Sunday, November 24, 2013

DIY: Actobotics Adjustable Width Motorized Time Lapse Dolly: Part I

Back in 2011, I built a DIY motorized time lapse dolly that would work on a standard extension ladder.  I used some standard skate wheels, some plywood, and a few parts from  The biggest problem was portability, and I wanted to be able to use different ladders.  I have 2 extension ladders, but they are not standard width.  I also have access to a third extension ladder at my 2nd job that is also a different width.  I had ideas in the past on how to resolve this, but not until I saw the new Actobotic parts from ServoCity that I figured out a better solution.  Here are the links to my original build.  You'll see that I have recycled some of the components.
Here is the completed dolly with attachments for multiple cameras.  I will normally only use 2 cameras on the rig, but thought that I would show how versatile the Actobotics channels are, as you can use multiple camera mounts.  

The Actobotics 1" Tube Clamps, I was able to use PVC pipe in the structure of the dolly.  Loosening a couple of screws allows me to adjust the width of the dolly to fit onto different extension ladders.  You could technically use other rails, such as 2x4's.  Once I figure out the maximum width of my biggest ladder, I'll cut off the extra PVC, but you can at least see that with the current configuration, I could go a couple of feet wide.

I'm still using a system where the motor pulls itself up the ladder using heavy duty fishing line.  

On the old dolly, I used a gear motor box, and was able to eliminate that gear box and use different components to mount directly to the channels. 

Using a 3/8" hex screw on a channel extension, I mounted a ball head for any of my larger dSLR cameras.

Since I'll be re-using the battery and Potentiometer from the old dolly, and re-purposing it it with my new channel slider, I rewired it to that using quick connects it can be used with both sliders.  I did replace my original 12V battery with a smaller rechargeable model from Amazon, as it wasn't as heavy and had a built in on/of switch.  I also created new wiring using these connectors to clean up the wiring.

I need to get some velcro to attach the battery and switch box, but in the meantime, I just used a bungie to secure it.  

Here is the quick connect to the motor.  I stole the limit switches off the old dolly to put on the mini channel slider, so I'll need to replace those.  You can see a mini ball head for an additional camera mount.

Adding a larger gear will really slow the movement of the dolly down.

Another 1/4" threaded mount point using a screw plate.  Perfect for mounting a GoPro camera for video or time lapse.

Parts list:
3 x 15" Aluminum Channel (585458)
1 x 1.5" Aluminum Channel (585440)
1 x Channel Bracket A (585484)
1 x 90 degree Single Angle Short Channel Bracket (585506)
4 x Center Hole Adapters (633118)
1 x Quad Hub Mount E (545452)
8 x 90 Quad Hub Mount D (545324)
12 x 90 Degree Quad Hub  Mount (545360)
2 x 90 Degree Dual Side Mount (585470)
1 x 90 Degree Hub Mount B (545404)
2 x 3/8" Bore Pillow Block (535154)
1 x 0.5 RPM Gear Motor (638142)
4 x 1/4-20 Round Screw Plates (54546)
5 x 1/4" 6-32 Socket Head Machine Screw
8 x Dolly Wheel Drive Plates B ( 585536)
8 x 90 Degree Quad Hub Mount B (545424)
8 x 8mm Flanged Standoff A (585488)
10 x Aluminum Clamping Mount (555116)
2 x 3/8" Aluminum Set Screw Collars (9946K13)
2 x 1"x2' PCV Pipe

I reused the skate wheels, bearings, and gear sprocket from my old dolly.

In part II, I'll test the dolly out on a the ladder to see how long it takes to traverse the distance.


  1. My wife wouldn't allow me to be that bold to use the kitchen table for DIY projects :) Good luck!

  2. Luckily, my wife already ruined the countertops in multiple places using bleach and also putting a hot pan down, so I think I'm safe until they are replaced!