2012.10.26

Motorized Camera Slider

Still very much in progress, but here’s the first iteration of my motorized camera slider. The slider ends are this part, and the carriage is this part. I had to tweak the heck out of the OpenSCAD file for the carriage to get it to fit right. I also learned about silicone spray to get things sliding more smoothly, and the fact that it’s better to leave bearings a little loose if you don’t have precision alignment.

The “motorized” part is pretty simple…actually too simple, and I need to complex it up a bit. It’s a continuous rotation servo with a spool attached and some string wound onto it. It just slowly pulls the camera across the rods. I need to add some controls to allow for setting the speed, and some gearing might also help things move a little better. I’d also like to investigate using a threaded rod as a screw drive, which could also function as a third support.

Ultimately, I want to have a rig that will move the camera slightly, then trigger the camera to snap a photo, then repeat. I’ve got the code for all this, so right now it’s mainly a matter of the mechanical build (needs improvement) and wiring things up without it being too messy. (The guys at the Federal building told me they get concerned when they see wires and batteries.) A nice case might be in order. I might also look for a smaller ball head, as this one is quite large and heavy, which doesn’t help outside on a windy day. There’s a long list of improvements to this, so expect more posts in the future.

See a video of one of the early tests of this thing.

6 Responses to “Motorized Camera Slider”

  1. Very cool. I need to figure out a solution to a related problem. I want to make time-lapse panoramas. So I need a smooth rotation during each exposure. Would be fun to combine it with a track. Have you seen any projects like that? I’ve seen some panning DIY’s that use a kitchen timer to rotate a time-lapse, but this would need to do that repeatedly. Trick would be to “rewind” the timer for each shot.

  2. I did a test a while back where I had a time lapse camera on a servo to rotate it around 180 degrees, but the results were not great… I could probably revisit that at some point. Are you hoping to get still panorama images out of it, or widescreen video, or? I’m confused as to what the final output would look like. If you need precise control, a stepper motor and controller would be a good choice.

  3. I want to try and make a gif or a video from pano’s from my iPhone :)

    So Start exposure, pan, stop exposure, reposition for next pan, wait S seconds, repeat T times.

  4. Ah, that should be doable… though I imagine you’d need to manually start and stop the exposure… not sure how you’d externally control an iOS app. (That too is doable, but not easily.)

  5. steve cooleyNo Gravatar says:

    hey there, I’m really enjoying your blog. I was just thinking about your threaded rod comment. It would certainly be cheap enough to test with a continuously threaded rod from home depot or whatever and a matching nut. The only thing I would think of that might cause a problem is if the rod isn’t straight, you could get a subtle wobble as it rotates. Some people with older makerbot printers have experienced a “z axis wobble” for similar reasons.

    Oh, hey, also… another thing I was thinking of was that having an idler pulley on the far side of the slider and having the belt/chain/string wrap around it to provide counter-tension might help too? I don’t know, I’m a total amateur, but I’m interested in this same kinds of stuff. Nice work! I’m working towards making a version of a laser kaleidoscope after becoming inspired by seeing yours.

  6. Steve, thanks for the comments… I’ve been told a “loose” coupler might work better for the threaded rod, instead of fitting it super-tight, allow a little wobble, as it were.

    I can’t wait to see your laser kaleidoscope. I bet it will have some nice knobs on it. ;)

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