tim savas

sorry bro


Tom is an open-sourced, single-axis camera rail developed for shooting time lapse sequences with camera motion. The overall design is much inspired by the Chronos Project, another open-sourced camera rail system, so shoutout to them. I use a few of their since-discontinued control boards, which I now dilligently guard like Elaine's "sponges," if anybody is hip to that Seinfeld episode.

sorry bro

The project was started as a way of scratching my own itch, in many ways. I had been playing around with CNC routers, making assorted custom parts at the time. Meanwhile I'd also just purchased my first DSLR camera. Here is literally the first time I ever hit the video button on it. Look at that form. Anyway, the Igus rail and Arduinos kicking around my place were final straws for starting this build.

Tom uses a screw drive for its translation motion. Much like a CNC router, beneath the camera's carriage is an anti-backlash nut that receives the motor drive. The Igus rail package this project is based on is perfect for this type of movement. The tolerances between its bearings and rail are right on. I've also dropped standard 3/8-16 tripod threads down the length of it, so mounting options are abound (exhibits A, B, and C).

sorry bro

Tom is currently controlled via a Chronos Project Arduino shield. It uses "shoot-move-shoot" parameters––mega handy for time lapse photography. Meanwhile I'm making headway with bringing all controls into a web browser using Johnny Five and node.js. Will get software dev fired back up this winter. To be continued.

sorry bro

I don't hesitate to share that I initially CAD'ed Tom and its custom components in Sketchup. It made 3D illustration super approachable, and I still use it as a sandbox for getting ideas down. While more advanced CAD programs can take you to higher places, Sketchup feels like a ball of clay you can quickly prototype ideas through.

Solidworks is next level incredible though, let's be real. Its tool palette had me at "Hole Wizard." The parametric design capabilities? Stop, I'm tearing up. Tom and all subsequent rail projects have since been ported over to Solidworks.

sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro

Quick shoutout to Fran Graves, close friend and local legend, who so graciously abandoned several otherwise productive weekends to let me fly under his wing at his CNC mill. This man is largely the reason I'm able to sing to myself "started from the bottom, now we here" when I step up to the Media Lab's monster CNC router, before proceeding to bend it to my will.

Tom––like most projects, eh?––is a work in progress. The hardware side is complete. Next stop: web browser control. Outfitting this software as an iPhone app is most certainly on the horizon. Then the camera would be the controller, and the controller, the camera. Singularity, achieved.

open source

Tom is an open-sourced project. I know, I'm such a nice guy. Below you'll find a complete bill of materials. All custom components can be milled from 1/2" thick polycarbonate, or material of your choice. CAD models and drawings thereof are to the right. What are you waiting for? Fire up your pirated copy of Solidworks today and get to making. Try not to email me if you can help it.


SW Name Code Description Q QP Cost/Unit Cost Serial Number Supplier
S-375-050-BTN-H-SS HRD 3/8-16 1/2" screw 4 1 $7.42 $7.42 98164A469 McMaster Carr
S-010-716-SKT-H-SS HRD 10-24 7/16" screw 4 1 $6.71 $6.71 92185A184 McMaster Carr
M-080-160-SKT-H-SS HRD M8 16mm screw 8 1 $7.07 $7.07 91292A145 McMaster Carr
S-004-075-NUT-H-SS HRD 4-40 3/4" screw 4 1 $5.44 $5.44 92185A112 McMaster Carr
S-004-025-NUT-H-SS HRD 4-40 1/4" nut 4 1 $2.83 $2.83 91841A005 McMaster Carr
S-006-075-SKT-H-SS HRD 6-32 3/4" screw 2 1 $3.07 $3.07 92185A151 McMaster Carr
flanged_bearing MOT flanged bearing 1 1 $7.21 $7.21 6384K342 McMaster Carr
igus_rail MOT Igus DryLin W1040-A rail 1 1 $88.93 $88.93 W1040-A Amazon
threaded_rod MOT 3' 1/4"-20 threaded rod 1 1 $6.02 $6.02 93250A125 McMaster Carr
flex_joint MOT flex joint on motor 1 1 $37.53 $37.53 9861T529 McMaster Carr
nema23_motor MOT Nema 23 stepper motor 1 1 $16.00 $16.00 23HS22-1504S Stepper Online
backlash_nut MOT backlash nut 4 4 $14.75 $59.00 AC14201-LN DumpsterCNC
flanged_bearing MOT 1/4" flanged ball bearing 1 1 $7.21 $7.21 6384K342 McMaster Carr
spacer PLC vertical carriage spacer 1 1 custom custom custom timsavas
carriage PLC camera carriage 1 1 custom custom custom timsavas
bearing_mount PLC mount for flanged bearing 1 1 custom custom custom timsavas
motor_mount PLC motor to rail connection 1 1 custom custom custom timsavas
backlash_mount PLC bracket for backlash 1 1 custom custom custom timsavas
sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro sorry bro
775 670 3447 / tsavas[@]media.mit.edu