Time-lapse Dolly Uses Some Stock Parts And A Bit Of Machining Work


[Ben] just finished building this time-lapse dolly and decided to share his experience. We think he struck just the right balance of diy and commercially available materials to create a rig that is stable yet relatively inexpensive.

The project was inspired by Project Chronos. It gives a lot of details about the drive electronics and code used, but there are some gaps in the instructions for building the track itself. [Ben] forged ahead, purchasing linear bearings and a double-guide rail from IGUS. He didn’t mention the price on that item but we found 1000mm of the stuff (about 40 inches) for under $75 so it’s not outrageous. The part he couldn’t get for a reasonable price was precision thread bar. He ended going with regular threaded rod and a couple of nuts combined with a spring mechanism to keep the sled steady. That seems to work just fine. You can see the rod bouncing a bit in the clip after the break but it doesn’t harm the stability of the captured images.

The end stops including the one to which the stepper motor is mounted are his own work. It sounds like they required a bit more fabrication work than he was planning on but we figure if you don’t challenge your skill set you never get any better.


7 thoughts on “Time-lapse Dolly Uses Some Stock Parts And A Bit Of Machining Work

  1. I never really appreciated the use of dollys in filming until I saw the set up of a shoot once and then saw the footage. It’s funny how you don’t notice these things, even though they are relatively ubiquitous. Nice Dolly.

  2. I agree with Mental2K. I never really spent any time at all thinking about dolly systems until I wanted to do a shot that needed one (also time lapse). Commercial solutions are prohibitively expensive.

  3. Hey Folks, There are a pair of instructional videos on how to build the rail aspect, but i admit they are long and in dire need of a reworking. Its nice to receive some constructive criticism, next time i put together a rail i will work on a build document rather than a video.

  4. I’ve also just finished building a Project Chronos project. Mine uses 8″ of 80/20 aluminum extrusion and a belt. I’m actually running the first full test as we speak. I have to say that Chris has gone to extreme lengths to make this system the most thought-out and detailed piece of time-lapse equipment. His cohort, Kyle, is/was hugely helpful in designing and fabricating custom parts for my off-the-beaten-path approach. I can’t say enough about Project Chronos. I’ve spent 7 months building this monster and it’s been a blast.

    1. Most of the builds i have seen do use an actual lead-screw, but i know of one other at least that does just use an inexpensive threaded bar with spring sandwiched between a pair of nuts as a make-shift anti backlash nut.

      I have not seen a lot of the footage from that system but what footage i did see it looked pretty smooth, so it seems an inexpensive threaded rod can serve just fine.

      I intentionally used as many high quality parts on the system as I could, the desired result was to have a recipe for a true high end timelapse system. (this is not to be confused with a video dolly) Realistically speaking this can be made for about $600-700. However the movement accuracy and control (for time lapse not video) easily beats systems that cost 4-5 times that cost, and it holds the highest level of movement accuracy of any time lapse system built, with .000015625 inch resolution, yes, that is 4 zeros. You can even double that resolution with a 400 step motor. :)

      I would assume by replacing the lead-screw with a threaded you should not see any ill effects when it comes to regular non-macro time lapse, however i would be curious if shooting a ramped movement of 1 cm with 450 frames if the speed ramping is as smooth as it is with the lead-screw.

      If anybody has any questions on this system, i am always more than happy to help out in any way I can, and i am always willing to give advice, answer questions, and assist with any modifications.

      I can be reached at ProjectChronosHelp@gmail.com


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