New DIY 3-Axis motion control for time-lapse

pan tilt diy motion control timelapse

A while ago I put together some plans for a motion control system for time-lapse camera movement. I designed it to mainly use off the shelf components, with the exception of a number of laser cut acrylic plates. It worked reasonably well, and has become popular with other Time-lapse makers who have used the plans to make their own. Here are some pictures of my first pan/tilt head shown with a 400D.

Since I posted the plans a couple of people have taken them and made their own versions, some use aluminium to allow the rig to hold heavier cameras, here are some pictures of their rigs:

If you would like to read more about these projects follow these links:

In the last few months I have been developing a second version of the motion control head. Here are some key differences and features of the new head.

  1. It is considerably more rigid than the last incarnation, being designed to hold larger cine style cameras such as the RED.
  2. Also, it has a much finer angular resolution, allowing smoother acceleration and slower pans.
  3. Through-axis cable routing now allows multiple rotations per axis without tangling control cables.
  4. Additional quick releases allow the head to be rapidly reconfigured and disassembled.
  5. The use of the arca-swiss angle plate allows fast repositioning of the camera to achieve perfect balance or to line up the nodal point of the lens with the axis centres. Additionally other arca-swiss plates and accessories can be used with the head to achieve unique effects.
  6. Rather than using a worm gearing system I am now using a planetary gear and belt drive arrangement. This allows the drives to be positioned within the axes saving space. Backlash is managed through an adjustable belt tensioning system, and through backlash compensation within the control unit. The new unit also makes use of the ubiquitous gt2 gear type, which is heavily used in the 3d printing world and can therefore be acquired very cheaply.
  7. While the previous version was completed almost entirely using hand tools and a laser cutter, the new version makes more use of milling and turning machines. Although this makes it more difficult for DIY makers to reproduce I took care to ensure that all the components can be made with fairly basic manual machines. Perhaps if there is interest I could get quotes to have some of the custom parts machined and make kits, there are only 6 different custom components required to get a bare bones system working. I used only manual machines to make the prototype, machining all of the custom parts myself.
  8. Finally I have designed the unit to allow the posibility of switching the stepper motors over to DC servo drives. At the moment I am researching different control options, but with servo drives (not hobby servos!) quieter and faster operation of the head should be achievable.

Here are some renders showing the inner workings of the unit, along with a picture of the prototype before anodising. I am currently working on the electronic portion of the project and should be able to test the head out fairly soon. Any questions, just comment!

The above model is interactive, click and drag to orbit around the pan tilt head.






Here is a first quick test of a multipass real time shot, the two different takes are overlapped and the difference is overlaid in white. This shows any slight differences between the two captured videos. As you can see, the shot to shot repeatability is very good, there are some small differences but I believe these are due to a lack of frame syncing and also the poor tripod I currently have. Either way the unit is easily accurate enough for all compositing and motion matching needs.

Difference test MOCO head 2015 from Steven Brace on Vimeo.

reciprocal roof assembly from Steven Brace on Vimeo.

60 Replies to “New DIY 3-Axis motion control for time-lapse”

  1. Hey Steven!

    I recently started sketching a DIY project for timelapse and came across your motion control. Could you share the construction details of this one? And how much it weights?

      1. Bonjour Steven,

        Tout d’abord félicitation pour votre travail!
        Je me demandais s’il vous était toujours possible de transmettre les détails de construction de votre projet (plan DWG)?

        Dans l’attente de votre retour.

        Très cordialement,


  2. I really like the look of this head and I would like to know more about it. Could you tell me how the bearings are constructed? If possible a copy of that 3d model would be golden. Also interested in how much backlash you are getting after the belt reduction and what motor/gearbox combo you are using?

    Best regards


    1. No drawings done, but can share .stp file if you email me, firmware is miniE engine v2.0.

      Email is steven @ the domain of this site.


  3. Hallo Steven,

    this is a very nice job you’ve done. I was already impressed from the previous version of your pan/tilt-head and planned to build one without a worm gear. Now I see that you already did it.
    Would it be possible to send me some further information of the construction? Perhaps with the .stp-file as well? That would be great and help me a lot.

    Thanks in advance


  4. Hello Stephen
    Project drawings and Arduino code, you share with me?
    Also longest delay time is how long
    Sorry, my English is very poor
    sincere regards

  5. Hello Stephen
    Project drawings and Arduino code, you share with me?
    Also longest delay time is how long
    Sorry, my English is very poor

    sincere regards


  6. Hi Steven!
    I love your design! i built your previous design and i really looking forward to use this one. could you share the drawings? my email es (email deleted)

    greetings from Perú


  7. Hello Steven,
    This project is pretty cool !!

    This summer I want to make it as well I have a list of hardware/software components that you used?

    Best regardsv


    1. I don’t have a list prepared but I can send you the CAD model which should help you work out all of the components.

      Email me on steven (at>

  8. Hi Steven , what a great design.
    I would love to use it as the basis for an extended design for a vry heavy duty Panorama Robot.
    Your construction details would be soo welcome !!
    If possible please make a little time to make an old photographer / mechanical engineer happy by sending me what ever you want to share.
    Thanks Heaps in Advance !

  9. Hey Steven,

    I enjoyed reading your post and got very good ideas on how to build my own rig. My plan is to implement carbon fiber rods and carbon fiber plates to make a light as possible rig. Would it be possible to get a parts list of all the planetary gear and belt drive parts you used in your design. Any design models and files would also be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again.

  10. Hi Steven,

    Absolutely great work…

    Could you email me your stp model, and any parts list you might have made?



      1. Hey Steven,

        I’d like to join and ask you for the step files. It is really great work with a lot of time spent for, I think. Looking forward to get your files and built up the hardware for fantastic time-lapse sequences.

        Thanks in advance!
        Best regards

  11. Hi Steven,

    Great design, I wondered could you email me the design?

    Any further thoughts on getting a quote to provide kits?

    I’d be in !



  12. Hey Steven,

    Excellent work! Very inspiring!

    Could you email me your stp model, and any parts list you might have made? I hate to pick from above but there is no other way to say it.

    Thank you!

  13. Hi Steven

    This looks like a great project, do you have another link for the miniE engine v2.0 i keep getting “Warnings and Fatal errors” from there web site.



  14. Do you have a parts list showing where to purchase it all?
    Think i saw a link to the stepper motors in your previous build. but havent figured out where to buy all the gears, worm gears, tracks and so forth.

    regards Knud

  15. Hi Steven,

    Thank u for sharing such an amazing project with all of us.
    I am thinking of starting my own diy 3 axis motion control and I would me grateful if you could sent any stp files, material list and code that you like to share.

    Thanks & regards

  16. Hi Steven,

    I really admire your work and would greatly appreciate if you could share a copy of the stp file.

    Kind Regards,

  17. Hi Steven,
    I have stumbled upon your great project while researching for my own one. Could you share some details of the mechanical construction with me? Especially what kind of bearings you are using and what kind of gearing ratio the gearing of your stepper motor has.

    Thanks & kind regards

  18. Hi Steven,

    Realy liked your project. Im trying to build myself a pan/tilt/slider system to work with a NMX controller. Can you send me the CAD files and perhaps a BOM?

    Thanks and Regards


  19. Hi Steve,

    I work for a visual effects school set in spain. We’re traing to build our own motion control camera for stop motion projects.
    Could you share the details with us?

    Thanks a lot,


  20. Hi, Steven!

    Congratulations for your design! Excellent work! Thank you for sharing your idea. Would you send me some further information, concerning construction details, Arduino code, parts list and what ever you want to share. Any design models and files would be great help for me.
    Thanks in Advance !
    Best regards!


  21. Dear Steven!
    You did an impressive job. Would you also share the construction details with me? I’m currently working on a pan-tilt head that might improve with your design.
    Thanks a lot,

  22. Hello Steven,
    you build a great pan-tilt-head. Could you share the construction details and the parts list with me too? I‘m currently working on a similar project and still struggle a bit with the pan-tilt-bearings.
    Thank you a lot

  23. Hey! what motors do you use for the newer project, and why are you leaving the wormscrew/gear idea?

    Best regards

  24. Hi Steven

    Absolutely great work
    Like everyone else i apreciate if ypu can share construction detail.
    Have a nice day

    Regards Achref

  25. Hello Steven, recently in this week I’ve been watching by google how to do a tilt / bread. I like your work and I appreciate if you can share details of your construction.
      plane and electronic diagram and type of motor and type of bearing I am currently working on a tilted head that but in steel design. the arm in my country is difficult in aluminum material

    Best regards

  26. Hi Steven,

    looking for a school project I coincidentally stummbled upon your old Motorised Time-Lapse Head project the day before and I am amazed how you carried it out. Your updated project is even more amazing and I would be happy if you share your construction details and partlist with me too.
    Getting supported from my school I have easy access to milling machines and I intend to make it out of aluminium.
    I’ll mail you for further contacts.

    Best regards


  27. Hello Steven,

    you build a great pan-tilt-head. Could you share the construction details and the parts list with me too? I‘m currently working on a similar project and still struggle a bit with the pan-tilt-bearings.

    Thank you a lot

  28. Hello, Stephen! Send me an e-mail sketch for arduino, wiring diagram and a list of necessary components for electronics. I will be grateful to you.

    Respectfully! Roman.

  29. Steve

    I am playing with going in the opposite direction of miniaturizing the mechanism. I too have had to compare motion transfer gearing choices, various brushed and brush-less motors and steppers to come up with the best size/torque and simplicity of fabrication. I must say I did not look at belt drive option carefully enough. I have AutoCad and Alibre Design, can you share your .stp files for me to investigate further?

  30. Hello Stephen,

    Much respect for your great work.

    I wanted to ask you for the .dwg files of your remote head, and information about the parts. Also the software for the Arduino and its programming.
    Another thing I wanted to ask you for is info about the remote control.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Best regards,
    Jürgen Heckert

  31. Hi
    Very interesting design.
    I am finishing now the PCB plate for the controller, but I still don’t have the final module. Could you please send me the files in order for me to cut the parts? cnc gcode. Also if you have any parts list with specs that I need in order to make this pan tilt head? Thanks a lot

  32. Hello,

    Steve, this project looks really cool!!! Any chance I could get stp files and parts list?

    Would really appreciate it!!


  33. I know i’m late here but would you mind sharing the stp with me also? Slowly working on a stop motion set up in quarantine.

  34. Wow this is amazing, probably the best diy version i have seen! By chance are you still sharing the files as I would love to build this to give it a try with the mantis motion control. Curious on what motors and all you used to get that smooth support on bigger camera setups.

  35. Hi Steven,

    I love what you have created. I especially like the bearings you have used with the hollow tube. I was wondering if you wound mind sharing what parts you used for this project. Great work.


  36. Amazing build, thinking about building something like this for photogrammetry would it be possible to have the .stp files?


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