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  • Topic: Camera car

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    • November 23, 2020 6:49 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Camera car

      Lately I haven't had a lot of modeling time, but I find it easier to squeeze in a bit of photography or videography. As part of making train videos, I felt the need for a better way to create smooth tracking shots and/or point-of-view video. Both of those can be accomplished with a car to carry my phone around (as that's my preferred video capture method).

       

      I started with the notion of doing smooth tracking shots. To do that I wanted a computer controlled method of moving the camera car, and it gave me an excuse to play with some microcontroller stuff that is popular these days: an Arduino.

       

      Here's the stuff I gathered:

       

      • An Arduino board, specifically an Uno R3 [link]
      • A stepper motor: Nema 17 bipolar [link]
      • A board to drive the stepper motor: Ardafruit motor/stepper/servo shield [link]
      • A cellphone holder with a ball joint [link]
      • And  a few miscellaneous things (cables, etc.)

       

      Here's the electronics wired up to together and hooked up to the stepper motor:

       

       

      I also downloaded the open source (i.e. free) developer environment for writing code for the Arduino, but so far I've been able to get by just doing slightly modifications of example code supplied with the Ardafruit stepper "shield"...

       

      And here's a super short video showing the stepper motor running with a 3D printed spool attached (and a toothpick so you can see it running).  It is running near top speed, and I'll probably slow it down the the real videos:

       

       

      Today I built the car out of some leftover redwood, a couple of trucks I had laying around, and some kadee couplers so I could hook it up to a locomotive for point-of-view video:

       

       

      Next up is getting the stepper motor connected to a piece of track and hooked up to the car and try taking some video. First video I want to do is a slow pan across the details in my Surry Parker log loader.

       

      Cheers!

    • November 24, 2020 9:21 AM EST
      • Pleasanton, California
         
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      Cool idea Jim, how's your tunnel clearance? 

      ____________________________________

      Dan DeVoto

      P-Town & West Side R.R.

      Pleasanton, California

      https://www.youtube.com/danstrains

    • November 24, 2020 1:38 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Tunnel clearance not a problem. Phone is a little under 6" wide which is the width of most of my cars, so I don't think it will be a problem...

       

       

      Just lucky. Didn't occur to me to check that. Not sure what I would have done if it didn't fit :-)....

       

    • November 24, 2020 3:45 PM EST
      • Burke, Virginia
         
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      Jim Rowson said:
      <snip>

       Just lucky. Didn't occur to me to check that. Not sure what I would have done if it didn't fit :-)....

       

      Crashing comes to mind....

      But, nice idea...

      ____________________________________

      Bruce

      http://jbrr.com/

       

    • November 24, 2020 6:16 PM EST
      • South Central , PA
         
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      Bruce Chandler said:
      Jim Rowson said:

       Just lucky. Didn't occur to me to check that. Not sure what I would have done if it didn't fit :-)....

       

      Crashing comes to mind....

      But, nice idea...

       

       

      Why ..."party crasher"?

    • November 24, 2020 6:55 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      OK, I got the stepper motor mounted and did a super short test video. So far I'm not completely disappointed! Yay!

       

      Here's the setup.... note that I over engineered this just a little bit. I also made the stepper motor assembly be removable as that piece of test track is used for other stuff.

       

       

      Here's a video of the camera car being pulled by the stepper motor:

       

       

      And here's video being take from the car itself (of the junk in my workshop... that's my son's old drums):

       

       

      So sure, the audio is super annoying but I don't intend to use that. It isn't silky smooth but not too bad and maybe I can improve that somewhat.

       

      WDYT?

       

       

       

    • November 25, 2020 12:34 AM EST
      • Kailua, HI
         
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      Jim,

       

      Looks good!  For what it's worth, we got decent locomotive-eye's-view of things by bunjee chording a cell phone to the front end of a box car and then pushing it along the track ahead of the train.  The only problem, of course, is that we were limited to straight ahead views.

       

       

      Eric

    • November 25, 2020 12:58 AM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Eric:

       

      I have all these camera angles and shots I want to do and so I figured I'd start building up a little cache of tricks, because I'm quite disappointed in my ability to hold the camera still.

       

      I purchased a low cost handheld gimbal [link] that attempts to take some of the shake out but it is still bugging me:

       

       

      But buying a real video motion platform is a bit pricey (like thousands of dollars!) so I figured, hey, I can build stuff, let's just make what I need even if it is completely slapdash and shoddy, as long as the video is ok. The camera car only cost me about $7 (for the ball-joint phone holder) plus some trucks/couplers that I had laying around. The stepping motor/control is a bit more, say $60+ but I can use that for a variety of stuff so I figured it was reasonable to do. And it is still waaaaay cheaper than a real video platform.

       

      We'll see. Next step for me is to try making a short video using this stuff and see if I like the result. I'll probably keep puttering because it is fun...

       

    • November 25, 2020 9:05 AM EST
      • Peoria, NW of Phoenix, Arizona
         
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      As I first read this I thought the motor was going to be on the car attached to the holder to pan the the camera as the train moved the car. I totally missed the purpose, I think that will give you some high quality video. I may have to build something because I have shake issues trying to video my railroad and especially while following a locomotive. Nice job Jim

      ____________________________________

       

       

       

       

       

       

      The Babs River Railway

      We can do that, but its gonna cost you... a lot more

       

    • November 25, 2020 10:55 AM EST
      • West Grove, Pennsylvania
         
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      Here's a couple I made a few years ago. The front one uses a USATrains metal passenger truck. 

      The other one just has the camera attached to the center. 

      The camera sits outside the truck frame to video the side of the train. 

       

       

      ____________________________________

      "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --Martin Luther King Jr

    • November 25, 2020 11:08 AM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Pete: Putting the motor on the car has some intriguing possibilities. Hadn’t thought of that.  Hmmmm.

       

      Ken: I like the idea of videoing the side of the train. Looks like you had a counterweight. Good idea!

    • November 25, 2020 11:33 AM EST
      • West Grove, Pennsylvania
         
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      Those USA Trains passenger trucks are heavy, but not heavy enough to counter the weight of the camera on the outside. Thus the counter-weights. 

      I did a couple of videos with it, but they got lost somewhere in Youtube never-never land. 

      ____________________________________

      "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --Martin Luther King Jr

    • November 25, 2020 3:21 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Here's the shot I had in my head that caused me to embark on this little journey:

       

       

      (Best to turn sound off/down as the stepper motor is truly annoying. Sorry!)

       

      This will just be one shot in several that shows some empties being dropped off at my Surry Parker log loader. I've wanted to have a way to get decent video of the various details in the loader. This may be a bit fast. Will try a few options and see what I like when I'm putting it together.

       

      Sadly I ran out of good light this morning before I could finish. Shucks!

    • November 25, 2020 4:44 PM EST
      • Pinon Hills, California
         
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      It is progress!

    • November 25, 2020 5:56 PM EST
      • West Grove, Pennsylvania
         
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      Jim Rowson said:

      Here's the shot I had in my head that caused me to embark on this little journey:

       

      Would that by any chance be considered a drive-by shooting?..................

      ____________________________________

      "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --Martin Luther King Jr

    • November 25, 2020 6:23 PM EST
      • Candlewood Valley, Connecticut
         
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      Jim -

       

      I can see some pretty awesome Youtube videos on the horizon. Cool idea with the stepper.

       

      Like Ken, I've built a camera car to accommodate my cheap video camera. I even added light capability so I could video the inside of my tunnel for inspection...

      ____________________________________

      www.cvsry.com www.cvsry.com

    • November 25, 2020 6:35 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Lights! Camera! Action!  I like the lights idea.  Will need to steal that one, not that the inside of my tunnels are worth putting in a video!

       

    • November 25, 2020 8:02 PM EST
      • Candlewood Valley, Connecticut
         
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      Jim Rowson said:

      Lights! Camera! Action!  I like the lights idea.  Will need to steal that one, not that the inside of my tunnels are worth putting in a video!

       

      Send me your mailing address via PM and I'll send you some 12V sign service LEDs. You can run them off a 3S LiIon pack, or any source around 12 volts.

      ____________________________________

      www.cvsry.com www.cvsry.com

    • November 25, 2020 8:07 PM EST
      • Pleasanton, CA
         
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      Jon: I have some LED light strips. Are the sign service LEDs different? Like more light emitted?

       

    • November 25, 2020 8:19 PM EST
      • Rocklin, CA
         
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      years ago I made a camera car for my On30 layout. It ran on DCC. I have been wanting to do the same with radio control. Very simple idea. My idea for large scale was using a Go Pro but I'm sure it could be adapted to a phone or  video camera. Here is a link to the building the car in O scale   

       https://youtu.be/gSV2Y8RZAek

      and here is the video with the camera in use 

       https://youtu.be/zhpMNuGLXvI

      Keep in mind this was a key chain camera I tried it as engineer view in my Berlyn K-36, not the greatest quality.

      https://youtu.be/ZdbGLAH7MKw

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