Step 1: What you need
- Raspberry Pi – Model A or B (A has better battery life)
- Raspberry Pi camera module installed and set up
- Illy coffee tin or similar sized container. Watertight and metal is best.
- Some clear plastic, taped onto outer tin over hole
- Plastic holder for camera. I used the lid from the case of these batteries
- Elastic bands to hold the camera and cable in position
- Battery pack – a 4xAA unit is best for size to power rating – I used this one
- The raspiLapseCam.py Python script. Download from the FotosynLabs repo here
Step 2: Setting up the camera
The camera module was mounted onto a plastic holder to easily allow for handling, adjustment and repositioning using Velcro tabs to mount this to the inside of the tin. Everything is held together with elastic bands, so changes in temperature and moisture won’t have as an immediate effect on adhesives. I had originally used electrical tape but the adhesive became soft, slightly gloopy and the pull of the ribbon between the Raspberry Pi and camera module had caused things to move about too easily.
Filling in behind this, is the power supply which keeps everything snug when in use. The particular unit has a handy power switch on top so you can easily switch the device on and off.
Using velcro on the plastic mount means you can easily remove the whole unit whenever you need access. When installing, make sure the camera is level in the tin (the edges of the plastic mount helps when aligned with the inner lip) and ensure the lens has an unobstructed view through the hole by looking through from the outside. If the lens appears centrally in this hole then it should ‘see’ everything without the edges of the hole creeping into the captured image. Testing is the best option to make sure everything is straight. Grabbing previews quickly with BerryCam is and ideal solution to do this.
With the camera installed – the Raspberry Pi and battery pack can easily be lifted out of the tin to allow of access to the various ports. I find it rests easily on the top of the tin when connecting to a display and keyboard if you need to use the device with a display. SSH works without the need to remove if you have a network connection available.
Step 3: Using the Python script and setting up Raspbian
(where XX.XX.XX.XX is the IP address of your Raspberry Pi)
First of all, we’ll need to get the Python script to control the camera. We’ll copy this into the /home directory as it’s easy to find and a good starting point, but copy to the place the suits you and your build.
cd /home sudo wget <a href="https://bitbucket.org/fotosyn/fotosynlabs/raw/0a5f212958637ce20f502fc579fc28338b33d87e/RaspiLapseCam/raspiLapseCam.py"> https://bitbucket.org/fotosyn/fotosynlabs/raw/0a5...</a>
To check everything is installed, simply type
The script should be visible in the directory. Next, we can automate the startup so the camera activates each time it is powered up. To do we need to add a cron job. This will mean on each boot of the Raspberry Pi the script will activate and begin capturing images.
sudo nano crontab -e
At the bottom of the script insert
@reboot python /home/raspiLapseCam.py &
Of course change /home to the correct pathway where you have the script.
Save this script (CTRL + X) and “Y”
Rebooting the device will mean this script executes. On testing I found that it needs a full shutdown before this will reliably work each time. So to reuse the device you’ll need to log in, and perform a shutdown with
sudo shutdown "now"
Once you have shut down correctly, you can simply switch on the Raspberry Pi’s battery power supply and the script will launch normally when the device boots up. This is easpecially useful if you’re deploying the timelapse camera for an extended period outside the range of network connections.
Step 4: Using the camera
I did leave a note taped to the top of mine, explaining what it was and politely asking that it not be moved or disturbed. It all depends on where you use the camera but the rural southern coast of Arran with it’s rocky shore proved secure enough to leave out for lengthy periods of time.
Once you’re got everything in position and level, you’re good to go. Simply power up the camera, make sure all is secure and won’t be moved by a breeze and leave the camera to do its work.
Step 5: Post capture and editing
You can also combine still frames to make a movie clips using a command line entry like:
cd /<your_timelapse_folder> ls *.jpg > list.txt sudo apt-get install mencoder mencoder -nosound -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:aspect=16/9:vbitrate=8000000 -vf scale=1920:1080 -o timelapse.avi -mf type=jpeg:fps=24 mf://@list.txt
View an example of the resulting timelapse video
You can also get support on setting up and using the Timelapse camera here