The RC Buggy Cam: Tech Spec

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Time to get technical 🤓 This was, for the most part, a custom build, so in this post, I'm going to cover the key technical points of the buggy cam without trying to get too geeky.

Payload Options

I've got a DJI Ronin MX which I can provide, however thanks to the cheese plate design, it can also accommodate any other gimbal, whether its a different Ronin or one of the Freefly Movi systems, giving us stabilisation on all 3 axes (pan, roll, tilt), and remote control of each of them.

The Ronin MX's payload capacity is 6lbs / 2.7kg so it can take almost any camera/lens/follow focus system that falls within that weight restriction (also must physically fit within the size constraints of the Ronin's Cage).

Now, although traditional cameras are what this buggy has primarily been designed for, we can also accommodate 360 cameras, lights, microphones etc.

Vibration Dampening

The mounting plate that the payload is attached to is mounted on a steel wire rope, anti-vibration system.

Not only does this help isolate the vibrations but it also acts as a buffer for any shocks the gimbal may receive when going over bumpy surfaces. This reduces the strain on the gimbals motors and bearings, therefore lengthening the life of the gimbal.

Power and Runtime

The buggy is electric driven and powered by two batteries in series, allowing it to run off either 6s or 8s (22.2V or 29.6V) LiPo batteries. This will largely be dependant on how fast the buggy needs to go to get the shot.

Average run time is around 40 minutes per battery pair, then it just takes 1 minute to switch out for a new set.

HD Video Downlink

To get a live video feed from the camera on the buggy, I use the Amimon Connex Mini. This enables us to send an HD, zero latency feed from the camera (either via HMDI or SDI) wirelessly, on a 5.8GHz frequency to our Atomos monitor. This allows us to view the video in real-time up to 500 meters away (this is largely dependant on the environment).

FPV Camera

Similar to the video downlink I use to get the camera feed, I use a small onboard camera mounted on the front of the buggy (known as a First Person View camera) to give the driver a wireless real-time video feed of what is directly in front of the buggy at all times, regardless of the direction the camera is looking.

2 - 3 Person Operation

Just like with my drone setups, it's most often a 2 person op. One person to drive the buggy and another person to control the camera and gimbal. Should you want to pull focus during shots, this would require a third person.


Control Link

Buggy Controller

The buggy is controlled via a traditional style RC car transmitter, emitting a 2.4GHz frequency to the receiver onboard the buggy.

Gimbal Controller

To extend the range of the DJI Ronin MX beyond its standard operating range via its stock controller (200m), I have replaced it with a Futaba 2.4GHz system which gives us way more range than we could ever need but at least it gives peace of mind.

Maximum Operating Range

With our stock setup, the weakest link is the Connex Mini video downlink which although is rated to 500 meters, in real-world testing I've found that it's more like 300 meters.

If a shot requires a distances greater than that to be covered we can work around it by either using a different video downlink system or by keeping the buggy cam driver in close proximity to it (this could be by walking with it or following in a chase vehicle).

Video downlink aside, I haven't been able to push it to its breaking point but I'd estimate it would exceed the 1 mile mark (with line of sight).


Size and Weight

The buggy cam is based on the HPI Baja (as is the Freefly Tero) which is 1/5 scale, giving it a length of 81cm and a width of 58cm. With the Ronin MX on top, the max height comes to 51cm.

Speed

The buggy can travel at up to 30mph in a straight line however you have to take it slightly easier when turning corners to prevent it from rolling! We have got extended wheel hubs on the rear of the vehicle to reduce the risk of that happening though.

We also have a wheelie bar for those times when we need to punch that accelerator.

Setup Time

It varies on the camera/lens/follow focus configuration but we aim to have the car built and ready to run in about 15 minutes.

How Does It Compare to the Freefly Tero?

In short, it's the same thing but just with an aluminium chassis and components instead of plastic which makes it more robust and capable of carrying heavier payloads.


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If you'd like to hire this rig or if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to help.

Hope Valley, Peak District, Derbyshire, UK | phil@philharris.co | +44 77910 46828

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