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
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:
- Double socket arm (ours also twists in the middle but it’s not needed)
- Joint with a tripod mount
- Diamond base ball
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.
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.
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.