Time lapse, also known as intervalometry (as in measuring intervals between photographs), is a method of taking pictures slowly over time and then compiling them into a video of compressed time.  I've always been fascinated with time lapse videos.  I remember when I was very young, seeing a time lapse video of a vine growing and creeping around at night.  I was amazed!  A good time lapse video can change your whole perspective and understanding of seemingly uninteresting everyday things.

I always assumed that making these videos would require specialized equipment that would be out of my price range.  Turns out, you can produce high quality time lapse videos with a very small investment, my own output was just $45 for a spare camera, though you may have to pay more or less depending on your situation.

I had purchased the equipment I needed a while back, but then let this project sit on the back burner.  When I was down at Maker Faire in spring 2011, I got to talking to mikeasaurus about the idea--he was working on his own time lapse videos involving a shoulder mounted webcam.  We talked about it and played with his rig, and we were originally going to make a collaborative project, but sadly his effort suffered from some technical difficulties and had to be shelved.

In the mean time, I returned to Oregon and started seriously working on my own time lapse stuff.  Take a look at the videos below, the first is all my best stuff up to about mid August of 2011, and the second is some longer term stuff I've worked on since then.  Read on if you'd like to learn how to make your own cheap and easy time lapse videos!

I highly recommend you make this full screen and full resolution to get the total effect:

Step 1: Gather Materials

For the videos, you will require:
  • A Canon brand digital camera that is compatible with CHDK (see step 2)
  • An SD card, the biggest compatible with your camera
  • An AC adapter for your camera (not required but very useful)
  • A computer with an SD card slot or an SD card reader and simple movie making software
I also built a simple water resistant case so I wouldn't have to worry about the constant Eugene rain, for something similar you'll need:
  • A waterproof tupperware (or whatever) container
  • A small piece of clear plastic
  • Hot glue
  • Silicone caulk

<p>Very nice. I ended up using my GoPro (as that's what I already had) to complete my time lapse and one of <a href="http://www.cam-do.com/pages/gopro-construction-time-lapse" rel="nofollow">these solar power kits from Cam-Do</a> as power was not available. Worked well for me. </p>
<p>This tutorial was very interesting. Are you still doing time lapse photography? I destroyed a Canon T3i on a kayak trip last summer and I was mad because I wanted to do some time lapse with it. I like the idea of using an inexpensive camera for time lapse because I can't afford an expensive one at this point. I'm wondering which cameras you would recommend now, since it's been two years. Any updated information you could share?</p>
To be honest, I haven't been doing much time lapse for a while. I don't have a specific camera recommendation, but I did put CHDK on a newer model Canon for a friend (can't remember the exact model). Basically, I just recommend finding the best used Canon you can afford, check that list of compatible models, and go for it. I'd love to see the results!
This is a great tutorial but needs to be updated. Be aware that only newer PowerShot cameras can use a SD card higher than 4Gb easily. Read through this CHDK WIKI: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Bootable_SD_card. The STICK program is here: http://zenoshrdlu.com/stick/stick.html <br> <br>I bought a A1000is model that is pre 2011 and I struggled for a while with my 32Gb SD card wondering why I could not use all of the space on it. There is a way to create a dual partition card that will allow this camera to use more than 4Gb for pics (I think) but am still trying to find out to do that. I am trying to time lapse a pool construction so the camera runs from sun up to sun down. I have had to sacrifice image quality/shots per minute to avoid the SD card from filling up all 4Gb available before the day is over. <br> <br>That being said this was a great Instructible and I am on day 2 of my first &quot;real&quot; time lapse capture. Thanks for creating this! <br> <br> <br>
Hi vorhauer,<br> <br> I did have a brief note in the &quot;Gather Materials&quot; step that you should get the biggest SD card your camera is compatible with. &nbsp;However, after you comment came through I put a more prominent note in step 3. &nbsp;<br> <br> My own camera can only handle 2 gigabyte SD cards! &nbsp;It's a pretty severe limitation in some situations.<br> <br> I'd really love to see what you come up with, please share your time lapse videos when they're done!
For mac users, there is a program called Stick that can set up the sd card for you. I haven't figured it all out yet, but I did get that far! ;-) <br> <br>http://zenoshrdlu.com/stick/stick.html
Hey buddy, good tutorial; <br> <br>I had a question, how did you do the port cord setup? <br> <br>I mean, in the car. How'd you hook it up so it'd stay on, <br> <br>I'm lookin to get a camera as a backup like you said, so I'm still hunting, <br> <br>But I like the little plastic device you made, <br> <br>pretty sick, <br> <br>Andrew
Thanks! Regarding the car trips, they are short enough that I just used batteries. No need to hook up any external power! <br>
Very well done. When you shoot your next batch you might want to try to lower the ISO settings on the camera to reduce graininess. Here is a video I made a while back following your tutorial...I believe I had it running a picture a second or something around that interval:<br> <br> <div class="media_embed"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/fHwxTxjajjk" width="560"></iframe></div>
I forgot to mention I was using the same camera as well...it worked great.
Wow, that was the same camera? That looked absolutely great!<br> <br> The ISO vs. shutter speed thing is definitely tricky, especially with this camera--have you played around with night time photos at all? &nbsp;That was where I had the most trouble.<br> <br> I see that I wrote that I'd send you &quot;a digital patch and !&quot; That ! was supposed to say a three month pro membership, so I'll send you a code for that. Thanks so much for posting this video, if you've got any more, please post them!<br> <br> As a special bonus, here's a super secret link to my latest time lapse video: <a href="http://youtu.be/VabeQTTcVWA" rel="nofollow">http://youtu.be/VabeQTTcVWA</a>
Man, I love time lapse too. Your clips are great!!! <br>I'm glad this is recent, I'm always going on YouTube, wanting to make a comment, then I see the video is like 3 years old and the author never responds any more. <br>Anyway, enough of my soapbox, I'm currently trying to build a mechanical intervalometer, the things are soo expensive to buy. It's for my 16mm camera I think I'm gonna buy and actuator and a control box plus timer, like the MK111, actually I could go the easiest way and buy a 6rpm motor to hit the lever that takes a single frame shot but I don't know enough to tell if a 110 ac motor will work on a 120 house current. <br> <br>ANYWHOO, my question is how many frames per minute did you use in the clips on video #2, if variable per clip can you give me a couple of examples then I can watch it again to get a mental picture of what I want to try. I'm thinking every 10 seconds would be good, maybe slower depending on the subject and desired effect?
Hi, I'm glad you liked the video! I had lots of fun making them, so it's always great to hear from people who liked the result.<br><br>Regarding video #2, it was pretty various. For the part with the plants growing, it was something like 1 picture every 10 minutes over several weeks. For the driving part, that was the max shutter speed of my little canon, something like 1 picture every second or 1/2 second. <br><br>What I found is that it's best to take as many pictures as you can fit in your camera's memory over the duration of the stop motion. You can always speed things up in post editing later!<br><br>I would of course really love to see the results of your efforts! Please drop me a link when you've got some video!
Ah! But I'm dealing with a film camera, but I get your point. Thanks for the info. Thomas
P.S.: Sorry, movie film camera, a 16mm Bolex.
Oh, that changes things! I spent a lot of time playing with the final frame rate in the editing software afterwards, actually doing this on film will take a lot more finesse!
aha i have that Camera ! <br>
Then go forth and make time lapse videos!
aha i shall ! <br> <br>
Great work!
Great detailed write up, and your videos are so awesome! (the photo/videos of the slow moving clouds are mesmerizing) <br /> <br />I've watched the videos a few times already and I want MORE!
Thanks Mike, more are certainly in the works!
This is great, I've been trying to time lapse the raccoons that come to play in my fountain, this couldn't be more timely, thanks ever so for sharing and I loved the movies.
Thanks Ninzerbean, I'd love to see your raccoons some time, if you get your own time lapse up and running!
Well done, time lapse is very cool.
Thank you!

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Bio: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lose your train of thought and you're waiting ... More »
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