RC Car Becomes Cable Cam

The prevalence of drones has made airborne photography much more widespread, especially among hobby photographers and videographers. However, drone photos aren’t without their problems. You have to deal with making the drone follow the shot which can be difficult unless you have a very expensive one. Worse, you can’t really fly a drone through heavily wooded or otherwise obstructed terrain.

[Makesome’s] friend faced these issues and wanted to buy a cable cam — a mount for the camera that could go back and forth on a cable strung between two trees or other structures. Instead of a design from scratch, they decided to cannibalize a cheap RC car along with an HP printer and the effect — as you can see in the video below — is pretty good.

Repurposing toys is an honored tradition and, after all, what do you need but a motor that goes forward and reverses? We can’t help but notice though that toy hacking is much easier now that you can 3D print custom widgets to connect everything together.

The video isn’t really a tutorial because you will likely start with a different car and have different needs. But there’s enough info there to give you some ideas. It looks like the car’s contribution was mostly the RF remote control portions. There’s also an Arduino and some drive electronics to take care of the motor donated by an old printer.

If you prefer to slide your camera on a rail, we’ve seen many setups for that. Or try a camera dolly on wheels.

6 thoughts on “RC Car Becomes Cable Cam

  1. I think an electric drill might be a better parts donor than a toy RC car for something like this because you’d have a rechargeable battery, strong motor and gearbox, and PWM controller matched to the motor all ready to go. The RC stuff is all off-the-shelf parts, so no programming is needed.

    I’d assume that the thing needs to go up to about 20 mph to keep up with a suicidal bicyclist going downhill and calculate the gears/wheel size from there. OTOH, if you assume it’s always going downhill, you could let gravity move the camera on some low friction wheels and bearings and all you’d need to do is apply braking remotely.

    If you made a looped cable you could operate it like a chair lift at a ski resort and have multiple supports along the way and follow the biker down the entire mountain. You’d need a relatively large motor to move the cable but it would be stationary and could be line powered.

    1. The rc car isn’t donating the motor, it’s two separate engineering segments – the radio, and the drive. You can still use a single-channel rc with a power drill, but you have to make sure that you pick a drill with continuously variable trigger, rather than the stepped controller found in some of the most cheap brands

      1. At some point he probably should have cut his losses on the toy car, and picked up a true R/C car drive motor, controller, and radio. Those have serious torque, and instantly variable speed. If you’ve ever seen an R/C car zipping around a track, you know they can out-accelerate and out-run a bicycle, all while pushing a model car that weighs more than this little rig. Plus, any R/C shop would have had the rest of the gears, shafts, and bearings needed to drive it reliably.

        Given the rest of the investment he made in design and construction, the cost differential would have been a small fraction of the total project cost. But I suppose if you’re going by that metric, it’d have been cheaper to just buy the commercial rig, and then we never would have seen this interesting video full of lessons learned while making a cable rig.

        1. Exactly. With “real” R/C motor and controller (radio can be maid cheaply from nRF24 and Arduino) he can save lot of struggle. Also to choose good power, because want some torque with 9V battery is in my opinion naive…

          Otherwise yes, nice project.

  2. Interesting use of components. I’d have gone for slightly more RC hobbyist grade donor parts, like clone stuff off HK or whatever. 540 size motor, tiny bit beefier lipo and so on.

    His results are still quite good and it’s evidently rather durable. It meets his needs so I’m not criticizing by any means, just barstool hacking.

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