Time-lapse Camera Dolly

[Brian Grabski] was asked by a friend to design and build a dolly that would move a camera during a time-lapse sequence. Above you can see the product of his toils, and the videos after the break show off the parts that went into the design and showcase effectiveness of the build.

The dolly is designed to ride on a pair of tubular rails. These can be bent to match any desired path and the dolly will have no problem following it thanks to two features. First, the triad of skateboard wheels on each of the three corners are mounted on a swivel bearing that allows them to rotate without binding. The other piece of the puzzle is a set of drawer slides that let the third support move perpendicular to the other two sets of rollers. A motor drives a geared wheel to move the dolly along the track with speed adjustments courtesy of the motor controller. There’s also a failsafe that will shut the system down when it runs out of track, protecting that fancy piece of hardware taking the pictures.

We’ve seen timelapse equipment that moves the camera in the past, but those hacks usually involve rotating the camera along and axis. This track-based setup is a well executed tool useful at all levels of photography. We can’t wait to see the arch-based dolly that is teased at the end of the demo video.

Component walk through of the dolly:


Short film featuring shots taken with the dolly:


[Thanks Tyler]

21 thoughts on “Time-lapse Camera Dolly

  1. i have used modified garage door openers before for str8 tracks but i never found a solution for circular tracks before
    smart! … but bending all that tubing so there perfectly parallel must be a pain even for a machine

  2. Nice project but the camerawork combined with the music in that first video makes me slightly seasick after a while.

    @Bill I think he’s just messing with your mind, but even if it had hard core porn for .5 secs I can’t imagine a workplace where they’d notice and made an issue.

  3. This may sound kind of dumb, but that is a seriously awesome paint job. I thought it was anodized aluminium until I saw it was made out of wood. Secondly, this combined with a greenscreen could make for some really crazy effects. Even just over exposing the pictures could make for a pretty cool matrix type scene.

  4. @BiOzZ But that’s one of the beauties of his creation, the rails don’t ‘have’ to be ‘exactly’ parallel. You will note the slide, that sticks out the other side has a rail similar to (or the same as) some filing cabinets.

  5. 2nd video IS safe for work if you dont work in a country ran by prudes and Puritans afraid of the human body.

    It’s fricking art people, please pull the stick out of your rear ends.

  6. @ buttercross
    Thanks for noticing the paint job!

    @ RBRat3
    This version needs to run on somewhat lever ground, otherwise the wheel tends to slip under the weight of the dolly. The new version has a completely redesigned drive train and wheel assembly that allows it to climb up any pitch, including arches and corkscrews. See the sample footage at the very end of the 1st video.

  7. Makes me wonder if a far greater being with a slower sense of time sees the human race as a virus that is covering the world. Some religious text once said go forth and multiply… just like viruses, what lies in wait for the human race in the future?

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.