Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DIY Slow Motion Time Lapse Cable Cam

Recovering from back surgery in November, I had some downtime this winter to work on some new DIY photography rigs.  I started by replacing my original ladder time lapse dolly with a new adjustable width time lapse rig with parts from Actobotics and ServoCity.com. Next, I modified a channel slider kit to use a DPDT relay to go back and forth very slowly. And my final project is a remote control slow motion time lapse cable cam.

The purpose of this cable cam rig is to get motion time lapse sequences  over a larger distance than you could get from a slider.   Every single cable cam that I've ever seen has been "geared" towards capturing video.  This rig moves along the cable very slowly, and has been designed for capturing time lapse sequences.  I'm using a 50ft 3/8" cable, with a 2 ton cable winch.  I plan on setting this up between a couple of trees when the weather gets nicer.

I have 2 different pinion and hub gear combinations, along with motors with different speeds.  With the biggest hub gear, the rig moves at a little less than 10 feet an hour using a 1/2 RPM gear motor.  With the smaller hub gear, it travels at 25 feet an hour.

I plan on using this with 2 different camera combinations.  The first will use dual GoPro HD Hero 3 cameras mounted on Servo Blocks using a continuous rotation Hitec servo.  This allows me to remotely rotate the camera using a Remote Control receiver.  Having the GoPro's wifi turned on will allow me to view where the camera is pointing through the GoPro ipad or android app.  Please keep in mind that the only portion of this rig that is remote controlled is the camera gimbal.

The following video clip demonstrates the dual GoPro camera gimbal rotation from a RC controller.

There is a micro limit switch mounted on aluminum beam which can stop the rig once it gets to the end of the cable.  I would assume that I'll be waiting for it when it gets close to the end, but adding the limit switch will help prevent motor burn out if it is left unattended.

I can also use the Cable Cam rig without the RC components and servo blocks, with a simple mini ball head and my Sony NEX-5 camera. 

Unfortunately, winter has made a come back in Wisconsin, after a few days of tolerable winter weather, so I may not be able to test this until it has warmed up a bit.  I had hoped to post a video of a time lapse sequence made from this rig, but it will have to wait.  I have allocated a 50ft coated wire, a hand winch, and some lifting straps.  Basically, the nylon straps are to protect whatever tree I attach this thing to, and the "Come-a-long" winch will help get the slack out of the wire.  I don't think that I can go too tight, as that might put too much pressure on the rig and bend some of the parts, so I'll need to be careful.  I believe that the wire is 1/8" with a plastic coating that makes the outside 3/16".

ServoCity.com Parts:

12" Aluminum Channel (585454)

2 x 3" Smooth Hub Pulleys (615138)
1 x 1" Smooth Hub Pulley (615130)

2 x Dual Ball Bearing Hub A (545444)

5 x 4.62" Aluminum Beam (585412)

1 x .5 RPM Gear Motor (638142)

1 x Aluminum Motor Mount B (555128)

1 x 16T - 32P Gearmotor Pinion Gear (615242)

1 x 84T - 32P Aluminum Hug Gear (615210)

D-Shaft Tubing
1 x 2.75" (634074)
1 x 1.75" (634066)

2 x 0.777" Set Screw Hubs (545548)

3 x Channel Bracket A (585484)

3 x Small Square Screw Plate (585478)

2 x Dual Screw Plate (585472)

1 x Single Screw Plate (585474)

1 x Vertical Aluminum Mount (SVM275-115)

1 x Standard Hitec Servo Block (637110)

1 x HSR-1425 (Continuous Rotation) Hitec Servo  (31425CR)

3 x 1/4" Flanged Ball Bearings (535044)

1 X 1/4" Aluminum Set Screw Collars (9946K11)

1 x 1/4" to 6mm Set Screw Shaft Coupler (625106)

6-32 Socket Head Machine Screw (various sizes)

2 x 1/4"-20 Round Screw Plate (545468)

2 x 1/4-20 Pan Head Phillips Machine Screw 3/4"

1 x SPDT miniature Snap-Action Micro Switch (605634)

1 x Micro Switch Mount C (605626)

2 x 1/4" Shafting & Tubing Spacers (633104)

Non-ServoCity Parts:

Portable DC 12V 4500mAh Rechargeable Li-ion Battery

2.1mm x 5.5mm Male CCTV Power Plug Adapter

2.1mm x 5.5mm Female CCTV Power Jack Adapter

*Obviously, the GoPro HD Hero and Sony NEX-5 cameras were used, but not included in this list.


  1. Great idea! Thank you! Hope to see the footage soon!

  2. Michael, I have a 15 rpm ServoCity motor. It produce a very big noise at maximum spead. And it is almost quiet at half the speed. As you have a couple of them can you confirm that this is true for all ServoCity motors? In this case I will purchase a 30 rpm motor which will be quiet at the required speed. Thank you.

  3. I didn't notice any notice any extra noise on my servos, but they are pretty low RPM. I'd say that the .5 RPM motor is very quiet, and you have to get close to hear it.

  4. Looks very good, but this simply won't work outside... problem = wind. With a cheap tri-pod I get some vibration, so with it suspended from a wire it'll make capture unusable.

  5. Nice set up. I'd love to see some instructions on how to put this together. I'm mostly interested in the cable-cam part, not so much the servos, although they are cool.