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.

20 thoughts on “The iPad Controlled Camera Slider

  1. Hey @Brian,
    awesome you took the time and wrote something about the project. Just 2 little additions:
    – The MAX232 does not connect the ESP8266 and the ATMEGA. Theese two are wired directly. The MAX232 is there for a extra debug port that is implemented in software (RX only)
    – all probs on the PS3 Controller part go to @_stefanseibert, because he did this part of the project

  2. The results are unfortunately not that good, there is a noticeable jerkiness to the movement, perhaps a motor driver with smaller step is needed?

    And a public service warning: Ear damage warning on the awful music on the video guys, turn the sound off before watching it.

    1. Here in Germany we sadly have some organization that is called GEMA that blocks all videos on youtube that use songs without the permission of the ower. Only very few musicians are not under their control (the big major labels have generally all a contract with them). It is quite hard to find any songs you can use without their permission: this is one of them.
      And: the song gets better and better the more you (have to) hear it :D

      1. I think many people now know about the horror of GEMA.
        They even try to block videos where they don’t actually have the rights I hear, in their eagerness.
        The whole thing is an embarrassment for germany. (but then, so is merkel IMHO).

        But there are actually a lot of resources specifically for copyright-free music, and it can be better than this. Or you can even make some your own on a computer of course.
        Link for a relevant search: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Copyright%20Free%20Music

    2. A note on the jerkiness:
      The footage for the video was shot quite a while ago when the slider was not even close to be finished (just look at the iPad app designed we had then and the current one) but we needed a video back then for some presentations of the project at our university.

      We now use the motors with 1/16 microstepping and the results are much smoother

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