PetaPixel

Build a DIY Sound Blimp to Silence Your Camera for Less Than $100

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Phoenix-based photographer Dan Tabár sometimes shoots on sound stages, sets, and quiet studios — locations where a loud camera would either cause problems or cause angry glares and murderous thoughts. Needing a way to surpress the shutter sound of his Nikon D800 — he says the “quiet mode is a joke” — Tabár decided to create his own DIY sound blimp.

Why make one rather than buy one? Well, the most popular sound blimps used in the photo industry can cost upwards of $1,000, and Tabár didn’t want to shell out that kind of money.

After poking around, he came across tutorials on how to build a sound blimp using a Pelican camera case. The DIY sound blimp includes removable extension tubes so that you can use lenses of various lengths.

Want to build your own? Tabár has create a helpful step-by-step tutorial on how you can do so. The first step is to buy yourself a hard camera case and some other components from your local hardware store:

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The basic things you’ll need are: PVC tubes for the lens housing, silicone sealant, and epoxy.

First, you’ll want to cut a hole in the foam to have your camera and wireless transmitter rest snugly inside the blimp. A printout of the camera you use can help with this:

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Find out exactly where the center of your lens tube should go, cut a hole in the camera case, and attach the lens tube housing to the outside of the case. Fix it in place with epoxy and then seal it with silicone:

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Next, you’ll want to punch holes on the other side of the case of your viewfinder and LCD screen:

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Use a transparent sheet to make the holes soundproof. Tabár used a Lexan polycarbonate sheet and silicone sealant.

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Make sure that the lens is nicely centered in the main lens housing:

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Build your own lens housing extensions using PVC pipe pieces. Be sure to use silicone sealant between pieces if you’d like to make them soundproof:

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Here’s what the camera looks like when an extension tube is used for a 70-200mm telephoto lens:

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Create a foam ring to pad the inside of the lens housing tube, which blocks sound and prevents any part of the camera from touching the blimp:

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Voila! You’re done! Here’s a video showing the blimp in action and demonstrating how much it can reduce the sound of your camera:

You can find step-by-step instructions with higher-resolution photographs over on Tabár’s blog and on photographer Blair Bunting’s blog.


Image credits: Photographs by Dan Tabár and used with permission


 
 
  • vashistha

    use compact if noise creates that much problem…

  • T-Dawg

    So if a professional charges $100 per hour and this costs $80 in parts, lets be conservative and say this took 8 hours to do of his time, that’s $880 to make this. I’m all for DIY, but at some point the professional sound blimps are going to give you more functionality than this DIY rig.

  • zeptom

    DIY is fun but I’m not sure how practical this should be. And how much sound doesn’t the case make everytime he need to open it to make some changes on the camera settings?

  • http://www.vincentmorretinophotography.zenfolio.com/ fast eddie

    I’ve done a few DIY photography projects, and I don’t think that this would take 8 hours to build if you know how to use a Dremel. Minus time at the hardware store, you’re probably looking at 2-3 accumulated hours of build time. You can be doing something else while the glue/epoxy dries.

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    NO… Shooting production stills is an actual job that photographers get hired to do. Not with compact point-and-shoots

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    Your point is somewhat valid. This seems really time consuming.

    But the pro sound blimps that you buy are just as clunky as this and cost $1000 bare minimum. They are ridiculously overpriced because there’s only one company that makes them so they can charge whatever they want, like Adobe is trying to do with Photoshop.

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    You don’t open the sound blimp while the video/film cameras are rolling and they are recording sync sound. What you do is set all your camera settings before the assistant director yells “action”.

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    Thanks for posting this! I need a sound blimp for production stills but don’t want to pay $1000 for a Jacobson.

    I am wondering how he was able to cut perfect holes in the Pelican case? This seems really difficult as Pelican cases are near indestructible

  • http://www.abcbphoto.com/ AdamB

    You don’t need it to be soundproof constantly. These are often used in the movie or tv industries to make shots while they’re taping. Blimps are standard gear for this, it’s a pain in the ass but that’s what you do. As mirrorless is getting better, maybe they’ll replace these eventually

  • 2wk

    I’ve been on sets where the photog used an inflatable blimp. It looked much better than this thing because he could actually get his hand inside it and use the camera controls. It was quite silent as well.

  • Mike

    Oh don’t you worry about that, there’s no such thing anymore as professional photographers :)

  • Bill McKenzie

    Sense of satisfaction building it yourself…priceless.

  • http://www.intensitystudios.com/ Antonio Carrasco

    yeah, I forgot :)

  • TimmyTwoTime

    Just use the K-5/II/IIs. That shutter is orgasmic!

  • Alex Minkin

    proper tools, i’d try using a dremel to outline the hole and then gradually cut down further on each pass, making the initial hole a little bit smaller than i want so there’s some room to do a pass with a file and sandpaper

  • Alex Minkin

    the real blimp i rented to work out in LA had metal clasps instead of the louder pelican ones, thats true, but i never dared open the case while we were filming anyways. do test shots before they get going, and if your environment changes that drastically, shoot AV or TV.

  • Alex Minkin

    I charge much more than $100 per hour, but if i’m not working, i’m not making money, and i’m sure not bemoaning lost opportunity cost, which is the proper accounting idea you’re trying to shoehorn in here. If i was so busy that I didn’t have several hours to devote to this project without dropping some other paid job, THEN i’ve lost money.

  • Alex Minkin

    A very nice, if not repeated DIY project. I’d be curious to see if someone could make lens covers that allow zooming, that’d be a game changer

  • Will Mederski

    This is a wonderfully documented DYI!

    But am I missing something? There doesn’t seem to be a photo of what the box looks like from the back, with the camera in it. (even on his blog)
    Which seems like the part most users would be interested in…

  • http://www.aluzinando.com Fernando Callo

    Use rangefinders (film or digital)

  • Dan Tabár

    The video at the bottom shows that. Soon, I have another video coming up with underwater testing, and also showing off how the focal length/zoom can be manipulated with the extension tube! So stay tuned to my blog for that :)

  • Dan Tabár

    I’ve seen those too in action, but they don’t nearly do as good a job with sound supression. Most of the noise emanates from the lens tube, and the soft cases do a bad job of covering just that area

  • Dan Tabár

    Yes, it was all dremel. On my blog post I link to the tutorial that originally inspired me (he also did a neater job at he dremeling): http://silentpenguin.blogspot.com/2010/07/blimp-20.html

  • Dan Tabár

    This is a mod you can do to help with the clasp noise:
    http://silentpenguin.blogspot.com/2010/07/sound-blimp-latch-mod.html
    However, I found that you can all but totally silence the noise of unmodified pelican claps with some proper technique. As you’re closing them, simply jam your finger in and ‘cushion’ the snap with it.. it will close without a sound. It’s hard to describe, but easy to perform.

  • Dan Tabár

    Exactly. Also: the satisfaction, fun, and pride i got out of building this thing is hard to put a price tag on.

  • Penis

    Didnt know i could use my cactus triggers to actually trigger the camera aswell. Good news.

  • Dan Tabár

    Not only that – they allow for the half-press autofocus activiation, as shown in the video

  • chubbs

    Or use your butt and make it silent… but DEADLY.