Arduino based DIY time-lapse dolly / intervalometer

This post was originally published in my old blog 29.07.2011. This is a little modified version of the text. Please note that this project is pretty old and you can probably buy better ready made time-lapse dollies now. However, the concept, ideas and code should still work if you want go the DIY way.

The purpose of this post is to provide some basic information about my intervalometer / time-lapse dolly project.

Earlier this year I stumbled upon Arduino and it caught my attention immediately. It’s easy and pretty versatile open source electronics prototyping platform. I bought it and started to do with it some simple LED flashing and other stuff like that, but that’s just wasting of all the potential Arduino has. I decided to do something more complex and bigger. The obvious choice for me was to make something related to photography so after a while I decided to go for intervalometer and motorized time-lapse dolly.

I was and I am still pretty new to electronics. There might be some inconsistencies and stuff which makes no sense so please bear with me. The project and my ideas evolved while I was making stuff and that’s the reason why I have provided three different versions of the electronics.

motor

Code and documentation (electronics)

The project’s code is open source and it’s licensed under MIT license. You can find it from Github. Documentation can be found from Github as a wiki. It contains part lists (there are three different assembly options), instructions how to build the electronics, how to use or modify the code for your needs and some general info about time lapses and calculations related to them etc.

I found it pretty hard to get information about certain things while I was building the dolly. I hope that open sourcing the code helps other people to develop their own intervalometers, dollies or whatever they desire to do.

Technical specs

Weight: dolly 3 kg, rails about 1 kg
Size: dolly 240 mm x 276 mm, rails 240mm x 1000 mm (+ another 1000 mm)
Speed: 10-18 mm / min, adjustable
Theoretical max. weight of the dolly: 140 kg
Power: Arduino @ Mintyboost, motor shield @ 2300 mAh LiPo battery
Controls

  • intervals: time range 0,0 - 9,9 or 0 - 99 seconds
  • modes: continuous mode or move-shoot-move)
  • 10 step speed adjustment
  • pause time: 0,1-0,9 s or 1-9 s
  • picture counter
  • modifying settings on the fly possible
  • Stop / reset buttons
  • can be upgraded with new software

Costs

The electronics should stay under 110 USD / 80 EUR. Depending on how you build the dolly, cost may vary a lot. I spent about 270-300 EUR (400-450 USD) to the dolly parts but I believe costs for the dolly could be as low as 100 EUR (about 150 USD) if it’s done differently. Of course prototyping did cost for me more than those sums and while I’m not living in USA, delivery costs and customs were pretty high for certain parts.

The time-lapse dolly

I will not provide detailed instructions how to build the dolly. Its design is rather unique and I believe there are simpler ways to build it. Anyhow, you can watch a short video below about how I made it to get the basic idea behind the structure.

Time lapse test with DIY dolly, clouds from Olli-Pekka Heinisuo on Vimeo.