MIDI CAMERA CONTROL
ESPN-style coverage with a video crew
of one or two. By Josh Cardenas
I had the chance to run visuals for a unique DJ act
called The Hard Sell, a collaboration of turntablists
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. The art of spinning and
cutting records is usually not visible to dance club
audiences. Cut and Shadow wanted to let everyone
see, up close and personal, all the action on their 8
simultaneously spinning turntables playing old 45s.
I suggested I could probably make some small
robotic mounts for the cameras, each with their
own pan-and-tilt mechanism driven by hobby
servos. They’d be small, light, cheap and effective —
my favorite combo!
Photography by Neal Skacel
But they needed a way to do it unobtrusively.
Given the often cramped spaces of the venues they
perform in, they couldn’t have a crew of sweaty
dudes in black clothes wielding cameras in their
faces. Also, Cut and Shadow wanted to mix in additional visuals from DVDs, to change and match the
moods of the different tracks.
Here’s the multi-camera live setup I devised for
the show, and a lower-budget version that you can
put together without all the professional equipment.
I got involved when Ben Stokes, the show’s lead
visualist, said to me: “I like robots. I like cameras.
I love robot-cameras! You build all kinds of crazy
stuff; what can you come up with for this?”
Cameras and Servos
For cameras, we used standard CCD security
cameras with composite video output (camcorders
would have been too large and heavy). For the
mounts, I found a nice little prefab pan-and-tilt
bracket from servocity.com that worked with hobby
servomotors. A handful of these brackets and a pair
of servos for each one, and we had a bunch of quick
and easy rigs, ready to be powered up.