I have been doing time lapse photography since 2015, with a keen interest in motion control since starting. A bit of background on myself. I am a mechanical design engineer by trade. Previously I working on high speed product handling systems based in the UK. In 2010, after many years behind a 3D design terminal, I bit the bullet and moved to Cambodia, a place that now feels like home. Here, I run photography workshops in Angkor Wat, which keeps me busy over high season, November – April. From my first time lapse trial, interest grew to the point that I am constantly running small projects here, mostly nature related. This keeps me occupied when not running the photography tours. During low season, It is nice to grab the camera and go see a bit of the world. My journey into motion gear has been a rocky road, progress is now being made. Here I will explain how I got to where I am with all this.
When I initially looked for motion, most kits were of the pan/tilt/slide format. Kits seen rather expensive for what is essentially a few pulley / gears, slider and brackets. Some effort is put into modularity by these companies and I appreciate the cost of development. However, being a design engineer, I built my own mechanics, while purchasing the motion control from a so called ‘reputable’ company in the USA. With this gear, I wanted to shoot some great footage of Angkor Wat, a stunning world landmark right on my door step. However, this was put on hold as any camera gear that looks professional requires a rather expensive permit. My motion gear gathered dust until I started doing some botanical time-lapse a year or so later. I had two shots in mind that would benefit with some motion. Dusting down the kit, I set off to do some experimental stuff.
On a side note with the botanical time-lapse, a bit of effort was required get controlled lighting conditions. I was discussing possibilities with an expat over a beer, where we talked about a raspberry pi. A bit more research on google led me to Chris Fields excellent blog. This truly helped me, as there was not a lot on botanical time-lapse blogs elsewhere on the internet. An Arduino board later, I now have controlled lighting and camera triggers.
Back to the motion gear from this reputable’ supplier. No work! Not able to upgrade firmware. A free factory reset was offered by the company if I pay postage. The unit never made it back to me, despite using delivery options offered on their website. The company took no responsibility. At this point, I am several hundred dollars out of pocket, more importantly, no motion controller for my low season excursions – Indonesia and Ladakh. To be honest, I know the logistics of living in South East Asia are an issue, but my first question to the company was if they had experience of shipping here, to which they replies yes. It was not just this problem, there was a string of errors from day one. Their customer relations certainly have room for improvement. Putting profit before customers was not in my book working for a reputable engineering company. Hearing that the owner is a failed real-estate agent should have rang the alarm bells.. Thankfully I have moved on and do not have to deal with this company again.
Since returning from my Low season excursions, I looked into various options for control gear including dragon frame, which looks a nice option for the studio. Running on an Arduino board with open source coding worked ok. My requirements for low season meant that I needed a portable solution. I am sure it could be done with Dragonframe, but my wiring / electrical skills are not quite refined. I opted for a Pine r unit from Black Forest Motion, similarly priced to the dragonframe software. This gives me four axis motion, multiple keyframes, a portable unit and a whole bunch of features available on their app. Happy days!
Since receiving this unit, I have wired it to my existing home designed pan/tilt unit. Purchased a new carbon slider which I adapted, also added a home designed focus unit, thanks to the excellent 3D printing services of a local company, Arrowdot. Other than a few teething issues, all is working well. I will have to order some more hirose connectors to get the 4th axis working. I doubt I will add any more axis to this system, it is only a kind of hobby. Maybe a bit of re-configuration for the home stuff, an arc motion and sturdy frame.
Finally, back in motion. I can get on with the two projects I had in mind well over a year ago.
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Check out my next step. Augmented Reality, a virtual environment!