CamBot and Motion Control pt1

CamBot is the code name for my home-brew Moco camera mover. This is a project I’ve been working out for awhile on my own and its been through a few prototypes now, but I’m always looking for more inspiration and ways to improve it.

I’m beginning by using ways that use geared mechanisms to lock the camera, these are able to be moved incrementally creating repeatable camera moves through stop motion. Currently it is I’ve got CamBot set up with dolly track, a machinist’s table, rotary table, jib arm and geared tripod head. It works fairly well, and gives me a huge range of movement, but is tedious and time-consuming to operate.

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The next step will be to automate it. In theory this should be as simple as integrating stepper motors and an arduino. I always find myself wishing I had an engineer and machinist working for me, perhaps some day when I have a budget. There are a number of parts I’ve had to make myself, and lacking a proper milling machine they are wood, so in the future it might be worthwhile to call in favors or try something like this;

I’ll get there, its just been a slow process. It wasn’t *that* long ago that cambot looked like this;

The first Prototype was built from a broken artist’s easel and hardware, using a nut on a threaded rod to move the crane.


Other people’s Home-brew rigs

The same sort of rig has been done pretty well with motorized slider rails and telescope mounts for time lapse, which I hear are capable of doing real-time as well, but it gets into the $600-1000 range.

My friend Gus, has done some pretty awesome shooting with his;

Canon T2i
Canon 10-22 f3.5-4.5
MX2 Dolly Engine
Dynamic Perception Mini (3′)
Celestron Skywatcher
Kessler All-Terrain Outrigger Feet

“I’ve been using the MX2 and the Dynamic Perception Dolly for a while now. The big rig is a 6′ rail… I put together this mini-version of it. The MX2 controls everything, the slider, the telescope head, and the camera. It CAN do faster continuous motion, but I’ve not experimented with that (yet)…”

Here is the link for the MX2;


As Cambot grows I’m noticing space become a bigger and bigger issue, which is why designs for overhead mounts seem more interesting to me;

And this design has been updated to be motorized and controlled via N64 controller. link

A packaged slider solution that has caught my eye is the Cinevate Pegasus;
This slider can be inverted and used as a ceiling rig, but has a weight limitation that might prevent me from mounting a jib to it.

Another slick looking camera mover is this one;Slide Jib

Another all-in-one jib/slider solution – Porta-Jib

And of course there are always Jibs link

Open source Motion Control
There are a few really inspirational projects here, all developed off the same open source hardware platform controller. It sounds a bit buggy at times but once you’ve gone through the effort of assembling it and getting it to play nice these seem fairly straight forward;

One example of these is the seemingly well constructed and capable of driving a three-axis move;

On the “low end” of the pro solutions is the DollyCrane, which integrates a slider and a jib, and has an optional MoCo driver…
Dolly Crane

These are the real deal, the big boys, way out of my budget, but worth looking into for inspiration and a basis;

Pacific motion control has a number of cranes and dollys, and encoders for programming them;

Mark Roberts Motion Control- one of the industry leaders

The SFH-30, is a pan/tilt head, small and light weight,  suitable to mount to a sliding rail or ladder dolly;

About brad isdrab

Artist and world maker View all posts by brad isdrab

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