A Simple Dolly For Time-Lapse Photography

[Henrique] wrote in to tell us about his time-lapse photography hack. Triggering of the camera is done via CHDK, or Canon Hack Development kit. This experimental kit allows Canon Powershot cameras to run scripts as well as other neat features without permanently changing anything. User scripts for this hack and others can be found here.

Once the Camera was set up to take pictures in a predetermined amount of time, a LDR (light dependent resistor) is used to detect when a picture is actually taken. A LED on the camera flashes every time an image is stored in the camera, so this provided an easy way to sense when this happens.

Once this signal is received, a PIC 16f84 processor and the associated circuitry then causes the stepper to step once per shot. The results of this experiment are very impressive, so be sure to check out the results after the break.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/25623454 w=470&h=225]

For another interesting camera trigger hack, check out this trigger mechanism made from an air freshener!

22 thoughts on “A Simple Dolly For Time-Lapse Photography

  1. Is there a page that details the build of this project? I’m very interested in learning how this is built so I can make my own. I only see the video of the demo shot.

  2. I’d love to see the build of the track itself, servo specs, etc. I’d love to be able to make a curved one for use in my tropical forest sites! (think BBC’s Planet Earth shots of the corticeps mushrooms consuming insects – so cool.) Also, that looks like a pretty big servo! I wonder if there might be a smaller, more efficient one to use.

    Finally, thinking about taking this out into the forest, I wonder about tying a rock to a string and using that for the force to impel the camera along the track? That way, instead of a servo, perhaps you’d only need a little mechanical switch or something that would let a gear tick by a tooth or two each shot. Dunno, but just thinking about making it as low-power as possible.

  3. @luckycharms
    This step motor it’s a 15kgf.cm using 1/5 gear reduction. Yes, it’s too much torque for what he is doing but was the one that I had at the time.
    I’m concerned on the power saving too and using this motor wont help saving any. The motor drive will drop the current after 10 seconds from last step and that’s too much so I was thinking on making a motor drive with discrete components and using worm drive for reduction (I can turn off the motor and the reduction will hold the position)

  4. @biozz I found some “C” rails at Home Depot. They’re made of steel, but my friend has some made out of aluminum. It’s basically a long sheet, but bent into a square “C” shape on the short length (so you get a long “tube”, but bent into a “C” shape. But the edges are rolled, this is perfect for putting a little steel wheel in (think “Pulley Wheel”). You can make a little trolley out of that pretty easy. Either using one rail, or two. (I know, it’ll make sense when you see it)

    Plus it has all the hardware for connecting this rail together, “T” shapes, “L” shapes etc…

    Don’t know where to get the aluminum rails though.
    Check out the area in HD that contains conduit etc… You may have to look for it. But I think it comes in 10 foot sections, so look for something long, standing on end probably. That’s what I saw, but it may be laying down flat too.

  5. @microguy

    I agree, at least as far as the demo video embedded in the post is concerned. With candles as the subject, you might as well pan it after the time-lapse is taken…

  6. I’m with Microguy and loans on this one (even after reading the wikipedia article, yes). I guess “impressive” is a subjective notion after all.

    Though I have to admit, a circular track around a blooming flower in time lapse might provide a rather interesting anti-bullet-time (granted, you could just turn the flowerpot, but if there is a non-neutral background, it would make a difference)…

  7. Good luck getting a Canon camera that can use the CHDK firmware. By the time CHDK becomes useful on a particular Canon model, Canon removes it from the market (intentionally?)

    I challenge all HaD hackers to get on the band-wagon for completing the CHDK hack for the amazing Canon SX30is super-zoom camera. Yes you can still buy the SX30is, and CHDK for this camera is still in beta, but close.

    The SX30is is at the sweet-spot in super-zoom lens cameras. Much more affordable than any level of DSLR as you don’t get trapped into having to buy a bunch of costly lenses (marketing trap). CHDK gives you DSLR control (and more) on the SX30is camera.

    By design, CHDK does NOT modify the native firmware on the camera. It “intercepts” the bootloader and loads new options from the memory card. You are typically safe running CHDK on your memory card.

    No, I’m not affiliated with Canon in any way…

    Regards, David

  8. @Drone: it would be stupid if Canon removed from the market their cameras just because of CHDK.
    I bought a Canon A480 just because of CHDK. And if in the future I need another camera, it’ll probably be a Canon if CHDK is still around.

    Anyway, I’ll never buy a sony camera (because of Lik-Sang close down, virus problems on audio CDs and all the things sony have against the hacking comunity).

  9. @Drone

    calling SLR lenses a marketing trap is a new one. Especially considering the camera you write about costs nearly as much as an entry level DSLR kit, but locking you into optics. I’m not a fan of the ‘super-zoom’ point and shoots. They’re too big to be convenient to carry, and too slow to compete with an slr.

  10. @loans,

    I agree, when you need a 1200mm lens, you need 1200mm lens and no amount of digital zooming will help you.

    Although the Canon SX30is $400, a nikon d3100 is $650 with an 18-55mm lens f3.5 lens.

    Also, It would seem that the canon does not have an adapter ring, so no filters or other attachments. There is also no ability to store images in RAW only JPEG.

    Overall the canon seems to be a high zoom, point and shoot, and not a replacement for an SLR film camera.

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