Maia Media | How to make your own lightweight GoPro DIY Cable Cam
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GoPro DIY cable cam

How to make your own lightweight GoPro DIY Cable Cam

  |   Adventure, Film Making   |   62 Comments

We’ve experimented with DIY Cable Cams a little over the last 12 months. Our first attempt was back in March 2011 when we used our Panasonic GH1 and 10mm semi static rope as our ‘cable’. It worked a treat.  In the following few months we received quite a few comments about a potential lighter weight model that would be ideal for filming on-the-go. In response we’ve put together a new model for use with a GoPro HERO camera (but you could use any other action camera or light weight model).
 

How to build your own

Maia Media DIY GoPro Cable Cam

Maia Media DIY GoPro Cable Cam

 

The first think to change was the cable. Out went the climbing rope and I went looking for some fishing line I’d seen in another post about cable cam’s. Not being into fishing I barely knew what I was looking for and before too long I got bored and decided to use something I was more familiar with. Climbing accessory cord. A 100m length of 3mm cord weigh’s less than 1kg.

 
I set my sights on the dolly/base next. Again using a version I had seen in a post I wondered around B&Q and came back with some cheap washing line pulleys and some length of aluminum 1000mm x 35mm x 3mm. Two sections of this about 250mm make up the base. I cut two to give it some extra rigidity. The bottom one was cut longer so I could put 90 degree bends in the end thus creating a flange to screw the pulleys to using bolts and butterfly nuts. The top one added extra rigidity.
 
We then hunted down some ram joints. These are really useful holder/adapters for almost anything. We ordered a rotating ram joint with a tripod mount and a screw mounted ball joint. The screw mounted ball joint was attached to the middle of the aluminum plate on the underside with bolts and butterfly nuts. To finish it off we got hold of a GoPro tripod mount. Together these sections make up the camera mount.
 
The Ram products we purchased are:

 
The first test was stupendously disappointing. The key failure was the cheap pulleys didn’t work unless it was almost falling vertically. I then tried climbing pulleys. These again were an improvement but still far from perfect. There was far too much friction.
 
This was all getting very frustrating. Each time we thought we’d cracked the problem the next generation turned out to be little better. I went back to the drawing board and got out the old cable cam dolley. I sat spinning the incredibly smooth rollerblade wheels thinking about the problem and had something of a eureka moment.
 

DIY Cable Cam Evolution

DIY Cable Cam Evolution

 
A quick search on google and I had ordered what I thought would solve the problem. Back to B&Q for some more aluminum plate and nuts/bolts and I was in business. I waited for the postman to arrive.
 
A few days later and the package arrived. Opening it I wasn’t disappointed. Inside were the 50mm skateboard wheel and bearings I had ordered. I also ordered the cheapest bearings they had In stock.  This will give you 4 wheels  with bearings.  I spent £15 on ours. My plan was to grind a groove in the skate board wheels to hold the 3mm cable and shape a u bracket to hold the wheels attached to the horizontal section of the dolly.   To make the groove in the wheel I would use a heated thin metal rod.  I used an old screw driver.  Heat the screwdriver and press it gently into the wheel as you rotate it.  This will give you a smooth even groove for the ‘cable’ to sit in.
 
I attached the wheels to a bolt and held it on place with two nuts and popped the lot in a drill. Spinning the wheel I then presented a knife to the wheel and slowly carved a groove out of the wheel. Once grooved I then shaped the U brackets to roughly the right shape and drilled the appropriate holes. Bolted the wheels to the brackets and the bracket to the plate. The whole cable cam version 2.0 was born. The wheels ran super smooth. It was lightweight and compact but strong enough to take a beating. I think we’d cracked it.
 
Maia Media DIY GoPro Cable Cam

Maia Media DIY GoPro Cable Cam

 

Video Test Day.

We took the  Cable Cam to the Peak District to test it’s performance whilst riding our bikes on a few local trails.  Watch the video and let us what you think. 
 
Don’t forget you can keep up to date with Maia Media on Facebook and Twitter 

 

62 Comments
  • Gareth Davison | Mar 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Wanna sell me one? :-)

    • Hannah | Mar 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Ooooh I’m tempted Gareth but a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into our one and only model!

  • Gareth Davison | Mar 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Well thanks for nothing! :-) Thanks anyways for posting this, I wouldn’t have a clue were to start without this info and have already ordered mw a my first item and gonna experiment with some wheels and let you know. Loving the work guys.

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  • joshua | Mar 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    wouldn’t the footage but upside down?

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Yeah the footage should be upside down but GoPro have an upside down setting built into the camera so if you turn that on your footage will be the right way up when editing. Or you could rotate the footage in postproduction anyway.

  • Aaron Callaghan | Mar 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Hi. Love this cable cam design! Which GoPro kit (Outdoor, Surf or Motorsport) are the attachments you used from? Where did you buy your GoPro? I has looking at them on the GoPro site but I really don’t want to have to pay loads of import VAT/tax when its coming into the UK :-/

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Aaron, I had the Surf edition but other than the camera and case I didn’t use any of the mounts that came with the kit so any kit would do. You may have to buy an additional GoPro tripod mount (which comes in very handy anyway) – They are about £6 – £15 and can be bought on Amazon. Lots of UK websites sell the GoPro.

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  • Rob nickels | Mar 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Hi, i love your idea and video. However, im finding it hard to find the 3.1″ ball plate thing. Could you add a link to where your bought them from? Cheers!

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Hi Rob. They’re called Ram joints and I’ve just added hyperlinks to the exact products within my post. Good luck and share your footage if you make one.

  • Henrik | Mar 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    My son showed me this and i have a mission now.. :-).. maybe you could make a video where you assemble the whole thing.. ?.. im a bit in doubt about the skateboard wheels… do you grind a “ditch” in them to get them running on the core or ?..
    wkr
    Henrik

  • Henrik | Mar 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    sorry.. stupid me… just found out!!!.. :-)

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Hi Henrik. Yes we added a groove. It took a little while but we attached the wheel to a drill bit and then one of us pressed the drill so it rotated and the other pushes a knife (or tool of your choice) onto the wheel to scratch out the groove. Here’s an image. http://maiamedia.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/groove-creation.jpg

  • Matthew Whittington | Mar 28, 2012 at 5:33 am

    You talked about figuring out a way to control the speed or adding brakes, but keep it small and portable. Have you ever thought about mounting a remote control car upside down on it. The car would be small portable and inexpensive. Just line up the drive tires against the rope and this will allow you to control the speed, reverse and even have the starting point at a lower elevation than the finishing, for a climbing effect. Just a though. I like the idea of the camera angles and footage this can provide.

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

      I like you’re thinking. Working on a motorised version now. It would also be good to not have to have someone standing at one end ready to release the camera so everyone could be in the film.

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  • Bily | Mar 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Hello Maia Media really enjoyed your video “How to make your own DIY Cable Cam GoPro” on Youtube.
    I tried but could not get here in Brazil, found the Internet a few pieces you use.
    Please could you send me the linke sites in the USA where I can buy the following parts that you describe in your “I’m Blogging”

    3. 1 “ball & plate with 1/4″ male threaded post
    4. Double socket arm twist
    5. Dimond based plate & 1 “ball

    Thanks and a hug
    Bily

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Bily – Nice to hear from you all the way in Brazil! There is actually an America Ram mount website which will sell all the same components and I imagine easier for you to get in Brazil. The website is http://www.ram-mount.com/
      Hope that helps and good luck. Would be great to see your footage if you make one!

  • Chris | Mar 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Great build, I’ll have to make 1 (I already have the ram mount)

    Just wondering, as you had 4 wheels and bearings, why not mount them in pairs next to each other so that you don’t need to cut a groove in the wheel, just use the gap between the wheels – may need a larger diameter rope though I guess…

    • Hannah | Mar 28, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      Yeah we had the same idea initially when we built our first bigger version – http://maiamedia.co.uk/2011/02/diy-cable-cam-for-mountain-biking/ – I think two wheels are ok when the ropes a bigger diameter but we wanted to make something much more light weight. If you give it a try let us know how you get on.

  • Alex | May 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Hey there. I also live in the UK, but always have difficulty finding cheap skateboard wheels and bearings, because searches online usually only result in “premium” skateboard products – the first hit for “cheap skateboard wheels” was £50!

    Would you mind sharing the link where you found the wheels + bearings? Thanks.

  • Will Slater | May 11, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Alex – how’re these for you?

    http://www.rollersnakes.co.uk/product/180004-voltage-psycho-wheels.html

    You’ll need bearings too, from memory 608RS which are about 4 quid from 10 from eBay. You may find cheaper wheels on eBay too, this was only a cursory look.

    I really need to get off my behind and make one of these…

  • colter | May 16, 2012 at 12:21 am

    in the pictures it looks like the wheels are set on opposite sides of their housings is that just an optical illusion?

    • Hannah | May 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      YEah, must be. They are as near to symmetrical as we could get.

  • David | May 31, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Maybe you could try out Nylon Pulley Wheels. Then you wouldn’t have to cut/grind out the center and they come with bearings!

    http://www.savacable.com/pages/prod_05_02.html

    • Hannah | May 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Thanks for posting! They look like a really good option and have the potential to save a lot of work. I’d like to give them a try.

  • Britt | Jul 8, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Nice litle device and it makes really great footage. I couldn’t quite figiure out how the cable stayed out of the frame. Great work!

  • Florian Horsch | Jul 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    VERY VERY NICE IDEA! I built a Tricopter to do the same without a cable – but I really like the look of a pure linear movement.

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  • Brant (The Limb Reaper) | Oct 14, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Gaaa, I made a cable cam over a year ago now for filming MTB races. It has a pan & tilt trolley with clothes line pulleys (which work quite well). All I’ve been waiting for is someone to donate the vinyl coated cable to me for free; 200 feet of any diameter runs into the big $$$ (bucks). Why coated cable? The smooth coating doesn’t seem to transfer vibration via the pulleys. So now after watching your videos I may have to go to the skate wheel idea since climbing line is something I do have. I do have one suggestion for you guys. Why not take the wheels to a machinist to have the groove cut in on a lathe? In stead of melting it in. Next up – version III :-))

    • Hannah | Oct 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for your comment Brant. Yes, we like your idea about getting the groove cut on a lathe. I’m sure that would help cut out vibration. Next time…

      Good luck putting your own together!

  • Anton | Oct 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you for the post, very enlightening :)
    Can you share your experience with setting up the cord/rope and achieving tight tension? Do you use cord clamps or any tools? or just simple knot tying?
    Thanks!
    Anton

    • Hannah | Oct 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Hi Anton, We just stretched the rope by hand and tied a ‘truckers hitch’ at one end. It’s fairly simple. We found if you pulled the rope too tight there would be more vibration in the camera/footage so better to allow a little flex in the rope if possible. It all depends on your angles. We usually have to make a few adjustments before we end up getting it just right. Good luck!

  • Andrew | Oct 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Some real awesome ideas!

    I found this on the RAM website:
    http://www.ram-mount.co.uk/1-ball-camera-base-with-1420-threaded-stud-p-1270-c-238_286.html
    Was there any reason you didn’t use this?

    Thanks,
    Andrew

    • Hannah | Oct 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks Andrew! Glad our ideas are inspiring you. To be honest I don’t think we saw that on the RAM website. I imagine you could use that instead of part 3. But it’s also quite nice to have the flat RAM mount connect with the flat GoPro tripod mount. Makes it feel quite sturdy. Also if you make the whole thing too light weight I find it bounces around a bit more so the footage becomes shaky. Could be worth a try though…

  • Stephen | Nov 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Just a note for people trying to do this:

    Longboard wheels!! Longboard wheels are like Skateboard wheels, only BIGGER and SOFTER. They’re made for a smooth and stable ride, where as Skateboard wheels are meant to be hard and rough.

    You can pick up cheap sets on eBay, sometimes in pairs!
    Here’s a search I did: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_from=R40&_nkw=longboard%20wheels&rt=nc&_pppn=r1&_mPrRngCbx=1&_udlo=5&_udhi=20

    • Hannah | Nov 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks Stephen – Good tip.

  • Shaun | Dec 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Hi,

    I wanted to say thank you for this. I stole your idea and kind of made my own, https://1212project.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/project-1-homemade-cable-cam-dolly/

    • Hannah | Dec 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Great Shaun! Glad we’ve inspired you and it looks like you made quite a few of your own modifications. Let us know how you get on with the filming. I’m liking your 12/12 idea too ; )

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  • Jason | Mar 25, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Why not just use one of the sticky mounts that you would use for say a helmet mount? Just stick it on the bottom and you have basically the same thing. Or would it not be sticky enough?

    • Hannah | Mar 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      Yeah, I’m not sure it would be sticky enough but never tried. Also this method gives you full camera angle control so you can rotate it any way you like.

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  • Michael | Apr 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Hi, looks awesome! Stabilization wise is it quite stable in general or should counter weights be added to improve stabilization?

    • Hannah | Apr 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      It’s pretty stable although counter weights may help…its worth experimenting. Make sure you don’t get too carried away making it too small as the closer the wheels get the more bumpy it becomes. To get the smoothness right you’ll also need to experiment with steepness/angle of the line and tension of the line. It doesn’t always work perfect first time so just keep tweaking the set up until you get it right.

  • Fraser Menzies | May 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Hi there,
    I’ve started making my own cable cam based on this design, and I’m wondering if you use anything as a buffer at the end of the rope to gradually slow the camera down? I can imagine there would be a lot of force going through it without anything to slow it down.

    Cheers
    Fraser

    • Hannah | May 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Fraser – I’ve seen people suggest all sorts of fancy options to this job but we simply laid a coat/jacket over the end of the line a couple of metres from the final tree and the cable cam came to a stop. Not sophisticated but does the job using something you’re likely to have on the trail with you anyway. Good luck!

  • Fraser Menzies | May 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for getting back to me about this! I finished my cable cam today and managed to get a few test shots. Video here showing the design and results if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWgHgUEUbXs&feature=youtu.be

    Cheers
    Fraser

    • Hannah | May 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Nice test! They always seem to be noisy but I imagine you would cut the sound completely in a final edit. Another thing to look out for is that you let it go as smooth/steadily as possible to prevent swing. It looked really good though. Nice work.

  • GoPro Forum Dude | May 23, 2013 at 4:10 am

    This is awesome. Going to try and rig something up on my zipline!

    Thanks

  • Matt Hardy | Oct 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    HOw do you setup the rigging on each end of the cable?

  • Marco | Nov 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Hi,
    can you post a pic of the end of cable? Where there are sling and carabiner.
    Thank you so much

    Marco

  • Anthony | Jan 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Hello Hannah. Really nice ! i just started to disassemble my old skateboard :D
    I’m interested too to get a picture on how the cable is attached to trees.

    Anthony.

    • Hannah | Jan 4, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Hi. Glad you like it. I’m really sorry but I just don’t have a photo of the rig attached to the trees. I’ll try and get one next time we use it. Given its a light weight rig we just used a few karibiners at each end. There wasn’t a need for anything any more substantial. If you have an old climbing sling or an extra seperate length of cord to wrap around the tree that would be useful.

  • Lukas | Jan 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Hey, that´s a really nice piece of work! But how have you heated the screwdriver?? Using fire?
    Lukas.

  • matt | Feb 1, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Used your arm mount and improved everything else! Check it out!
    Aluminum body that is foldable with custom polyurethane tires.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN3kNJXaKE0

    • Hannah | Feb 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Nice – very smooth. It’s actually very much like the first version we made which was for DSLR’s – http://maiamedia.co.uk/2011/03/how-to-make-your-own-diy-cable-cam/. Our GoPro version was designed to be small and light enough to fit in your pack. I also think yours runs a little too fast for the type of things I’m trying to capture but otherwise it does work well. Nice work.

  • Davis | Feb 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    How do you get it on and off the cable? is there a slick system to slide it on? or just thread it through when you set up the cable?

    • Hannah | Feb 13, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Nothing slick unfortunately. But you only really need to attach it the once at the start so it worked for us. But it would be a nice modification if you could.

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