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DIY Camera Slider

Motion Control Photography has always been an art that intrigued me as an engineer. It’s a powerful tool, pioneered (large scale) in Star Wars, that allows you to shoot precisely and repeatably any shot you can conceive of. And as someone who would never be a great camera operator in person, I thought there would be no more patriotic thing to do as an engineer than to build a robot to do it for me.

Building a slider was the first step in achieving this. Sliders give you one easy degree of translational freedom, and they go a long way towards making a shot more exciting. Whenever you put motion in a scene, it adds a new dimension. Not necessarily like a 3D-type dimension although it certainly lends a certain depth to a scene, but an exciting, dynamic dimension. As a viewer, you’re exploring the scene from multiple perspectives along a trajectory which is infinitely more stimulating than a single stationary shot on a tripod.

I drew inspiration from two great DIY builds on YouTube by the now-defunct BFX and film riot:



My bill of materials came primarily from film riot. But both builds have something to offer. The BFX build has more torsional rigidity and can be easily setup on a pair of tripods, although the film riot setup can be modified to do so as well.

I will be equipping my slider with a stepper motor and a pulley, although I will be paying close attention to smoothness of motion. Cloth on metal tends to exhibit a small amount of deadzone/hysteresis. The ideal solution would be to move to a threaded rod or a wheeled shuttle. Those will come later, this is merely a proof of concept.

And no, that’s not a physical discontinuity at 0:30, that’s just me making a sloppy cut to mask the fact that I couldn’t get smooth, continuous motion on a slightly wobbly platform.

Oh, and I bought the EMT connectors from McMaster. Even with shipping they’re slightly cheaper than Home Depot. If you can piggyback them onto an order or use Will Call, you’ll save a ton.

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