Make a Motorized Camera Slider from Stuff You Have in Your Workshop

Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

404 Articles

By Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

404 Articles

Article Featured Image

For an upcoming project, I really wanted some nice, fluid sliding shots. There are many, many ways to pull this off, all centered around sliding your camera along a rail of some kind. I’m really just trying this out, I’m not a fancy videographer or anything, so I really didn’t need anything complicated or expensive. I wanted to get a nice motorized sliding system for as cheap as possible.

I’m not going to put a hard price on this project since it hinges so much on “stuff you’ve got lying around”. I had purchased this cheap drill for another use, and the scrap wood was left over from another project. Even if I had purchased both brand new for this, I’m sure my total cost would be under $30. However, most people have an old drill (even if it’s not cordless) and possibly even some scrap wood. If you buy wood that isn’t meant for furniture, it is dirt cheap.

DSC01032 (Medium)

Why modify the drill?

You could just tape a drill to the end of your board and be done. However, that would mean that you would need to stand there, holding the trigger. I film all alone, so I can’t do that and also be in the frame! To fit my needs, I wanted the ability to trigger this and set the speed while I’m standing a few feet away, ideally in front of the camera.

I disassembled the trigger, removing the spring that pushes it back to “off”. After reassembling, I now have a controller I can set to a specific speed and step away. I could have done this with pretty much any DC motor, but the drill is a convenient way to get something with a lot of torque very cheap and easy.

motorized camera slider

Going Further

This thing was done the fastest and easiest way I could think of to reach my goals. There is so much you could do to make this better.

  • Add wheels and a guide rail to your setup. This would give smoother motion and help it stay in a straight line.
  • Replace the drill with a quieter motor
  • Use a microcontroller and stepper motor for fine timing control
  • Replace the scrap wood with something collapsible and easier to transport.