How to build a DIY stop motion camera rig

One of my favorite genres of explanation videos is the stop motion/time lapse video. First made by Common Craft for explaining Internet concepts, then used by Kathy Maister’s Start Cooking video podcast, these have been a select part of video online for over a decade:

The tough part about doing the stop motion over paper video well is getting the camera overhead. You can buy fairly expensive rigs and light tables built expressly for this purpose, but if you’re doing it for hobby purposes rather than professionally, you may not want to invest hundreds of dollars in one. 

To build your own, all you need is some PVC, a 1/4-20″ bolt, and a selfie stick camera mount. You’ll also need a power drill with a 1/4″ bit and a PVC pipe cutter. Finally, you’ll likely want an inexpensive desk lamp. For this project you’ll need approximately 20 feet of PVC – I went with 1/2″, but use the diameter you like. If you anticipate setting up a heavier camera than a smartphone, you may want 3/4″. You’ll need 4 corner pieces and 4 T joints of the same diameter. 


Begin by measuring the height at which your smartphone’s video camera captures a sheet of paper. Be sure to have video mode on! Photos have a different distance on some smartphone models. Once you know the height, add an inch for safety and cut four legs. Attach the corner connectors to the legs.

The length and width of the frame can be whatever you want them to be; I’d recommend you choose something around a tabloid sheet of paper size, 11″ x 17″ so that the legs of your construction don’t show up in the video.

Cut the length poles in half and attach T-connectors to them:


Begin to set up the upper frame:


In one of the middle T-connectors, drill a hole through the center to accommodate the 1/4″ bolt:


Next, cut enough PVC to add three small segments between the middle two T-connectors. This will accommodate a light and the smartphone mount, or alternately provide a place for a tablet to rest:


Insert the bolt through the T-connector and then attach the selfie stick mount:


Add the light, and your stop motion table should look like this:


That’s it! It may take some trial and error to get the pieces to the length you want them to be, which is why I recommend you should buy 20′ of PVC, in case you mess up a few times. The results of the video are at the top of this post, shot using Apple’s built-in time lapse feature.

Give this a try!

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How to tell if industry marketing benchmarks matter

The average clickthrough rate (CTR) is about 4% for B2B. (source)

The average Facebook organic reach for pages with 500 likes or more is 2.11%. (source)

Do these numbers provide any useful information to your business? Perhaps. The challenge is understanding whether the benchmark applies to your business or not.

With any kind of industry average or benchmark, it’s important to understand what was being benchmarked. B2B is a broad category that encompasses military defense contractors making billion-dollar products as well as small financial services startups selling a $29 app. B2C is even broader, with companies selling products to consumers from houses to dollhouses.

When you consider industry benchmarks, think of them as middle of the road measurements. Some businesses will do significantly better. Some will do significantly worse.

The challenge with benchmarks and averages is that you don’t have any sense of what the standard deviation is. If the email CTR for B2B is 4%, are you a little bit off with a 3% CTR, or are your processes really broken internally?

To answer this question, look to the variability in your own data. If you have a 3% CTR on average, but week to week your email CTR fluctuates as much as +/- 2%, then you’re not badly off. If you have a 3% CTR on average, but week to week your CTR fluctuates by 0.01%, then you’ve got a lot more work to do to reach 4% consistently. Develop a list of the metrics you want to measure yourself against, and then determine how much variability you have in your own numbers. That will guide you as to how far off the benchmark you are.


For numbers which are publicly accessible (such as inbound links and some social media data), you can also compare yourself to your competitors. If they routinely receive 1% engagement on their Tweets and you receive 2%, that’s the start of a useful stat. If their engagement rates are +/- 0.01%, then you know how much of a lead you have in engagement compared to them; it’ll take them a longer time to reach your 2%. If the reverse is true, you know you need to step on the gas to secure your lead.

Ultimately, benchmarks are just the starting point for a much deeper discussion about improvement – yours and your competitors’.

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Reduce the pain of switching to gain more customers

One of the best things to come out of the 2015 WWDC keynote from a marketing perspective wasn’t Apple’s streaming music service. It wasn’t new Apple Watch functionality, or any of the dozens of other features.

What caught my eye was Apple’s announcement of an Android app… to help you switch to an iPhone:


“Just download the Move to iOS app to wirelessly switch from your Android device to your new iOS device. It securely transfers your contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, wallpaper, and DRM-free songs and books. And it will help you rebuild your app library, too. Any free apps you used — like Facebook and Twitter — are suggested for download from the App Store. And your paid apps are added to your iTunes Wish List.”

Think about this for a moment. Apple has made a concierge to guide you through the process of switching away from a competing ecosystem by reducing as much friction as possible.

Now consider your own marketing. Do you have a service or a product explicitly built for the purposes of helping potential customers leave your competitors?

Software as above is an obvious candidate for a concierge service. Even physical goods can have this functionality, though. There’s a difference between publishing a video about important steps to take before replacing a refrigerator and doing it for the customer. The former reduces friction only a little; the latter reduces significantly more friction because the customer doesn’t have to do it. Apple’s Android app reduces the things the customer has to do.

If you understand the pain points customers encounter when switching from a competitor to you today, you have a roadmap for easing those pains. How can you reduce friction and mitigate inconvenience? How much can you do for your prospective customer on their behalf?

It’s equally important to interview your current customers and ask them why they haven’t switched to a competitor. What do you do right? If you find that only one or two tenuous threads are all that stand between you and a mad rush for the exits, shore up your products and services to be better, to reduce the reasons to switch in the first place.

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