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 Post subject: DIY motorised pano heads
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:12 pm 
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Discussions and advice on building your own motorised pano head.

I accept that this may be counter to KOLOR's financial interests, so let the mods delete it now or forever hold their peace.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:49 pm 
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Hey... Don't see that might be an issue.. ;)

There was a guy, Ed, not seen here for a long time, who went off into a direction of building his own Motorised Pano Head.. He gave me some insights into it, which included the 3D printing of the parts.... I haven't heard from him for a long tim... There have also been others who had the idea of building a DIY Motorised Pano head but...... After they say.. "Oh that's doable.." We never hear from them again........ To be honest... I would like to see the innovations...

Destiny...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:34 am 
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After building a couple of manual heads, I found that I could not stand around long enough to take panos because of leg pains.

Also had problems because my mind kept wandering off on modifications to the heads I was using, which finally resulted in a hole in the middle of an otherwise acceptable shoot!

I realised that even a cheapskate sometimes had to actually spend money and tried to get into the Gigapan test program, but discovered that they could not accommodate my Fuji S9500! A major university sets up a major program then restricts it to the smallest cameras, the type least likely to give really good results? Never let academics run anything!

Anyway, I liked neither the layouts or expense of the other commercial heads so decided to build my own. Yup, should have given up right there but without we monomaniacs how would anything get done?

Although I had some limited experience in programming, there was a bewildering array of microprocessors (& programming languages) available and I had no idea how to run a stepping motor.

After spending time searching, I found a few sites where people had actually constructed functional heads using LEGO Mindstorms.

This approach had the advantage that you got the processor, programming language, motors, rotation sensors and cables in one box, all designed to work with each other. I thought that I could build a prototype using that and so reduce the number of new things I had to learn. If that worked, I could move onto a microproccessor-based version since I would just have to translate the program to a new language.

It became evident that there were limitations with the LEGO models - most used only small cameras with a single axis and some looked very shoogly!

A larger, dual axis model looked promising but it turned out that it disintegrated twice, allowing an slr to land on the ground on each occasion.Ouch!

Anyway, I started building but could not get something rigid enough to be acceptable with my S9500 at full zoom and the LEGO elements (very strong) tended to spring apart when stressed.

So I kept LEGO for the power plant but built a prototype framework out of 25mm pine strips and the laser level base which I had incorporated into previous heads.

The idea was to test various layouts to prove the concept and get the dimensions right before having a metal framework built professionally.

To my amazement, it worked!

Basically just one strip held in the laser level base with a second strip at right angles fixed by a long screw and a couple of metal braces. The main pivot consisted of a polished coach bolt in a tight hole through the upright. I used a coach bolt because the square head gave something solid for the gear to grip.

Initially I had long gear trains but they were quite bulky and had a lot of friction so I moved to worm drives. I also reinforced the LEGO parts by using 4mm bolts in places where the plastic pins might not stand up to the load.

I have used wood for all the versions, although in the last two it was in the form of MDF cut out by CNC machines. Saw recently that someone built a variation of my second-last one using a microprocessor & stepping motors, so it can be done.

Programming started in the LEGO language which came with the kit but I learned NXC (Bricx Command Center) and now use that.

Biggest problem was activating the camera. I moved from a claw operating an old cable release to a linear activator then relays before settling on a neat little 'digital relay' from Mindsensors - http://www.mindsensors.com/index.php?mo ... AGE_id=140

Got a lot of help and advice from the Mindboards site - https://sourceforge.net/apps/phpbb/mindboards/

I documented the early days in a long-forgotten blog - http://aagruntpuddock.blogspot.co.uk/

Photographs can be found on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N ... 635436569/

Well, I've shown you mine - where's yours?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:42 pm 
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Since the rig is running my program, I can change it to do just about anything.

The NXT can (within memory limitations) store multiple programs so you can have different programs to suit different types of pano if you want.

It currently allows the use of manual or auto focus, mirror lockup, etc.

The original program shot in rows but I forgot to charge the batteries once and it ran out halfway through the last row, limiting the scope of the pano.

Latest version works in columns by defining the bottom right and top left of the pano, but there is no reason why I can't add an option to shoot in rows as well.

Latest version of the software can also shoot a standard pano or, by defining the highest & lowest points to be included together with the starting point, carry on shooting until it is stopped (great for really wide panos).

With wide panos, I can do a quick setup by unscrewing the clamp and moving the rig to disengage the lower (panning) gear before reclamping. The rig can then be turned manually to the lowest & highest points so they can be set then back to near the start before re-engaging the gear. Saves a lot of wheel twirling - the rig is really low geared.

Only limitation is that the height be measured from top to bottom and the width from left to right. This is so the program can determine the direction of motor rotation. This means that the motors can be fixed on either side and the pano will still be shot in the correct direction.

The software does not care what lens is fitted (except very short focal lengths) or whether the camera is mounted in portrait or landscape orientation. After setting the zoom, the horizontal & vertical fields of view are measured then the scope of the pano set. The program calculates how many shots are needed on each axis. Overlap is set at 25% but I plan to make changing that an option.

It creates a basic text file which just records the FOVs, the pano dimensions and the number of shots but this can be expanded to record any information you want.

The NXT can also read text files, so if you prefer to use pre-defined values instead of setting them on the day and/ or define the order the shots are taken (templates) then you can write the program to work that way.

Bits I am working on include incorporation smooth motor acceleration, connection of r/c relays so I can pause or stop the program if the line of sight is blocked without touching the rig and Bluetooth connection to a GPS module so the location can be recorded. Yes, you CAN get genuine GPS on a NXT, thanks to a nifty little program (not the prank version).

Compass sensors are available for the NXT so that the direction of each shot can be recorded if you wish.

The NXT is also controllable by Bluetooth so those with greater expertise than me could run it from a PC, laptop, mobile phone or whatever. If you attached a radio-controlled remote viewer to your camera, you could even write a program to setup and shoot a pano from inside your car!

I use 6 x 2100 mAa NiMh cells but have just purchased a 6800 mA power pack which (with some modifications) could be fitted to the NXT to replace the AAs.

My preferred language is NXC. I have no formal training but even I can knock up a working (if inelegant) program in the Bricx Command Center.

This is part of the program which measures the vertical field of view then calculates the distance (in degrees of motor rotation) the head has to tilt between rows. This value is subsequently divided into the pano height to determine the number of rows required.

The head is tilted using the wheel until a recogniseable point is at the bottom of the viewfinder/ screen and a button pressed. The wheel is then turned to bring the point to the top of the screen and another button pressed. Vertical FOV is then adjusted by the overlap factor (75%) to get the actual movement required.

Since you usually do not see all of the view, this tends to be conservative i.e. the actual overlap tends to be greater than the factor used.

// Get v_move - measure how far the head has to tilt between rows ------------

ClearScreen();
PlayTone (3000,500);
Wait (500);
TextOut (1,LCD_LINE3,"SET TOP EDGE");
TextOut (1,LCD_LINE5,"HIT LEFT BUTTON");
Wait (1000);

while (ButtonPressed(BTNLEFT,true) == false) {} // Left button pressed?

ResetRotationCount(OUT_B); // Reset counter on Port B
Wait (100); // Give sensor time to update

rotation_start_B = MotorRotationCount(OUT_B); // Initial reading Port B

ClearScreen();
PlayTone (3000,500);
Wait (500);
TextOut (1,LCD_LINE3," SET BOTTOM EDGE");
TextOut (1,LCD_LINE5,"HIT RIGHT BUTTON");
Wait (1000);

while (ButtonPressed(BTNRIGHT,true) == false) {} // Right button pressed?

Wait (100); // Give sensor time to update

rotation_end_B = MotorRotationCount(OUT_B); // Final reading Port B

v_fov = abs(rotation_end_B - rotation_start_B); // Vertical field of view
v_move = (v_fov * v_overlap / 100); // Reduce to get overlap

// End of section to get v_move ==============================================


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:32 pm 
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Another NXT-powered head, this time driving stepper motors -
http://sac.user.atomicradi.us/home/Phot ... amaStepper

Here is a version of one of my designs modified to use a Raspberry PI and stepper motors -
https://plus.google.com/+raspberrypi/posts/6z9qv95YZoW

And some of the original LEGO heads which inspired me -
http://www.philohome.com/panobot/panobot.htm
http://www.philohome.com/panobot2/panobot2.htm
http://dativ.net/gigabot/index.html
http://www.hdrlabs.com/tutorials/panobot.html
http://ivrpa.org/blog/1833/attack_of_th ... c_robots_o
http://ivrpa.org/blog/1833/aotpr_part_9 ... _of_a_pano
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anachrocom ... 637345376/
http://www.secondpage.de/tutorials/mind ... r1_en.html


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:10 pm 
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a a gruntpuddock wrote:
Here is a version of one of my designs modified to use a Raspberry PI and stepper motors -
https://plus.google.com/+raspberrypi/posts/6z9qv95YZoW



Quite impressive but the control box is rather large.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:54 pm 
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"Control Box: Hand made, containing, 5" screen, Touch Pad controller, rechargable battery pack, USB Hub, Raspberry Pi computer, Stepper Motor driver circuit, Shutter actuator circuit," - so they have put a lot in there!

Now that I am more familiar with the layout, programming, etc I have several times looked at building a more 'technical' version but always failed to find a solution which is so compact and self-contained as LEGO provides.

Bought a PCF8574 with the intention of using steppers instead of the rather bulky LEGO motors but realised that I would then have to buy rotation sensors, build an interface for the sensors, provide an enclosure, cables, power supply etc. PCF8574 still in the packaging.

This is not intended to be a criticism; I am all for people using the materials and methods which suit them best, especially if you can utilise items and/or expertise you already have.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:26 am 
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This one is a bit expensive.. .;)

http://youtu.be/FwECLh94l10

But I like the innovation.. How about using two Heors camera mounted, one pointing down and up at 45 degrees... ;)

Destiny..


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:34 pm 
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Somewhere buried here in some thread I mentioned my MiniPanoBot already :-)
Image

Some Videos showing it in action can be seen on youtube, just search MiniPanoBot.

Here is a link where you can see the building steps
http://www.roboternetz.de/community/threads/42241-MiniPanoBot-V-2-Panoramafotografieroboter/page2
or see here :
http://panografie.klaffehn.com/?page_id=2

Currently I wait for my 3D printer, so the next generation of my MiniPanoBot will rise soon!! ;-)

MfG
Volker Klaffehn


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:47 pm 
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Once you've started, you just keep thinking up improvements!

Look forward to seeing the printed version.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 6:07 am 
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Thoughts on mounting a pano head.

When I started doing panos I found that I tended to end up with curved horizons because the vertical axis of the tripod was not level.

I wanted to get a tribrach similar to that used in surveying levels and theodolites but these were far too expensive. Yes, a I am a miser.

I then recalled that I had bought (but never used) a cheap laser level which included a tribrach. The adjusting screws were a bit shoogly, but I opened it up and tightened up as many connectors as I could and it was much better.

Used it for both single & multi row panos by adding a strip of pine and an old flash grip, then changed to assorted brackets from a hardware store and bits cut off an old mouse mat. Not perfect but they worked. The graduations around the tribrach lower element were handy for spacing out the shots.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/4486522040/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/2995521498/

Bought another from ebay, more expensive but better quality. Never used it because I haven't quite decided how to switch heads easily but it would be fine for a 'single-use' model.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/9282577658/

When contemplating an automatic head, I decided to modify the existing tribrach whilst still leaving it fit for the original purpose.

The vertical bearing was a bit sloppy so I measured the gap between the upper and lower parts then bought a sheet of PTFE to fit. Was still slightly sticky so added some graphite grease - sorted. Does not slide too easily which helps to avoid vibrations but the gearing is very low so the LEGO motor has no problem turning it.

The only other addition modifications were a LEGO chain mounted with BluTack (no bolts to catch on gears) and a metal strip on the plastic plate which clamped the laser level in position. This broke easily and I did not want a failure here to let the head (+ expensive camera) fall off. Works for a pano head mount and is even better than new if I want to use it for the laser level. Thought the BluTack would make it easier to change chain links (they just snap together) but so far none have broken. Does make it easy to align the chain.

I could have bolted the wooden frame down through the upper part for additional security, but I wanted to be able to move the head from side to side in order to accommodate different cameras, or even remove one head and mount another. The materials were so cheap I envisioned having one head for portrait orientation and another for landscape, just switching the LEGO NXT & motors across (no bolts or screws, just plastic pins). Just undo the clamping screw and the head can be lifted off. Drop it into the groove, slide the drive gear into the chain, tighten the clamp and it is ready to go.

The level came with a nice little lightweight tripod but I felt it was too flexible at full extension. Used it once by keeping it closed up and putting it on top of a stout wooden table in a layby. Tried it again by hanging weights (plastic bag full of rocks) from the hook under it for stability but never felt confident with it.

Tribrachs tend to come with a sturdy 5/8" screw so usually need an adapter to fit on a photographic tripod, although the last one I bought had three different mounting holes so would fit just about anything.

This was not a problem for me because I had never found a photographic tripod as rigid as those used for surveying (5/8" screw) so it was back to ebay to find one like this.

http://pacificsurveysupply.com/media/ca ... 30-ORG.jpg

Heavy and with spiky feet you can step on to push them into the ground, rock steady. And the wooden ones are even heavier. And even more of a nuisance to carry.

All my automatic heads have used the same basic method for rotating the unit so I have been able to keep the same tribrach throughout.

I should say that others have used the standard laser level tripod with some success; maybe I am just being too picky.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/53398620@N05/8692348301/

That version has a more sophisticated drive on the tribrach than mine, but I think it is a '1 head 1 tribrach' setup.

Update - had another look and I don't think the frame is permanently fixed to the tribrach after all.


Last edited by a a gruntpuddock on Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:22 am 
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Still suffering from insomnia, so some more random thoughts, this time on operating the camera. As usual, these are my opinions and are not guaranteed to be accurate or even thunk by a being from your own planet.

Once I had the mechanism pointing the camera in the right direction, I had to focus it and/ or take the shot. This is how I wasted a lot of time and effort to little avail.

I have to say at the outset that auto-focusing is best avoided if at all possible. Should the scene lack contrast or be particularly featureless, then focus may not be achieved within the time allowed by the program and shots may be blurred or even missed. Much safer to set the focus manually at the hyperfocal point unless you have some way of detecting when focus is achieved. I thought of fixing a LEGO sound sensor to detect the 'beep' but did not pursue this because I suspected it might not always be possible to distinguish it from ambient noise.

However, sometimes manual focus is not possible so provision should be made for focusing as well as shutter release.

There are two main methods, direct application of pressure to the shutter release and operation of a remote control.

Direct application can be made by an old fashioned 'cable release' since this does not require anything mounted on the camera or head, but few modern cameras have the necessary thread in the shutter release button.

If you are building a simple head which will always use the same camera and the same lens, then some form of structure can be built to hold a motor with a cam over the shutter release.

If different cameras will be used or the same camera but it has to slide back and forward to suit different lenses, then building a reliable framework is not so easy.

There is also the problem of building a device which can consistently move enough to always focus but not shoot, then shoot without overstressing the button. Not saying it can't be done because many people have achieved it, just that it's tricky. Especially if it has to accommodate different cameras or camera locations, as well as being mounted in either portrait or landscape orientations. And how do you ensure it is always zeroed before the sequence starts? I had to zero most of mine manually, and frequently forgot.

The first one I built was copied from a design I saw on the web and used a cable release on my Fuji S9500. It worked fairly well but the head of the cable tended to slide on the LEGO beams and I was always concerned that a programming error would exert too much force and push the top of the release button off the camera or damage the switches. It also tended to disintegrate until I reinforced the LEGO pins with 4mm bolts.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/6773901810/

I modified this by building what was, in effect, a 'linear actuator' which held the cable better and applied a straight force to it. This could have been self-limiting by placing a collar over the exposed plunger to limit cable movement and avoid damage to the camera. If only I could remember to zero it before I started.... So, my failing wits meant that other methods were required.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/4608466281/

A short lecture now from our sponsor on remote controls of which there are two basic types, infra red and 'plug-in'.

Most dSLRs have some form of port for a remote 'electronic' shutter release. This site has a list of the pinouts for major manufacturers.

http://www.doc-diy.net/photo/remote_pinout/

With a few exceptions, these releases are simple switches which just complete a circuit the same as a light switch. Simply plugging into the port and shorting the wires has the same effect. This is the modern (and better) version of the old cable release, you have a flexible cable which can move with the camera.

Panasonic/Lumix have a slightly different system involving placing three different resistances over two of the wires. R1 lets the camera know a remote is attached, R2 that the focus button is pressed and R3 that the shutter release is pressed. R2 and R3 are connected by pressing microswitches.

Most of the rest consist of three long, flat springs which get pushed together when you apply pressure. Each is connected to the plug by a separate wire.

Normally the top spring is for the focus control and the middle is the earth (or common) lead. As the top spring descends, it touches the centre spring and completes the focus circuit. As pressure increases the centre spring touches the bottom one to fire the shutter. This sequence is exactly the same as pressing the camera shutter release.

My next attempt was to place the internals of such a device (Canon) into a LEGO framework and pressed down by a cam on a LEGO motor. This was much more controllable but had the same defect as before - it had to be zeroed before use.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N ... 635436569/

I then added a connector so that I could plug in different cables to suit different cameras. Canon (my 350D) used a standard stereo audio cable which also fitted a socket in the side of my S9500 remote.

This led me wonder why I needed the original remote; if all that was required was a couple of switches, why not use an electronic switch such as a transistor or IC? Well, mainly because I knew sod all about such things except that I would have to add an interface like a pcf8574 so that the NXT could communicate with them and a separate battery (or two). I resolved to research that line of enquiry but, in the meantime, read an article showing that the NXT could operate two relays from one motor port. (I also found a design running two transistors from one motor port, but that was much later).

This was a revelation - two low cost relays, four diodes and a stereo socket created a circuit which did not require to be reset or zeroed! All you had to do was send a 'motor forward' command and one relay would close, 'motor reverse' and it was the other relay. Batteries not required.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/5539642167/

Eventually I added a button cell, a switch and a couple of diodes so that I could check the operation of the relays.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/5597495491/

Since most remotes were operated by switches, it was a simple matter to add a socket in parallel with these switches so that the relays could operate them. Here is my radio controlled Canon model.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/5341622690/

Then, after all this work and development, Mindsensors created an brilliant electronic relay for LEGO which completely superseded it all! Just add a stereo socket and you are all set.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/5957821803/

I added a resistor because I didn't know if it was necessary to limit the current (presumably not, or standard releases would have them) and two tactile switches so that I could test the circuit or operate the focus/ shutter manually. (Woody can be used to shoot panos by turning the wheels, even if the NXT and motors are removed).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73571158@N00/5589231852/

Ah well, it wasn't a total waste of time because I learned a bit about how remotes worked and how the NXT can use I2C to communicate with other electronic devices such as I/O chips and stepping motors.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 2:46 am 
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When I first started to build my own pano head I wanted to use aluminium but did not know how to weld it and distrusted adhesives.

Had I known about this stuff I would probably have used it! See page 23 of the main catalogue for an example.

http://catalogs.8020.net/app.php?RelId=6.1.7.4

Update - here is another but not quite so DIY, uses a lot of machined parts

http://www.hdrlabs.com/tutorials/panobot.html


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:49 am 
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Of course. if you only want to use a small, light camera in sheltered conditions, LEGO alone is sufficient.

http://www.bartneck.de/2013/06/16/spher ... ized-head/


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 4:49 am 
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500 views but nobody is even thinking of building their own?


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 6:32 pm 
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I built a motorized pano head from scratch last year for a woodland monitoring job. Worked OK: 2x stepper motors for azimuth and altitude, meccano gears, arduino sketch controlled the 360x180 sequence which was triggered by a cheap radio control off ebay. Photo of the rig in operation below. Results on this web page
http://www.r5r.eu/cw.html.
Didn’t get around to photographing the stage in close up as I was against a deadline and I’ve now taken it apart since I’m now building a new improve head with:
More powerful stepper motors which can move the camera faster, use an encoder (from a junked printer) for feedback and xml generation, Arduino software library for micro-stepping, Xbee radios for real time 2-way communication (the rig is on 4 meter pole). I’ll let you know how I get on (should be ready in a couple of weeks) and I'll try to remember to take a few photos of the process.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 7:31 pm 
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lovelace wrote:
I built a motorized pano head from scratch last year for a woodland monitoring job. Worked OK: 2x stepper motors for azimuth and altitude, meccano gears, arduino sketch controlled the 360x180 sequence which was triggered by a cheap radio control off ebay. Photo of the rig in operation below. Results on this web page
http://www.r5r.eu/cw.html.
Didn’t get around to photographing the stage in close up as I was against a deadline and I’ve now taken it apart since I’m now building a new improve head with:
More powerful stepper motors which can move the camera faster, use an encoder (from a junked printer) for feedback and xml generation, Arduino software library for micro-stepping, Xbee radios for real time 2-way communication (the rig is on 4 meter pole). I’ll let you know how I get on (should be ready in a couple of weeks) and I'll try to remember to take a few photos of the process.



Hey!

Well done! Looks good.

best, Klaus


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 7:42 pm 
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lovelace wrote:
I built a motorized pano head from scratch last year for a woodland monitoring job. Worked OK: 2x stepper motors for azimuth and altitude, meccano gears, arduino sketch controlled the 360x180 sequence which was triggered by a cheap radio control off ebay. Photo of the rig in operation below. Results on this web page
http://www.r5r.eu/cw.html.
Didn’t get around to photographing the stage in close up as I was against a deadline and I’ve now taken it apart since I’m now building a new improve head with:
More powerful stepper motors which can move the camera faster, use an encoder (from a junked printer) for feedback and xml generation, Arduino software library for micro-stepping, Xbee radios for real time 2-way communication (the rig is on 4 meter pole). I’ll let you know how I get on (should be ready in a couple of weeks) and I'll try to remember to take a few photos of the process.


Where did you source the extending pole?

How is it attached to the tripod?


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 8:15 pm 
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Thanks for your interest:
The extending pole is window washer (about £25 from a hardware store) made to wash 1st & 2nd floor windows with a hose brush. Its used by those contractors who sometimes turn up at your house and offer to wash your windows for cash. (which is where I got the idea from!)
The tripod is fairly hefty Japanese thing - can't remember the make - it was outed dated stock from a local photographic shop. The window washer slots into a stout aluminium cylinder which is actually a cut down aluminium scaffold pole used by builders - because they are softer than steel they often get bent and abandoned so its worth visiting building sites for such material. I did have to construct a base for it to bolt onto the head of the tripod which involved some drilling and tapping of aluminium sheet.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 8:52 pm 
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Brilliant bit of kit - puts mine to shame!


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 9:24 pm 
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Why so? As long as it does the job that's all that matters.
The window washer tubes are fairly flimsy, so no good with those enormous SLR nikon/canon things and their heavy lumps of glass. However they are just fine for a little mirrorless cameras - the NEX-7 works well for me. One of the reasons for ditching last year's effort was that it wasn't nodal point compliant. The intersection of the two rotating orthogonal axes were miles away from the optical center of the lens. The version I'm working on with be NP complaint and adjustable (especially required for close work).


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