In the right hands a camera slider can produce some stunning video shots but for some reason the prices just seem outlandish if you ask me! Being something that I had wanted for a long time, the prices (starting around $400) just seemed to keep the camera slider out of my arsenal of tools when it came to shooting video. I know they are simple and yes there are plenty of decent designs for a DIY Camera Slider out there, but I hadn’t seen one that was lasercut. After giving it a bit of thought, I considered using 8mm machined rod and linear bearings as the basis for my design. After a couple of ours in 3D design mode and a trip to visit a friend to pick up supplies I was ready to start cutting some prototype parts. This is a bit of a build log for my DIY Lasercut Camera Slider.
Download the laser cutting files here. 30 inch DIY Lasercut Camera Slider (PDF – 80 KB)
What You Will Need To Build a DIY Lasercut Camera Slider
2 @ 20″ x 12″ x 1/8″ Hard Board (aprx $1.50)
1 @ 1/4″ x 20 x 3/4″ Standard Bolt (from any hardware store) (aprx $0.15)
2 @ 30″ x 8mm Machined Stainless Steel Rod (aprx $40)
4 @ LM8UU Linear Bearings (aprx $10)
1 @ Basic Tripod Head (aprx $5)
Wood Glue Full Spectrum 45w Hobby Laser Cutter (any laser cutter or CNC will work)
* If you don’t own a laser cutter, you might actually be surprised how accessible they actually are. Search the internet for “hacker space”, “sign shop”, and even some libraries are now starting to own them.
1) Cut out laser cut parts
2) Assemble using glue
It really should only take about 30 minutes to put this all together and you can save around $350 and probably more if you buy the cheap Chinese stuff!
I quickly realized that it’s not quite as sturdy as I had expected. The wooden base is OK but will bow if there is anything under it in the center which causes the cart to catch on the bottom. I could easily overcome this with a slightly different base design but I also found that the 8mm smooth rod was not strong enough to support the weight of a DSLR camera with a decent sized lens on it. the rods had too much flex. I believe that I could overcome this with thicker rods and bearings or simply shortening the length. After experimenting a little I think something along the lines of 12 inches might work fine for the kinds of shots I am looking for any ways.
One of the things I found interesting when playing with this DIY camera slider with a simple video camera attached was the limited amount of travel which is required to begin getting that interesting dolly shot especially if the shot was a macro or table shot. Strategically placing an object in the foreground helps exaggerate the motion.
Getting a consistent speed wasn’t too bad at mid to fast panning however getting a very slow pan for a macro shot was a bit difficult. At first I thought that it would be simple to make a motion controlled slider and it would probably only need one speed. Boy was I wrong, if I add a stepper I will definitely make sure I use some method to control the speed!
Next steps are to shorten the length, add some motorized control using a stepper motor, GT2 Belts / Gear, Arduino controller and a battery pack.