Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TinkerTrac Video Camera Slider Is Completed

As promised here is my completed video camera slider project that I have been working on.  My version of this piece of video equipment I call the TinkerTrac.  It was designed and built around existing materials I had laying around the shop from  previous projects that I had worked on  or no longer needed. 

As you can see from the photo above once again I have been successful at turning out a nice piece of equipment for my video productions. The TinkerTrac is made up of extruded " L" shaped aluminum, standard skateboard wheels, skateboard bearings, and various bolts, nuts, and 3D printed parts.  The final tally for all of the materials for this camera slider come to a grand total of $44.53.  This is better than half the cost of other cheap camera sliders I have found for sale online. You could make this assembly cheaper I am sure but probably not as smooth running as this one nor as professionally looking.  With the materials I already had laying around in my workshop my total cost only came to a little over $15 to make what you see here. So it was worth the effort once again to put this project together.  

The TinkerTrac slider went together very easily and is so strong that I am able to stand on it without breaking it.  Not that I want or need to stand on it but the fact that I can shows me that it's a good strong design that should hold up for years of use without any problems. The camera slider weighs in at just a  shade over four pounds and being only 34 inches long is easy enough carry or put into my car when the need calls for it. 
  During the process of building the TinkerTrac I wanted a decal to  put the finishing touch on my latest creation. I do not own a vinyl cutter to create a decal.  Not that I do not think about getting one as it would have come in handy for this small task.  I was fortunate enough to have some carbon fiber looking sticky backed vinyl left over from a previous project for this part of this project. I figured out how to lay out the lettering and cut and apply the new decals to the camera slider with very little effort. (I still want a vinyl cutter though as a more complex decal would take a lot more time to create I am sure.)  I'll put out another post about this process at a later time to show you how easy it is to create your own simple decals for your next project. 

Here are a couple photos of the camera dolly for the slider.  The wheels are standard skateboard wheels and bearings.  On the lower portion of the dolly are four additional skateboard bearings that keep the dolly on the aluminum rails and also keep the dolly rolling smoothly as it is being used.  The setup is very similar to what is designed for a monorail train. 

  To show you exactly what the TinkerTrac video camera slider does I have put together this little video demonstration of it in use. I hope you will enjoy the tongue in cheek video of my Mini Cooper commercial that is shown below.  Enjoy and Mini Cooper..... I hope you have a sense of humor.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

TinkerTrac Video Camera Slider Project

For some time now I have been toying with the idea of building a video camera slider.  What this piece of equipment is exactly is a small dolly with the video camera mounted to it that rides on a track to move the camera smoothly from side to side, forward or back, or even vertically.  This setup has been used in the making of movies for more years than anyone can count.  The only problem with this rig is that to go out and buy a professional one just to shoot your home videos cost a big pocket of cash.  Prices have come down on the equipment and there are a lot of videos online on how to build one for a lot less.  So with this in mind I set out to build my version of a video camera slider that I call the TinkerTrac.  

This is what I have in mind.  Luckily for me I already have most of the parts to create what you see here.  A small dolly that the video camera is mounted to rolls across the track using ordinary skateboard wheels.  The track is made up of two " L" shaped aluminum rails. This will give the dolly a nice smooth surface to roll across while the camera is being moved on it. 

Just below the dolly is an additional lower carriage (at each axle) that holds four additional roller skate bearings.  These bearings roll along the inner walls of the " L" shaped tracks and keep the dolly centered as it is moved from side to side. 

Here is a good view of how the carriage and axle assemblies will be put together.  At the center of the axle for the wheels is a 5/16" threaded rod connector.  This is slide into place after the two vertical parts of the lower carriage is lined up with the lower mating portion of the video camera platform. (The camera platform is not shown here just for clarity.) Once this is done two spacer (shown in yellow) are slide over the ends of the threaded rod connector. Next comes two bearings on the axle, then the wheel (also not shown for clarity) and another two bearings. Finally a Allen headed 5/16" bolt at both ends to hold everything in place.

Here is an image of the video camera platform.  The hole in the center of the top surface is for a 1/4" bolt that will hold my video camera to the dolly assembly while it is being used.

Here is the camera dolly fully assembled with the camera platform , wheels and the lower skateboard bearings mounted using additional 5/16" bolts, nuts, and washers. At this point once this assembly is mounted between the aluminum rails the dolly no longer can accidentally be bumped off the track. 

At the center of the TinkerTrac is a mount for a tripod.  This is designed with a quick release mount that matches my tripod.  It can be put on or taken off my tripod in less then three seconds.  The decal for the TinkerTrac I also have figured out how to make myself which will add just that little bit of a special touch to this project.  I'll post how I make this decal at another time so I can show you how easy it will be to make your own decals for your own projects.

Here is a shot of what the tripod mount  looks like for the camera slider. It along with several other pieces for this project will be 3D printed to get everything working as it should.  This part for the TinkerTrac will need to be mounted with the heads of the bolts in the four upper locations on the inside of the aluminum rails to allow clearance for the dolly as it is being moved down the track. The nuts that hold these bolts in place will be on the outside of the assembly embedded in the six sided pockets so that the nuts will not spin as they are being tightened during assembly.

The entire assembly will be 34" long, 5" tall (at the camera platform) and 6-3/4" deep. I did some research as I usually do with my projects and this is considered to be a standard or mid-sized camera slider.  I have found some to be closer to four feet in length or longer.  A lot bigger and costlier than I want or need. 
  As I said earlier I have most of the parts for this project so my cost will be low for this project but I will break it all down piece by piece to figure out what it would cost if I had nothing to start with.  I am sure that it will be way less than the $90 price that I found for the cheapest off the shelf unit.  Should be interesting to see how much less.  Once I do get the rig built I'll also shoot some video and show you what this is actually used for and how it looks all put together.  Stay tuned for further progress coming soon. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Blender 3D Bugatti Type 35 In My Backyard

One last post that I wanted to make today about my Blender 3D Bugatti is the breakthrough that I had yesterday when I figured out how to create an image of the model in my backyard.  I have always wanted to crack this nut of a Blender problem and I came across the perfect instructional video that I found on YouTube.  The video is called "Quick Tip: How to Render a Shadow Pass in Cycles" and was created by Tom Latvys on the BlenderTutor.com website.

(Click the image for a larger view.)

Here's is the end result of my efforts after using Tom's superb tutorial on how to create the shadows for the model and put it into the photo of my back yard. I won't go into all the details about how this is done as you can see for yourself with the link I have here from YouTube. 

(Click the image for a larger view.)
Here is where I started and it is very obvious that the backyard is empty. I shot these photos yesterday and wanted to find a place around my house that did not have any shadows that would ruin the effect that I was going for in the final image.  Tom explains in the video how to set up your model so that it will line up correctly with your background and how to get the lighting just right. One of the big problems I had was a setting with the light I used for the shadow.  I got my settings for the light set to "Sun" and aimed correctly only to find out that the side of the car that should be shaded was lit up all wrong. Kind of like a reflector was shining light back on to the body. In actuality the "Sun" light was correct but was not the problem. After fussing with my settings for at least 15 or 20 minutes I had found an additional light source in my Blender model and that was causing the problem. It washed out the shadow from under the model completely gave me more light on the wrong side of the car. I removed the offending light and then the image was starting to shape up.

(Click the image for a larger view.)
Final render again with corrected top sun light.
The top image is one of my earlier renders of the Bugatti.  It was close but not quite right.  I had the shadow now but not exactly where I wanted it and the top of the car just did not give me the look of sunlight shining brightly on it. My setting for the brightness of the "Sun" light was set only at a setting of four.  To correct this I changed this setting to forty and realigned the light to get a better location for the shadow.  Take a look at this image and compare it to the lower final render again and you will see a big difference in how it all looks.  Much more realistic.
Here's the YouTube video of how my Blender 3D Bugatti was able to be put into my backyard. I hope it will help you with you Blender project as much as it has for me.  Good luck and enjoy the images.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blender 3D Bugatti Type 35 Model Is Completed

I've burned a lot of midnight oil over the past week working on my Blender 3D Bugatti Type 35 model.  This has been an interesting project to say the least and a learning process at the same time.  Lots of photo images were needed as reference to create the complete model. To get as realistic look as I could without actually seeing this car in the flesh took some time online to find what I needed.

(Click on image for a larger view.)

For those of you who have never seen what Blender 3D looks like I thought I would include this image of the Bugatti before it was rendered to it's completed view in full color with reflections.  I only added color to the tires, seat, and leather straps at this point in the model just for my own sake just so I could get a rough idea as to how the car would look.  In the upper right corner of this image you can see a row of icons.  Each of these icons when pressed open up additional menus to change everything in the computer model from lighting, color, reflections, what layer parts are on, and the list goes on and on. It takes some time to learn Blender but with what can be created makes the effort worth it. 

(Click on image for a larger view.)

Here's a close up view of the dash in the Bugatti before the rendering is done.  When you pick on a part of the model.... say the steering wheel.... it will highlight the part you choose.  It makes it a lot easier to know exactly what you are modeling.  Also rather than trying to make changes with at least a couple of dozen other parts in your way you can move your part your working on to one of twenty layers so that only that part is showing on the screen.  Makes it much easier to modify something and rotate and move the part around quicker.  Once the part is changed to your liking you can again move it back to the original layer with all the parts (for the dash) to place it exactly where you want it.  

(Click on image for a larger view.)

Here is the dash for the Bugatti after it has been rendered with all of the materials that are needed for each part. I find that the little details in a computer image such as this make a big difference in how it all looks.  The gauges on the dash for example I made using reference photos of a real Bugatti dash to see what looked correct for the car.  The clock in the upper left of the dash took at least a half hour to create to get the level of detail that I wanted. Each black inner circle on the face of the clock is made up of  30 or 40 segments. Luckily Blender has a very good zoom capability so that a lot of detail can be created and then scaled to fit your needs.  Another detail that I like in this image are the reflections and the little black knob in the middle of the dash. The reflections in this part and in the chrome rings around the gauges add that little touch of realism to the model to make it stand out.

(Click on image for a larger view.)

Here finally after over 80 hours of work is my completed Bugatti. I'm rather proud of how it turned out.  This being my first complete car that I've attempted in Blender was a major task for sure. There are a lot of details that needed to be made to create this computer image.  The hardest being the louvers on the front hood and body of the car.  I had gotten the top louvers completed and continued on with other parts of the model only to find out days later in a reference photo of the car that the louvers were mounted backwards!  So there were setbacks in creating this model but more than that there were also new things I learned along the way too.  One being able to mirror parts in the model. This made it possible to model one side of the body of the car and have it perfectly match the other side.  A must if your going to model something like this for sure.

(Click on image for a larger view.)

I really like the look of the rear of the Bugatti with the boat tail. When started this model I thought that the body would be the hardest part.  Some of the work to get the look right took some time but with some effort and checking and rechecking my reference photos I was able to have it turn out the way I wanted.  I still want to play around with putting the Bugatti into a real environment so it looks more like a photo that was taken outside rather than a car advertisement that you see here.  Not that I am not happy with how these images look but rather that I want to learn how to make it look even more realistic. A tall order but something else new that I've been wanting to learn. 
  Speaking of which if you want to learn how to make images like this using Blender 3D there are a ton of tutorials online that will help you to get started. (Free open source download software by the way.) I recommend going to a site I use called The Blender Guru run by a young man named Andrew Price.  He has some great tutorials that I constantly use and learn from.  Andrew makes the process of learning Blender interesting and fun in a way that anyone can understand from the start.  So check it out if you want to get into using this great free software.  Have a good one and enjoy the Bugatti images.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blender 3D Bugatti Coming To Life In Living Color

In my last post I showed you my progress of the 1927 Bugatti Type 35 racer that I started to model using Blender 3D software.  I have put in a lot of hours on the computer model since then.  A total of 53 hours have now been racked up but with all things in recreation it is a labor of love and so the number of hours spent are just a curiosity for my sake more than anything. Also every hour I have spent so far has made me fall even deeper in love with this car.  

 (Click on the image for a larger view)

 (Click on the image for a larger view)

With the addition of better lighting effects, chrome parts, and the painted body the model is really starting to come to life now.  Speaking of color it took me some time to get the shade of blue to my liking with the model. I could have made it any color under the sun but I thought it best to leave it the blue that I found on most of the Type 35 Bugatti images that I researched online.  With the blueprints that I started with to create the model I found some flaws in the drawings.  This was not unexpected so the photos of the real cars paid off in a big way when doing this type of 3D modeling.  The tires on the blueprints looked correct on the drawing but not in the model.  They appeared to have to large of sidewalls compared to the real cars.  So I tweaked them to give the car a more realistic look and stance.  

  In the images above you can see what progress I've made from the first post about this project. I still have some small adjustments to make on the front suspension and of course put the interior and windshield assembly together. But I was amazed at how the body has really started to come to life after I put color and a reflective surface on the parts. Little details also in the model make it stand out.  Once I get the car model in shape I will continue to play around with the lighting and do something with the floor the model is sitting on.  I haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to do yet but that can be adjusted once I finalize the details on the car. 

  So that's where I'm at tonight with my Bugatti.  It is turning out better than I had hoped and so like anything else I create, it is getting to be worth the effort I put into it.  Enjoy the photos and I'll post the completion of the model as soon as it is done. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blender 3D 1927 Bugatti Type 35 Racer

This week I wanted to let everyone see my latest creation that I have been working on in Blender 3D.  I've spoken about this software over the years and it has been a great 3D modeling tool for a lot of my projects but it also have given me the opportunity to spread my wings when it comes to creating some interesting 3D computer images.  Case in point is this project that I am working on.  

This is a photo of the real 1927 Bugatti Type 35 racer.  A stunning car as you can see and so it was an easy decision to try and model the car using Blender 3D.  As with most of subjects I tend to model in 3D I end up having to research the Internet for photos of what I want to make and also get a bit of information along with this search.  The Bugatti I find to be quite interesting looking as well as the stats on this car.  It had an inline eight cylinder, the car only weighed 1650 lbs and was only twelve feet long.  It could go from zero to sixty in six seconds and had a top speed of 125 mph!  Quite impressive for a car that was built in the 1920's.  I also found a video of one of these car driving down the road.  Sounded like a beast when it fired up.  Would be a blast to drive for sure.  So that's some of what I found with my research.  Back to my modeling effort.

I started my computer model by finding what is called a blueprint of the car. This was an easy task as there is a site online for this named  The-blueprints.com, looking in their car files section and finding what I needed. I had done this some time back so it was just matter of pulling it up off of my computer hard drive and getting it into Blender.

Here's what the computer model started out looking like in Blender.  The blueprint was separated into front, back, top, and side views. These images were lined up in relation to what view I was looking at in Blender.  This made is simpler to get things right. I left the tires in this image to show you how the blueprint helps keep everything in the computer model  correct in size and location.  Even with the blueprints it is still like trying to figure out a rather large puzzle with all the little details that are needed to make a 3D image such as this.

(Click on image for larger view)

Here is where I am at as of this morning with the Bugatti.  As you can see the model is nowhere near complete but it gives you a good idea of how much the blueprints have helped in getting a computer model that even at this point is starting to look like something worth continuing on. I started with the body of the car first as I thought that would be one of the harder parts to get right. I wanted to get this done first and the rest would seem easier.  Each component seems to have it's own type of puzzle to figure out.  Some of it is very easy and other things take some real time to figure out how to make look right. As I said earlier it can be a real puzzle to figure out some of it. 

(Click on image for a larger view)

In this view you get a better idea of the shape of the rear of the car along with all the louvers on the body.  I'm rather proud of the fact that this part (the body) has turned out as well as it has.  The plus side of making one tire is that it can be duplicated (like any part) over and over again so all wheels are exactly the same. There is a lot of work that needs to be done yet to complete this computer model. Suspension front and rear, interior, chrome work, color choices, lighting, shading and the list goes on from there.  The lighting and colors I have in the images you see here are only temporary so that I can see some color in the images and how some of the shadows on the model will look.  I'll spend at least five or six hours just setting up the lighting that I want to show off the model the way I want.  Just depends how detailed I want to make the final image. At this point the computer model already has 33+ hours work in it. I suspect that this number will double at least to get the look that I am going for.  Like almost all of my projects that I get into it's a labor of love and the Bugatti is no exception. I'll post more on this project when I get farther along with it and it is closer to completion.  In the mean time check out Blender 3D online. The software is fun to use and create with plus it's free and there are tons of tutorials to get you started using it. Have a good one and enjoy the images.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Time To Celebrate Again!

Another big day for The Tinker's Workshop with having reached the 200,000th visitor to my site today.  In a word.... Amazing!   I just want to say how thrilled I am at the response that I have received over these past three and a half years.  In this time I have had visitors to the blog from over 90 countries from around the world.  I've also talked and met with many of you who also share my passion for new projects.  It has been an exciting time for me and I wish to say thank you for your interest in what I talk about on my blog.  You inspire me to design and build even better projects to write about.  My only hope is that in return I have also inspired all of you to never stop working toward your goals and projects as well.  Thank you so very much for taking the time to visit my little corner of the world!  You've made my day with the knowledge that so many people like yourself enjoy reading about the projects I want to share.  Have a good one and as always never stop tinkering!