Introduction: Motorized Panorama and Timelapse Pan Tilt Sytem

This is my second motorized panorama and timelapse pan tilt system.
This one is more portable, power saving and effective.

Two 1:50 harmonic geared stepper motors are adopted as the key driving
mechanism. Owing to the low backlash of the harmonic gear drive, the wobble
caused by the wind has been reduced greatly. And it got significant effect
on the timelapse video.

An Arduino nano and three A4988 are being used as the controller.
Simple and small. Much better than the Mega 2560 and L298 ever used in my
last system.

Step 1: Pan Tilt Tripod Head

Picture of Pan Tilt Tripod Head

This pan tilt tripod head consists of two 1:50 harmonic geared stepper motors,

three camera quick release adapters and some aluminum bars.

No additional gear, bearing, timing belt or else are required.

It makes the fabrication works very simple.

Precise workmanship is not required basically.

A bench drill and some fitter's tools will be OK.

Of course, a bench milling machine will help a lot.

The dimension of the tripod head is counting on your camera and lens.

My tripod head is strong enough to handle a full frame camera and a 400mm F5.6 lens.

As an advice, before go into the detail of your own design,

make sure that you understand the concept of "nodal point" for panorama.

Step 2: Controller

Picture of Controller

The two steppers are controlled by an Arduino nano and two A4988.

An additional A4988 is spared for the slider.

And the camera shutter is controlled by a small reel relay.

Step 3: Functions

Picture of Functions

This system gets four major functions for the timelapse and panorama.

Step 4: Program

In order to control the steppers and camera shutter precisely, no stepper

library is used. And to minimize the wobbling, acceleration and

deceleration have also been included in the program.

The first program is to set up the default values in the eeprom.

And the second program is the main program.

Step 5: Results

Some timelapse clips and a 880 million pixels panorama photo have been taken.

And it is the time for further field testing.

Just put everything in a backpack, and ready to a day trip for photo taking.


proffelina (author)2017-10-20

If you get an error on "lcd.init" when compiling than try to change all instances to "lcd.begin". Worked for me.

Thanks a lot for this project! Very informative!

evento (author)2017-02-16

Very good work. You could pass the templates of the structure.
Thank you

Eddyhasby2016 made it! (author)2017-01-27

Hi ... Uvvvvw

I have a problem the program arduino "invalid convertion from 'int' to 't_blacklighPol', are you have solution for me. Thanks

uvvvvw (author)Eddyhasby20162017-01-27

use the old 022 IDE and try again :)

EddyH6 (author)2016-11-07

Hi, how to wire power supply layout and how many volts and amperes are required for power supply?

uvvvvw (author)EddyH62016-11-08

thick red line : 12V in

thick green line, thin green line and green earth symbol : common ground of 12V and 5V in

thin red line : 5V in

1A for 5V

3A for 12V, count on the current requirement of the steppers

KennethP55 (author)uvvvvw2016-12-30

Hi, Do I connect all the thin red wires to the 5 v rail? even the ones on the steppers drivers?

uvvvvw (author)KennethP552016-12-30

I used AWG30 wire to connect all the signal and 5V lines by soldering.

OliverS53 (author)2016-12-05

thank you verry much.

Thats it......... its so easy

OliverS53 (author)2016-12-05

Hello, I have exactly search for such a great software for the arduino to control my diy pan tilt head. I tried to load it on the nano and on the uno. I
do not know how I must proceed since there are two sketches, always when
I load both sketches in the arduino ide and compile them, there are error
messages. Only load one of them to the arduino is without mistakes. And witch arduino IDE version i must use? Can you please give me a tip how to do that?

best regards, Oliver

uvvvvw (author)OliverS532016-12-05

the 1st program is to initialize the eeprom of the arduino.

load it to the arduino at first. and the eeprom will be initialized

then load the 2nd program. and that.'s it.

BrankoH2 (author)2016-10-07

Hello, I have tried the software but I have problem with navigation
on the LCD. I can not get to all rows for setting up all parameters. Do
you please have any idea? Then I would like to know if D13 pin must be
connected, I have tried the program with 2 motors and it works except
for that navigation menu I mentioned ... Thank you!

uvvvvw (author)BrankoH22016-10-09

Not understand your case.

Just need to use the LEFT, RIGHT, UP & DOWN keys to change the parameters.

D13 is for the control of a LED. Not a must for the connection.

BrankoH2 (author)uvvvvw2016-10-10

Thank you for your reply. Regarding the keys, if I try to change number of shots or vertical angle in horizontal and vertical panorama mode, UP and DOWN arrows change values of parameter, but how do I get to another row (parameter)? Because pressing UP or DOWN arrows still change the value of the first parameter and I can not move the cursor to any other row on the display?

BrankoH2 (author)BrankoH22016-10-10

I forgot to ask you, if it is OK, when my keys work like this:
LEFT ARROW - it works only long-pressing when stopping the program
RIGHT ARROW - show always the menu
UP and DOWN ARROWS - work fine, change values up and down
MANUAL key - when holding, shows manual mode
ZERO, CW, CCW keys work the same - after pressing, it starts the program immediatelly, so I can not use it for any other purposes - how should these jeys work?

uvvvvw (author)BrankoH22016-10-10

There are many switches and push buttons on the controller.

And each one gets different name and function in different case.

Refer to the circuitry for the names.

Below are the functions of the major switch and buttons.

Remak : Man/Auto is a SPDT switch.


-- Man - Manual control the motors


The push buttons control the motors directly.

CW - Motor 1, turn clockwise

CCW - Motor 1, turn counter clockwise

Up - Motor 2, go up

Down - Motor 2, go down

Left - Motor 3, go left

Right - Motor 3, go right

Zero - zero the position readings of the 3 motors


-- Auto - The 5 auto programs


While a program is selected,

the push buttons control the parameter input.

Arrow RT - go to next parameter

Arrow LT - go to previous parameter

Inrease - increase the value of the parameter

Decrease - decrease the value of the parameter

Menu - switch to the Menu List to re-select the program.

Active - activate the program.

While a program is activated,

the push buttons control some actions.

PAUSE - Pause the program being activated.

Can be re-activated by press the "Active" key.

STOP - Stop the program

BrankoH2 (author)uvvvvw2016-10-12

Thanks a lot! I found the problem in wiring the switches, some of them were joined by mistake. Now it works all well :-). Good work man! I had 1 1,5m long slider with panning based on miniEngine, but I find this code better despite it is more difficult for me to recognize, as I am not a programmer.

Eddyhasby2016 (author)2016-08-12

Hi uvvvvw

Nice project. I'm trying to assemble. Thank you for sharing knowledge.

HugoW9 (author)2016-06-28

Hi uvvvw thanks for replying I have not got any further with my project. Is there no other way to deal with backlash how would a direct drive stepper react

uvvvvw made it! (author)HugoW92016-06-28

You can consider the planetary reduction gear drive.

The one below is a 1:27 planetary reduction gear coupled with a NEMA 17 stepper.

Not a expensive one, the backlash is reasonable low.

HugoW9 (author)2016-06-02

Hi I am busy making a pan/tilt system at the moment and have explored many systems on line. Yours is the only system that uses 1:50 harmonic geared stepper motors I like the accuracy and simplicity of the system. Only one links you gave for these motors works I have no idea what currency used on the site is will you please advise me and any suggestion on how to place an order would be great.

uvvvvw (author)HugoW92016-06-02

Hi HugoW9,

As these harmonic gear drives are second hand stuff, there is no constant supply.

Need to search a new supplier every time I want to buy a new one : )

I found some second hand one in Ebay. The appearance is much better, but the price is 10X higher.

Owing to the problems in communication, payment method, currency and even transportation, better to get a friend in China to buy it for you if you really want to buy it from these Chinese site.


IvanA60 (author)2016-02-26

What is the name of the "strap" you use to attach the camera to the tripod? I've been trying to make some attachment lounge this but it it's not stable enough

uvvvvw (author)IvanA602016-02-26

Hi Ivan,
Not sure what the "strap" you are referring to.
I attach the pan tilt system to the tripod through the quick release plate.
To lock the quick release plate on the tripod tightly, I used an additional screw.
And to avoid the camera from turning when it is positioned vertically, I put a small piece of aluminium plate at the position nearby the LCD of the camera.

IvanA60 (author)uvvvvw2016-02-26

Thanks, I did some search online, and I just found out what was the thing I was asking about: the lens mounts
I never knew you could attach a camera to a tripod through the lens, and I was really confused when I saw the body of the camera floating.

JRJ (author)2015-06-09

Good evening! Can you help me for the sketch, as there is a slider control timelapse mode? Rail management found only in the manual mode.

uvvvvw (author)JRJ2015-06-09

I have not included the program for the slider as the memory of the 328 is not enough.
Anyway the program for the slider timelapse is almost the same as that for the horizontal panning timelapse mode. Need only to change the angle per step to mm per step.


JRJ (author)uvvvvw2015-06-10

Thank you! I only study the code. I'll take the Mega 2560. He is certainly more size but the display size is not so critical. :)

chandrans1 (author)2015-06-06



chandrans1 (author)2015-06-04





uvvvvw (author)chandrans12015-06-04


330ohm to 1K ohm.

chandrans1 (author)2015-06-02


I wish to use cnc shield with nano do you think this will do as we can avoid wiring. pl reply



uvvvvw (author)chandrans12015-06-04

why not. I have just ordered a cnc shield V4 for another controller.

chandrans1 (author)2015-06-02


On with the project just to recap can you share bill of materials for ref for electronic circuit.



uvvvvw (author)chandrans12015-06-02

Hi chandran,

Sorry, no specific BOM on hand. Pls refer to the circuitry diagram for the components. For the I2C LCD, it is a 2004 LCD. And the relay being used is a reel relay with about 500ohm coil resistance. That is it can be driven by the Arduino directly, and no transistor or else is required


JRJ (author)2015-05-15

Hi uvvvvw,
maybe i can use this geared stepper 51:1?

uvvvvw (author)JRJ2015-05-15


Planetary gearbox is good also.

JRJ (author)uvvvvw2015-05-16

Thanks for the answer!
I would like to know, for the slider as well as using a reducer 50: 1?

uvvvvw (author)JRJ2015-05-16

I use 10:1 reducer.

50:1 may be too slow. Of course it also counts on the moving mechanism design of the slider, and the weight of your gear.

chandrans1 (author)2015-05-10

Hi I am chandran writing to you from chennai,india

Pl let me know if there is a replacement of the harmonic motor as we don't get it in India. I looked at no luck can you help me source it or possible suggest alternate motor.



uvvvvw (author)chandrans12015-05-10

Hi Chandrans,

These are some links for your reference.

As long as I know, other than harmonic gear drive, most people use normal reduction gear drive for motorized tripod head. It is because harmonic gear drive is expensive even for the second hand one, and sourcing for second hand is not easy.

And sure, you can use normal reduction gear drive as alternative. The advantage of harmonic gear drive is its low backlash. It helps quite a bit on the panorama photo with telephoto lens. And it helps significantly for timelapse photo taking during the windy day.


ciaran.ryan.37 (author)2015-04-30


Cool project. Is it possible to list the items you purchased such as the motors etc? I am trying to search for them on Amazon but I am overwhelmed. I don't know too much about motors :P

Thanks :)

uvvvvw (author)ciaran.ryan.372015-04-30

I got them from "".

Clapoti (author)2015-04-23

Very cool project :)

toasterizer (author)2015-04-02

I've been kicking around an idea like this for awhile and just didn't know how to go about it. Thanks for posting this and I look forward to trying it out.

0rangedrink (author)2015-03-26

I'm looking forward to trying this out! What are the advantages of using stepper motors over servos?

uvvvvw (author)0rangedrink2015-03-26

I got only some small servos on hand. They are not powerful enough to drive the full frame camera and telephoto lens. May be the big ones work. Other than the power, another concern is the backlash, the reduction gears of my servos get very significant backlash.

xuhang (author)2015-03-25


lupin982 (author)2015-03-22

Very nice project.

Please can you give me more information about parts?

I cannot find the shaft coupling. Where i can found it?

Please can you add more photos of the connection between the motor, the shaft coupling and camera release adapter?


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