Many of the things we film for TE videos aren't the kind of thing you'd want to put an expensive camera anywhere near. Some of them aren't even the kind of thing you'd want to put a cheap camera near. To expand our recording options, I built a protective housing for a lipstick camera. Here's the how-to and video of us trying to destroy it. After a weekend of exploding propane tanks right next to it, it is still going strong.
To start, I did some research on the impact resistance of different plastics and found that PVC-II is good and fairly cheap. Polycarbonate has good impact resistance and is nearly optically clear (this is similar to what you see at the gas station in the ghetto). I sourced both of these materials from McMaster-Carr, though any local plastic supplier should also carry them. Using the PVC for the housing and polycarbonate for the face, I built a very simple protective case for a lipstick camera. There are plenty of ways to vary this design, but the average home builder should have no problem making one of these.
You will need a lathe to build your camera enclosure exactly as I did. Starting with the 4" rod of 2" OD solid PVC, I machined a 0.900" ID, which fits my particular helmet camera. If you do not have access to a lathe, you should be able to improvise something with 1" PVC electrical conduit. If you are using the conduit, I recommend cutting off about 4" of the larger, nesting part at one end and glueing it over 4" of the rest of the conduit. This doubles the wall thickness, providing more protection and more material to tap in the holes that attach the face plate.
Prepping the face plate is simply a matter of cutting the polycarbonate to size and drilling two holes. I used a 4" x 4" square for mine and cut it with a port-a-band (portable bandsaw). You could use a jig saw, but be careful to avoid cracking the plastic. Drill two holes to match those you made on the cylinder and use socket head cap screws to attach this face plate to the body of the camera housing.
In building my camera housing, I wanted something fairly small that I could put directly in harm's way. At some point, I will probably turn the 4" x 4" square polycarbonate face plate down to a 2" diameter circle to further decrease the size of this rig.
If size is not the main concern, however, there are other options to consider for your camera housing. Consider putting a polycarbonate window in a pelican case or even the cheap PVC electrical junction boxes. Be sure to seal between that window and the original box with a sealant such as RTV silicone that can withstand high temperatures. A camera housing of this design could also protect larger cameras than just the lipstick camera used here.
My cohort Gocke and I tried hard to destroy this enclosure. Though we did at one point set it on fire, it is still completely intact. The protection it provides the camera is impressive. In the video below, you will see some of the incredible footage this camera rig can provide.
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