This is a trial and error / design and development process which I followed in developing a camera slider for creating time-lapse video clips on my DSLR camera.

The idea came from using standard Aluminium extrusions I have available at hardware stores, and create a slider chassis / dolly which is able to slide along this extrusion. The Aluminium extrusion is what builders use for creating a smooth screed on a floor, or plastering a wall. It is a perfect hollow rectangular extrude, of approx 70mm by 20mm, and is available in various lengths between 1m, and 4m. The wheels which I found which are suitable are standard Hillaldam shower rollers, which ended up working perfectly.

The process of development saw the following needing to be designed, tested, and then prototyped:

1. Slider Rail (standard Section)

2. Camera Dolly / Slider (rollers attached to a bent metal chassis)

3. Motion Control: this was the most tricky and takes up most of this instructable. It illustrates how I developed and tested a standard geared motor, with a gearbox... which didn't work well enough. After this, I attempted utilising a stepper motor which is controlled by an Arduino Uno board which worked much more effectively. I am unable to provide set plans which you can follow, as my design depended heavily on the resourses which I had available to me (South Africa). The availability of components to me is not as diverse as in the US and Europoe, and please keep this in mind when commenting.

For the planning and design work, I used Corel Draw. This is also what I used for designing the cogs and gear layouts which were lasercut.

The designing of the gears was done with the assistance of one of the most useful online generators, being, This allowed me to save the files as HPGL, and import directly into Corel Draw.

With regards to the the actual time-lapse clips, this is all done with Magic Lantern, which is installed on my Canon 500D DSLR camera. It allows me to utilise the incorporated Intervalometer for taking timelapse images. Furthermore (my favorite) is to film video and override the initial 30 frames per second and make it film at one frame per second. When it plays back, it is 30 times normal speed which is extremely effective. This needs to be compensated with a Neutral Density filter, and Exposure compensation (with Magic Lantern).

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CameronL127 days ago

Where did you find the teeth rail you used? That is the part I am stuck on is finding those and the pinion gear. Any advice on where to find those cheaply? Thanks!

RICKAKRON6 months ago

I can't find were you get the wheels.

martinbolton (author)  RICKAKRON6 months ago

I got them at Builders Warehouse ( but they are standard shower rollers which have a M4 thread.

ogremills6 months ago

nice project. was thinking of doing a similar build. been looking at some acrobatics parts to help facilitate the build.

philpp6 months ago

great, I want to try recording the night sky, have you tried that?

martinbolton (author)  philpp6 months ago

I have, but not with the rail. I've tried it with just a tripod (and the magic lantern software), but there is a lot of light pollution where I stay in town. I need to do more, especially when away from the city-lights.

elias.alberto6 months ago

You say you have little resources, yet you have a laser cutter? I wish I had these little resources. ;)

Anyway, I've been considering such a project for a looong time, and here are my suggestions:

- As you've already seen, programming is a very very useful skill. Learn how to code. This would enable you to instantly change variables (such as speed) using buttons on the arduino, without a computer to update the sketch. You could also program it to vary the speed at a constant rate.

- With more steppers you could make more complex movement. You could pan and tilt in x, y and z axis, maybe even control zoom or focus using a servo to drive the lens ring. (tip: use a servo with position feedback and include some calibration routine on the arduino)

- Synchronizing the camera shutter with the delay on the arduino can be tricky. Make the arduino take the shots for you. IIRC, you can make some sort of remote controller to take shots with your camera by just shorting the two data pins on the usb connector (do some googling). The arduino could control a transistor which shorts the pins. If that's not possible, maybe a servo to press the shutter on the camera? This would also allow for shutter timing to be variable, so you could speed up or slow down your framerate.

- Adding a counterweight and putting more wheels to hold the bent metal under the track would allow you to use the thing at any angle, even vertical or upside down. Or maybe ditch the extruder rectangular rail and use pipes to slide your jib over, such as those in inkjet printers.

- If you wanna go super fancy, add a bluetooth serial module to the arduino and write a program for your smartphone to change the variables via bluetooth. The smartphone would allow a more complex GUI, so you could add features endlessly without dealing with the frustration of navigating long menus using a few buttons and a tiny lcd display on the Arduino.

martinbolton (author)  elias.alberto6 months ago

Thanks for your feedback! I have a lot to learn.

autopoietic6 months ago

This is a really well presented and documented project, and the final effect is a really smooth and professional effect. Thanks Martin.

I've started similar projects before but you have gone the extra mile and produced with a genuinely useful and re-usable tool

1SteveO6 months ago

Hi where did you get the Arduino Uno in South Africa? I am in Jhb West.

martinbolton (author)  1SteveO6 months ago

I've bought from Mantech before ( I bought the geared motors and other electronics bits from them, but the Arduino and experimentation kit I bought online from Botshop ( who delivered.

brmichel 1SteveO6 months ago

Hi, try RS Components, they're a trusted global brand. They have a walk-in store next to Kyalami or you can order via their website and they'll courier it to you same day (order before 12h00) if they have stock in their warehouse or they'll source it from another distribution centre worldwide within a week.

Arduino Uno SMD

lsvdw 1SteveO6 months ago

In SA you can buy it from RS (expensive) or any of the following:

I prefer Hobbytronics based on the fact that I bought from them before

lsvdw6 months ago

Very nice build!

Where did you get your gears, etc. made?

I'm also from South Africa and the perception that stuff get lost in the post is far from my experience. I order a lot of things from China, Singapore, Europe and the USA and yet have to NOT receive my package. This is with standard postage with and without tracking. It may take long but it eventually gets here.

martinbolton (author)  lsvdw6 months ago

I've lost a couple items through eBay UK, ending up getting lost along the way. I rather get batches sent to my connection in the UK and have it couriered over to SA. Maybe I should give it another chance direct, of the sellers willing to ship direct.

A friend and I invested in a laser cutter a while back, so I cut the gears at his place. The gears aren't as perfect as I'd hope, but they operate alright.

rkrupp lsvdw6 months ago

Hi Isvdw!
Here in Brazil we have similar problems of missing packages. Almost every untracked package get lost. The tracked ones arrive almost all the time. Did you tried dx dot com? Any purchase of more than 15 bucks are automatically issued with a tracking number. I never missed a package from them.

rkrupp6 months ago

Nice project. Very motivational!
I just would suggest you to simplify some parts... Like change all these gears and the rail of teeth with a thin steel cable with some turns around the stepper motor shaft, if it is not chamfered, or some kind of reel on it.
And, most important, add the intervalometer function to the arduino code. This will ensure the camera trigger synchronization with the non-moving interval between steps.
And last, think about add a counterweight to the system. It will allow you to use it in any desired position, not just horizontal.
I have two identical stepper motor laying arround and had no ideas to use it, because it is too weak and slow for the project I had in mind when I buyed it.
Thanks for the idea!

CaptainBubba6 months ago

Outstanding, man you did good, Thanks for sharing.

Jan_Henrik6 months ago

Very cool!

ASCAS6 months ago


Ravidow ASCAS6 months ago

Wow, were you the one who won on tv hostedby the mythbusters host?