This is a project that I've been wanting to do for a long time, so when I recently acquired a waterproof, shockproof camera from Instructables, I knew its time had come. I've always had a fascination with video taken from the perspective of pets wondering how they viewed the world, and us as their owners.
There are three ways of mounting the camera, each giving a unique perspective. The first is under the chin where the camera hangs from the neck. This perspective is great for recording movement of the pet through their environment by recording gait and direction. The disadvantage is that you don't really see the perspective of the animal. The second is a head mount. This, by far, would be the best way, however the weight of the camera and harness would be very uncomfortable for your pet, and there is a risk of injury during high energy play. The final way is a back mounted harness. This gives you the perspective of the animal, tho not to the extent that a head mounted camera would, however it offers a nice safe and stable platform during high energy movement. The biggest advantage is that it doesn't interfere with your pets movement, and would generally go unnoticed.
The design of this harness is very simple and comfortable for you pet to wear, but it is also quite stable and less prone to shifting during high energy play. The harness mounts directly over the shoulder blades with two straps holding it in place. One around the neck, and the other around the chest. The harness, is made out of 4-5oz leather with a soft piece of chromium tanned underneath to act as padding.
Step 1: Tools And Supplies
Step 2: The Camera Mount
First you need to disassemble the tripod by drilling out the dimple that's used to hold the aluminum to the mount. Once it is drilled the sections should pull apart. Each of other other legs should be held in place with small screws. Extract those and they should come right off. Don't snap them off like I did or extracting the screws gets a whole lot harder and more annoying.
There is a metal extension tube inside the aluminum tub that will need to be extracted as well. Once you have it apart you can reassemble the mount and using one of the screws extracted from the legs, secure it together through the hole used to disassemble it.
Now take your dowel, and taper one end, then tap it into the tube. Drill another hole in the aluminum tube and secure the dowel in place using the screw extracted from the second leg. Gluing is optional but securing with a screw fastener is important.
**Note** I shortened the length of the mount after some stability testing, however it was done at a later stage so I'll add that in a later step. You can, however, shorten it now if you choose.
Step 3: The Base Of The Camera Mount
You'll need a way to attach your camera to the harness. I simply used a wooden block, drilled out to fit the vertical post of the mount.
Use your drill or drill press to make a hole the size of your mount tube, 3/4 of the way through the block. Through the last 1/4 use a smaller bit to create a hole for a screw and counter sink the hole on the underside of the block.
Now insert your mount, and using a 1" tapered screw, secure it into place.
Finally some paint. Mask off the platform of the mount and use some tremclad black on the down tube and block. It's not a necessary step, but goes a long way to the finished look.
Step 4: The Leather Back Rest
The size of the back rest will be dependent on the size of your animal, but for a large dog like a German Shepherd, a good size is 8 inches long x 6 inches wide.
The design is simple. The back rest has a, sort of, shield shape to allow for as much comfort as possible. There is a rounded cut out for the neck which will allow the dog full unrestricted movement to lift its head. It also helps with securing the harness from shifting. The two extensions are for the front strap and will give enough angle for it to sit comfortably around the dog's neck. The side cut outs are for the shoulder blades to, again, prevent restriction of movement.
For starters, you need to cut the 'shield' shape out of your veg. tanned leather, then glue it to your chromium tanned piece. If the surface of your chromium leather is smooth, like mine is, you'll need to rough it up a bit with sandpaper to get good adhesion.
Next, punch holes to mark the slots for your straps then, using a ruler and utility knife, cut the material out from between the holes.
Now you need to permanently attach the two pieces of leather. You can rely on the glue alone, but if your harness gets wet, there's a chance it could separate. I've never really used a sewing machine with my leather and wanted to give it a shot, (tho I apologize for my lack of skill and poor stitching). You can use a sewing machine with upholstery thread if you choose, but you could just as easily stitch it together using a sewing awl.
Stitch around the entire perimeter of the 'shield' then go around each of the strap holes. This will prevent stretching and distorting should the harness get wet, and go a long way to keeping the layers together.
Step 5: Attaching The Mount
Punch 4 holes into the back rest positioned 1/2" from each corner of the mount block. The mounting block should be positioned roughly 1.5" back from the indentation for the neck. Getting the camera as close to the neck, as possible, without interfering with head movement will go a long way to preventing shifting of your harness.
I used 4 flat screws to secure my mount to the harness, but I'd say that tapered screws would work as well, and wouldn't pull out just by virtue of the thickness of the leather. You can use round screws with washers to ensure it doesn't work loose, but remember the comfort of the dog. You don't want screws sticking into its back.
You can finish up by gluing small squares of leather over the screw heads to ensure they don't dig into your pet.
**Note on the mount height** I initially set my mount to be 6" tall, but found there was far to much movement and ended up cutting it down to 4" but you can go even shorter than that. Your camera really doesn't need that height anyway as you can adjust its angle of view.
Step 6: The Straps
I experimented with two different types of straps. The first was elastic straps with velcro ends and the second was nylon straps with quick side release buckles and found there are advantages and disadvantages for each. The velcro provided a secure attachment, but I found that the elastic would flex and stretch during use, and make for a very bouncy video. I had to take sea sickness pills after watching it.
With the nylon and buckle straps I found there was less movement during use and they held securely. The contrast is that they were definitely less comfortable for the dog, even after I put cloth sleeves on them. In my opinion, however, the dog really won't be wearing the harness on a full time basis, so the sacrifice in comfort really isn't to big of a concern. The important thing is that it doesn't chafe or pinch your pet and make the experience of acting as cameraman (cameradog) a bad one.
Step 7: Finished
That's it. Now head out and have some fun with you pup getting some great video of their adventures.
I took some fantastic vid of my dog playing with the hose recording with the harness camera, and my cell phone camera, at the same time, but unfortunately don't have a good video editing program to piece them together, so as soon as I do I'll add it to the instructable. I wanted to put the harness through as much abuse as possible to see how it would hold up under intense activity and will post the results as soon as I get my editing issues sorted.
As usual, I hope you enjoyed the instructable and thanks for following.