Conveyor Revealed!

Last week I gave a sneak peek photo of something we built for a TV commercial we were filming. Here’s a full photo of it during set-up.

Conveyor Table

The table is about 20 feet wide, and consists of 18 threaded rods, 36 skate wheels (with 72 bearings), 144 nuts, and a lot of two by fours and plywood.

We started concepting the table at the end of December, and I spent a little time doing some research and a bit of design work. I also whipped up a quick 3D model to explain how it would work to others.

Conveyor Table

The 3D modeling was new to me, as I usually just explain things with bad sketches, but I figured this was a good time to work on my 3D skills, so I took advantage of it.

I also built a small version hacked together with scrap wood to test things out. It worked well enough that I used it to brainstorm improvements with a few of our helpers for the final build.

When crunch-time came, we had less than a week to do the construction on it, and I ended up not doing any of the actual building on it, but our “helpers” (who are much better with tools than I am) ended up completing it a full day before our dry run.

Conveyor Table

Here’s the table on the set. One of the requirements was that the movement be quiet enough that it wouldn’t be picked up while recording audio. The skate bearings were nearly silent. We got a few squeaks during shooting, but nothing a little WD-40 couldn’t take care of.

We originally thought about motorizing it and having a speed controller, since it needed to move at various speeds during the filming. We decided that being human-powered was the easier path, and that worked fine once we got used to the moves, which had to match up with what the actors were doing and saying.

Conveyor Table

This is what you’ll see in the final commercial. Even though the table is 20 feet wide, you’ll only see about 7 feet of it at a time. The two actors stay in place as things slide past them.

This project was a great challenge, and it’s always fun to go from R&D to a final working piece in just a few weeks, especially something as large as this was. I’d also like to give a big thanks to the team who worked on this, especially Rob and Steve who did the table construction…. Great job guys!

January 24, 2012 · Posted by in misc, video  


One Response to “Conveyor Revealed!”

  1. April on January 24th, 2012 2:29 pm

    Great job, Pete! This project was truly impressive. Can’t wait to see the end result of the shoot!