Neural Network Gimbal Is Always Watching

[Gabriel] picked up a GoPro to document his adventures on the slopes and trails of Montreal, but quickly found he was better in front of the camera than behind it. Turns out he’s even better seated behind his workbench, as the completely custom auto-tracking gimbal he came up with is nothing short of a work of art.

There’s quite a bit going on here, and as you might expect, it took several iterations before [Gabriel] got all the parts working together. The rather GLaDOS-looking body of the gimbal is entirely 3D printed, and holds the motors, camera, and a collection of ultrasonic receivers. The Nvidia Jetson TX1 that does the computational heavy lifting is riding shotgun in its own swanky looking 3D printed enclosure, but [Gabriel] notes a future revision of the hardware should be able to reunite them.

In the current version of the system, the target wears an ultrasonic emitter that is picked up by the sensors in the gimbal. The rough position information provided by the ultrasonics is then refined by the neural network running on the Jetson TX1 so that the camera is always focused on the moving object. Right now the Jetson TX1 gets the video feed from the camera over WiFi, and commands the gimbal hardware over Bluetooth. Once the Jetson is inside the gimbal however, some of the hardware can likely be directly connected, and [Gabriel] says the ultrasonics may be deleted from the design completely in favor of tracking purely in software. He plans on open sourcing the project, but says he’s got some internal house keeping to do before he takes the wraps off it.

From bare bones to cushy luxury, scratch-built camera gimbals have become something of a right of passage for the photography hacker. But with this project, it looks like the bar got set just a bit higher.

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Homemade Camera Stabilizer

We’ve featured quite a few camera gimbals and steady cams here, but this one stands out. For one, [Daniel Rhyoo] was in his sophomore year when he built it. His 2-axis camera gimbal uses brushless DC motors, and is made out of carbon fiber.

[Daniel] machined the carbon fiber parts on a CNC desktop mill and some hand tools. And he also had to teach himself Solid Works to design it. In his slick DIY guide, he starts off by listing the parts and where to source them from, along with the tools needed. Most gimbals use servos for axis movements, which limits the range and do not provide very smooth motion. Brushless motors overcome these limitations allowing a nice, smooth moving gimbal to be built with a wide range of movement. When [Aleksey Moskalenko] introduced the AlexMos brushless motor controller, [Daniel] ordered it out, and then waited until he could get his hands on the right kind of motors. CAD files for all of the machined parts are available for download (.zip file).

He then goes on to blog his build progress, with ample photos to describe the machining and assembly. He does a couple of nice design choices along the way – like using press-nuts to make assembly and dis-assembly easy, and dismantling one of the motors and replacing its shaft with a custom, longer one instead of using a coupler to extend it. At the end, the result is not only a nice looking, light weight rig, but one that works very well thanks to the motors and controller that he used. Check out the video below to see it in action.

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Resourceful DIY Brushless Hand-held Camera Gimbal

Holding a video camera while shooting video can lead to finished footage that has some serious shakes. Lucky for us there are some solutions to this problem such as a passive steady cam stabilizer or an active motor-driven gimbal. [Oscar] wanted a smooth-operating brushless motor gimbal but didn’t want to spend the big bucks it costs for a consumer setup so he went out and built his own.

[Oscar] didn’t have a CNC machine or 3D printer to help with his build. He made his gimbal with simple hand tools out of plywood and hardware store bracketry. In his build post, he talks about how it is important to keep the pivoting axes of the gimbal in line with the camera lens and what he did to achieve that goal. The alignment of the axes and the lens ensures that the video is stable while the gimbal adjusts to keep the camera’s angle constant.

[Oscar] purchased the brushless motors and motor controller which included a gyro sensor on a separate PCB board. The gyro is mounted to the camera mount and sends tilt information back to the controller that then moves the brushless motors to keep the camera level. The final project worked out pretty good although [Oscar] admits he still would like to tune the PID settings in the controller a little better. Check out the video after the break where the stabilized camera is compared to one that is not.

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Keep Tabs on Passing Jets with Pi and SDR

Obviously Software Defined Radio is pretty cool. For a lot of hackers you just need the right project to get you into it. Submitted for your approval is just that project. [Simon Aubury] has been using a Raspberry Pi and SDR to record video of planes passing overhead. The components are cheap and most places have planes passing by; this just might be the perfect project.

We’re not just talking static frames with planes passing through them, oh no. Simon used two hobby servos and some brackets to gimbal his Pi camera board. A DVB dongle allows the rig to listen in on the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) coming from the planes. This system is mandated for most commercial aircraft (deadlines for implementation vary). ADS-B consists of positioning data being broadcast from planes using known frequencies and protocols. Once [Simon] locks onto this data he can accomplish a lot, like keeping the plane in the center of the video, establishing which flight is being recorded, and automatically uploading the footage. With such a marvelously executed build we’re certain we will see more people giving it a try.

[Simon] did a great job with the writeup too. Not only did he include a tl;dr, but drilled down through a project summary and right to the gritty details. Well done documentation is itself worth celebrating!

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DIY Camera Stabilizer Takes The Shakes Out Of Filming

We’ve all prematurely stopped watching some Youtube video because of shaky camera work that makes the video unwatchable. There is a solution available for this problem, it’s a device called a camera stabilizer and it is designed to compensate for jerky camera movement. There are several types available for purchase but they can get fairly expensive. Even the cheaper ones at a few hundred dollars are not economical for hobbyists. [John] set out to make his own camera stabilizer using some unorthodox parts.

[John’s] chose a gimble style design that effectively lowers the camera’s center of gravity down close to the camera persons hand. The handle of the device must also be mounted in a manor to prevent angular and rotation movement of the supporting hand from transferring to the camera.

The handle is from a cement trowel, on top of which is a ball bearing mounted to a threaded rod. A PVC fitting was heated to soften it and the bushing pressed in. This bearing is responsible for allowing the rotational freedom between the handle and the camera. To decouple any angular movements, two hinges were attached to the PVC fitting. The hinges are perpendicular to each other, one allows forward-back tilting while the other allows left-right tilting. The upper hinge is attached to a piece of poplar wood that also serves as a base for the camera.

At this point, if you were to try to hold this contraption with the camera installed, it would immediately tip over due to gravity. To prevent this, the center of gravity of the moving parts (including the camera) must be lowered. [John] did this by using some aluminum tubing to support wood weights that reside lower than the pivot points created by the hinges.

If you like the DIYer-style stabilizers, check this other wooded one out. Want something more polished looking? How about this pistol grip stabilizer?

Super Simple Gimbal For Multi-Rotor Aircraft Laughs In The Face Of Complexity

Super Simple Multi Rotor Gimbal

After the first flight of your newly built multi-copter, you will immediately want to add a camera. This sequence of events follows the laws of physics and is as predictable as gravity. Just strapping a camera on by way of a fixed bracket may technically solve that problem, but it creates another. A multi-copter tilts and rolls as a result of changing flight direction. If the multi-copter tilts and rolls, so does your camera. This is where a gimbal comes in handy, it adjusts the camera in an equal and opposite direction than that of the aircraft. If the aircraft tilts forward, the gimbal tilts the camera backward the same amount. The result is a steady camera for capturing some sweet videography.

Super Simple Multi Rotor GimbalTeam SSG over at has come up with what they are calling the Super Simple Gimbal. Their vision was a gimbal that would be inexpensive, easy to build and add minimal weight to the aircraft. On a normal gimbal, there are two motors or servos, each one specifically controls a single axis of movement. On the SSG, there are 2 servos but they do not move independently from one another. The camera is mounted to a plate that is supported on one end by a piece of silicone tube which becomes a fulcrum for the system. The other side of this plate is supported by 2 linkages (also made of silicone tube) that are themselves connected to the servos. If both servos move up, the camera is tilted down. If the right servo moves up and the left down, the camera is tilted to the left.

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