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My 4-Axis Build

looks cool, lacks stability

Jesse Attanasio

I've had the spectrum for a couple of weeks now and regretfully have not had a ton of time to shoot with it. I was painfully reminded on how big of a pain it is to haul all of this gear for timelapsing and trying to setup behind the scenes video and timelapses. 

Refreshing my memory on how to use my canon cameras, playing with the eMotimo ST4 and ramping exposure with the ramper pro.... Made this for an instagram post for fun since its kinda gloomy outside and figured I might as well post it here too

Posted by Jesse Attanasio on Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Spectrum is sturdy as a rock and filled with a ton of potential for the future. Right now it is pretty limited in abilities since I am part of the group of people providing feedback on bugs and requesting useful features but the unit runs solid so far. One thing I really want to be added to the firmware as soon as possible is use of the i/o port so the ST4's will slave it's movements based on feedback from the cameras flash sync and I can use my Ramper Pro to timelapse sunsets.

Essentially, this should be a smooth diagonal line. Click to enlarge

I did find a pretty bad problem with my rail and am having a hard time solving it. The 3D printed parts are made of the "strong and Flexible" material. Unfortunately that flex is pretty evident when there is a heavy payload and wind. I haven't found a solution quite yet but i've been trying to find a machine shop that can CNC the parts out of aluminum. I'm sure it will be ridiculously expensive though. 


I've had a little fun messing with the 4 axis setup but still waiting for an update so I can keyframe focus so it will not take the entire duration of the move. So really I've just been testing it with video. I spent a few hours trying to rig up my Tamron 15-30 lens with the lens motor to zoom out while pushing up the rail for a vertigo effect but the Tamron lens has a really stiff zoom ring and is basically impossible for me to correctly accomplish vertigo, let alone I don't have a very efficient way to push focus   while the zoom is being pulled. I'll include a few photos and a video that hopefully makes a little more sense of all this.

Vertigo! Still some problems with the zoom being not being locked in and no focus control at all but still pretty damn cool to me haha...Sorry for the song, the motors are pretty loud when its at that high of speed and i couldn't figure out how to remove the audio on my phones iMovie

Posted by Jesse Attanasio on Friday, April 1, 2016

I have a trip next week so as long as weather cooperates I should be able to get some good behind the scenes clips. In the meantime I'm still looking for a solution to make my rail as stabile as possible. Any suggestions or machine shops that can help please feel free to email me

The Spectrum is here

Jesse Attanasio

The past few days have been pretty hectic, my dog had surgery that didn't go smoothly so even though I got my Spectrum on Tuesday I haven't had much time to play around with it besides in my room. 

Wednesday morning I made cables so the spectrum could control my lens apparatus and an extra long cable to run the slider motor since it's mounted at the end of the rail.

From what I've seen so far with the Spectrum is that it's incredibly well built. I am very impressed with the different profiles created for speeds, there is a quite, normal and turbo mode. Turbo isn't really useful for me since I don't shoot in slow motion but Quite mode is incredible, I swear the speed is barely effected and the sound of the motors is almost non existent. The timelapse mode only supports 2 keyframes so far so I can't really do the 4 axis move that I am going for since the lens controller almost needs its own set of keyframes. I am able to control and get the hang of the different modes it has to offer for "Live Motion" on all 4 Axis of control which luckily has a soft stop feature where you can set limitations to the position a motor will move so you don't collide with the end of the rail on accident or over rotating past the hard stop of a lens. I'll go over all of this a lot better once I get a chance to really use the setup. 

Sorry for the extra short post but I definitely wanted to share a few photos and a quick video of the entire setup being used. 

IT'S ALIVE!!! but not without issues...

Jesse Attanasio

To start, I want to announce that my Spectrum will be here tomorrow. I haven't used my canon cameras in a while so I had to break them out this weekend and make sure they still worked! haha

By last Friday I basically had all of the parts I needed for the rail so I put it all together and sat in my computer chair staring at it since I don't have my spectrum yet. After a bit I realized I could use my time to rewire and fix one of the stepper motors I had setup for a chronos controller that had its wires ripped out in a panic for me to find my keys in my backseat last year. I'm pretty horrible at soldering so I got a new soldering Iron, an extra set of hands and a Multimeter to match up the right wires with the right motor coils and only took me a few dozen websites and youtube videos to finally understand what to do. Well kinda.... Anyways, once I rewired the stepper for the chronos controller I realized that I had a spare Molex jumper wire and I could actually make a cable to control my rail with the chronos controller.

I should probably explain that right now I only have my rail setup with the worm gear motor setup. The worm gear setup uses a different motor than the belt drive motor setup. The belt drive motor has an internal planetary gear that you can get in different ratios depending on the speed you'd like it to move at it's fastest, or slowest. The worm gear setup is more complex but offers no backlash, saves power by being able to power down the motor between moves and the non geared motor is smaller and lighter.

So yea, once I got the chronos controller cable setup for the worm geared motor I was finally able to move the cart along on the rail, which was when I found out that there was a big problem with the way the worm gear was set up. There was a lot of play in the shaft that holds the pulley that turns the belt, even with the pulleys. The pulley was actually rubbing against the screws and making metal shaving dust. I asked Doug what was wrong with it and he suggested using a 1/4" nylon spacer in the shaft and cutting it down to whatever size it would take to make it a snug fit for the pulley and shaft. Once I got that sucker in there it was smooth sailing. I was able to get the cart to go straight vertical on the rail with no issues at all. 

Riding the wave of excitement from getting to finally see the rail in action I decided to have a pretty crazy Friday night and spend the next 4 hours calibrating my Chronos controller to work better with my rail. My controller was wigging out and becoming unfunctional when I put it in continuous mode, which is the mode I would be able to set keyframes on the cart to keep it from colliding with the end. After a brief talk with Chris (creator of Project Chronos) He told me to take out the motor driver and use small screwdriver and turn the potentiometer 1/4 turn at a time until the controller no longer has issue. Sure enough that worked like a charm. After a bit of playing around with keyframes I realized that it is just easier to just tell the controller to move 59 inches instead of having the cart go back and forth setting keyframes. For this to happen I needed to find the amount of steps per centimeter the motor is able to move the cart, this requires some relatively simple math but it's easy to get it wrong luckily Chris is all about DIY timelapse systems and provides a wealth of information on his website, including calculators to easily establish the steps per CM a motor gives. Then I counted the amount of full rotations of the worm gear it took to move the cart one inch (which was 10) and Chris's calculator gave me a Steps per CM of 787(rounded to 790). With this calibration plus the maximum length the cart can travel on the rail without colliding with the ends I am able to move precisely and repetitively across the rail. Being able to setup a shot on the fly and tell it a total distance and trust that it will hit it's mark is awesome to me. 

Anyways, enough of the good, lets talk some bad. Going into this project i knew there would be a risk of issues and I could possibly be just throwing away money. When the parts showed up and the thermo inserts fit, I was ecstatic. You see, Doug designed this rail system to be printed on a Ultimaker printer and the tolerances in his design we catered to work with the shrinkage factors of his printer. Shapeways uses a different type of printer and even a different method so there was always a good chance things might not work out. For starters, the rails I am using were a bit loose in the end caps, they fit but if I tried to transport the rail, they would slide or at least rotate a bit while clamped down. To fix this, I used a single layer of electrical tape on the ends of the rails and now they fit snug and secure. Then on the static belt mount I was completely unable to slide the belt in. Simple enough fix, a bit of elbow grease and sand paper and it fits great. The biggest and hardest issue was definitely the fact that the wheels of the cart are not tight on the cart, between both sides there was about 2-3mm of play. This wasn't a huge deal to me at first because I was in my house and it was moving horizontal but as soon as I did a few vertical moves I realized it was a big problem. I talked with Doug about maybe redesigning the cart top to have the wheels come in a tad more but I really didn't want to spend more money let alone time waiting on a new cart top. Drilling new holes wouldn't work and I knew there was no way I could find bearings that were only 2MM wider. Doug suggested putting thin nylon spacers in to offset the wheels but I had a hard enough time getting ahold of the ones I already had in there. Then i thought, why not heat up the thermo inserts and angle them in a tiny bit, causing the bearings to move inwards towards the rail and filling the gap. If I go too much, It might ruin the wheel mount so I barley angled it and tested it and it was name near perfect. Once I had both bearings angled in on one side the cart was holding onto those rails like never before! 

I apologize for the lengthy post but I wanted to go over everything that progressed with my build over the past few days and I really wanted to boast about calibrating my chronos controller and make a note that there are issues coming up but luckily so far there have been relatively quick fixes. 

Saturday I decided I wanted to put some blue loctite on some of the cart bolts to stop them from vibrating loose on transport and since I would be taking it apart anyways, I setup a few cameras and made a little timelapse of the teardown and assembly of my system. Unfortunately the next day I realized that I never sprayed my 3d printed parts with a clear coat to waterproof them and spent the majority of Sunday doing that and it will be curing for the next couple of days, just in time for my Emotimo spectrum to arrive on Tuesday.

If you made it this far, Bravo and thank you.



Parts are here and everything fits! well kinda...

Jesse Attanasio

Last Friday I received the 3d Printed parts from Shapeways, so I was finally able to go to the hardware store and pick up a few bolts I thought might be the correct length and feel comfortable about pressing the thermoinserts in and see if the parts were printed correctly. 

Once I had the inserts pressed in I had to run back to the hardware store where I spent at least an hour looking through bolts for the correct thread sizes and lengths. I ended up realizing I ordered the wrong sized pulley, I forgot to order a specific size of thermo insert, the nylon bushings for the bearings were no where to be found and I needed some thumbscrews for the motor mounts. After checking the C4D file Doug included with his downloads I was able to get a better idea on the length of thumbscrews and parts that I wasn't able to find in the store and ordered them online.

Today the Carbon fiber rails came in and so did the nylon bushings. I was able to get the rail together but i'm still waiting on a few parts so I was only able to let it glide up and down, but I will say it was pretty smooth! 

Since I really didn't want to use a ballhead for mounting the Spectrum, I had ordered a Leveling wedge from Dynamic Perception and I'm not gonna lie, it's incredibly well made, I instantly loved it. Only problem was that the wedge was so big that it barely covered an important bolt on the cart that I need access to. Fortunately after some brainstorming and discussing with Doug I  found a way to mount the wedge to the cart and all I needed to do was file a small chunk of the wedge so the bolt could clear it.

Still no word on my Emotimo Spectrum, I sure do see a lot of people receiving theirs though. And it seems like signing up for a newsletter and preordering wasn't really worth it since as of today you can still order it for the same price. /end rant/end blog

Ordering the 3d Printed Parts

Jesse Attanasio

I've never 3D printed anything and as much as I wish I was, I am not much of a Do-it-yourselfer. So I very cautiously read through the instructions and studied every photo that Doug provided on to see exactly what would be needed to print and made sure I would be able to source every part listed either locally or online before setting up the 3d files. 

Doug was nice enough to give me a few tips and suggestions even though he was out of the country but it did help me decide where to source my printing and what to use for material. I ordered my parts from because it was incredibly easy and their turnaround times weren't horrifying. Doug mentioned looking into aluminum printing if I was worried about printing with plastic but it was crazy expensive. For example, the top of the cart is one of the most expensive parts on the rail to print, for plastic it was about $98 but for aluminum it was about $1800! Yea I think i'll do my first 3D print project with plastic haha.

I opted to not print the lightweight low-profile feet included with Doug/s plans and once I figured out exactly how many of each part was needed I placed my order. I also ordered the hardware and everything I needed to order from online besides the carbon fiber rails from Rockwest

The parts will come in this weekend and if all goes well I'll post a list of parts with sources and a breakdown of assembly with some video clips. But if it doesn't work, I'll probably delete this blog and never speak of this again haha.

In an update for the ST4 preorder, the units were delayed for some final testing and will be shipped out from the 13-18 of March. Fortunately my mind is occupied with trying to get this damn rail figured out so I am distracted away from being bummed on the delay. 

To build a slider or not?

Jesse Attanasio

Once I had the ST4 ordered I knew I would have to order a slider for a 3rd axis. Researching Kessler showed it was either too bulky or pricey. Rhino sliders seem great and was well priced but I really wanted the ability to have a long move when I felt necessary. There were a few other recent companies that I looked into but nothing really caught my eye. If your wonder why not a chronos rail, it's mostly because the screw driven system is great for timelapse but wouldn't be useable for video since it moves incredibly slow (about 4 minutes to move 4 feet). So naturally I gravitated towards the beautiful stage one rail from Dynamic Perception. It's lightweight, expandable length and dynamic perception has a history of excellence when it comes to build quality.

After seeing some extra early adopters showing off their ST4's I started to become concerned with how exactly to mount the unit to a Stage ONE. I've never been a fan of mounting a ballhead to the cart but luckily DP has designed a wedge to act as a level for the cart when the slider is at an angle. But then I realized the worst part of it all, the stepper motor is mounted to the cart and the ST4 rotates the entire unit so the two would collide when doing pan moves.

I spoke with Brian (emotimo) about this issue and he was aware of it and offered the simple solution of attaching a plate to the cart that would offset where the ST4 mounts so it would clear the motor when rotating. I wasn't incredibly excited about this idea because I worried it would cause issues to the rail movement by having more weight on one side.

Then I remembered that Doug from Upthink Labs built a 3-axis system from a 3D printer and released his an instructables on how he did it. His system was a gutted TB3 and Stage ONE-esque rail and was controlled with a standalone controller built from the brains of the TB3. He also made a post that had a list of downloadable 3D printer parts and the hardware used to make a Stage ONE style slider. The big difference being that he created a motor mount on the end of the rail with a worm drive to not only save battery on angled moves and eliminating backlash but most importantly relocating the motor OFF of the cart and at the end of the rail.

After a lot of thought and going back and forth on cost to build and cost of a built system like the Stage ONE that I'll have to alter the cart slightly or have a large ballhead on the cart to make clearance, I decided to start sourcing hardware and find a 3D printer.

New timelapse gear for 2016

Jesse Attanasio

A few months ago I got wind that Emotimo would be releasing their new timelapse system. I had a ton of expectations for this system so I followed closely and put some money to the side for the inevitably shocking price tag.

First I subscribed to their newsletter, then after about a month or so of teasing photos and tidbits of specs. They released a full description and specs list. Four Axis setup capabilities with a low and sturdy design, built for both timelapse and video, a PS4 controller but also a built in joystick for setting up shots and more info you can find at Emotimo

Finally on January 27 I was able to preorder the Emotimo Spectrum (ST4) for a slightly lower price as an early adopter. With great build quality and a features comes a great price tag ($2300 or $1950 preorder. Compared to it's predecessor (TB3) which is no longer in production it is over double the cost but completely worth it when you compare the ST4 to similar high quality systems out there with similar features.

Now that the pan and tilt was taken care of, I need to start the search for a belt driven slider for my 3rd axis of motion.