with the idea to have something built mostly from different computer related parts I have handy in order to lower the total cost of the project as much as possible. With the cheapest professional beam-splitter camera rigs starting at about $3000-4000 USD and going to tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for the high-end solutions it is quite hard for an enthusiast to start shooting 3D video to experiment or just for fun and to learn from the experience. So it is no wonder that a lot of people start building their own custom rigs, and my idea with this is pretty much the same…

At the moment the first phase of the test rig design is close to its completion, I’m just waiting for the two rails I’m going to use for adjusting the interaxial distance of the two cameras. I’m using two consumer grade HD cameras from Sony that I have, along with a custom modified set of LANC-based remotes for controlling the two cameras simultaneously, a small 50/50 beam-splitter mirror. The total build cost of the initial rough design should be about $100 USD, and as this is just a test project, the next version will probably look and work even better. The simple reason for that is the fact that while designing and building I’m learning on the go and getting new ideas to try, but the idea is still to remain a very affordable and easy to build design.

The idea for this rig is to be portable and light, with the next version planned to be built with parts probably from aluminium. The half mirror size is about 15 centimeters (around 6 inches) in width with the planned interaxial distance available to the user to be about 11 centimeters (around 4.3 inches). This of course is for shooting 3D video of closer objects as for recording landscapes or wider scenes a parallel rig with much bigger interaxial distance is usually a much better choice. After the rig is finished I do plan to also try recording HDR video with the two cameras, but that is a kind of a side project and another option you could use a beam-splitter rig for. The initial rough tests I performed today were quite promising and I expect to soon be able to have the interaxial adjustment rails attached and to record some test footage and post it here.

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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gordy // Jan 21, 2011 at 00:45

    Gotta love the DIY spirit! Looking forward to seeing the footage. When you position the cameras, make sure they are both the same distance from the reflective surface of the glass, not just from the glass. Good luck!

  • 2 Shane // Jan 21, 2011 at 01:00

    Where did you get your 50/50 mirror from?

  • 3 ken // Jan 21, 2011 at 03:07

    sweet, one more screw mount and you have a teleprompter.

  • 4 ComPH8 // Jan 21, 2011 at 05:19

    At least one of the cameras have to move side to side. Somehow I don’t see that in your arrangement. It doesn’t seem to have enough adjustments. Can you give us more details?

  • 5 Bloody // Jan 21, 2011 at 11:15

    Shane, I would if the company that sells them deserved it, but they don’t as their customer support is awful and I had quite some trouble getting the mirrors. So I won’t recommend them…

    Both cameras will be adjustable sideways to allow the full interaxial distance as the two supporting rails are mounted in the center, I’m still waiting for the adjustment rails to arrive, so they are not on the photo yet.

  • 6 Cesar Sommer // Jan 22, 2011 at 16:19

    Hi Bloddy
    Hey this looks good :)
    the mirror part seems very compact.

    The one im building is from aluminium one piece, but i have to make several adjustments still. The mainproblem to me is to keep it real compact but its difficult as the wide angle lenses need to much mirror but im about to find a way..

  • 7 BobyTT // Jan 23, 2011 at 13:56

    I hope is going to work :) let me know if you need anything else to purchase :)

  • 8 Bloody // Jan 23, 2011 at 15:19

    Thanks for helping with the mirrors BobyTT, I’ll let you know if I need help with something else from US :)

  • 9 The Druth // Feb 1, 2011 at 08:52

    Hey, Awesome blog

    Where did you buy the parts for you 3D rig here? Specifically the beam splitter plate. I’m a student film maker and want to make my own HDR rig but am having trouble locating where and what type of beam splitter I need for the project.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated

  • 10 Robert Blumenthal // Feb 3, 2011 at 22:21

    Last summer I went the route of DIY, but quickly realized I needed a secure platform for my rented Sony EX3s which also allowed flexibility when adjusting the I/O. A friend recommended the 3D Film Factory’s 3D BS-Indie rig for my job. With this rig I was able to align the two camera images precisely, and it is easy to use. Bottom line: my client was happy and I’ve secured two more 3D shoots this spring. The price was just under 4K and I believe well worth it!

  • 11 Chris C // Feb 9, 2011 at 08:58

    Has any one done this yet ? and if so could you please post the parts you used and where you got the glass for it ?

  • 12 Steve Lawrence // Feb 21, 2011 at 22:01

    Warning about 3D beam-splitter glass:
    Finding a single piece of high-quality beam-splitter GLASS is pretty much impossible. And in the case of 3D filmmaking – glass quality is everything. Unaware, most indie 3D filmmakers end up buying a cheap piece of teleprompter glass – $100-$200. The sellers of such glass assure you that you’re buying a quality piece of 50/50 mirror glass, but in reality, they don’t understand what’s required. What you end up with is a piece of low-grade, color-shifted, wavy glass that’s littered with imperfections. Sure – it’s fine for teleprompter reading from 10 feet away, but when there’s 2 HD cameras pointing at close range – it’s all over. The kind of glass you need – optical grade, flat, clear, high-grade coatings, etc… runs several thousand dollars and up – and it’s what you need for Pro 3D filming. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. But if you’re shooting a 3D video for YouTube – hey – it doesn’t matter – go for it !

  • 13 Bloody // Feb 22, 2011 at 01:09

    Well, don’t forget that not every 3D enthusiast that is shooting 3D video for fun and as a learning experience can afford 3-5K USD even for the most basic beam-splitter rigs. So building something yourself for much less, even if far from professional and perfect quality, but with a total cost of lets say $100 USD as a learning experience is still something to start with. ;)

  • 14 Faramarz Ghahremanifar // Jun 22, 2016 at 14:29

    I have two Sony XR 550 cameras and I want to take Stereo Close-up photos.
    I sent you the light stereo rig camera photo & I want you to guide me how can I have one of them Or the one you gave information about.
    How can I buy this and how much does the total cost?


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