Hello, and advice please on a video slider controller

Hello all – this is my first ever dabble in the world of Arduino, so please be gentle.

A bit of background – I'd describe myself as an enthusiastic tinkerer, with a hunger for problem solving. I'm quite mechanically and logically minded, but my programming skills are next to none. Soldering skills are average, although I can be a bit heavy handed with the heat.

I had a great enthusiasm for electronics at school, but that was 25 years ago... I find it relatively easy to work out how things operate, but more so with mechanics than electronics. However, once someone's explained something (and in particular, why things do what they do), I start to pick it up.

I first heard of Arduino a year or so ago, and wished I had a project I wanted to build. Well now I have...

Please excuse me if this has been covered, and point me at the right thread. I've searched for every string I could think of, but I may not have all the right terms yet.

So, here's my project. What I'd really like is a shopping list for the UK, and guidance on how to start programming what I want (I'm a Mac user).

I have an IGUS rail on the way to use as a video slider. I want to also use it for stop-motion photography. In it's most basic, I'd like a speed controllable system that will range from about 45 minutes to cover the 1m track, to three to four seconds. I'd like that to be a smooth, linear movement. I'd imagine this would be relatively simple, using a servo or stepper motor, and some kind of toothed belt.

Here's where my idea of the Arduino comes in... I want a simple to use, but self contained controller unit (so it'll need a display), that can either allow the simple speed control of a linear slide, or will allow a tightly controlled stop-go motion of the slider. The simplest way I can imagine this is to have a system that asks me how many steps I want it to break the 1m into, and how long I want it to delay between each step. After each movement, I'd then want a circuit to close, firing the camera. This would be to allow long-exposure stop-motion photography, so the track is still for each shot... moves a small distance, takes a shot, waits a specified time, moves again, etc... I want the smooth linear movement for video – ideally I could switch the controller to 'smooth', drop the track on the floor and spin a pot to determine the speed of motion, rather that moving it by hand.

I guess my first question is, how realistic am I being, both in what Arduino can do, and what a complete novice like me could achieve? I don't want to spend a fortune, and I don't want end up crying over my workbench, but I see this as a really fun project. If anyone's willing to help and guide me, I'd really appreciate it...

I'd really like advice on where I can buy EVERYTHING, including the pulleys, belt... even the mounting plate / hardware.

So, I'm at your mercy now...


For working with motors, Motors, Mechanics, and Power will have lots of threads on controlling stepper motors.

Also, up there in the top nav bar, see the 'playground' link? From there click on output and scroll down just a bit. I found a link there to DIY camera motion control

The system consists of a ready-made IGUS DryLin W rail system and a small stepping motor which is controlled by an Arduino interface board.

Also, forum member liudr has some great panel stuff, or if that's more than you need, there's a subforum for using various display panels.

For parts, my #1 selection would be to look at garage sales, Goodwill, etc., maybe even craigslist, for a scanner somebody is getting rid of. You'll find a complete linear drive system in one of those. Identify the motor, and fabricate a way to attach the drive to your rail, and you'll be in good shape, I think. Unless you need more driving force than the motor can supply, and that I don't know about.

For smoothness I like threaded rods, but I don’t think you’ll get the 3-4 seconds over 1m with them and unless you use a split nut you can’t move it by hand.

Mounting plates etc are usually just cut and bent from some ali sheet you get at the hardware store.

You could also search for DIY CNC machines as what you are doing is basically a single axis from one of them.


This is fantastic, thank you SO much!

I feel more confident in investing in a UNO board and shield, then starting to pick things up.

I hope you don't mind me popping back if things get confusing...

Thanks again!


I am trying to build pretty much exactly the same motion control rig as leodanger using the igus slider, a threaded rod an uno and a stepper motor. I need to have it working soon as I am shooting a student project very shortly. I am having trouble and would like to get assistance via Skype. I can paypal you money for your time. Thanks to anyone who can help.

I would suggest you start a thread in "Gigs and Collaborations", there's been a few people lately suggesting they will do work.

Also there's http://jobs.arduinoexperts.com/