MakerSlide Camera Slider Project

Many photographers have suggested that MakerSlide is a good material to make a camera slider.  A camera slider is a linear motion control system for a camera.  A stepper motor is used to smoothly move a camera along a linear rail.

We decided to make a simple starter project of the basic items to create one.  An Inventables Project is a quick, one click way to add all the parts you need to your shopping cart.  You can modify or delete items in the cart if you already have them or need additional items.

This project only includes the basic motion components.  It does not include the motor controller, the motors drivers or the method to mount the camera.  The design is for lighter camera systems of less than about 8 lbs.  Some basic free controller software for Arduino is available on GitHub, but this provided "as is", and is not an officially supported Inventables item.

Camera Slider

The basic camera slider is quite easy to build and well documented on the project page.  Step by step instructions with pictures are included.

The carriage plate has many extra holes to mount standard tripod heads.  You should try to center the mass of the camera on the center of the carriage for best results.

Controller / Drivers

You need a way to control and drive the motors.  This is not included in the project.  The simplest solution is to use an Arduino and a simple shield.  The GRBL Shield, Stepper Shield and ITEAD Dual Stepper driver shield will work.  The ITEAD driver tends to run very hot and is not ideal.  Whatever driver you use, turn down the current as low as you can for quietest operation.

Arduino Uno

Control Software

A free and simple controller program for Arduino is available on GitHub.  The controller uses a menu driven interface via the USB connection.  The easiest way to talk to it is though the Arduino IDE serial monitor.  That allows a free, common interface between PC, Apple and Linux,  but most serial terminals will work.  The commands currently work in the unit of stepper motor steps.  It could be easily converted to a real world unit, but at this time it is just easier to use the same unit that the motors use.  

If you use a 18 tooth pulley, a 200 step/rev motor and 1/16 microstepping you will get 2222.2 steps/inch or 87.4 steps/mm.  That makes for a very smooth system.  Extremely slow rates are possible.  It can go 1 step per second at 2222 steps per inch, so it could take almost an hour to go an inch.  You could hack the code to easily drop this by many orders of magnitude.  Each move can have its own speed and acceleration to fine turn the affect you want.

It has several commands to interactively move the carriage around.  This would probably be done to setup the system before the actual “shot”.  These include Move, Home (go to zero), Jog and Zero (define current location as zero).  You can also create a move program.  This allows you to define a couple dozen moves that run sequentially.    These can either be moves or dwells (pauses).  Once the program is entered it can be saved.  This allows you to pre-program the device before you take it in the field.

At power up the motor disables.  This allows you to slide the carriage by hand.  This is handy if you don’t have a PC to do it in the field.  As soon as you make any move or run a program the motors enable.

Note:  The software is provided for free and "as is".  It is not an official, Inventables supported product.  It is open source, so feel free to hack and modify it.

If you have any question please comment on this blog post.


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