Anyone playing with Arduino?

I’m wanting to build a pan-tilt system for a pair of my camcorders. It looks like there are a bunch of projects that can accomplish what I need with an Arduino module, but none of them have all the features I desire. Any Dopers hack Arduino who could give me some advice?

What features do you desire?


I’ve got this weird little concert video business where I shoot with 8 cameras by myself. I’ve shot more than 150 concerts in this way. I’ve been limping along with some ["]cheap, crappy plastic pan-tilt heads]([URL=" and desperately want to replace them.

I’m planning to build the actual pan-tilt brackets myself and mount medium-sized servos on them to move my small HD Canon camcorders on them - just a bit less than a pound. I’ll make the brackets out of aircraft aluminum.

I’ll be controlling them manually, watching the video feed from each camcorder when moving them, so I only need relative motion via the joystick. The desired function is for spring-loaded joystick can spring back to the middle, leaving the camera in the position it was moved to by the last pressure on the joystick. Like it is in this video from 22 seconds on.

My crappy plastic pan-tilt heads are horribly slow, and what I like about the servos is they are quick. I’m not the slightest bit concerned with smooth motion, because I never move the camera “live”. I move it, get the shot I want, then cut to it.

What has been good about the crappy cheap pan-tilt heads is that they were IR based, so I’ve been controlling them with an IR remote that I aim at an IR repeater that I’ve mounted in my monitor. The IR repeater has an IR LED mounted in the pan-tilt head, and I have a simple 2 wire cable from the repeater to the LED. So I’m wanting to avoid running multiple wires from the Arduino to the servos if at all possible. Wireless is a bad idea in a concert situation, as there are wireless microphones, wireless instruments and the venue wi-fi to compete with. And it doesn’t save me any trouble, as I have to run a video cable from the camera for monitoring purposes anyway.

The other thing the IR control of the current cheap pan-tilt head has is IR control of the zoom function of the camcorder. It’s nothing sophisticated, just two buttons for Telephoto and Wide. I’m using Canon camcorders, but the cheapo pan-tilt system I’m using has a switch that can send either Canon or Sony zoom controls, which would serve the majority of the market.

So, in short, my dream controller would be:

[li]Small analog joystick[/li][li]Two wire connection from control to pan-tilt system[/li][li]Two buttons for zoom in and out[/li][/ul]

Is this doable?

It’s certainly doable…but I’d suggest an alternative.

There are a number of boards out in the 3d printing groups that are purpose built for that task. The’re arduino based, but already have a lot of the groundwork laid for servo control. Right off the bat, the one I have can control 6 servos using something called G-code. It lets them move relatively or to specific values, can control acceleration while doing so, and could most likely take input to control them. I’m using this one:

Not a direct fit, but you might want to keep them in mind.