Camera Slider Helps get the Shots with E-Waste Controller

A camera slider is an accessory that can really make a shot. But when your business is photography rather than building camera accessories, quick-and-dirty solutions often have to suffice. Thus the genesis of this camera slider controller.

The photographer in question in [Paulo Renato], and while his passion may be photography, he seems to have a flair for motorized dollies and sliders. This controller is a variable-speed, reversible, PIC-based design that drives an eBay gearmotor. The circuit lives on a scrap of perfboard, and it along with batteries and a buck converter are stuffed into the case-modded remains of an old KVM switch. Push buttons salvaged from another bit of e-waste act as limit switches, and a little code provides the magic. We like the hacked nature of the controller, but we wonder about the wisdom of using the former KVM’s USB ports to connect the controller to the drivetrain; it’s all fun and games until you plug a real USB device into it. In sum, though, a nice build with nice results. Check out his other videos for more on the mechanicals.

Camera slider rigs aplenty have graced our pages, including one made mostly of wood and one controlled by a fancy iPad app.

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Mostly Wood Motorized Camera Slider

Camera slides can make for interesting dolly shots in your videos, or can spice up an otherwise drab time-lapse sequence. When it came time for one of his own, [Bob] did what any hacker would do and rolled his own motorized camera slide in the wood shop.

We always like to see work based on a hacker’s own prior art, and [Bob] managed to leverage parts and techniques from his impromptu claw machine build for this slider. The rollers in this project use the same 3/4″ angle aluminum and skateboard bearings as the previous build. The bearings roll on a plywood strip capped with the same angle stock for durability and low friction. The stepper motor bracket and pillow blocks are 3D printed, as are the timing pulleys. [Bob] admits that the whole rig is a little noisy and blames it on the rough quality of the pulley prints. He has plans to replace them with commercially available pulleys, which should help; one further suggestion we have is to code a soft-start algorithm into the ATtiny85 to eliminate that jerkiness you see when he demos the slider in the video below.

There are plenty of ways to move a camera along a single axis, and a surprising number of them use parts from the roller sports. We’ve covered quite a few of them before, like this slide that uses skateboard trucks, or this non-motorized rig built from fence posts and inline skate wheels.

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The iPad Controlled Camera Slider

[Daniel] and [Tobias] dabble in videography and while they would love a camera slider controlled by their favorite iDevice, commercial motorized camera sliders are expensive, and there’s no great open source alternative out there. They decided to build one for themselves that can be controlled either from a PS3 controller or from its own iPad app with the help of an ESP8266 WiFi module.

app_live_controlThe camera slider is a two-axis ordeal, with one axis sliding the camera along two solid rails, and the other panning the camera. The circuit board was milled by the guys and includes an ATMega328 controlling two Pololu stepper drivers. An ESP8266 is thrown into the mix, and is easily implemented on the device; it’s just an MAX232 chip listening to the Tx and Rx lines of the WiFi module and translating that to something the ATMega can understand.

By far the most impressive part of this project is the iPad app. This app can be controlled ‘live’ and the movements can be recorded for later playback. Alternatively, the app has a simple scripting function that performs various actions such as movement and rotation over time. The second mode is great for time lapse shots. Because this camera slider uses websockets for the connection, the guys should also be able to write a web client for the slider, just in case they wanted the ultimate webcam.

You can check out [Daniel] and [Tobias]’ demo reel for their camera slider below.

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DIY Plywood Camera Dolly Looks Professional

While [Ted] was poking around the ‘net, he came across a neat little product called a camera dolly. These are used to add an artistic flair to filming. They are similar to a camera slider but can roll around on the floor or a table and do not need to follow a track. [Ted] wanted a camera dolly but the cost of a professional product seemed too expensive for what he’d actually be getting, so he set off to make his own.

[Ted] first designed the dolly in a CAD software and printed out templates for the parts. Those templates were then transferred to plywood and cut out with a jig saw. Three inline skate wheels support the frame and allow the unit to roll around. Mounted in the center of the frame is a pan and tilt camera mount.

The extraordinary part of the build is that the angle of each wheel can be adjusted independently.  This allows the dolly to do anything from rolling in a straight line to gradually traveling around a curve or even just spinning the camera in place. Each wheel mount has degree indications so that they can be adjusted very precisely as well as be returned to a previously recorded position.

Camera Slider Utilizes Skateboard Trucks

[Peter] wanted a camera slider and found some inspiration on the good ole ‘net. He then gathered some parts and came up with his own design. We’ve seen camera sliders made from roller blade wheels before but never one that uses skateboard trucks as the carriage! On each truck axle are 2 bearings spaced apart without the skate wheels. Each pair of bearings rides on one of two 48 inch long closet rods supported between two push-up stands. The top portion from an old camera tripod makes a handy mount that allows adjustment of the camera’s aim.

Some camera sliders are manual operated. This one, however, is lead screw driven with a goal of keeping the camera moving at a constant rate. A disassembled hand drill provides the motor, gearbox and speed control necessary to turn the lead screw. Although it works well at slow speeds, [Peter] admits that it becomes less usable as the speed increases. This is mainly due to the 5/16 inch threaded rod lead screw oscillating and whipping around after reaching a certain RPM. If you stick with a straight run, a belt-driven system might make those faster movements more smoothly.

A Simple but Elegant Time-Lapse Camera Slider

Time-lapse photography is always a fun way to show off the build process of a project – but sometimes it can get a bit boring and repetitive. To add a new dynamic, why not try a moving time-lapse? It’s not actually that hard to build a time-lapse slider rig. And you can do it with, or without a microcontroller.

[Charlie] built this slider rig out of square aluminum tube stock which is cheap and easy to work with. It’s also a great candidate for using pop-rivets which can speed up the assembly considerably. The camera bogey uses aluminum angle stock with skateboard bearings to ride along the track. Altogether the rig is four feet long and about 6″ wide.

To pull the camera back and forth, [Charlie] has a 0.5RPM geared motor from Servo-City which results in a travel time of about 5400 seconds (90 minutes). While there aren’t any demo videos of the rig in action, we imagine it’d produce some pretty clean motion. And thanks to its rigid construction, the camera can be pulled upside down, on angles, and even vertically.

MacGyver Made IKEA Camera Slider

It’s not hard to drastically increase the production value in your videos by adding a camera slide to your shot — in fact, [Derek] shows us how to make a decent camera slide using parts from IKEA for less than $30.

The hack makes use of a cutting board, glider and hook accessories, a triple curtain rail, and two ceiling fixtures. The ceiling fixtures are simply used to make a mount for the curtain rail to rest on. [Derek] shows us an easy way to make the carriage with some careful drilled holes in the cutting board — he’s added a 3D printed tripod head for mounting the camera, but really you can use whatever you want.

It’s a pretty simple and easy to build rig, and the results are quite impressive — just check out the following video to see!

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