Nov 19, 2015 | By Alec

In the age of the smartphone, we have all suddenly convinced ourselves that we are excellent photographers and cameramen and that the results just absolutely need to be shared with the rest of the world. However, standing in the shoes of professionals for half an hour will show that there’s a lot more to the art of the camera, and requires a lot more equipment than a smartphone. While most of that equipment tends to be woefully expensive, cameraman Jaymis Loveday has now shared some fantastic designs for 3D printable follow-focus gears, so you can improve the results of a DSLR camera lens without breaking the bank.

These gears are used to focus cinematic cameras, and the difference between a pro setup and an amateur one is huge. Loveday recently experienced this himself. ‘I've been working in various nerdy aspects of film/video/live visuals production for a decade,’ he explains. But since working on more solo projects, he started to miss the cool equipment and began looking for affordable alternatives. ‘Working with digital cinema and motion-control has given me an appreciation for Cine Lenses With Gearing On Them. Working in a reality where things cost money keeps me appreciating Stills Lenses With No Gearing But With Less Numbers On The Price Tag. Adding gears to stills lenses has traditionally required relatively expensive/invasive modifications, or compromised solutions involving bolts, cable ties, or other fiddly things,’ he says.

And that’s where 3D printing comes in. Unwilling to permanently modify his DSLR lens, Loveday began studying OpenSCAD software to learn how to generate arbitrarily sized gears for his lens arsenal, each time changing the diameter of the gears by 0.5 mm until he got the perfect fit. As he explains, that design process sounds easier than it actually was. ‘My process was time consuming though, with multiple steps in multiple programs required for each size. Not conducive to creating hundreds of models that weren’t directly useful to me,’ he says on his website. ‘Eventually though, the right confluence of technologies seeped into my brain, and I taught myself enough OpenSCAD  to build off an existing script to create gears designed specifically for follow focus systems.’ When combined with commercially available equipment, these can definitely help to improve your focus results.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Loveday decided to be as kind the open source community as it was to him. ‘All the while thinking, “if someone went through this process for a wide range of diameters and shared the designs, everyone’s lenses will get better, forever!”, he says, and he has therefore shared all of his designs on Thingiverse here. If you’re an ambitious cameraman, this is one 3D printing project you can’t afford to miss – especially as it also includes the OpenSCAD script necessary to generate your own gears.

And the amount of available gears are truly amazing: every possible gear in sizes from 50 to 100 mm, with 0.5 mm steps in between. To find the one right for you, measure the diameter of the focus ring on your lens and get the gear right for you. Just be warned that shrinking can mess up your calculations a bit (ABS can shrink by up to 5%) so you might have to mess around a little with the files before you get the one you need. Loveday himself 3D printed in ABS, with a resolution of 0.2 mm and an infill of 20 percent.

After 3D printing, you will need to do a bit of sanding and filing to get it to fit perfectly. ‘I generally remove the squashed bottom layer, which adds a little lip that prevents a correctly sized gear from sliding all the way on to my focus ring. Scraping with the blade of a pair of scissors is generally enough to get rid of this,’ the designer says. ‘If it's the right size you'll require some patience to gradually work the gear on to your focus ring. Brute force shouldn't be necessary though. If you think you might need a mallet, try going up 0.5mm in diameter.’

While that means you need a bit of patience, if you follow his extensive advice on Thingiverse you should do just fine. Loveday himself is very confident that people will get a lot out of these fantastic gears. ‘I've used gears just like these for over a year. They work beautifully, and my ABS ones are yet to show any significant wear. They also look much more professional than having gears zip-tied or bolted to your lenses,’ he says.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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