Can we do it? Sure we can.

Maintaining that the wheel cannot be reinvented is as tired a cliché as the concept itself. But, what if the concept rings true?

…every place that I go, well, it seems so strange,
without you there, things have changed.

1974 © Bobby Blue Bland, Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City

Maintaining that the wheel cannot be reinvented is as tired a cliché as the concept itself. Even so, what to do about it if the concept rings true with this implementation?

We dove into this exploration in order to find a systemic solution that would work for us [see Why do this?]. But we would be remiss trying to do everything from scratch, and not poll from the know-how posted by folks in similar conundrums. Throughout the posts, and hopefully through the length of this journal, you will find tried and proven solutions implemented here, sketchy quick-fixes, novel approaches, and hopefully, a working, easily maintained, and easy to replicate, system.

What follows is a, perhaps incomplete, list of the resources and people that helped us on this path, which you might find useful.

DSLR Improvement

Nikon
Source of official firmware releases.

Nikon Hacker

A community of people willing to extract hidden features from Nikon DSLR cameras. Starting as a personal project of Simeon Pilgrim, it aims to offer custom modified firmware for Nikon DSLR cameras to unlock useful functionality – mostly targeted to using the cameras for video production. For the purpose of live production, especially interesting are the features of clean HDMI output and unlimited Live View functionality.

Pan / Tilt Mechanisms

Bescor MP-101
The venerable Bescor MP-101, and the inspiration for the robot. Wide availability, solid mechanics and a low price make this item a winner, and the base for a number of commercial photography and video projects.

Hacking the Bescor for 360 Movement, version #1
The Bescor MP-101 usually has limitations in the rotation span. A simple hardware hack allows for unlimited pan motion.

Hacking the Bescor for 360 Movement, version #2
An alternate way to accomplish the hack for unlimited pan motion.

Protechy Bescor MP-101 Remote Hack
The personal website of Matt Alford, Protechy elaborates on external control of a Bescor MP-101 PT head using an Arduino compatible platform, and nicely explained code. There are a few iterations of the hack, with the latest summarizing the approaches that worked best to date. Future work includes Bluetooth control, as demonstrated by Matt in a video posted on YouTube.

Brainy-Bits Wireless Bescor MP-101 Control
A repository of helpful Arduino tutorials, Brainy-Bits published a two-part video elaborating on the coupling of a Bescor MP-101 head to a standard RC radio system that allows for remote wireless control of pan and tilt, as well as zoom and focus of LANC enabled cameras. At the time of writing this post, the tutorials have not yet found their way on the website, but the videos are available on YouTube [see Part #1 and Part #2].

Follow Focus

Adi Soffer Wireless Follow Focus
A personal DIY blog of Adi Soffer, where an exploration into the use of Arduino compatible platforms leads to the development of both wired and wireless follow focus systems able to be implemented on standard DSLR photography lenses.

Moteino by LowPowerLab
A magnificent Arduino compatible wireless platform, able to be coupled with a number of transceivers in order to create a one-to-many signal distribution platform. Developed by Felix Rusu, Moteino is surrounded by a dedicated following, and the discussion boards there are a wealth of information.

Remote Servo Project by bstott
A nicely detailed project log on the Moteino discussion boards, the remote servo project serves as a very clean example of using a number of pots [or a combination in the form of a joystick] to wirelessly control remote servo motors. Includes clean send/receive code for the Moteino.

Tools

FreeCAD
An open-source parametric 3D CAD modeler. Has an invaluable easy function for the creation of involute gears, allowing both the creation of STL models [for 3D CNC machines or 3D printers] as well as flattened 2D sketches for alternate machining.

Fritzing
An open-source hardware initiative that makes electronics accessible as a creative material for anyone. Offers a number of facilities for rapid prototyping including all popular microcontroller-based Boards and associated shields. Also, extends with the possibility of creating and ordering PCBs.

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An avid tinkerer, Marjan has dabbled with software, hardware and the occasional guitar (he is not very good at the latter). Could hardly wait on the emergence of IoT, and now will simply not let it go...

...burns fingers regularly on soldering irons.