This project will focus on making a DIY open source camera slider & intervalometer. This slider & intervalometer will work on cameras with 2.5mm remote shutter control mechanisms. The slider should be able to move anywhere from basic point & shoots to the largest DSLR's on the market: the 1D mark X and the D4.
Open Slider Project
I choose to use basic standardized connectors for this project for practical reasons: to keep costs down and for ease of availability. The reason why I choose VGA and MIDI is simple: they are both standard, commonly found connectors which are easy to come by and relatively cheap. In addition, I wanted to make sure that people could go to any electronics store, or even audio store, and be able to get cables for their slider. VGA cables are still widely used throughout the computer industry to drive monitors and projectors. MIDI cables are still widely used to drive keyboards and mixers in the music industry. Standardizing connectivity just makes everything easier. A simple amazon search will reveal 5ft midi cables for <$5 and VGA cables for <$5 as well. Definitely affordable. Also, I wanted people to be able to reuse these cables to connect other devices, so they are not proprietary in any means. To me, proprietary cables serve as a negative externality in the market of goods, because copper is copper and a cable is a cable, thus it should be able to connect multiple devices, not be set aside for a singular use. With this project, someone could easily reuse the VGA cable to drive a monitor from their laptop and the midi cable to connect a musical keyboard in the case that they were not using the slider. For more info on MIDI: sweetwater.com Here are some links to the 5 pin MIDI cable pinout from pinouts.ru: pinout1 pinout2
Here's a detailed sketch of the configuration for dual axis sliding: horizontal (X) and perpendicular (Y). I want to make sure people who have invested in large cine lenses could still use this slider as well, so I sketched a model for horizontal and vertical sliding. Even though sliding on the Y axis will be quite limited (you don't want the center of balance of the camera and lens unit to shift enough to fall off the slider) the perpendicular rods should be quite useful for Arri PL lens support and follow focus mechanisms.I also included a sketch of what the slider would look like with an average DSLR, 2 axis sliding configuration, and equal support. In this case two tripods were used for reference. I am not the greatest sketch artist in the world, and some of the perspectives may be a bit off, but these are good personal reference sheets for when I make the actual cad files.
More ideas I thought of while designing this project: Using the slider to do light painting (more info in picture)
I intend for this entire project to be entirely DIY and open source. All the basic designs, cad files and circuit designs will be available for download and modification. Hopefully when I am further along in this project I will be able to fully comply with the OSHW license, and make this an official open hardware project. So what exactly is this open source hardware? here's some really neat information on the topic: Open Source initiative Open Hardware Summit Open Source Hardware statement & Definition Open source hardware Wikipedia definition
Around December 2012, as I was expanding my searches in cinematography, I came across a bubble of interest in the use of camera sliders to shoot footage of night-time timelapses and other moving timelapses. I came across a few videos by Philip bloom using Kessler Crane products to do such shots, and a cinematographer whose work in the Midwest landed him a editors pick on Vimeo. These sources served as my inspirational motivation to create my own camera slider - around the same time that I needed to create a project idea for my Sophomore design class - IED. I began laying out my slider idea over Christmas vacation, which of course started on paper - much as all my other project designs. After several iterations, I came up with a bulletproof design that I was sure would satisfy my high design standards, let alone my design requirement. My team, which was randomly chosen by my professors, all agreed to my idea after several design changes. It really is amazing how my highly detailed camera slider changed so much from it's initial design to the final product. In reality, the final product was not so much a result of how much we could cut out and simplify, but rather a battle of compromise, and how much we could accomplish in the remaining time of the 2013 spring semester. Overall, I do regard this project as the greatest building experience of my life, and I would have not changed a single thing on our final design. To this day, I am still amazed how much we were able to get accomplished within the short design window and how great the final result truly was. This project actually served as the role model project for the RPI IED classes for the next 3 years (and possibly longer). Enough chit chat, let's get into the build. Once my team was on board with the project, we simplified my design and started to acquire components. being a team of 7, we created a software team, a hardware team and a mechanical team. Even though we were all apart of separate divisions of the same team, we were all familiar enough with the subsections that we could collaborate together on design choices / changes, which made working with my team awesome and rather painless. The software team decided to stick with the Arduino platform, as that would have a great amount of support, and not be too hard to develop. My teammates also had the most experience in C++, so it made the most sense to stick with the Arduino platform. For the electrical side of the project, there was no better option then to go with a full stepper motor control approach, as this is a timelapse machine we're talking about. I spec'd out a sizable stepper off ebay, an Arduino nano and a easy driver mini. For the interface control unit, I spec'd out a 20x4 char LCD, a 8 way thumb joystick and 2 simple push buttons. the mechanical team decided that steel tubing would be the most appropriate material to use for the timelapse machine, as it was the cheapest option and easiest to acquire. Aluminum could have been the next best option, but it was in our best interests to keep the cost of manufacture down, as our final design was not exactly designed to be lightweight, just fit into an average-sized car trunk. The structure of IED at Rensselaer depended on the budget of the students, and the students entirely, so cost really did play a major factor in the development of this project, as well as a majority of all the other students projects. Because I was one of the most notorious dumpster divers on campus, I scored quite a few major components that allowed us to keep design costs down and project quality high. One of these components was the battery box. The battery box was a lamp transformer in a past life that I repurposed to house the 12v, 8v and 5v power source for the camera slider. The interface control unit used a project box which I salvaged from old lab equipment resistor text boxes. The wire was salvaged from old computers, printers and cables. The fastening hardware was used out of my personal collection - most of which was salvaged from parts acquired by dumpster diving. The original dongle was a project box discarded in an ewaste bin. The timing belt and pulleys were left over components from a team mates high school robotics team. There were other components that needed to be purchased, but we aimed to keep purchases down.