Three Ways to Shoot an Overhead Video
Learn how to use a tripod, a boom pole, or a mirror to capture a shot from up above.
Unless you’ve disconnected yourself from the Internet entirely over the past few years, many of us have become well-acquainted with the overhead shooting style. It started gaining popularity with BuzzFeed’s “Tasty” series, where they shared step-by-step recipe demos shot overhead.
One thing’s for sure–the overhead video trend definitely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But beyond savory step-by-step demos, the perspective this shot offers can breathe life into all sorts of other content your business creates.
Take, for example, YouTube artist AmandaRachLee’s bullet journaling and drawing tutorial videos. Eye-catching and engaging, her viewers are drawn to every detail and movement she puts into focus. How did she execute an overhead shot like this and how can you replicate the setup? Lucky for you, we’re here to help show you how!
In this post, we’ll break down three ways that we’ve successfully captured the overhead video shot at Wistia.
The tall tripod
The simplest way to shoot from up above is to raise your tripod sky-high and point it down. It’ll never point a perfect 90 degrees downward, but it’ll get you close enough in most cases.
Place the tallest tripod you have as close to the table or surface as possible, and point the tripod head all the way down. If you need a little extra height, bring the tripod legs closer together, or try putting the front two legs on whatever table or surface you’re using. At Wistia, we use the Manfrotto MVH500AH fluid head & 755XB tripod combo.
The boom pole holder
Another way to position a camera directly overhead is to use a combination of a monopod and a boom pole holder.
For this technique, you’ll need:
- Boom pole holder and grip head
- Monopod (you could also use a tripod)
- Strong light stand like this c-stand
- Sand bags
Clip the camera into the monopod, then slip the monopod into the boom pole holder.
Important: Double-check that everything is locked tight, from the camera mount to the grip head. Also, use sandbags to weigh down the boom pole stand, as this rig will be pretty darn top-heavy. When you’re shooting overhead, we’ve noticed that gravity can cause some zoom lenses to slip and not hold focal length. To avoid this, use a fixed lens like a 24mm or 35mm, and raise or lower the light stand to get the right framing.
With the camera so high up, monitoring your shot tends to be difficult. If possible, getting your hands on an external display will save you some time and energy.
The mirror rig
And then there’s the mirror rig. This rig is a bit more ambitious, but if you’re doing a bunch of overhead shooting, it might be worth the time investment.
The main benefit of the mirror rig is being able to shoot up at the mirror from the ground. From this position, you can easily make camera adjustments or change zoom or focus. In post-production, you can apply a flip effect to correct the image, and you’ve got yourself an overhead shot!
To build the mirror rig, we modified this $70 wood-frame mirror from Home Depot. To do it yourself, you’ll need…
- 2 split ring brackets
- 2 eye bolts that bolt into the brackets
- 2" bolts and some extra nuts
- Sturdy c-stand
- Sand bags
Drill some holes into the frame and attach the brackets, leaving enough clearance for the c-stand crossbar. Then you can adjust the angle of the mirror by using the eyebolts as set screws.
A word of caution to avoid seven years of bad luck: Make sure the mirror frame is good and tight, and be sure to use sandbags on the c-stand.
With the mirror overhead, it’s all about finding the right height and angle. You’ll want to place the mirror above the table at roughly a 45-degree angle to start. A zoom lens is key here because you can actually grab wide and close-up shots without moving your camera or the rig. This lets you get a variety of different shots from the same angle.
Now your raw footage will be… wait for it… mirrored. But correcting for this is just a filter away in any video editor.
Try it out in your next video
Maybe you’re not making any recipe demos in the near future, but you might want to surprise your viewers with an interesting new vantage point every now and then. When done well, the overhead shot can be a delightful addition to any kind of video.