I'm very new to stop motion and I'm trying to find out about tools artists use for camera moves.

I'm sure the real pros have specially made tools, but I'm looking for a DIY solution. The ideas I'm see around the web and ideas I considered are:

tripod with crank ( any suggestions? )

table vise grip

I was thinking of buying a table vise grip from the hard ware store that can open up really wide and can get clamped down. 

like this


Has anyone used a table vise grip from camera moves?


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Ive never seen that used but its actually a pretty cool diy idea...

youtube has several camera rig tutorials... though ive never tried any of them they do look like they all would work

i bought these ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArXAgG7JAhs  and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLbc-TBKFzo

not super expensive...bout 5 or 600 for the pair...

i also bought this for a little under 100....which might work for your needs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJs1s2S6uNU


Thanks for your reply. Those look like nice pieces of gear.

crazy chris said:

Ive never seen that used but its actually a pretty cool diy idea...

youtube has several camera rig tutorials... though ive never tried any of them they do look like they all would work

i bought these ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArXAgG7JAhs  and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLbc-TBKFzo

not super expensive...bout 5 or 600 for the pair...


I like the way you're thinking with the table vise! In fact I was thinking the same thing but I went farther with it and ended up with what's called a machinist's cross-slide table, and on top of that I bolted a trailer jack for up and down movement. Here's a page detailing my setup: http://www.darkstrider.net/Camsyst.html

The first and really most important part though is the geared head, the Manfrotto 410 jr. That lets you do pans and tilts and also lets you get fine positioning of your camera to perfectly frame your shots once the tripod (or whatever you're using) gets it roughly placed. 

Oh, I'm no longer mounting it all on a drill press base, the cross-slide table is just clamped onto a little end table and then the trailer jack clamped onto that. I'll get some pictures of it and post them later today - those dark pictures on my site are pretty terrible. 


I just took like a half an hour putting together a post with pictures and explanatory text, and it didn't go through??!!@! 

When I get over the rage I'll try it again. 



Ok, better now, It turns out it was my own dumb fault - I had to experiment at first with how to make the pics from Flickr show up here, and so I was actually editing a post - went over the 20 minute editing limit. 

Ok, post with pics, v. 2.0 (click through to see the pics supersized on Flickr - click on the three little dots in the lower right hand corner to see All Sizes):

Here's the base of my setup. It's an old end table with the machinist's cross-slide table just sitting on it. I used to have it clamped along the edge, using a pair of big c clamps like the one you see laying there rusting, but clamps are worth their weight in depleted uranium in a stopmo studio, you can never have enough and you sometimes have to scavenge them to use elsewhere, so for now it just sits. It's heavy enough though that's not really a problem. I keep promising myself I'm going to put some coach bolts through those long slots in the cast iron base, but so far they're just empty promises. 

Wow, it's amazing how different things look in a close-up flash shot!! I never notice the grease or spider webs. You will ignore them. This shot is to show how I'm cranking the RV leveling jack up and down. There are handles made for them that fit over the hex-shaped plug on the end of the threaded rod, but I couldn't get ahold of one of them, so I just put a little clamp there instead, and I grab the little handle on it. The nice thing is it rotates freely, so it lets me crank away without needing to keep changing my grip (does that make sense?) I picked up a couple dozen of these little 3" and 2" c clamps on Amazon nice and cheap - one of my best investments. And the other end of the threaded rod is a nice place to keep your rolls of gaffer tape so they don't lay on their sides and get crap all stuck to them. 

Two things to note here - clamps and sandbag. The sandbag is made for lighting equipment, it counterbalances the weight of the camera, the geared head, and the articulated arm out on the other end of the plank (next pic). I have a couple bags of aquarium gravel in the bag for ballast. I suppose I could have loaded freezer bags with dirt instead, would be cheaper.

A closer look at the clamps. The c clamp is the main one - it swivels so it allows me to swing the plank from side to side for positioning the camera. Then I tighten the welding clamp to secure it into place. 

And finally we come to the business end. That's a Manfrotto articulated arm set into a Manfrotto (or off brand) super clamp (the block attaching it to the plank) and hanging on the end of it all a Manfrotto 410 jr. geared tripod head and then my camera. 

Ok, enough typing - I'm posting this now. 

Here's a thread with good info on the articulated arms: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/compact-stop-motion...

Wow Strider thanks so much for your post! It's given me loads of ideas.

I'll be looking for a the machinist's cross-slide table now I think, looks ideal. The jack is clever too. The articulated arm is nice as well.

OMG, those spider webs on the jack are burned onto my retinas, there's no way I can un-see them...  

For most shots I use a tripod with a geared centre column, which give me up and down movement, and a Manfrotto geared head, which lets me pivot the camera for a pan, tilt, or Dutch Tilt.  If I need a tracking movement, as I did last week, I use a home-built dolly track that uses a 3 ft threaded rod to move the dolly along.  It took some work but not much cash to make.  The machinist's cross-table slide looks like a great thing for shorter tracking movements if you can find one that doesn't cost too much - they all seem to start at several hundred dollars here.

I guess the approach depends on how long a tracking move you are likely to need.

The car jack seems like a nice low-cost solution.


Here's someone who did something like Nick's example. I want to try something like this.Total costs would be around EUR 160 or 215 $. 


In his tutorial he does it with wire, which is easier to build, but not really stop motion proof I guess. Changing it to a system with a rod shouldn't be that hard.

There is an option in Dragon to operate the Arduino controller board, which he uses. In theory, this would make it possible to plan camera moves in dragon. 

Tripod head, yea. Definitely Manfrotto 410. about £70 on e-bay U.K. Not cheap but lasts forever. Pull out the plastic grips. Underneath, the alloy handles have 45 indents around them! increment marks ready-made! A pin, a mark of any sort, pointing at them and you can begin to do controlled panning over more than one axis. Obviously you can divide the increments as you wish.For simple tracking Mexican style, any chunk of straight aluminium or even wood will do for me. Sit a plank on it to attach your camera, and something (clamps a good option) to guide it. Push it along over your desired increments as you shoot. It does the trick. 

Lots of interesting things in this thread.

I like the way Mike repurposed the XY table.

Another option for Z is a lab lift jack, which can be under $50.  It doesn't have as much range as the car jack, but it does pretty well for its size.  I think it's what Chris Gilligan used on Creamen underneath the ice cream characters.

As a programmer I should be more aware of what you can do with an Arduino, but I'm not.  I was surprised to see it driving the stepper motor in that canon-hf100 blogspot post.  The stepper drivers we used were much larger, but we were moving hundreds of pounds.

Nick's solution is similar to what we used for the moco rig, but on a smaller scale.  We had two ground V rails 6 feet apart for the X axis with fixed wheels on one side and live wheels on the other. Y was the same deal mounted on the X axis carriage.  Both used omega chain drives instead of threaded rod, but the 4-foot Z axis mounted on the Y axis carriage used threaded rod.

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