Homegrown ultralight lightstands #2 – how they're made



Many of you've asked for a follow-up video showing the construction of these, so here's how. The only needed skills are to cut rope and tie knots; easy peasy. I've caught a flu, sorry for sounding nasal and slow. No fat cat this time either, but more closeups and image examples. There's more of those (images that is, not cats) at our website; almost all strobe pictures uses the very same softboxes.

The light weight (0.4 kg), fast setup/teardown and compact packing (40 cm), does come with some caveats, however. First, these tripods won't allow the box to be tilted; a minus compared to regular lightstands, but the boxes I use are so soft, I personally don't find it much use to tilt them; always using them straight on, even with normal stands. Might not fit your work though.

Second, the light weight and cord spreaders at the bottom make them less good in wind. I've made a version with rigid spreaders that will cope better, and you could easily add loops for tent pegs at the bottom, but I'd still prefer a regular tripod with ballast outside.

The good thing though is speed, size and weight, which is important for me since I use many small flashes, building larger clusters of small units; a modular approach that gives more flexibility, channels, and if you want, really large and soft light, or quite complex setups. The leg construction also makes it easy to place many stands close to each other; a problem with normal stands. The basics can be found in the first video/blog post.

For me, these lightstands are the perfect fit for small battery flashes; I use 7 units of the Canon 580EX, together with 5 of these lightstands. Flash, box and stand can stay connected during transport for über-quick setup, with the combined package being about the same size as *one* normal stand. No problem fitting 5 flashes/boxes/stands plus camera gear *inside* one large backpack. Try that with studio cans on Manfrottos :-)

53 comments:

Johnathan said...

Hi Peter,

Excellent video, beautifully made. One question, what diameter are tent poles you use? There are many options at the camping store and I wouldn;t want to buy some to only find out that they don't support the weight of the strobe & softbox!

Thanks again!

JC

Peter Karlsson said...

Jo Johnathan :-)

I've used 8 mm outside diameter poles, length 40 cm, 3x6 pieces. If I'd have unlimited choice, I'd choose 60 cm length; about the same as the softbox collapsed. Maybe consider some rigid spreaders also, but it's a little more work.

I've seen there are carbon fiber versions, weighing less than half, meaning a stand comes in at 0.2 kg; but also about the double price. I've paid maybe 40 €/stand in materials; it would be possible to source the material much cheaper if you put some work into it.

Cheers /Peter

SaltGeorge said...

Another great video about the stands.. thank you.

You mention that the angle of the umbrella is fixed against the stand. Could you angle the softbox downwards by using an elastic band to friction hold the "handle" of the umbrella against the opposite leg or a spreader? The umbrella would then be angled from the two rear legs at the top and the handle as the third fixed point. Just an idea, it might not work in practice.

Thanks again.

Peter Karlsson said...

Could work, might try that. How cool it is with ideas that gets better when they are shared :-)

dagge said...

Very interesting idea and nice video.

Do you know where I can find suitable tent poles in Sweden (or Stockholm)? Do you use a special make?

I searched the web and did not find any that looked like yours.

Dagge

Anonymous said...

Very well done - a beautiful video of such a practical subject.

Thank you

Peter Karlsson said...

I've got my tent poles at Tältcentralen in Stockholm, Sweden; consider using 60 cm poles instead of 40 cm; a little faster with less number of joints, maybe a little more stable also.

I've used all five of my stands at an indoor shoot yesterday.

Jase Stone said...

Thank you for the beautiful video - very stylish and well cut!

Might have a go trying to make one myself :)
Light stand that is - not the video ;)

Peter Karlsson said...

Kind words, thanks – it's just a hobby making videos, fun to not have commercial considerations when using a camera :-)

Best of luck with your construction!

David Solo said...

Yet again Peter you have stunned me... Your updates to the site are very stylish. Thankyou for the video. You have become my new photographers "hero":-)
David Solo

Peter Karlsson said...

I'll soak up those words David, they made my day :-)

Hope the video can bring something to the community.

Cheers! /Peter

Dominic Egan said...

Tack så mycket Peter wonderful cant wait to try this out great presentation, fantastic work. Heading out the door inspired today Cheers Dominic

Peter Karlsson said...

Dominic,

Feels good to light up some inspiration :-) Bra svenska!

Cheers /P

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Awesome stuff, Peter, I was drooling when I saw your initial video via David Hobby's Strobist blog, and I've been waiting anxiously ever since for you to return from your vacation so you would post a how-to follow up :)

Before you did, I had already bought the poles, they are about 60cm x 4 segments, I think perfect. Except these are high density plastic so not as light as your aluminium ones. Now after watching your video I've already bound the top of the 3 poles by knotting the "shock cords" together, now it's back to the store to purchase the remaining materials.

One question still, what do you call that plastic locking thing you use on the cord to adjust the height of the softbox? I'm not even sure what store to find that, but those things are probably easier to find and buy online. But I don't even know what to search for :)

Thanks in any case for the inspiration. I can't wait to get these things ready to use on an assignment!

TheSlogger said...

I'm guessing you shot the video with the Canon 5D Mark II, and from the extremely shallow DoF in some of those detail shots, I'm guessing you used the Canon 50mm f/1.4, maybe with a set of macro tubes for some of those really close up shots?

One thing you must tell me, how did you get all those beautifully smooth movements in the detail shots? Clearly not by hand! Is this some sort of mechanical rig?

Peter MacDonald said...

It's a cord lock. There are the types pictured here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cord_lock

Or this type as used in the video

http://www.rei.com/product/612218

Peter Karlsson said...

Hey slogger,

Yep, it's the 5D2, plus some Canon glass, often the 50/2.5 macro here; such a sweet forgotten lens, a perfect companion to the 180/3,5, to go more wide in macro sometimes. But no 180/3.5 in this vid.

Also, I've used the 35/1.4 for the spinning-around shots, the 85/1.2 for some moving-in and sideway pulls, and the 14/2.8 for the vertical intro movements.

Spinning movements are made with a rig I've built myself from cheap standard Manfrotto parts; I like building things ;-)

Horizontal and vertical straight-line moves are with the Glidetrack SD, 1 meter. Good stuff!

Peter Karlsson said...

@ Mark and Peter,

True, they're cord locks. I've tried both heavy-duty and normal ones (like in jackets etc), and they both work fine. Just try them with the cord to be used, the friction must be sufficient.

TheSlogger said...

Well if you needed inspiration for the next video you make, I sure wouldn't mind seeing how you built the spinning rig. It looks like you don't just spin the camera around, but can rotate it around a center point out in front, which enables you to circle the camera around an object smoothly, is this right?

Peter Karlsson said...

Slogger,

Well, if people would like it, maybe :-) Though, I'm still such an amateur on video.

Yep, the rig spins around a point, so you can place focus on the object and just spin the camera, keeping the focus stationary. It can be set up for a table, or the floor like in this video.

Foebia said...

Wow, Peter. Such a clever idea! And, more importantly, the images you create are beautiful. Perhaps I'm a bit dim...I'd love to build a few of these, but I'm totally stumped about how you actually construct them. Any chance you could provide detailed instructions to the assembly process? If so, I'd love to see how to make one.

I hope you make more videos and blog posts. I've enjoyed your site very much!

TheSlogger said...

You are much too modest about your video skills. It is quite clear your experience in photography has had no problem adapting to video.

About the rig, even if you don't feel like making a whole video about it, I would be incredibly grateful if you would merely post a couple photos of it to give me a basic idea of how it functions. I will beg, should that become necessary.

Peter Karlsson said...

@Foebia,

Thanks :-) Maybe I could give you some guidance at the step you find difficult?

@ Slogger,

OK, I'll post about it in the future; maybe wise to subscribe to the blog if you'd like to know when I get around to do it.

Cheers /P

Foebia said...

Thanks Peter. I think my problem is figuring out how the support pieces in the first stand are connected. I think I know what to do with the one with the strings on the bottom of the legs, but how did you do the first one? I'd like to have the middle support for extra stability. Any tips?

mafotografix said...

Hi Peter, you are a true artist! What an inspirational video. I feel guilty not using the video feature on my 5Dmk2. I think you just made me want to use it now. Thank you also for sharing your light stand ideas, too. I wish you all the best. I'm sure good things will come to good people like you. Take care!

Peter Karlsson said...

Foebia,

Yes, that detail is not really covered; I've drilled a small hole through every middle section (one hole for each leg), to get the elastic cord through, and then just add two (short) sections of poles between each leg, about in the middle height of the leg. One elastic cord run inside the 3 rigid spreaders, and through the 3 holes in the 3 legs.

Mark said...

I like the idea of the rigid spreaders, however one advantage I can imagine with the cords at the bottom of your first version of the stand is that you can place small heavy objects like a backpack or pelican case or even a rock at the base of each leg so that it weighs down both cords connected to each leg, making it quite wind-resistant. At least, that's what I imagine. Is that the reality?

Peter Karlsson said...

mafotografix,

Good to hear :-) It's big fun trying to learn video with the 5D2, so give it a try.

Mark,

Yep, the rigid spreaders make them, well, more rigid. But I do prefer the cord ones; lighter, more simple, and can be placed really close and actually on top of each other. You get used to keeping legs spread out when moving them around.

Peter Karlsson said...

Mark,

Oh, about rocks etc; have not tried, but could work. I'll bring them outside when spring comes around :-)

ApertureK said...

i just love love love your video, the parts where you show the details of the stands, beautiful....great job :)

TJBookarts said...

Hi Peter,

I was wondering what type of bracket you are using to hold your flashes onto the umbrella stem. I have only seen the ones that attach to the top of standard light stands. Thank you for sharing your instructions. I'm looking forward to building one.

Mark said...

@TJBookarts: It's not the same one as Peter is using, but I found a great very lightweight bracket by Falcon Eyes which I have bought for this setup. Instead of having the spigot which screws into my wireless trigger on the same side of the hinge as the hole for the umbrella, i place it on the other side so that the angle of the flash can be set independent of the umbrella, just as Peter's does.

I think you can find it for less than 20 euro.

http://www.falconeyes.com.hk/?pid=570231&lang=enus&cid=73426&product=Tilting_Bracket

Peter Karlsson said...

ApertureK,

Appreciate it :-)

TJBookarts,

I use some cheap Hama plastic flash fasteners/brackets, they actually also have a threaded hole, but it's not needed. Maybe in emergency cases, to place a naked flash on top of a normal light stand.

TJBookarts said...

Thank you Peter and ApertureK. I found something online that should work fine.

- chase - said...

Hi - just saw your video and it's similar to something i had come up with for another use.

Tip for you - or at least it's what i used.

For the base leg spreader support you can use nylon flat webbing which in my case i made them adjustable with a center tri-ring ( three flat sides). At the ends where your legs are (and this should help you stabilize your rig quite a bit) use tent pole tips with a ferrel end - simply slip a ring on the other ends of the webbing and clip them on- gives a much more strenth and with a little inginuety you can make them adjustable spreader distance very easily - sorry i have no pics of my to share at this point.

I use this spreader in lew of a tripod metal spreader - that's was the start of my version of tripods and light stands...

Nice tripod - i'll have to make a couple like yours and compare them to mine.

You'd appricate my 6' and 8' softboxes made very similiar to your stands as well - ( rap your stands two sides with a reflector and one side with the translucent material of choice - attach together with velcro and you pretty much have them)

You can also get bent conectors for the top of your stand.

takes some looking but you can find them - sorry i don't have a link for you...

Happy shooting - btw nice vid!

- chase -

- chase - said...

PS: By adding another style of end tips - you can also make your stands angle adjustable.

Though i don't know if you want to carry around small 2 to maybe 6" pieces of tent pole tubing - but to angle it higher - simply add a small length to the front leg via the tip - to angle it lower add one each to the rear legs - your angle would be dependent on the length of extention tubing you choose of course.

Or just add a threaded rod to the end using a tip that had been threaded - to keep it light use aluminum threaded rod or long bolt.

all pretty simple to make - if your in the making mood that is.

take care.

chase

Peter Karlsson said...

Strobist traffic just crashed one full server at our web hotel; site, mail and ftp down for us and lots other people. Feeling guilty? ;-)

Sorry folks, hope it'll be up soon. /Peter

Cdubz said...

Funny, I had to Goog the Glidetrack SD and to my surprise I found that it looks very similar to a window regulator from a car. Like a toyota camry or such. So if you like building things.... there is the main piece for your glidetrack. Even has 10mm threads for window!

Marcos Borges said...

The video itself is already fantastic. Great idea! Surely, I am going to try it home.
Take care. Greeting from DK.

Peter Karlsson said...

So much inspiration from you guys, thanks!

Chase,

Good points. I've also toyed with ideas for building large soft boxes. Would be nice to see your constructions, if you'd like to share?

Cdubz,

Yes, guess it's some kind of standard assembly they've used on the Glidetrack, but I just bought it anyway :-) There's some tips on the net where you can buy the material. Or go to a car junkyard.

pierre said...

excellent work, thanks for sharing this

Paul said...

The video and tripod are beautiful work Peter, thank you. Just one small warning to potential constructors; not all tent poles are good for this project. I just built one with 50cm x 10mm plastic/resin poles with 4mm bungee running through but the resulting tripod is laughably flippity floppity. I'm going to have to find some more rigid tent poles:-)

Peter Karlsson said...

Paul,

Sorry to hear the plastic stuff made them too flimsy. I've used 40 cm x 8 mm alu, and while they're not exactly wonders of stability, they do work.

Hope you get it right!

michalgarcia.com said...

Thanks so much for all the information Peter. I agree with all the folks that we would love to see how you do your video motion. I'm checking out the information you've already posted about it (Glidetrack etc) but I'd be very excited to see a video of it.
Cheers,
michalgarcia.com

Ewoud said...

Fantastic video explaining a very good idea, I'm already searching for materials to build some myself.

One tip for those who don't like the plastic hama flash holder, you might buy this metal one from falcon eyes;

http://www.falconeyes.com.hk/?pid=570230&lang=enus&cid=73426&product=Umbrella_Holder_with_Hot_Shoe

And use it upside down, you only need a half size spigot to put in the bottom and you can attach the flashmount on there,

For example the SP-4M8M http://www.falconeyes.com.hk/?pid=570613&lang=enus&cid=73453&product=Spigot

This way you can angel the flash in the softbox just like Peter does with the Hama one.

Just thinkin, I might build one to use without the softbox and use tentpeg on outside terain so it doesn't fall over.

So thanks for your great idea Peter!

Peter Karlsson said...

Ewoud,

Seems like compact good stuff from Falcon Eyes. The Manfrotto Lite Tite is really heavy and more suited for studio cans; lots of overkill for small flashes. Good luck!

michalgarcia,

Will do some kind of video soon, have an idea with video/timelapse cam-movement studio stuff with another homemade camera-sweeping thingie. Might include some about how it's done, if the video comes out looking OK :-)

Cheers guys /P

P.Christodoulou said...

Hey Peter and all peeps here!
That is some really ingenius stuff posted. May I ask a small favour?
Could you point me to the right direction to procure the materials needed, anywhere in Europe? I live in Greece and such stuff is hard to come by. If you or anyone else could post or send me some urls on the suppliers and the type of items needed (poles and bungie cord) I would be eternally grateful.
Btw I had a good look at Tamrac's Zipshot tripod, thinking I could use it instead (with minor modification) but its not up to the task.

Thanks all for your time

parisfth@yahoo.com

Peter Karlsson said...

Yo Christodoulou & peeps :-)

I've no clue where to order materials; I've bought them locally in Stockholm, Sweden. Hope you can find it on the net.

I've also had some looks at the Tamrac tripods, and hoped to be able to use them too, but they're too flimsy and low (About crotch+ height). Legs slide apart under loads of a small flash and umbrella. But for supporting a compact camera on vacation it seems to be a killer.

A Tamrac weighs about 320 g for flimsy crotch+ height, but also requires an additional holder for flash and umbrella. Mine weighs 440 g for 2 m of sort-of-flimsy-but-working stability; about same as Tamrac with fasteners.

Scott said...

I'm not sure what I am more impressed with: your idea, your video, or your photos. All very well done!

Peter Karlsson said...

Scott,

Thanks :-) Though the video is a secondary thingie; I'll try making something soon that's more focused on aesthetics. Grateful for your comments!

Cheers /Peter

uwe.mayer said...

Thanks for sharing this great idea! Its extremely practical and funto work with.

I wanted to let you know that I did some modifications to your original design and found a secure and easy way to attach the strobe without having to use a swivel.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/intermayer/sets/72157606865652529/

Peter Karlsson said...

Uwe,

That's clever modifications; good to see the idea evolve and getting better. Nice to loose the flash bracket. Seems you have lots of other DIY stuff going on. I'm going keep an eye on your blog, and try to understand german, as a consequence :-)

Keep it up /Peter