Creativity Hack: Studio Light Mast

Parts imageProblem: Adding video production equipment to my office has created too much clutter.

Solution: 3D printed parts to mount a mast on the wall

This past fall, the last of my teenage daughters moved away to university. Oh, how the time flies. I remember when she was just a little girl—

Waitaminit! ::record scratch:: That means I have space for a dedicated office again! Bye, kiddo. Don’t take any wooden checks. Write when you get married.

 

By the end of the week I had moved all my gear in, upgraded my desk, and was happily writing again, this time without bumping my elbows into the furniture on every carriage return. That lasted a couple of months or so, and I was happy. For a while. But by late October I decided it was time to get serious about the video project I’d been planning, and by “serious” I mean that I actually started buying equipment and bringing it into the studio.

At first, this worked just fine, for as long as the whole process of shooting and editing video was a big focus. But once I had that more or less nailed down, I found all the video equipment was increasingly in the way of my other on-going projects. The biggest problem was the pair of light stands. They’re not especially large, but each of them obstructs about 8 sq ft of floor space, and in a 10’x12′ bedroom office, that was just too much.

Sure, I could have collapsed the tripods and put the lights into storage until I needed them, but that would have defeated the intention of being ready to shoot on short notice, with minimal fuss.

My first solution was to just bolt a pair of angle brackets to the walls and affix the lights to those. That immediately reclaimed most of the high-value floor space, and because the room isn’t very large, they were still close enough to light the talent properly. (You can check out the video here.) But then I rearranged my furniture layout and needed to put my treadmill right against the wall where the fill light was mounted. The treadmill itself fit easily enough into the space, but when I stood on the deck, the light unit was right where my head needed to be.

So that’s the problem: how do I allow the light to be permanently affixed to the wall there, but out of the way when I’m on the treadmill, and easy to move between the two positions?

For a while, I toyed with the idea of mounting a vertical rail on the wall with some kind of shuttle to ride up and down its length. By attaching the light to that shuttle, I figured I’d be able to raise it and lock it out of the way for treadmill mode, and then lower it quickly into position for video shoots.

I was actually standing in Home Depot trying to cobble together that rail system when the brainwave hit me: light stands are just a telescoping mast with collapsible legs. Remove the legs and you’ve got an adjustable-length pole, just waiting to be mounted to the wall. And bonus: the pole is already fitted with length-locking clamps and a pin at the top for mounting the light head.

Photo of installed mastFrom there, the problem became much simpler. After an hour of play-time in Blender, I had two pieces of mounting hardware designed, and the next day I was able to roll into my maker space and 3D print them both.

The idea is for the weight of the mast to be supported by the lower piece, which will act as a form-fitted end-cap. The socket has two detents along the interior wall, which mate perfectly with the grooves in the mast body. This will keep the lights from rotating into unwanted positions.

Near the top of the shaft, the second piece will act as a simple guide ring to hold the mast upright and again has the two detents to keep the shaft from rotating. Both pieces will be screwed into the drywall, and since neither the shaft nor the light head are very heavy, everything should be sturdy and secure.

Result: So now the entire system is installed and functional. There was a bit of jockeying required, as the handrail on the treadmill knocked against the pole while I was walking, so I had to move it about an inch further from the wall, but now everything is in place and seems to work just fine. I can treadmill my way through the daylight hours and still shoot YouTube videos by night. And changing from one setup to the other is no more complicated than raising or lowering a tripod.

Reduce your tool clutter to crank out the words

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.