Brushless motor camera gimbal is so common these days, and they are more affordable than ever. However it can still cost you $100+ if you want to get a good one. If you are like me, who don’t have enough budget but really want a camera gimbal, and you enjoy DIY projects, you might find this post interesting. Find out what they do, and comparison to the servo based camera gimbals.
Here I am going to build a light weight brushless gimbal. The design goal is not restricted to only quadcopter mounting, it should also be compatible for handheld, and other common camera mounts. I should also try to make it compatible to many types of cameras as well, like the gopro, mobius, or even just a mobile phone.
A demo video showing the performance.
And a video filmed with this brushless camera gimbal, and the GoPro Hero3 Silver.
Gimbal Design and Dimension
It’s important to make sure the lens of the camera is aligned with the roll and pitch motor shafts. I first measured the dimensions of the motors and GoPro camera.
I drew the design on paper, and did some calculations on the dimension of the frame. I could have taken the weight of everything in to account as well, to make sure the whole gimbal when finished, is balanced before turning on (at rest). But it would make the whole project so much more complicated, so I decided to take it easy, just leave enough gap on the camera mount plate, so I can slide the camera left and right, to find the balance point.
Tools and Material
I don’t have a 3D printer, neither a CNC machine nor any other professional tools. I will be only using any household tools you are likely to get, scissors, screw drivers, cutter, and pliers. Material wise I will be using styrene sheet, and plywood sheet. Some metal angle brackets, screws and nuts.
I decided to use plywood, because it’s light weight, rigid and not easy to bend. Also it’s easy to drill holes on them with only a screw driver and knife.
I needed four pieces of wood, two for the camera mount (forming a “L” shape), two for the connection between roll motor and pitch motor (again, forming a “L” shape). I probably also need an extra one for holding the brushless camera gimbal (which attached to the back of the pitch motor). I will be putting vibration foam on the camera mount plate, to sit the gopro camera on.
The screws, nuts and angle brackets are made of steel, which are quite heavy (probably make up 60% of the total weight!). I could have used nylon screws/nuts etc instead. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can also print the whole frame with plastic. It would be so much lighter, although rigidity could be a problem.
Assembling Brushless Camera Gimbal
Putting all the parts together is simple, once you have everything designed, and made into the exact shapes as you wanted.
As you can see, the pitch motor is not exactly aligned with the camera lens. That’s because the weight distribution is not what I thought it would be. I had to move the camera to the right by 1 cm to get it balance, which I am really disappointed about.
Talking about “gimbal balance”, make sure you balance it before turning it on for PID tuning. That means when power off, the camera should face forward, horizontally and upright.
Brushless Gimbal Controller and Motor
For motors, I am using 2206-140Kv Brushless Gimbal Motor. You can buy them from here.
One of the the biggest cost variables in a brushless gimbal, is probably the controller. There are clone controllers that are being sold at $15, while some others could be as high as $70 or more. I am not very familiar with all the gimbal controller, so I just picked a random one without any particular reasons – Quanum 2 axis micro gimnbal controller.
It’s very small, and light weight. It accepts 2S to 4S input, which perfect to use on a quadcopter, or handheld mount.
However I encounted an issue, which was saying Unrecognized Device in device manager. I needed to install driver for the controller. In Device Manager the controller appeared to be “cp2102 usb to uart bridge controller”. I followed the instructions on this site to install the driver, and it worked.
I am still not very familiar with camera gimbal configuration. It’s all about PID tuning, which is not a new concept for me. But the meaning of each terms has different effect on a camera gimbal, than on a quadcopter. So there will be a lot more to take in, and I need to spend more time to play around.
With the stock PID, it seems working, but the result seems a bit unsatisfactory. I am working hard on the PID settings, so hopefully I can share some results soon. Probably with side by side comparison for cameras, with and without a brushless camera gimbal, and how well it improves the video quality.