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.

12 thoughts on “Camera Slider Helps Get The Shots With E-Waste Controller

  1. I disagree. When your business is doing something well, quickly and right the first time, you get the right tool for the job. If you can. Only hack something together if your budget doesn’t allow for it, it’s a hobby but not business, you enjoy the process of building it or you simply cannot find a better solution.

    1. that only goes so far, plenty of products are overpriced by any definition, if the skill set required to make something better or substantially cheaper overlaps with the current skill set of your company chances are one can build something either better, cheaper or both.

      i would never pay the absolutely crazy prices for some camera rig equipment when most of that is in somewhat standard fittings and pipes, i would most definitely buy the monitor and the lipo going on there, yet wouldn’t pay for the focus pulling rig unless i was absolutely forced to due to time constraints.

      1. I would agree that it only goes so far. But your skill set and time to build and refine said project must be both substantial enough and also worth the opportunity cost of your time. Or because no other alternative exists. Also, having spent many years building equipment that is designed to be used in production, the gap between “barely working” and “refined and polished and reliable” can be fairly high and there is a value to that difference.

        Most customers do not value “hacked together” or “barely working, some of the time, except these bugs and those issues and oh, those too”. In the world of “hack something to make it work” or to prove a concept; have at it. If you want it to “just work” and have somebody who stands behind their product, exchange your liquid medium of exchange for their refined and polished product and move on to the things you do best.

        1. In a way you are right, but I can also assure you that plenty of cutting edge, amazing computer controlled photography rigs are made very haphazardly for animation, commercials, etc.

          Even on high budget shoots, depending on the specific goals. Also, though, sometimes they really engineer gear for each shot.

          Many of the quirky modern fx-driven advertisements you see are made by people using very ad-hoc rigs, but sophisticated techniques and software and imaging work flows.

          If you really want, I will dig up a site or two for you to see, but pretty much watch vimeo videos of ,any behind the scenes for commercials, music videos, animated shorts, stop motion, etc.

          What you say is true for most gigging photogs though – as opposed to those working in a studio.

        2. in quite a few cases one can whip up better equipment at a third of the price and a much better fit for the job due to bespoke construction, in my experience and in the areas i have worked in the homebrew option has often been chosen exactly because you had to be sure it worked, even very high profile products are very often very badly designed, be it because their design is overdone or the designer misunderstood the entire practical concept of what they were doing in favor of design.

          you are right that the external support can be an advantage, it can also hinder, black box products are impossible to fix in many situations, again it comes down to a choice, between spending man hours to fix it or wasting man hours on waiting time till someone gets there, that of course presumes that no other work could be done in the meantime.

      1. Innovation is not something I am downplaying or discouraging. But innovating a novel idea enough so it barely works and then refining it such that it is robust and optimized and easy to use are distinctly different end goals that are different degrees of the same concept. I’m all for hacking things together. I just can’t turn around and rely on that solution as a reliable, well engineered solution that is reliable in a production, business environment. Both certainly have their place though.

        1. A ‘production’ only lasts for until it is ‘in the can’.

          Many ad-hoc methods are used in media creation. It isnt product development at all, though it has it’s similarities.

    2. Sorry, but you’re completely off base here. DIY and hacker culture has been a part of the professional industry for years. Sometimes it is the amatures who *need* to buy an off-the-shelf solution.

      Some of the best videography and photography equipment out there started as hacks. The same with theatre. There have been many books and even documentaries about such DIY rigs. People have made a living just from teaching how to make things from what you have on hand, to think on your feet. Often, it has nothing to do with budget.

      Photography hacks are professional tools.

  2. I would have used that LM317, a pot, and a per-mag DC motor. The motor will exhibit a smooth speed thanks to the constant voltage, and 1.25 volts is usually the slowest that the motor will still crawl. It may not be slow enough, then bias the motor 1.25 above ground or whatever is slowest usable speed. Junk cordless tools are a good source for such a motor. Higher voltages preferred. A three volt tool won’t have too much speed range. Old 8 track player motors are good, but need gearing.

    1. For usable motion you will need an encoder.. and constant current drive.. and some sort of microcontroller to use an interrupt to read the motor, and maybe a current sense, and…

      1.2v isnt a speed!

  3. Nice design and excellent explanation. I wish all design write ups were like this one. The motor did have some jerkiness. Is that a result of compression by Youtube, or as echodelta mentioned, non-linear voltages due to the buck converter? Or, something else?

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