Well, for a recent documentary called Watershed, produced by Kontent Films, I did just that. I built 4 time-lapse camera rigs that ran, unassisted, for up to 4 months.
I made this at Techshop in San Francisco where there were lots of tools available. But really, it can be built at home no problem.
Check out the video and then take a look at how I did it.
Step 1: Gather Materials
- Camera. We chose to purchase used Canon 20D cameras through KEH. You want something solid and high quality, and remember, megapixel count isn't super essential because the likely final output is HD video.
- Lens. As with all pictures, the better the glass the better the time-lapse. But, like the cameras, I'd recommend not going too crazy- balance your risk and benefit. We chose cheap zoom lens from KEH so we could change the shot as needed from where we were able to place the cameras. If you know what your shot is before hand, a prime lens in this situation might be appropriate.
- Media card. Get a big one because you don't want to run out of space!
- Intervalometer. Depends on what model of camera you choose. I'd definitely recommend not skimping out here; just get the one made by Canon so you don't have to worry about it (my knock off failed on me)
- Battery. How long do you want this time-lapse to be? We used a car battery (really, a slightly larger RV battery) for our rigs. They didn't run out of juice, so we don't really know how long they would have lasted. Probably a lot longer. Try to find a battery that isn't built to deliver massive amounts of power all at once (starter battery), but rather one thats used to releasing a small charge (like a battery used for RV appliances or what they call a marine battery) We were able to get one for cheap at a place that recycles old batteries:
- Battery Case. Plastic shell for the car battery that can be purchased at West Marine or other places. Its not technically water proof, but it does help keep the rain off the electrical components while still allowing it to off gas in extreme weather. It's also helpful for attaching various components. Make sure its the right dimensions for the battery you get.
- Dummy battery. Goes in your camera in the battery slot and has a cord the extends out. You can make your own if you know how (read all of my instructions before you build that), or you can do what I did and buy a cheap AC adapter for the camera.
- Voltage converter. Your camera operates on around 7 volts of DC power, where as a car battery runs at an average of 12v DC. (household power is 120v AC) Look for a variable DC converter that takes 12v power and makes it something close to 7v (7.5 works fine). Again, higher quality here is better. The linked to item is fairly low quality...
- OR a Voltage converter, dummy battery combo. This guy in England makes really high quality ones for about the same price. I only found out about them after I had placed our cameras. If I were doing this project again I'd use these.
- Pelican case. This is a standard water/weatherproof case for your camera. You don't need the foam if it makes it cheaper.
- Mounting plate. Not essential, but it certainly does make mounting your camera easier.
- 20 Amp fuse
- Electrical connectors of the appropriate size (terminal ends, butt splices etc)
- Large diameter PVC pipe. For the Lens snout; I purchased at Home Depot. The interior diameter needs to be bigger than the diameter of your lens.
- Clear, UV lens Filter. This covers the opening in the PVC pipe making it weather proof. It can be purchased at a camera store; bring in the pipe to make sure it fits…
- Epoxy. some sort of really strong, really gooey substance to fill up holes and hold some things together
- Silicone moisture packets
- Mounting hardware (screws, bolts, nuts, washers, rubber washers, brackets etc) and misc scrap wood
Wire cutting and splicing tools.
Large diameter circle cutter (slightly smaller diameter as exterior of PVC pipe)