Motorized Camera Dolly Rolls With The Changes

Over the last semester, Cornell student [Ope Oladipo] had the chance to combine two of his passions: engineering and photography. He and teammates [Sacheth Hegde] and [Jason Zhang] used their time in [Bruce Land]’s class to build a motorized camera dolly for shooting time-lapse sequences.

The camera, in this case the one from an iPhone 6, is mounted to an off-the-shelf robot chassis that tools around on a pair of DC motors. The camera mount uses a stepper motor to get just the right shot. A PIC32 on board the ‘bot takes Bluetooth commands from an iOS app that the team built. The dolly works two ways: it can be controlled manually in free mode, or it can follow a predetermined path at a set speed for a specified time in programmed mode.

Our favorite part of the build? The camera’s view is fed to a smart watch where [Ope] and his team can take still pictures using the watch-side interface. Check it out after the break, and stick around for a short time-lapse demo. We’ve featured a couple of dolly builds over the years. Here’s a more traditional dolly that rides a pair of malleable tubes.

Time-lapse example

Thanks for the tip, [Bruce Land]!

10 thoughts on “Motorized Camera Dolly Rolls With The Changes

      1. I agree, it seems like there was a lot of effort in the multiple computer platforms. Coordinating the watch, the phone, and the robot. It’s an electrical engineering course, which explains the emphasis on the software and chips and the lack of emphasis on the mechanical portion.

        The linked article certainly makes it clear that the hardware was not a strong area for the instructor. Most of the problems in the mechanics are easily overcome with step-down reduction or counterbalancing the load. It’s a shame because both of those are well known and trivial to execute. The step down doesn’t even require gears – a friction drive is more than adequate for panning.

    1. I think this project is about control systems. Seems to be a good demonstration. Using off the shelf hardware means they can concentrate on the software and functionality. if you had watched the video and listened to the soundtrack you would have heard Bruce, their lecturer, commend them on a good job!

  1. Great job guys.
    Good combination of devices and software.
    Love the watch.
    I have a smart watch as well and that is one of the things i love about the watch is seeing on the watch of what Im taking a picture of.

    To the teacher keep up the post. great job.
    Are you doing the editing or are you having one of the students doing it as a project and for marks?

    1. Telling kids lies about their work quality just sets them up for failure later on. This “your are wonderful and can do anything” motivational manipulation has been debunked and shown to do more harm than good. Only facts can empower people.

      1. You seem to be a little salty dan, everything okay?

        You’re comparing the work of a well backed up company that produces a ‘diy’ product requiring 8 tools, a knowledge of metal works, etc and costs $150 to assemble to the work of 3 lads who’s project costs $40 max.

        This looks fine for what it does, take your pessimism elsewhere.

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