Custom re-work of professional pan and tilt mechanism

The Problem

The client who was assembling a professional video studio had acquired a pan and tilt head for a crane. It soon became obvious that there were some serious drawbacks with it. Driven by DC motors through exposed gear drives, the movement was somewhat notchy and noisy. The control box that came with the head was also less than perfect, it had a stumpy video-game type joystick with a rather imprecise control feel. A rework was decided upon as this would result in a much better and more cost effective device than abandoning the current model and replacing it with a more expensive one.


Stepper motors with enclosed planetary gear reduction were fitted replacing the DC motors and exposed gears. Commercially available micro-stepping drivers were mounted on the head. The existing control box was discarded and a new one made containing a high quality joystick. The control electronics consisted of a PIC16F883 microcontroller continuously reading the position of the joystick and translating this into analogue values fed to a pair of CMOS VCOs to generate the speed and direction data required by the stepper drivers. Reversing buttons were added to allow the camera to be mounted upside-down. A battery low-level indication was also incorporated in the design to safely allow it to run from an unprotected 6S Lithium-polymer battery pack.

The firmware of the PIC was designed to give the smoothest possible control of pan and tilt with precise feel at the joystick. Using micro-stepping drivers capable of 1/256th of full step made it virtually noise free as seen on the demo video...

This was built to replace a stock control system on a Glidecam head. This joystick has far more movement and feel to the operation.

The ability to rework or combine products for a specific outcome

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