This motorised DIY camera slider can be built for under $100 and lets you track objects as it moves
Building your own motorised camera gimbal or slider seem to be the in thing at the moment. In fact, I built one myself recently (that’s for another post, though). This one, though, from Michael Klements at The DIY Life is pretty cool and incorporates a slider with a motorised pan axis so that it can track a subject as it moves from one end of the rail to the other.
It’s a total DIY project with a bunch of off-the-shelf parts and 3D printed components that Michael has designed himself. And while he doesn’t appear to have released the project under an open-source license, he has made the STL files and the source code available to download so that you can have a go at building your own.
It looks like a fairly capable slider, easily handling Michael’s Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera. Exactly what weight it could potentially handle (horizontally, at least) will largely depend on the ball head mount you’re using and how well it holds its position. I’ve mentioned these on DIYP before, but personally, I’m a big fan of the SmallRig BUT2665 Arca Swiss compatible mini ball heads. Vertically, it’ll depend on the strength of your stepper motors, stepper drivers and how much voltage and current you’re able to feed to them.
But depending on exactly which components you go for, where you source them from and assuming you already own a 3D printer, you can build this gimbal for less than about $100 if you shop around. Most of the off-the-shelf parts used are many of the same components used to build 3D printers themselves. And the demand for 3D printers over the last few years has really driven the prices of aluminium extrusion, Nema 17 stepper motors and stepper drives right down.
Michael designed and had a custom PCB made for his slider (and he’s released the files for that, too), but with the hardware this is built from, you could also use a cheap Arduino clone and a CNC Shield V3.0 instead (although it probably wouldn’t be as advanced as this one). If you get a shield that comes with A4988 stepper drivers, though, you’ll want to buy some super quiet TMC2208s, especially if you plan to use it for video and want to be able to use the audio.
The object tracking here is based on (not so) simple maths, that makes sure the camera points at roughly the same place as the camera moves along the slider. Real AI-based object tracking could potentially be added to this setup using something like an ESP32Cam or a Raspberry Pi – something Michael says he might try in the future.
A very cool project, and for what it costs to build one, a very frugal but versatile option if you want a motorised camera slider, but don’t want to fork out for the expensive big name brands like Syrp.
As well as the video above, you can check out Michael’s complete build log where you can see the full bill of materials, download all the STL files for the printed parts, Gerber files for the custom PCB and the Arduino source code.
[via The DIY Life]
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.