Introduction: Actobotics Time Lapse Channel Slider Upgrade
The Actobotics Channel Slider Kit is a great way to get motion for time lapse or video with a small camera such as a a GoPro. Since I do much more time lapse photography than video production, I wanted to upgrade this slider to give me more features, such as:
- Gear Reduction to make the end-to-end movement much slower
- Be able to mount to standard tripod for versatile mounting for horizontal movement
- Add motion relay to reverse the direction of the trolley when it got to the end
- Upgrade slider so that multiple cameras could be attached.
I built this a couple of years ago, but thought I'd add more pictures and some explanation of the steps I took to upgrade the channel slider from Actobotics. Personally, I use this with a GoPro on time lapse mode, or a Sony mirror-less NEX-5 camera for time lapse. Both work well. The assumption is that you already own, or will purchase the Actobotics Channel Slider, and then make modifications to the original design.
Step 1: Tripod Mount
The one issue that I had with the channel slider as it arrives, is that it is designed to be used in a horizontal fashion, as it arrives with legs for each end to sit on a table or the ground. I want to be able to mount the channel to a tripod and orientate it in an fashion that I choose. I think that vertical movements are essential to time lapse. I also needed to modify their base design with a method that allows the camera dolly to move down the channel without being obstructed, which is why I came up with the multiple channel offset. I decided that using the 1/4"-20 round screw plate, or the 3/8"-16 Rond Screw Plate, and an additional length of channel offset would accomplish the task. Using 2 of the 1.5" channel on each end off the slider to offset the slider from the mounting channel, there is enough space to let the dolly go back and forth without running into anything. The lower channel also let me hide my relay and give me somewhere to mount the 12V battery. The 12V battery is attached only using velcro, but that allows me to switch them out quickly.
Step 2: Gear Reduction
Out of the box, the channel slider took around 11 minutes end to end to traverse the length of the channel. I wanted it to be much slower. In order to facilitate adding the gear motors, I needed to extend the width of the slider. I accomplished this by adding an additional 1.5 inches of Actobotics Channel. ServoCity does have larger gears, so I could have reduced the speed even more with a larger set of gears and increased channel length. However, Just adding the extra 1.5" to the slider pushed the end-to-end time to 61 minutes.
<em>Since it's been a while since I put this together, I'm adding this list of parts after the fact as a reference. It may differ from what you see int he pictures, and should only be used as a guide to what parts you need.</em>
Step 3: Auto-Reverse Relay and Limit Switches
I also wanted to either stop the dolly when it got to the end of the channel, or make it switch directions. I opted to let it continuously run by switching directions with it got to the end of the channel. I cannot take credit for this, as I saw a post form cheesycam.com showing how to accomplish this using a DC12V Coil Power Relay. The other parts necessary were all purchased from Servocity.com:
Step 4: Upgrade Slider Dolly
The slider kit comes with the Channel Slider D parts. I wanted to be able to mount multiple cameras to the slider, so I upgraded to the Channel Slider A parts. This makes the dolly go all the way around the channel, creating a more stable platform to add additional mounts. Technically, you could add mounts to 3 sides of the slider for up to 3 small cameras.
I did use other parts in the top mount, but if I were to do it again, I'd just use the Quad Hub Mount. Cheaper and less parts. I also use a mini-tripod head to mount to 1/4" screw, which gives me the ability to mount the camera in whatever direction I choose. I purchased this off Amazon.
Step 5: Conclusion / Demo Video
I originally built this in January of 2014, and have gone through multiple upgrades. You can track my progress using this kit from my original blog posts.