After more than 3 years of planning, thinking, reading and experimenting stopmo, i decided it is time to start the big project. I have an idea of a short video and in the time passed i refined it untill now when i know exactly what i want to show, how i want it to be filmed, what equipment i need,etc. 

Part of the project, there is this dollie/crane assembly that is required to move the camera around the stage smoothly and swiftly. The particularity of the crane is that it is built with readily available materials from hardware store that are 3D printed. From my calculations, the crane will be able to support a camera up to 5 Kg along with the required automation like follow-focus.

For the music video i am planning to film, the camera jib and several other MOCO systems will be controlled by a computer. The same computer will also control DF remotely. The reason for this setup is because i need to plan the shots and see them in real time and make the required changes to camera path and props before the actual shot is made since there is a lot of automated motion on the set.



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Finally it is finished. Well at least the firmware works and the machine also. Needs a good paint job and the interface software written. Firmware accepts serial commands but a nicer UI is required. It will be most probably C or Freepascal augmented with LUA for scripting engine. But for now i am happy with the results for a prototype build. As  a "do not do it this way" i have a few things:

1. Do not connect geared motors directly to the motion arms or levers. The cheap geared motors wobble in all kind of ways making the rig unstable. On my rig, the motor rotating the camera horizontally has this issue and that will be redesigned into a better assembly when i get the time.

2. Do not forget to install limiters on your axes. Physical ones. It will prevent your rig from falling or running over stuff or break itself. My rig fell on one of the tests from the table and i had to replace some wheel parts.

3.Do not forget to add a safety switch. Even if you are very careful and you know where your rig is, mistakes are easy to make. A Safety stop switch will help you stop the rig without damaging anything around it.

Now i made a few little videos with the camera mounted on the rig. Enjoy.


Really good to see it, Julian! Seems to work pretty well and smoothly, with just a little wobble at the end of moves.

Thanks also for the tips. What sort of safety switch do you have? I have a switch that turns off the power to the drivers, so would stop everything immediately, so I reckon that will do the job. Would just have to dive for the box to reach it!

When you say physical limiters, do you mean a lump of wood to stop it falling off the end of the track, or something more sophisticated?

Anyway, good to see it up and running. And reassuring to see your workshop is about as messy as mine!!


the wobbling is still from the track since the table is very uneven and the machine is not in it's final position. As for the safety switch, it cuts only commands to the drivers to stop the motion. It will keep powering the drivers because if you stop powering them, some parts of the crane might fall and cause more damage.Physical limiters, big lumps of wood designed to stop anything from falling if software goes nuts.As for the workshop... i am trying to keep it as clean as i can but boxes keep piling up with a lot of electronics and stuff know... when you create you make a lot of mess. I'll do another cleaning round this weekend after i finish the lights project and also the first stage.



why don't you just get a robot like this?


That,most probably, is a dressed up KUKA robot arm and by it's size i guess it has a price tag of at least 200.000 USD without the camera harness. My humble machine costs up to 7000 AUD so it is a very big difference.secondly, my machine has a track. The one depicted there is fixed...

Yes, this is KUKA. A fully programmable (custom software), target tracking, focus, zoom motors included, tracks is an option, and this pictured one is about 85 000$ with camera cage, bloop and triggers, working with DragonFrame. Stereoscope mode possible (3D). If You want smaller one, we it can be tailored to your needs. Precision of about 0.06mm, much better than wooden construction.  



My dear Cezary,
If I would have had 85.000 USD, I would have used them for other purposes and the camera crane would have been the last thing I would have considered. Most of us here are stop motion enthusiasts,freelancers and paid employees all with one goal of sharing our passion for stop motion. We also share our small endeavours in building and creating landscapes and life one frame at a time. And most of us do this on their own cost which is far below the price tag of your device.
I do not doubt the precision, accuracy and feature packs of your KUKA robot. I have seen it in action on factory floors countless times. But to be honest, that precision is reserved for big productions and big equipment renting houses not for humble animators like us who build most of their equipment, sets, puppets, props, MoCO systems... Almost everything, out of their hard earned pocket cash. And we enjoy building these things because we can create stunning animations from a pile of junk and we can match big dollar productions tracking and compositing with custom made hardware that costs less than a round trip ticket to US at cattle class.
At the same time, we can get very close to the features of your robot with just 25% of the price you said. The rest would be used to make proper sets, buy professional armatures, get better lighting, buy a new camera instead of a second hand one and finance and bring to life our long delayed projects.

Mine's cost about £1000, maybe a bit more for the stuff I have thrown out during the process, and it's prettier (in my eyes!). Especially the old ladder it tracks along!

What the hell would my wife say if I announced I was spending $85k on a robot arm?!


this kind of tool is usable in live action films and high speed shooting sequences where the camera must move extremely fast and extremely precise. A robot like KUKA is capable, depending on configuration, to lift and move from 20 to 80 Kg with high accelerations. In a live shooting sequence where you film with more than 60 or 100 FPS you need a robot like this to move the camera and repeat the sequence over and over again until the shoot gets the director approval. There are  thousands of places and situations where such an installation would be usable and perfect fit. In Stop Motion, using something like this is an overkill. Yes it can be used, no question about that. But when you have 30 stages and you put in every stage a robot like this, the cost is staggering. In all situations i saw, and someone with more experience than me can confirm or amend, the cranes used are custom made to fit the studio. And they are in general custom made by the studio itself.

My crane was built with minimum investment. i think i spent around 1500 AUD on it with all the electronics and motors. there are a lot of improvements i want to make but for now it serves it's purpose.  

Me again think ya getting carried away with the cost of ex industrial robot arms . I ve seen some very good Denso ones go for £700 small perfect for animation . Another option is  Staubila both makes weigh about 40kg so can be put on a track and often are .

Its not always Kukas and you certainly dont have to spend rediculous  money although they are getting hard to pick up these days as everybody is converting them to rigs so £3500 prob get ya one .May be best checking your facts before you say what i assume was meant to be 200,000 usd not 200. usd  .

Big prob smaller ones dont have the reach of a crane though . So my next rig will have the best of both worlds .


Iulian Demetrescu said:

" In Stop Motion, using something like this is an overkill. "  

I was working in prodction where we had 2 Milos and 1 Modula from Mark Roberts. I guess you all know how much they cost. 

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