6 Channel Motor-Mixing Console

Here’s an image of my first camera slider – built in Burnaby BC, back in Feb-2011. Eight roller-blade wheels attached to a small platform, that one could move by hand. This assembly could roll back and forth on a 8 foot long – 2×10 inch plank – from Home Depot… 🙂

At this point, I’m just moving my Nikon D7000.

Cooper slider #1

In the weeks that followed, I redesigned the rolling platform, moved the wheels, added a 12 volt DC drive motor and build a box to hold a 50 Amp PWM speed controller.

Cooper Slider_#2 + motor

Over the years, many improvements were made. The wooden plank was taken out of service (it’s now in storage – being a strong shelf) and replaced with an aluminum structure.

In the fall of 2018, my slider rig finally reached its final design. It was time to make a few more changes…

I already had 3 separate DC motor control boxes and needed a 4th – to hold two more controllers. The current situation – was already messy…

So I removed all the components – from these 3 boxes…

Empty PWM controller boxes.

I now had 5 motors – that could move the BlackMagicDesign Ursa camera.

With the camera, lens, rods + matte box and Ikan battery – this all weighs about 35 lbs.

Also have a CineGear Follow-Focus motor – attached to the camera lens. This kit comes with a wireless remote, which means one less cable… 🙂

The 6th PWM module would control the Spinner device – which rotates the subject.

Got an idea to make 6 channel motor-mixing console – which puts all the camera movement controls, into one box

A new aluminum console box.

Started to buy the various parts…

Purchased various parts.

Once I had all the hardware, the original layout design went thru several changes – just to make everything fit.

Covered the top half of the console with green masking tape, and made layout marks. A center-punch marked where all the holes, would be drilled.

Putting the design layout on the console.

The console top was taken into the shop and clamped onto the drill press. A few different setups were needed – to deal with the flat and sloped faces. Various drill bits were used – to make 93 holes…

Holding a Dremel with a cut-off blade, the 7 required rectangles were carefully cut – for 6 LCD screens and a Volt/Amp meter.

I saved the hardest task – for the last. Making 6 slots – that would follow the pen lines – wasn’t easy. Bolted onto the drill press, is a XY slide table – just like this unit. Lots of tests were done, hand-cranking end-to-end, just to get a pen-line to closely match the movement of the X axis.

When everything looked okay – I was then able to start the slow milling process…

Cutting and drilling holes in the console.

Close-up of a milling-bit, making the second 4 inch long slot.

I now had 6 PWM modules and each one came with a 5k ohm rotary potentiometer – soldered onto the board. Decided to remove all of these pots and use separate linear fader controls instead.

Milling bit used for making a slot.

A hand-file did all the clean-up and finishing. I then sprayed the first coat of red paint…

Apply first coat of red paint on console top.

After the second coat dried, I started adding the components…

Connecting the wiring to the PWM motor controllers.

All the wiring and assembly is finally done. This took about 5 days…

Wiring inside the console is done.

The back side of the console. As you can see, I’m a fan of the 3 pin XLR connector. Easy to work on, they’re strong and the cables can’t pull out by accident.

Back view of completed console.

The finished console. Only took a month to build (Oct-04 to Nov-05-2018)…

Front view.

There’s one more thing to build for my rig – a simple Arc Compensator.

The design is already figured out. Once built – it gets attached to the end of the boom. That motor will keep the camera vertically plumb, as the boom end moves either up or down – thru its arc. It will be an automatic process, using a inclinometer connected to an Arduino…

There are a few movie equipment manufacturers – who make cranes that have this unique feature. See here and here.

My mixer is a totally manual system. The more motors that are running, the more complicated the timings become. If the footage doesn’t look right, just do another ‘take’…

There’s only a dozen knobs to muck with. Probably a lot easier, than learning how to play the piano – or running the control room of a recording studio… 🙂

If one wants a computer-controlled, multi-axis camera robot, you should consider the KIRA. I think it sells for around $200,000 USD.

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