Camera Slide Pans and Tilts Camera Mechanically

A camera slider is a popular and simple project — just a linear slide, a stepper, and some sort of controller. Adding tilt and pan axes ups the complexity until you’ve got three motors, a controller, and probably a pretty beefy battery pack to run everything. Why not simplify with an entirely mechanical pan-tilt camera slider and leave all that heavy stuff at home?

There’s more than one way to program motion control, and [Enza3D]’s design uses adjustable rails to move the gimballed pan-tilt head through two axes of motion. One rail adjusts vertically to control tilt, while the other adjusts in and out relative to the slider to control pan. Arms ride on each rail and connect to the gimbals to swivel the camera in both dimensions while it travels down the manually cranked slide. It’s pretty clever and results in some clean, dynamic shots as in the video below.

Our quibble is that the “program” is only linear since the control rails are straight lengths of aluminum extrusion; seems to us that some sort of flexible control rails might make for more interesting shots. [Enza3D] has amply documented the build and is looking for feedback, so comment away. And if you don’t have a 3D printer to make the parts, wood works for a slider too.

Thanks for the tip, [Simone].

22 thoughts on “Camera Slide Pans and Tilts Camera Mechanically

    1. What’s even the point of trying to put a restrictive license on a project like this, unless you have the money to throw lawyers at anyone who breaks it? Chinese clone factories sure won’t care, and lawyers are expensive…

      1. A copyright license only applies to the expression of the idea, not to the idea itself, so all anyone has to mind is not re-using and/or modifying the project art or files. You’re perfectly free to make your own, and then do whatever the hell you want with it.

        This is what patents are for. People mistake copyright to mean a lot of things.

      2. Hey mdszy!

        As I explained in the comment to Dax below, the license was chosen in order to minimize alterations to our design files until we have a clear(er) path moving forward and more time to use the slider and see where things are going wrong. Once I’m happy with that, then we will release the files under a much more lax license. As I said, I want to facilitate growth, and see where the community can take this but not without more tested mechanical design and the inevitable modifications.

        Truthfully, this design has a very long way to go to be anywhere near a commercially viable and producible product, which is why I’m not worried about clone factories at this current point. It was designed for 3D printing, which makes it really accessible to makers and the OpenBuilds community, but very inaccessible to mass production and users who want to buy a buttoned-up finished product. It’s like comparing Prusa i3 users to Formlabs users (and I say that as an owner of both); each one is noticeably geared towards a specific market. This is why we built the Google Form, as the end user of this varies across the board from hobbyist to professional and everyone wants something different. The maker community wants something they can make, but the professionals want something they can buy. So V2 (if it happens) will have to be targeted towards one community and then decisions have to be made.

    2. We really debated which license to use and posted it under the most restricted license mainly because we ran out of time for the design contest and wanted to leave our options open moving forward. We are currently in the process of determining if we want to make a commercial product out of the core tech of the slider for version 2.0. If you get the chance please fill out our google form and let us know how you feel, especially if its negative. We are looking for feedback both good and bad!

          1. Copyright doesn’t apply to hardware, and the follow-on problem is that once the idea is publicly disclosed, it’s no longer patentable. This is one of the reasons that Open Hardware licenses don’t really meet their own goals.

            From personal experience, I can say that copying won’t be your big problem. Your potential customers (people who would actually pay money) won’t want the hassle of figuring all the little details out. They’ll have a goal they want to accomplish, and it won’t be building a mechanical slider. You just have to make your kit or product compelling enough from a cost-effort standpoint that they won’t try to build it themselves.

          2. Hi Dax, and thanks for your comments!

            Blame the license on me, the overly-paranoid file manager and social media captain at Enza! I am fully aware that the CC license *only* applies to our specific design files and that’s all I wanted, at least until we are at a point where it is more finalized. I didn’t want modified design files flying around until the Pinshape contest was over, and we do plan on using a more lax license in the future.

            I want to facilitate growth of the design and see what people do with it, but not until I am happy with what we are releasing and have a more set path going forward. If it had not been for Pinshape’s contest, these files would not have been released for a bit longer. But everyone needs a kick to move forward every now and then, adn this time it was that deadline.

  1. I wonder if using a bendable rail like 1/4 or 1/8 in. copper tubing would work well enough to allow you to make non-linear paths. Though I guess copper work hardens quickly, so you might not get a lot of bends out of it before you have to replace it.

      1. Although typically it’s only bent once in its lifetime, bending it multiple times will cause fractures fairly quickly. Perhaps a gooseneck linkage like those used on indicator bases would work well. Search for Mitutoyo 7012-10 to see what I mean. Its a chain of ball joints that can move freely with a wire inside. Tighten up on the wire and the chain locks into position. I’m not sure what would be the best way to then follow the curve.

  2. I’ve seen at least one commercial slider using this type of mechanism.
    Not sure how similar it was mechanically, but it allowed you to keep a camera pointed at the same point as it slid. Used an extra rail.

    1. Hi Dan!

      Kessler has a similar slider attachment that allows for panning using a second rail, but it does not provide any tilting, let alone independently controlled tilting motion. I’m not intimately familiar with how the Kessler slider works mechanically, as I’ve never used one, but it is well liked in the camera community so they must be doing something right!

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