Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Latest Project - Steadicam mount - Part 1

With this for an inspiration, I decided to take on a small building project:

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Al5ME2HfE&feature=relmfu

Got it, 20mm wide bar stock!
I was thinking about how neat it would be to build something this intricate in a garage workshop.  Afterall, what could be so hard?  It's just some aluminum bar stock, tubing, screws, bolts, and knobs - shouldn't take more than a couple of weekends of work to build.  You'd think somewhere in the 183+ comments after 91K+ views (most of which, it turns out, happen to be mine) that the author/builder would have included some information about dimensions, parts list, materials, etc.  Sadly, as the comments attest, he didn't.  Ah, but I'd struck designer gold with this image captured from the original build, showing exactly which part was being measured, from the film above.  And, it was from here, that I'd begin my design process.

That's where things fall apart, quickly.

-Sketchup to the Rescue (kinda)!-

So, it was back to the video for another close look and a determination of the path forward (and another screen capture).
Ah, nice collection of all sorts of goodies to look at and glean information.  There's my little bar in the middle, all nicely machined and polished and with the one known dimension of 20mm from the markup image above, that was all I needed.  One quick visit to Google, a download of Sketchup, and some searching about images, I was able to learn how to import images to the background and scale them to fit a known dimension.  All is right with the world.

Click on the image here, and you'll notice the bar stock in the Sketchup image as close as I could get it to measuring 20mm in width and a couple other dimensions on the tube stock that show it being close to 5.8mm in diameter - which is roughly 1/4 inch.  That seemed reasonable, so it was off to measure the rest of the parts by drawing polygons over each piece and getting a rough dimension.  Once that was done, it was off to Home Depot (HD) to start getting a few pieces of flat bar stock and tube stock and get to cutting!  I started with the tube stock, cutting the rough length from the 36" long stock and bending it once to 90° about 55mm from the end and once more at 45° about 160mm from the completion of the first 90° bend.  Following that, a bend of the second tube, a little straightening, and I was feeling good.  Yup, this time Sunday afternoon, I'd be chasing the kids around the yard or the basketball hoop in the driveway doing some test shots.

Tube bending was not a problem at all.  Quarter inch aluminum bends quite readily with the proper tube bender (also available at HD, plumbing department).  Two tubes bent with 45 and 90 degree bends, first problem.  These two bends have to be done parallel to each other, that is, when placed on a flat surface, the tubes should lie flat to the surface and should be matching each other as far as location of the bends.  The location isn't the hard part, it's the parallel bending that's the problem.  Still haven't figured out how to do this with a simple tube bender and doing it handheld.  With the 1/4 inch tube, getting the tubes straight and parallel is easy due to the thinness of the product.

Tubes bent, now on to the spacer plates that keep the tubes separated.  Using image here showing the lower balancing mechanism, we can see the plate that keeps the tubes separated.  There is a matching platform at the top of the tubes, as well as the platform that the camera mounts on, that maintains the look uniformly from top to bottom.  Back in Sketchup, the drawing dimensions showed a roughly 32mm x 32mm (1.25in. x 1.25in) square - measured, cut, done.  Drill through holes in the corners, in an aesthetically and mechanically pleasing location, viola! I choose to create 4mm holes, they were easy to work with, I found a metric tap and die set at HD and the scale seemed right.  Hold on, 4mm holes are going to be tough to drill through 1/4inch (~6mm) wide tubing, isn't it?  Oh yeah, down right impossible without a drill press and don't even mention trying to tap that hole so the plate can be mounted to the tube.   Even a through hole and using nuts and bolts to hold the plate on is going to be very tough.

It would appear that 1/4 inch tubing is not the correct choice for this project afterall.

- Next attempt -

Referencing the image just above, a second attempt was made to determine correct part sizing.  Hmm, what's that I see on there, is that a measured scale?  Yeah, sure is!  Assuming this is scaled in centimeters on the major markings, I determined that the sliding bar was about 3cm wide which translates to about one inch.  Oh, happy day, it just so happens that HD sells 1 inch wide aluminum bar stock.  Also, it would appear that the weight slider is around 17cm long, close to 6-7 inches.  The track pieces that hold the slider in place are close to 0.5 inches and there are two of them, so the bottom plate is 0.5+0.5+1 inch tall = 2 inches.  Again, HD to the rescue, they carry 2 inch bar stock as well.  Super.

Back to our parts image, we can now start making some more informed decisions about part sizes.  The curved weight bar is going to be 6in. X 1in.  The other two pieces of long, flat bar stock (which make up the camera platform) are going to be the same size.  The short bar stock with 3 holes, again 1 inch wide and width will be the same as the square plates.  The square plates will be 2 inches high, with an indeterminate width (at this time!).  And the tube stock turns out to be 3/8in. diameter in the final analysis.  This, along with the assorted 4mm machine screws and 1/4x20 threaded stock should get me started on the best path for success.

- Back to Sketchup -

Click pic to embiggen
Now with things laid out with better dimensions in my head than the rough guesses from the first attempt, it was back into drawing mode in Sketchup to get a more accurate idea of how the whole thing comes together.  And where I'm forced to separate from the overall original design.

You may have noticed, that I didn't include width dimension in some of the parts in the last section.  That's because I can't determine it from the video screencaps below.  You'll notice this image, with the rotated balance bar, which we know to be 1 inch wide, would appear to be able to just fit between the support bars.  Knowing that those are 3/8inch diameter pieces, it would show the overall width of the lower support section to be around 1.75 inches.

The lower image shows the overall assembled device, including the upper camera support platform.  The sizes there can be estimated from the diameter of the tripod mounting screw and the gap that it creates between the support platform.  Given that this screw is 1/4in diameter and we've used 1inch bar stock for the supports, that gives a dimension of 2.25 inches, overall for the top.  Since 2.25 inches > 1.75 inches, I couldn't rationalize that difference, so I went off the plan.

Looking over the Sketchup document above, you can see that I went with spacing the whole thing 2 and 5/8 inches from outside to outside.  I don't know why I did that, I think it was a mistake in laying out the pieces that I didn't notice until I started assembling the cut pieces.  I also think it lends to a wider base onto which the camera can be mounted, thereby creating better support.  Had I laid out the drawing correctly, I'd be closer to the overall 2.25 inch width and it would change each part other than the long pieces.

Part two of the build will detail some other things that I found out during assemble and the fact that the handle design can't be re-created because that part can't be found in North America.  Until then chew on the Sketchup file and keep building.

Risk and Reward

This is what Facebook was protecting you from seeing.  All hail the mighty empire!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lost Treasures

Postcards and one day's entry from the Diary of Grandma Helen, who was Peggy's mom.  They walked from Boston to NYC in 1922.  The last photo is of the old draw bridge, I believe, over the CT River from Lyme to Saybrook. 

Click on the images in this post to make them bigger.

Here are some shots of the stamp book as well. The grid paper is 1/8 inch, so that tells you the scale of the liquor stamp...

Finally, here are some shots of the book...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


At the dentist with Abby.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Here we go again...

Once again, my favorite local newspaper's online edition strikes gold.  I had heard on the radio the other day, a site that fits this entry perfectly.  Poor Sarah Jessica, the comparison is unmistakable and one that haunts her on a daily basis on the web and, more than likely, in real life as well.  And now, the AJC is piling on with this latest screen capture.

Now, I know nothing about the event that they are promoting for the Premiere of 'Morgans' and never will because of the tears of laughter filling my eyes.  No, my eye moves down the list of other features on The Buzz where a car has apparently "hit a horse-drawn holiday wagon".  Surely, the AJC staff didn't mean to have these two items appear on the same list, and in such proximity, but come on!

I'm guessing there was a steady sound of the clip-clop of high-heeled designer shoes heard at both events.

Until next time, fearless readers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cheap data. But free??

We shall see, but while working on a work assignment to update our zip code database, I came across this site. It may be bunk, but they seem to offer lots of GIS data and a well defined zip code dataset.  As long as it's more up-to-date then the data I already have, it sounds like it's a good deal.

More to follow after they send the link...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hectic weekend and the new toy

Well, new toy Thursday came and went.  Spent loads of time with the new camera (Nikon D5000) and took nearly 600 photos, 300 of which were at the boy's soccer championship on Saturday.  Don't worry, I won't bore everyone with all of those shots, but here are some anyway:

The parents were in town, so we took Friday off for part of the day and headed out to an art show, then off to Roswell for lunch at Pastis.  I'd never been there, but the wife had and suggested that as being a good place to go. OMG!  What a great lunch.  We started off with a farmhouse plate that had a couple meats, cheese, brie, pate, roasted red peppers, cornichons, and some toasted bread slices.

Then my lunch of salmon on nine grain bread with some fresh chips.  Washed it all down with a nice glass of Chard.  The wife had a great penne pasta with 'shrooms, peppers in  a bleu cheese sauce - awesome!

Off to do some more shopping and playing with the camera...

The next day, we headed out to the Marietta Farmer's Market.  Now that I had a good camera and a good lens, well, I just had to shoot some food along the way.  I need to get back there next week and give some of the photos to one of the farmer's who allowed me to take some shots of their goodies.

Left the market, back to the house, off to soccer, lunch, off to basketball practice, home, finally got a shower in, off to dinner at one of the better places around town:

Yes, Leon's Full Service in Decatur.  This is the food arm of The Brickstore Pub just on the other side of the square.  Everyone loves this place, Leon's, especially the kids who love the scenery and the food and the bocci court outside which gets used while we wait on our table.  Of course, the food is the real reason we're here, so here it is.  Pommes Frites for snack, Winter Squash Soup, and Roast duck over Lentils with Squash and dried cranberries - all washed down with a Gulden Drak or two...yummy.

You just have to love a camera that has a built-in food photo setting.  These shots were handheld with no flash in a dark restaurant.  There are so many settings that it's taking a lot of time to get through the books that I got with it.  Of course there are some accessories that I should get sometime in the future, but that's a long way off.  The best part is that I can use the old lenses from my Nikon 8008 days.  The lenses don't auto focus like the new ones, but they will work as traditional focus lenses.  That really helps because I've got a 50mm f1.8 and one 28-300mm that I can use for landscapes that are out of range of the 200mm top end of the new lens. Cool.

Overall, one very busy weekend that was just jammed packed with all sorts of good food, good drinks, and great company.  More photos to show at a later date, for now sleep calls.