Simple Camera Slider Adds a Dimension or Two to Your Shots

Camera sliders are a popular build, and properly executed they can make for impressive shots for both time-lapse sequences or real-time action. But they seem best suited for long shots, as dollying a camera in a straight line just moves subjects close to the camera through the frame.

This slider with both pan and tilt axes can make moving close-ups a lot easier. With his extremely detailed build log, [Dejan Nedalkovski] shows how he went about building his with only the simplest of materials and tools. The linear rail is simply a couple of pieces of copper pipe supported by an MDF frame. The camera trolley rides the rails on common skateboard bearings and is driven by a NEMA-17 stepper, as are the pan and tilt axes. [Dejan] also provided a barn-door style pivot to tilt the camera relative to the rails, allowing the camera to slide up and down an inclined plane for really interesting shots. The controller uses an Arduino and a joystick to drive the camera manually, or the rig can be programmed to move smoothly between preset points.

This is a step beyond a simple slider and feels a little more like full-blown motion control. We’ve got a feeling some pretty dramatic shots would be possible with such a rig, and the fact that it’s a simple build is just icing on the cake.

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Pipes, Tees, and Gears Result in Smooth Video Shots

It’s depressingly easy to make bad videos, but it only takes a little care to turn that around. After ample lighting and decent audio — and not shooting in portrait — perhaps the biggest improvements come from stabilizing the camera while it’s moving. Giving your viewers motion sickness is bad form, after all, and to smooth out those beauty shots, a camera slider can be a big help.

Not all camera sliders are built alike, though, and we must admit to being baffled while first watching [Rulof Maker]’s build of a smooth, synchronized pan and slide camera rig. We just couldn’t figure out how those gears were going to be put to use, but as the video below progresses, it becomes clear that this is an adjustable pantograph rig, and that [Rulof]’s eBay gears are intended to link the two sets of pantograph arms together. The arms are formed from threaded pipe and tee fittings with bearings pressed into them, which is a pretty clever construction technique that seems highly dependent on having the good fortune to find bearings with an interference fit into the threads. But still, [Rulof] makes it work, and with a little epoxy and a fair amount of finagling, he ends up with a complex linkage that yields the desired effects. And bonus points for being able to configure the motion with small adjustments to the camera bracket pivot points.

We saw a similar pantograph slider a few months back. That one was 3D-printed and linked with timing belts, but the principles are the same and the shots from both look great.

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Hello 3D Printed Dolly

[Ivan] likes to take time lapse videos. Using his 3D printer and a stepper motor he fashioned a rig that allows him to control the camera moving any direction on a smooth floor.

The dolly has a tripod-compatible mounting plate and scooter wheels. An Arduino runs the thing and a cell phone battery provides power. A pot sets the speed and [Ivan] provides code for both a linear pot, which he suggests, and for a logarithmic pot, which he had on hand. You can see a video of the results below.

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DIY Plywood Camera Dolly Looks Professional

While [Ted] was poking around the ‘net, he came across a neat little product called a camera dolly. These are used to add an artistic flair to filming. They are similar to a camera slider but can roll around on the floor or a table and do not need to follow a track. [Ted] wanted a camera dolly but the cost of a professional product seemed too expensive for what he’d actually be getting, so he set off to make his own.

[Ted] first designed the dolly in a CAD software and printed out templates for the parts. Those templates were then transferred to plywood and cut out with a jig saw. Three inline skate wheels support the frame and allow the unit to roll around. Mounted in the center of the frame is a pan and tilt camera mount.

The extraordinary part of the build is that the angle of each wheel can be adjusted independently.  This allows the dolly to do anything from rolling in a straight line to gradually traveling around a curve or even just spinning the camera in place. Each wheel mount has degree indications so that they can be adjusted very precisely as well as be returned to a previously recorded position.

Bending and printing a curved camera dolly track

How lucky is [Transistor Man] that he found the materials for the tracks of this curved camera dolly just lying around the shop? The three rails making up the system are quarter-inch diameter and he was able to bend them by hand with the help of a 55 gallon drum. But to hold them in place so that the camera dolly would run smoothly he had to find a way to precisely space the tracks.

The robot arm you see in the picture above is a 3D printer which ended up being the easiest solution to the problem. With a bit of trial and error he found a design that holds the tracks in place without interfering with the camera sled’s progress. From there he devised a mounting system which uses three camera tripods to hold the track. You can see a test video shot from the dolly track embedded after the jump. It’s the opposite of the bullet time rigs [Caleb’s] been working on lately.

We figure the spacers would work for any track shape, but if you’re going for a complicated route you need some type of pipe bender to help out.

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Time-lapse dolly uses some stock parts and a bit of machining work

linear-carriage-for-time-lapse-photography

[Ben] just finished building this time-lapse dolly and decided to share his experience. We think he struck just the right balance of diy and commercially available materials to create a rig that is stable yet relatively inexpensive.

The project was inspired by Project Chronos. It gives a lot of details about the drive electronics and code used, but there are some gaps in the instructions for building the track itself. [Ben] forged ahead, purchasing linear bearings and a double-guide rail from IGUS. He didn’t mention the price on that item but we found 1000mm of the stuff (about 40 inches) for under $75 so it’s not outrageous. The part he couldn’t get for a reasonable price was precision thread bar. He ended going with regular threaded rod and a couple of nuts combined with a spring mechanism to keep the sled steady. That seems to work just fine. You can see the rod bouncing a bit in the clip after the break but it doesn’t harm the stability of the captured images.

The end stops including the one to which the stepper motor is mounted are his own work. It sounds like they required a bit more fabrication work than he was planning on but we figure if you don’t challenge your skill set you never get any better.

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Versatile motion dolly for time lapse photography

time-lapse-motion-system

This beautiful build is a motion dolly for making time-lapse videos. It is at a point where you could consider it complete. After all, the segments featured in the video after the break look marvelous. But [Scottpotamas] has a few additions planned and it sounds like it won’t belong before he accomplishes his goals.

The build is a linear rail on which the camera rides. In the image above you can see the stepper motor which moves the camera mounted at the far end of the rig. This is controlled by an Arduino. Currently the camera is responsible for timing the capture of the images, but [Scottpotamas] says the firmware is nearly ready to hand this responsiblity over to the Arduino. The system is modular, with a simple setting for the length of the track. This way he can swap out for a longer or shorter rail which only takes about five minutes. He also included support for a panning mount for the camera. It allows the control box can be programmed to keep the subject centered in the frame as the camera slides along the track.

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