customising Kuka as a camera robot

  • On a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy. How easy/difficult is it to write custom software to refine a Kuka's movements to enable and control smooth and precise movement?

    We are buying a Kuka for filming with but are looking into the possibility of having some bespoke software to control the arm, based on commands and control from a filmmaking standpoint. Our requirements would be to be able to minutely control the movement between points to build complex moves with smooth paths. At present we are trying to get a handle on how possible this might be and at what kind of cost. We're UK based.

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  • It really depends on the complexity of your path, and just how you want to control it. Just how complex a motion are you planning? Do you intend to put the robot on one (or more) external axes to give it a larger range? A mobile platform? Will it be flying a pre-programmed path, or optically tracking and following a target? Will you be synchronizing the robot's motions to external events (like the original ILM "flying camera" rig for filming the Death Star trench run, and timing the squibs to the camera motion)?

    On the exotic end, using RSI and a MatLab model with a custom control algorithm could allow you incredibly fine control... but how many man-years do you want to spend developing that?

    On the low end, programming your entire path in Spline motion by hand would require someone with decent robot skills, but nothing extra in hardware or software.

    There are other options that fall on the spectrum between those two, but picking them depends a lot on your requirements, and just where your motion/position commands are being sourced from.

    Bot&Dolly are among the most advanced users of this kind of system that I'm aware of, but I think a lot of their tech is developed in-house.

    Nigel Stanford's "Automatica" video uses a lot of CGI for the backgrounds, but the robot motions are real -- there's a behind-the-scenes video of him working on them in his garage.

    Regardless of the programming method, you're still constrained by the mechanics of the robot -- the best software in the world won't help your motion smoothness if you order the robot to pass through, or too close to, a singularity.

    You might want to inquire with KUKA about their EntertainTech option package. I know it's used on certain theme-park rides, like the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios, to keep robot motion synchronized with the video displays (KUKA probably can't confirm or deny that, due to NDAs, but if you watch this video at (sorry, the video embedding appears to be broken), those are definitely KUKAbots carrying the passengers).

    Edited once, last by SkyeFire ().

  • I’ve been using our robot for the same reason as you, making cinema magic with motion control. I, too was about to pull the trigger and create custom software but looking at logistics, making software is very expensive. But having bought a kuka, make sure to get the tech packages EntertainTech and RSI bundled to save some money when you purchase your bot. Also there are very few softwares out there already. One of them is being done by Autodesk Labs called Mimic ( We use both the teaching pendant as well as Maya/Mimic to maximize our workflow.

  • Thank you for your help. I think Mimic from Autodesk looks like the kind of thing we might be looking for, i'm going to look into that next.

    We've worked with Motion control on film projects a lot over the last few years but are looking for a something of our own that is less costly, a bit simpler but more versatile than the supplied Kuka software.

  • hi guys, this is my web site: I'm already done a software to control robot by Joystick, save point and send it back to the robot. As you can see on web site video I already use in movie business. I have a robot 210kg for people and object, and one robot of 15kg payload for camera. I solved also the wrist problem over pan and tilt of camera respect the world or the tool. Don't esitate to contact me. I have more video but I can't post it yet because the movie still in production.

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