Automatic Timelapses, Made Educational And Easy

Timelapse fragment from an infrared sky camera watching cloud patterns.

There are plenty of ways to create timelapse videos, but [Andy] has an efficient method for ensuring up-to-date ones exist for his infrared sky camera, and he has it running thanks to some well-documented shell scripts on a spare Raspberry Pi. The resulting timelapse video is always available from the web, and always up-to-date for the current day.

The idea is to automatically fetch images from a remote source (in his case, an infrared sky camera) and turn them into a cumulative video that is regularly updated for the day in question. The resulting video file is either served from the same machine, or sent elsewhere. All that’s needed besides a source for the stills are two shell scripts and some common Linux utilities.

Since [Andy] is mainly interested in tracking clouds his system only runs during daylight hours, but it can be easily changed. In fact, [Andy]’s two shell scripts are great project resources, not only because they are easily modified and well documented, but because he doesn’t make assumptions about how well one might know the command line. He also provides tips from experience; for example he has found that a 120 second interval makes for the best timelapses.

[Andy] runs his scripts on an Raspberry Pi 4, but any Linux system will do. For those who might prefer a more embedded approach, the ESP32-CAM can make a great time lapse camera with remarkably little effort.

IREnE Goes Around

Timelapse rigs are awesome because you can spice up your videos with more interesting panning and tilting timelapse shots. So, why not build yourself one? That’s what [td0g] decided to do, and the result is IREnE, a rather nice homemade 3DOF rig that fits onto a standard tripod. 3DOF means that it has three degrees of freedom: the camera can be rotated on the tripod, moved linearly on an extending arm away from the tripod head and rotated around its own axis. In other words: it can pan past an object while rotating the camera to keep the object centered in the frame.

IREnE stands for Inverted Radial Extension Eggtimer, a play on the dual radial nature of the device and how photographers use egg timers for this sort of thing. It’s also a sneaky tribute to a foe of Sherlock Holmes. The rig is driven by three NEMA 17 motors and an ATMega328p, all powered by a Dewalt powertool battery and his own DeWatt power adapter. the rig also has a secondary function with minor modifications as a pancake printer.

Breakfast aside, there are a few caveats to this project. While a tripod is fine for stabilizing a camera on the top of it, offsetting the weight like this makes the tripod unstable. [td0g] did add a few welded stabilizer bars that brace it to more stable, but the whole thing should be used with some caution. The camera sits on a 1-inch square aluminium extruder that [td0g] claims is robust enough to hold his Canon D7, but I am not sure I would trust it with my expensive equipment.

This is the fifth high-quality build we have seen from [td0g]: we previously covered the excellent high-speed LED flash, great telescope mount, high-speed chronograph, and wood-burning ATX power supply hack.

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3D Printed Clockwork Star Tracker

Astrophotography is one of those things you naturally assume must be pretty difficult; surely something so awesome requires years of practice and specialized equipment which costs as much as your car. You shake your fist at the sky (since you have given up on taking pictures of it), and move on with your life. Another experience you’ll miss out on.

But in reality, dramatic results don’t necessarily require sticker shock. We’ve covered cheap DIY star trackers before on Hackaday, but this design posted on Thingiverse by [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] is perhaps the easiest we’ve ever seen. It keeps things simple by using a cheap 24 hour clock movement to rotate a GoPro as the Earth spins. The result is a time-lapse where the stars appear to be stationary while the horizon rotates.

Using a 24 hour clock movement is an absolutely brilliant way to synchronize the camera with the Earth’s rotation without the hoops one usually has to jump through. Sure you could do with a microcontroller, a stepper motor, and some math. But a clock is a device that’s essentially been designed from the ground up for keeping track of the planet’s rotation, so why not use it?

If there’s a downside to the clock movement, it’s the fact that it doesn’t have much torque. It was intended to move an hour hand, not your camera, so it doesn’t take much to stall out. The GoPro (and other “action” cameras) should be light enough that it’s not a big deal; but don’t expect to mount your DSLR up to one. Even in the video after the break, it looks like the clock may skip a few steps on the way down as the weight of the camera starts pushing on the gears.

If you want something with a bit more muscle, we’ve recently covered a very slick Arduino powered “barn door” star tracker. But there’re simpler options if you’re looking to get some shots tonight.

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Easy Time-lapse Video Via Phone And Command Line

A good time-lapse video can be useful visual documentation, and since [Tommy]’s phone is the best camera he owns he created two simple shell scripts to grab time-lapse images and assemble them into a video. [Tommy]’s work is just the glue between two other things: an app that turns the phone into an IP camera with a web server on the local network, and the ability to grab a still image from that server on demand.

The app he uses for his iPhone normally serves video but has an undocumented feature that allows single frames to be downloaded by adding ‘/photo’ to the end of the URL, but the ability to get a still image is a common feature on IP camera apps for smartphones. His capture script (GitHub repository here) should therefore need only minor changes to work with just about any IP camera app.

Perching a phone over a workspace and using it to create a time-lapse with a couple of shell scripts is a great example of combining simple tools to get better functionality. It could be a good way to get additional use out of an older smartphone, too. Heck, even older dumbphones can still get some use out of them; Shmoocon 2017 brought us details on rolling your own 1G network.

Motorized Camera Dolly Rolls With The Changes

Over the last semester, Cornell student [Ope Oladipo] had the chance to combine two of his passions: engineering and photography. He and teammates [Sacheth Hegde] and [Jason Zhang] used their time in [Bruce Land]’s class to build a motorized camera dolly for shooting time-lapse sequences.

The camera, in this case the one from an iPhone 6, is mounted to an off-the-shelf robot chassis that tools around on a pair of DC motors. The camera mount uses a stepper motor to get just the right shot. A PIC32 on board the ‘bot takes Bluetooth commands from an iOS app that the team built. The dolly works two ways: it can be controlled manually in free mode, or it can follow a predetermined path at a set speed for a specified time in programmed mode.

Our favorite part of the build? The camera’s view is fed to a smart watch where [Ope] and his team can take still pictures using the watch-side interface. Check it out after the break, and stick around for a short time-lapse demo. We’ve featured a couple of dolly builds over the years. Here’s a more traditional dolly that rides a pair of malleable tubes.

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Four Seasons In One Photo

What an interesting way to show a year: Norwegian hacker [Erikso] created a condensed timelapse that shows a year in a single photo. He had taken a timelapse of the view from his living room window in the frozen north every day during 2010, using a camera that was locked in place taking an image every 30 minutes. Then, with the help of some hacker friends, he came up with a script that slices these images up and combines them so that each day is represented by a vertical slice. The result is a gorgeous image that gives a wonderful sense of the seasons, and how that affects the trees. You can see the leaves grow and fall, and the snow on the ground come, go and come again.

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Hacklet 86 – Time-lapse Projects

“If I could save time in a bottle…” it’s not just an old song, it’s a passion for many photography hackers. Time-lapse photography is a way to show the movement of time through still images. These images are animated into what essentially is a video recorded at a super low frame rate. We’re talking one frame per minute or slower in some cases! The camera doesn’t have to be still for all this, but any motion must be carefully controlled. This has led hackers, makers, and engineers to create a myriad of time-lapse rigs. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best time lapse projects on Hackaday.io!

rig-1We start with [Swisswilson] and the simply named Timelapse rig. To say this rig is beefy would be an understatement. All the aluminum parts, with the exception of the gears, were machined by [Swisswilson]. Two Nema-23 Nema-17 motors are controlled by Sparkfun Easy Stepper Drive boards, while an Arduino Micro serves as the controller. The electronics are all housed in a sturdy box which also serves as a remote control. A joystick allows pan and tilt to be manually controlled. The bombproof construction is definitely a help here, as [Swisswilson] is using this rig with DSLR cameras. Combined with a lens, these setups can reach a pound or two.

 

pilapseNext up is [minWi], who put their script-foo to work with raspilapse. Raspilapse automates the entire process of taking photos, assembling them into a movie, and uploading to YouTube. The hardware is a Raspberry Pi Model B, with a RasPi Camera. The Pi shoots images then uploads them to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). [minWi] used an external server to save wear and tear on the Pi’s SD storage card. At the end of the day, the VPS uses ffmpeg to assemble the images into a video, then uploads the whole thing to YouTube. We’re betting that with a few script mods, this entire process could be run on a Raspberry Pi 2. If you’re really worried about the SD card, a USB flash drive could be used.

 

SunriseSunsetRig[Andyhull] takes us down to one frame per day with Sunset and Sunrise camera controller. [Andy] wanted to get shots of the sunrise every day. Once converted to a video, these shots are great for documenting the passing of the seasons. He used a Canon point and shoot camera along with the Canon Hack Devleoper’s Kit (CHDK) for his camera. The camera has its own real-time clock, and with CHDK, it can be programmed to shoot images at sunrise. The problem is power. Leaving the camera on all the time would quickly drain the batteries. Arduino to the rescue! [Andy] programmed an Arduino Pro Mini to turn the camera on just before sunrise, then shut it back down. The standby power of a sleeping ATmega328 is much lower than the camera’s, leading to battery life measured in weeks.

 

podFinally, we have [caramellcube] who added data to their time-lapse photos with Portable Observation Device (POD). POD was conceived as a device to aid paranormal investigators. The idea was to have a device that could take images and record data at a set interval from within a locked room. Sounds like a job for a Raspberry Pi! [caramellcube] started with Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi-based touchscreen camera kit. From there they added a second board controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Nano reads just about every sensor [caramellcube] could fit, including humidity, air pressure, magnetic field strength, acceleration, light (4 bands), sound, and static charge. The Nano allows [caramellcube] to connect all those sensors with a single USB port on the Pi. We’re not sure if [caramellcube] has found any ghosts, but we’re sure our readers can think of plenty of uses for a device like this!

If you want to see more time-lapse projects, check out our new time-lapse projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!