Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Motorized Camera Track for Time Lapse Photography

At the beginning of the summer, a friend showed me this video:

I had already made stationary camera time lapses, but I wanted to come up with a way to make videos like this. So I did. Below is a video showcasing my motorized photo track, followed by a bunch of pics detailing the features. I blew a couple months of allowance PLUS a goodly portion of my birthday moolah on this project, but it was definitely worth it. I'm currently working on Michigan time lapse compilation using my track, but it's not done yet, so you'll have to wait... Anyway, here's my track:


The pulse width modulator allows me to vary the voltage applied to the two motors without wasting large amounts of electricity by bleeding energy off as heat generated by resistors. The one I got is a bidirectional pulse width modulator from CanaKit, and works incredibly well. The ON/OFF switch is pretty generic, but very sturdy and worth the price.

The shorter, custom stands are what you see attached to the track in most of these pictures. However, I also have two full-size tripod support attachments, which (though not shown due to the angle) are what are holding the track up in the above photo. The turntable came attached to the motor, which was perfect for my design.

Here's the control box end with the hinged lid swung open. Lots o' wires. Nifty stuff. The battery pack is from my Masterforce Drill Set (see below for mount details) and powers both motors.

I've got to say, I'm fairly proud of these sturdy little stands. I didn't always want the camera to be as high off the ground as it is when the track is mount on the tripod legs, so I thought these up while strolling through Menard's (local hardware store-that-also-sells-everything-else-imagineable). Both these stands and the tripod stands (not pictured) feature my proprietary made-up screw-on PVC attachment system.

Because they're offset and counter-angled, the wheels don't always both touch the track at the same time. This is a good thing though; It allows the track to not be perfectly level, and the cart will automatically adjust to keep itself on the rails.

I hated making that stupid platform. That's the last time I will EVER attempt to cut individual plexiglass sheets with a hacksaw - WITHOUT A VICE. 
Never. Again.

Aerial views are just cool, so here's one showing the control end on the left. Note the red 80's console video game-style buttons. They worked perfectly to act as interruption switches to the circuit when pressed.

While I couldn't make the buttons reverse the direction of the motors without creating a much more complicated circuit (and using different buttons), they at least kept the motors from burning out if the cart reaches the end of the track without me noticing.

I mounted the top box on hinges so it could be unlatched and opened to change the battery or mess with wires.

Wow, that writing doesn't show up the best unless you click to embiggen...

The pulse width modulator is where the magic's at. Simple circuit integration, and it came pre-assembled, so no soldering necessary!


Susan said...

All I can say is wow!

ahyesplans said...

I can't believe you made this! Are you sure you shouldn't have gone into engineering?? (kidding, kidding- but seriously, very impressive!)

Justin said...

Thanks very much! And ahyesplans, I'm sure, hahaha. Stuff like this is fun when on my own terms and timeline, but I was made for medicine! :)

S.A. said...

Man, this is amazing. WOW!

S.A. said...

Man, this is amazing! Wow!

Anonymous said...

Next up: A mars landing! Way cool! You are going to love medicine. The human heart - an electro-mechanical (muscular) pump with some plumbing thrown in. And people say medicine is hard. What you did is hard. And odd. But, hard. :) Tricia

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