June 27, 2022

How I built my Arduino-powered automatic pan-tilt head for shooting stitched panoramic landscapes

The actual pano head consists of an “L” formed bracket or arm, two servo motors, an Arduino Nano microcontroller and some software application. Just how much it will cost to build depends entirely on what parts you purchase and what find in your scrap drawer or on your workbench. Because I have no centers for doing metalwork or anything other than some light wood-cutting or drilling, the style, for me, needed to include off-the-shelf parts. This automated panorama head can be made right at the kitchen table with absolutely nothing more than some hand tools, an electric drill, and a soldering iron.

I chose to develop my own automated, motorized pano head that would do the work for me and offer me repeatable frames. I had actually previously built an automatic focus-stacking rail for macros using an Arduino micro-controller. So I decided to also utilize an Arduino to control the movements of the panorama head.

I like to shoot panos with a longer lens– an 85 or 100mm– rather than the 28 or 35mm wide-angle lens most folks utilize. Given that the field of view is much smaller sized on a longer lens– a 28mm lens has approximately 3 times the field of view of an 85mm lens– the number of frames for an offered pano will be lots of more.

Shooting multi-frame panorama photographs can be enjoyable, and the resulting images can be striking. However once you surpass a panorama that is, state, 4 or 5 frames wide, it ends up being difficult to do without a tripod. And if you want a panorama that is more than one frame in height, then hand-held is nigh impossible.

There are manual panorama heads you can install on your tripod, however utilizing one can end up being a bit laborious, especially shooting a dozen or so frames. When you want a pano that is numerous rows high, they end up being more burdensome.

Remember that practically any part of this job can be altered or changed to your liking with the exception of the electronics. The program code will have to be changed if the electronic devices are changed.

The Pano Bracket

The bracket for the pano head is a basic L-shape with a 6.75″ vertical arm and a 7.75″ horizontal arm. The majority of any material can be utilized– wood, aluminum, Lucite, etc– as long as it is rigid enough for the two servos and your electronic camera and lens. The measurements are not critical as long as you can install your servos and your cam fits comfortably and has room to vertically pivot.

Servo Motors

For drive motors, I chose the GoBilda 3206 Series Servo Gearbox which uses a Hitec HS-788HB servo motor. This system has an aluminum framework that is both the servo mount and a pillow block for the drive all in one. The servo and the U-channel have dimensions and matching bolt holes that produce a simple fit.

Due to the fact that I wanted this to be a “cooking area table” project, I chose to use aluminum channel and hardware from GoBilda, an engineered system of structure elements. The constituent pieces all have standardized measurements and standardized hole patterns that make it easy to fit pieces together without any cutting or drilling.

I picked GoBildas 1120 Series U-Channel for the pano frame. All GoBilda parts fit and bolt together.

You can certainly utilize a smaller, less expensive servo than the design I selected. The one I chose is both overkill and costly. You might even consider a servo such as the GoBilda 2000 Series Dual Mode Servo. Feel in ones bones the weight of the cam and lens you prepare to use and compare that to the servos torque score.

This servo is offered with 6 various gear ratios. The clamping center on the output equipment has threaded holes that are best for mounting brackets.

Tripod & & Camera Attachments

There will be no panorama up until the servos can be connected to the tripod and electronic camera.

Most Arca-type QR plates are slotted and will match up with and bolt straight to the GoBilda surface install. Bolt the surface-mount to the output gear of the servo on the horizontal arm of the pano head. The QR plate is then bolted to the surface area install.

Another approach is to utilize the GoBilda hole-reducer. Choose the reducer with a 4mm i.d.; epoxy the reducer to the underside of the surface area install. Drill out the hole in the reducer to accept a 1/4″ screw. Utilize a 1/4 -20 x ⅝” screw and bring it from underneath the surface area mount. Repair it in place with a nut (see photos). The Arca clamp can screw onto the surface-mount simply as it would on a tripod.

Installing an Arca-type quick-release clamp to the surface mount requires a bit more effort. The surface mount has a number of holes, consisting of 2 slotted holes along the centerline, but none of these work with Arca clamps which normally mount with a focused 1/4 -20 screw.

An Arca-Swiss quick-release plate is utilized to link the pano head to your tripod and an Arca-Swiss quick-release clamp is utilized to link a nodal rail that installs the electronic camera. I utilized GoBilda Surface mounts which bolt straight to the servos output equipment to link the Arco-Swiss hardware.

Preparing and Testing the Electronics

Mount the Nano so that it covers the gap and the pins on one side of the Nano can utilize one bank of ports and the pins on the other side can utilize the other bank of ports. Seeing a YouTube video or 2 will make it clear how to use a Nano with a solderless breadboard and jumper wires.

The electronic devices center around an Arduino Nano which does all the essential estimations and controls the servomotors. You can use the Arduino Uno or other Arduino models as well. I chose the Nano solely for its small size.

When all the electronics are wired on the breadboard, you are prepared to download the program and test whatever.

Wire your Nano and other electronics according to the circuit diagram. Pay cautious attention to match the pin numbers on the Nano as they are referenced in the program code.

Setting Up the Program Code and Testing

First, you should download the Arduino IDE, the program that is utilized for programming Arduino microcontrollers. You can find the IDE on the Arduino website. Open the IDE and copy the code following the actions below.

The code linked here is total. I have actually tried to completely comment everything so you can follow through and comprehend what the code is doing.

Load the code into the nano when the debugging print declarations are active. After filling you need to see the screen illuminate with the message, “PANO-XY 4-BUTTON” If you see this on the display, the code packed correctly and you should have the ability to go through the prompts and have the system run the panorama sequence.

Copy the program code into the Arduino IDE and uncomment all the debugging “Serial.print” declarations by deleting the double slashes (“//”) that precede them. This will enable you to follow the program in the IDE serial screen to make sure whatever is working appropriately. You can either comment out the declarations once again or remove them completely when you are satisfied that everything is working correctly.

Note: If you are a skilled Arduino or C coder, you may well make fun of what I have actually developed. Do not hesitate. I am sure it lacks in efficiency and elegance.

Here is the detailed:

You can see the complete Arduino code here.

Copy the software code and paste it in the Arduino IDE, completely eliminating whatever in the empty sketch.
Save the brand-new Arduino IDE sketch to your computer system.
Comment out the “Serial.print” declarations. As soon as this is done, save once again.
Ensure no external power (air conditioning or battery) is linked to the Nano.
Link the Nano to your computer with a USB cable.
Inspect under the Tools menu of the IDE to be sure you have actually chosen “Arduino Nano” as your board and you have a serial motorist as your port. Click on the “Upload” button in the IDE.
As soon as the uploading is complete the Nano is running the code.
You must now be able to run the system on your breadboard with the USB cable supplying power.
If you require power for your servos while screening, make sure your external source of power (air conditioner or battery) is attached just to the servos while the Nano is connected to your computer system. Do not attach both the External and usb power to the Nano at the exact same time!

Setting up the Electronics in a Case

When you are all set to put whatever in a case, I highly recommend making a “subfloor” for your case and installing all your components on the subfloor. This method whatever can be installed and wired outside the case where you have good presence and easy access. As soon as whatever is completed, the total assembly can be secured in the case with just a couple of bolts. I used a solderable breadboard with power rails for my subfloor.

Whatever needs power, and the easiest way to wire it is to utilize buses. Connect your power source leads– one to each bus– and then connect your elements to the 2 buses.

The easy way to user interface the pano head control with your cam is to purchase a remote shutter cable television for your specific electronic camera. Open the switch end of the cable and you ought to see three wires– common; autofocus; and shutter. Determine which wire is for the shutter. The common and shutter wires will be wired to the relay. The autofocus wire be trimmed off– you dont desire autofocus with a panorama. The shutter will fire every time the relay engages. If you want, you might desire to include an adapter to the control box so you disconnect the cable.

I strongly suggest you use a screw terminal guard on the Nano when you are prepared to do the permanent circuitry. You will have safe, safe and secure connections that can be altered if essential and no soldering!

Cam Shutter

DC Power Supply

Servos vary, and the default settings (1000, 1500, & & 2000microseconds) in the servo library that the code usages are, at best, standards. Youcan see in the code that the settings for my 2 servos are various from both thedefault and from each other.

It also presumes the structure of a pano head exactly like mine. Using bits and pieces you may have around is perfectly fine.

The very first iteration of the pano head utilized a 4 x 4 keypad and a 4-line display screen to input details. This worked well, it was way ungainly and too huge, needing a control box that was 6.5″ x 6.5″ x 4.5″. I upgraded the system to use a 2-line display screen and 4 buttons. The brand-new control box is simply 4.5″ x 2.5 x 2″.

Components List

Servo Adjustment

The power required will be identified by the servos you utilize. I jumpered one of the battery bays (soldered a wire from the positive end to the unfavorable end) so that I could utilize just 5 batteries for my needed 7.5 volts (see picture). Velcro was utilized to attach the battery case to the control box.

The Controls

You can download the complete parts list here.

When you are ready to take a pano you will go through a series of triggers on the screen to input the info required. Just follow the triggers on the display screen utilizing the buttons as arrow keys and just scroll to the input values you want.

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To make a panorama, follow the triggers and enter the lens focal length, the width of the pano in degrees, the number of rows are wanted, and whether the video camera remains in landscape or picture mode. The electronics then determine just how much the electronic camera will move between images, the number of images are needed, the element ratio of the last pano, & & the approximate time to finish. It will go about taking the images while you enjoy a revitalizing drink.

Will be the focal length of the lens you are using. Second, will be the wanted width of the pano in degrees. Third, is the variety of rows you long for the image. Will be whether the electronic camera is in portrait or landscape orientation. The micro-controller will determine the frame size and the variety of frames needed to complete the panorama. It will then move the video camera through the series taking a picture at every frame.

Taking a Panorama.

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Power up the pano head so the cam arm moves into position, then install your camera.
Goal your camera at the center of the wanted panorama. Change the electronic camera settings and focus for your image.
To make a panorama, follow the prompts on the display screen and go into the lens focal length, the width of the pano in degrees, the number of rows high you desire it, and whether the electronic camera remains in landscape of picture mode.
The microcontroller calculates the number of images are required, the element ratio of the final pano, and the approximate time to finish. The pano head will then set about taking the images while you unwind with a revitalizing drink.

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I hope you find this project fun to taskEnjoyable and you enjoy taking panorama photos with your images automatic pano brand-newAutomated

Mount the Nano so that it spans the space and the pins on one side of the Nano can utilize one bank of ports and the pins on the other side can use the other bank of connectors. The power needed will be identified by the servos you utilize.

Don Simmons is a Texas-based retired mathematics instructor who pursues photography as a pastime. His tastes are diverse, but he takes pleasure in taking images of all sorts of things, however especially in white and black. You can find out more about Don and see his deal with his website.

The majority of any material can be used– wood, aluminum, Lucite, and so on– as long as it is stiff enough for the two servos and your video camera and lens. For drive motors, I selected the GoBilda 3206 Series Servo Gearbox which utilizes a Hitec HS-788HB servo motor. Simply understand the weight of the camera and lens you plan to use and compare that to the servos torque rating.

About the Author.