Camera Slider build – Part 1

Motorized Camera Slider – an introduction.

A while back I teased a project I have been working on for a long time: making a motorized camera slider.

Slider are all the rage lately, giving filmmakers the camera moves of a dolly shot with much less equipment, and also adding motion to time-lapse photography projects.

One of the first ‘cheaper’ motorized models I saw was the Stage Zero slider by Dynamic Perception. Soon after, however, I came across MakerSlide, an extruded aluminum rail with v-channels integrated into the profile. This made it easy to have linear motion components do double duty as structural pieces for small CNC mills or laser cutters. The inventor of MakerSlide, Bart Dring, at one point sold everything himself, including a basic camera slider kit.

I purchased the kit, which included a stepper motor, and got to work. Unfortunately, I had no experience with Arduino at the time, and I wanted to get using it for some projects ASAP…

First pass – Lego NXT

The solution was to jerry rig a Lego NXT motor and controller to the dolly since A: I had it, and B: I could come up with the basic code to get it to work.

It turned out that a Lego Technic axle was just a tiny bit smaller than the diameter needed for the shaft of the 5mm MXL pulley, so it fit well with just a wrap or two of clear tape. The ‘X’ profile of the Technic axles also gave a good space for the grub screw on the pulley to nest into.

MakerSlide camera slider and Lego NXT – a test from Andrew A on Vimeo.

The holes in the mounting plate were big enough for Technic pins and axles to pass through without too much play, and while a little janky, I didn’t have to modify or destroy any Lego parts getting everything hooked up.

Stay tuned for build post #2, upgrading the system to an Arduino and stepper driver.

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