Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cable Cam; From Idea to reality!

This fall I had the opportunity film with Jarad Kleinberg of Madkats Productions. As we began planning out our shoot, the fact that I had just graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Clarkson University came to light. Upon learning of this Jarad asked me if I would be able and willing to build a cable camera setup if he funded it. 

Fore those of you unfamiliar with the purpose of a "Cable cam" It is akin to a Zipline. The trolley of the zipline however is powered, so it can move up or down the cable under it's own power. The Trolley holds the camera and as it moves up or down the length of the cable it allows for unique, very long "Dolly Shots".

I began asking questions about how "awesome" the device needed to be, the answer kept coming back, as "awesome as we can make it".  After a lot of studying and searching for materials ad a few rough sketches I began ordering and building.

The Original Sketch, I stumbled on this after I had finished building the device. It was kind of a rewarding feeling to know that my little sketch had become a reality!
Concept Drawing I sent to Madkats after the first day of thought, and sketching
Quick Description of Cable set up so Jarad could buy the necessary parts.
The initial rough assembly. It weighed quite a lot at this point.

The tilt and pan servos were installed before any weight saving efforts were made, as function was the number one concern.

Close up of the Pan servo and gears.

Unfortunately the ratio of pinion (Little) to spur (big) gear wasn't small enough and didn't offer enough torque and resolution on the tilt/pan function. New pinion gears were ordered and installed and worked beautifully.
Close up of the tilt with small pinion and cutouts on the gimball

The Whole Shebang. Finished.
One controlled is used to control the pan and tilt of the camera gimball while the other controls forward, reverse, and braking of the trolley.
Center Drive pulley
Motor controller, motor and pinion gear installed.

The right stick controls Tilt and Pan

She measures roughly 3 ft pulley to pulley.

I really enjoyed this project and was very pleased with the final product. To be able to put my engineering knowledge to use in conjunction with an interest I already had was a great experience. Working and building with my hands has always been important to me.

I will be making another one this summer/ fall when I return from New Zealand for my own use.

Here's a little clip of a short test I did with my younger brother snowboarding in the back yard. Please select 720 (Hd) for the video quality.

Stay tuned as the Madkats boys will soon be releasing real deal photos and video from the cable cam and our recent test session!