Gyrocam keeps the horizon level even when the camera isn’t

[Derek] likes to get a little bit of drivers-eye footage when racing his motorcycle, but there’s an inherent problem with mounting a camera to a moving and tilting platform. When he leans into turns, the camera can’t keep the horizon level. Cinematography and electronics go well together. so [Derek] built a horizon-stabilized camera mount for motorcycle videography.

The build was inspired by footage shot from [Valentino Rossi’s bike in 2010. Of course the professional model costs a small fortune, but [Derek] managed to make his own out of 3D printed parts and a hobby servo.

Based on the Contour Roam camera, [Derek] had a pair of gears printed at Shapeways to fit over the camera and attach to a servo. The electronics are an ATMega32 with a L3G4200D gyroscope. When the ‘micro detects a change in the gyroscope it rotates the servo in the opposite direction, keeping the horizon in the video level.

It’s a very cool build, and judging from the action videos after the break, makes for awesome track footage.


43 thoughts on “Gyrocam keeps the horizon level even when the camera isn’t

    1. you would need a pendolum system otherwise it would be stuck to the bottom and the effect would be null., besides the liquid could could introduce delay. better use a pendolum system without liquid, just air. I think the system of the cheap inclinometers that we find in TT trucs would be the easiest/cheapest way to get a working mechanism.

    1. I guess the real point is, where on earth are you going to mount a DSLR-sized 2-axis gimbal on a motorcycle? This is definitely the correct and cheapest solution to the problem.

    1. Based on the smoothness of the camera, it appears he is already applying some filtering to the gyro signal. Filtering out sensor bias wouldn’t be that difficult if he averaged at a rate longer than a typical turn length.

      1. The L3G4200 as well as the L3GD20 is a very accurate . You don’t have smoth the output much.
        But the drift is always there, no matter if you angle changes or not. So if no accelerometer is used to compensate the drift you’ll get an angle offset of about a couple of degrees after a couple of minutes.

    2. The gyros do drift. In addition, errors accumulate due to vibration, climbs and descents, etc. My solution was to monitor not just the roll angle, but also the roll and yaw *rates*. When the roll and yaw rates are both zero this indicates the bike is level (ie. on a straightaway) and the gyro/camera can be re-centered. In this way the gyrocam is self correcting. Of course the devil is in the details (signal smoothing, timing constants, etc.)

  1. Why not use the gyro he already has. his head. When riding a motorcycle you tilt your head. Look at the guys that use the helmet mounts, they already have this PLUS get free vibration dampening from the neck.

      1. Yeah, but then we only get a picture of his butt, which I could have done without.

        It is a nice build though. I was concerned about jitter from the servo, but it seemed to correct wonderfully. I think this is much better than the helmet mounted cams. I think they vibrate even more.

    1. Your head is not always in line with the motorcycle (in multiple axes) and also gets buffeted by the wind. Mounted to the bike gets a stable platform and gets across how much the bike is leaned over.

    2. Attach a camera to the head of the rider? Nah, birds can do it better, because they’ve got a longer, more flexible neck. Strap a camera to the head of a chicken and then tape the chicken to the bike. Problem solved.

    3. Helmet mounts are terrible. You have to deal with buffeting, the head bouncing up and down on some rougher tracks alone can cause motion sickness in some viewers, and you won’t get anywhere near as smooth and accurate leveling.

      Plus then you have to deal with a couple pounds of camera gear strapped to your head when you are already fighting the weight of your helmet and the various forces in play to begin with.

  2. Man, all in all, this is a really good solution, and really well executed. Perhaps more importantly, REALLY good looking results! Feels like I’m riding the bike :).

    Bravo!

  3. I’d use a weighted and damped pendulum with a simple linkage above the pivot point to tilt the camera the opposite direction.

    Lean bike left, force pushes pendulum right, link tilts camera right.

    Want to get fancier to make it more stable, use solid state gyro and accelerometer to control a brake so the camera isn’t allowed to move past level point. No motor required, just a short throw solenoid with a felt pad to press against a surface.

  4. I’m not going to produce any kits, but the last link on the website points to a fairly detailed parts list, pc board design files, stl files for the gears, cutting sheet for the enclosure, and source code.

    This is definitely not a “buy some parts and bolt them together” type of project. It requires some embedded programming skills, small parts fabrication / assembly, etc. But I put the info there for anyone who wants try it, or is just curious about how it works.

  5. Servos probably won’t do well, as they are noisy and power-hungry. Magnetic motors will do much better, like brushless-DC that also are noiseless and won’t heat up much. I have heard this company http://www.darewarelabs,com is coming up with a gyrocam equivalent for GoPro. Has anyone heard of them? Or anyone has ever successfully used a gimbal to stabilize a GoPro over a bike? So far I could not find any decent or reasonable $$ (under $500) option.

  6. PS1: I have tried the DJI gimbals, but too expensive and they keep requiring calibration from time to time, a bit frustrating when on a bike and for the price they cost. I also have tried recently the Feiyu gimbals, but also expensive for what they are (cheap Chinese stuff), bulky, and mine stopped working after 3 weeks (guess they are not to be used under the rain haha).

    PS2: the correct link is http://www.darewarelabs.com

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