Portable Vive Base Stations on Photo Light Stands

HTC Vive Basestation on a Lighting Stand

The HTC Vive Base-Stations provide the magic that allows roomscale VR but if you can’t drill holes in your wall, positioning them can be a conundrum.

Perhaps you rent your home and rules say no drilling or perhaps you’d like a portable setup that you can move around at will.

Let me share with you my solution to the non-permanent / portable Vive Basestation question:

HTC Vive Basestation on a Lighting Stand

Lighting Stands.

It just so happens that years ago, I bought a pair of photographic studio lights. They were quite hefty tungsten lamps complete with reflective umbrellas, hopelessly outmoded by today’s LED studio lights.

However, the telescopic poles that came with them have proved an ideal solution for siting the Vive basestations at opposite corners of my “Roomscale Space”.

I don’t have massive amounts of room to play with right now. About 2.1m by 1.8m, just exceeding the advised minimum space for SteamVR roomscale. Any of that area being taken up by the supports for the basestations would be bad. Many people use camera tripods to mount their Vive base-stations and the adjustable tripod heads allow the base-station to ‘look’ down for best coverage.

Camera Tripod With Vive Basestation
Many people use camera tripods to position their Basestations

There are, however, a few shortcomings with camera tripods. The first being their total footprint. The total height of a camera tripod is usually made up largely of the length of its tripod legs. Therefore, the splay of the legs is wide at the bottom and projects far into the room and potentially your roomscale space. Secondly, the total height of a consumer-level (ie: inexpensive) camera tripod is usually about head-height. Ideally, base-stations would be placed a bit higher than that.

Enter my Vive basestation solution; the aforementioned Photographic Lighting Stand.

“But it’s still a tripod!” I hear you cry. Certainly it is but only at the very base. Lighting stands typically have a low fixed-length tripod with a series of telescopic tubes then making up the total height. By design they are also much taller than the average camera tripod. The smaller footprint means they can be placed closer to limits of the roomscale area and also present less of a trip or interference hazard. A reasonable quality, sturdy lighting stand is usually significantly cheaper than an equivalent quality camera tripod.

Many lighting stands come complete with a 3/8 male thread at the top to which you can directly fasten your basestation. In fact, I initially used my basestations in this fashion. Screwed directly on, the basestations faced horizontally across the room. This worked pretty well but eventually, I started to notice the basestations had ‘blind’ spots low down when a controller or the headset was covered by my body.

Mini Ball Head

Vive Basestation on a 3/8" Mini Ball Head
Vive Basestation on a 3/8″ Mini Ball Head

To address the need to angle the basestations downward, I looked out another product commonly called a Mini Ball Head. As the name suggests, the device offers articulation by way of a ball joint with a friction lock. I bought mine for under $10 each and they had a 3/8″ female thread in the base and a 3/8″ male thread on the ball-arm. This means it can be directly installed atop the lighting stand. The Vive basestation can then be installed and positioned as desired.

The way I have been using the lighting stands to move the base-stations when not in use means that I have been running SteamVR’s room-setup every time I want to use the HTC Vive. This is because I can’t place the lighting stands by eye in the exact same positions as before. This would be especially difficult when I’ve shorted the telescopic sections for storage.

Doing without roomscale-setup.

I have, however, thought of ways and means of keeping the same roomscale config even after the basestations have been moved.

It’s all about getting the basestations back into as near exactly the same position as possible. This is easiest to accomplish if you can store the lighting stands at their fully deployed height.

To return the light stands to their original location, I suggest putting small tape-marks on the floor at the tip of each leg of the tripod. This should work okay with hard floors. If you’ve got carpet, I’m not so sure. Your vacuum cleaner may have other ideas about the tape.

If you need to close down the telescopic sections and tripod for storage, things are more tricky as you have to return the lighting stand to its original configuration. I’ve thought of marking or scoring the poles at their deployed positions but my lighting stands have gas struts in the telescopic sections I’m unsure if marking or scoring would cause the telescopic sections to leak.

If anyone has an alternate idea for re-deploying lighting stands to avoid re-running roomscale-setup, please let me know in the comments below. 👍

Finally, some words of warning:

HTC obviously intends that you use the brackets supplied to permanently fasten your Vive basestations to the wall. I’m unsure as to whether using mobile stands has any warranty implications.

Vive basestations contain fast-spinning parts and basestations must not be moved under any circumstances when they are powered up. Doing so can cause serious damage due to gyroscopic precession. When moving your basestations for storage, unplug them at the wall socket first. Then allow 30-40 seconds to ensure they have spun down.

Lighting stands are tall. When you pick them up to move them, there may not be much clearance above them. Remember to look up to avoid pranging the basestation against the rafters.

Keep cables tidy to avoid entanglement and the risk of pulling a stand over.

When installing or removing your basestations on a threaded attachment, use both hands and always keep a grip on them. This way if a basestation comes off the thread, it doesn’t fall. Beware of bad threads and cross-threading on cheaper lighting stands.

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