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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.
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Shooting videos from directly overhead is old news, but thanks to BuzzFeed's video series, "Tasty," many of us have become well-acquainted with this type of shot.

Tasty videos

The perspective that this shot offers can breathe life into all sorts of videos, beyond just step-by-step recipe demos. But the overhead shot can be tricky to set up and execute.

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 will never point 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:

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. Because of 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, it makes it difficult to monitor your shot. So if you have one, 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…

  • Mirror
  • 2 split ring brackets
  • 2 eye bolts that bolt into the brackets
  • 2" bolts and some extra nuts
  • Drill
  • 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 7 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 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.

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