Modern control interface for an old TV studio camera head.
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Motion Control interface for Telemetrics PT-LP pan/tilt head

A modern interface for old hardware.

This program is designed to repurpose a robust servo-driven camera head which no longer had a controller unit. Originally the head was designed to move large TV cameras around in a quiet studio environment. Now it can run basic A-B moco for video and timelapse photography.

Using the serial protocol provided in the user manual, I was to make this interface for entering a device address, connecting to a head, performing basic velocity calibration, driving the head around with a joystick-like interface through GUI sliders or keyboard shortcuts, programing basic A-B movements, and stopping the head.

I found one of these camera heads at a surplus store for cheap, and wanted to see if it was still operational despite not having a controller. Often it's hard to find documentation on old equipment like this, so I was surprised to find that the manual had both the pinout for the XLR power cable so I could make a new one, and for the serial protocol. I used an FTDI USB->Serial cable so I could drive the head with a modern laptop.

Keyboard shortcuts:

-Left/Right arrows - toggle pan speed (MAX LEFT, OFF, MAX RIGHT)

-Up/Down arrows - toggle tilt speed (MAX DOWN, OFF, MAX UP)

-S - stop movement

Future development / current issues

  • Deal with rollover if encoders are misaligned (after value 4080, they roll back to 0)
  • Interpolated velocity for ramping up/down at the end of a move
  • Positional accuracy improvements. Moves don't always land at the exact position requested. This is because of hardware limitations of the head as-is, and the velocity-estimation strategy I used (a basic mapping). The current approach estimates the velocity needed, then runs the head for the requested duration.
  • Provide calibration utility to get position in more useful units like degrees
  • Ability to set custom home position
  • Software position limits

Made with Unity by Shane Reetz, 2017