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In this instructable, we'll make a timelapse camera using a Raspberry Pi and stick it in a snazzy lodge-style birdhouse. You choose the time-interval for each timelapse photo, and the photos are automatically uploaded to Google Drive for access anywhere. You'll do a bit of woodworking, a dash of programming (python), some Linux-fu (cron), and learn Google Drive's API. Let's get started.

Step 1: Planning - Materials & Cost

Here's what you'll need:

  • Raspberry Pi (any version)
  • Compatible camera (we used this)
  • USB wifi-dongle (we used this)
  • Wood (~12" x 48" in total)
  • Wood stain & seal
  • Power-drill & drill bits
  • Chop-saw, skill-saw, or table-saw
  • A regular ol' door-hinge

If you already have the tools laying around, you're looking at about $50-70 in cost. If cost is a factor, you could get that down a bit further by going with an Arduino instead of a Raspberry Pi.

Going solar-powered or battery-powered seemed like fun early on, but it's a bit impractical when you consider the power utilization over time (months, years). Plugging it in to the wall makes the most sense if you have an outdoor outlet.

Step 2: Cut Cut Cut, Clamp Clamp Clamp

The design is pretty simple. I opted for 12" x 9.5" roof-panels, meeting at a 45 degree inside angle at the top. You'll have to do some maths to flush the sides of the bottom piece, but I believe in you.

Make sure you drill the opening and the camera hole on the front piece before you start gluing. I used a 1/4" bit for the camera hole and wiggled it a bit to make it large enough to accommodate the lens. Be gentle, yet firm.

It helps to cut a jig and use it to clamp the front and back to the bottom (pictured). The joints might need a little sanding to get everything flush.

Step 3: A Few Minor Details

Depending on the hinge you use, you'll likely need to make some last-minute adjustments to get everything lined up. We had to file some of the back panel to make room for the inside screws.

Staining is pretty straight-forward. If you opt for eyelets along the top as we did, you can hang it over some newspapers. Some light sanding and a single coat seemed to do the trick.

You'll also need to file a notch for the power cable on the back panel (pictured) if you are plugging this in to the wall.

For some really lame interior weatherproofing, I stuck the whole thing in a ziplock. An interior shelf is on the TODO list, which would have the added benefit of giving birds their own bedroom separate from the Pi.

Step 4: Pi-camera & Google Drive

Now the fun part. Since the Pi has a wifi dongle, I recommend giving it a static IP and using SSH to manage it through the rest of these steps.

  1. I've added the code for the camera and drive integration to github here: https://github.com/dunds/timelapse . The script has one dependency: a client_secrets.json file from your Google Drive API.
  2. While logged in to your Google account, navigate to: https://console.developers.google.com/apis . From here, you can enable Google Drive and manage API credentials.
  3. Click the "credentials" tab and select "Create credentials->OAuth Client ID". Use "other" as the type. Your newly created credential will have a download link to the far right (pictured). Name it client_secrets.json and stick it in your timelapse directory.
  4. Run "python timelapse.py" from the timelapse directory. The first time you run this, you'll be guided through a process where Google validates your application with a security token. Look at you, authenticating securely to Google Drive. What a boss.
  5. Last step is to add an entry to cron to schedule this script to run daily. Here's what my crontab looks like:
pi@raspberrypi:~/timelapse $ cat /etc/crontab
# /etc/crontab: system-wide crontab
# Unlike any other crontab you don't have to run the `crontab'
# command to install the new version when you edit this file
# and files in /etc/cron.d. These files also have username fields,
# that none of the other crontabs do.
SHELL=/bin/sh
PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin
# m h dom mon dow user	command
17 * * * * root cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly
25 6 * * * root test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.daily )
47 6 * * 7 root test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.weekly )
52 6 1 * * root test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.monthly )
#
15 14 * * * pi cd /home/pi/timelapse/ && python timelapse.py

Step 5: Wrapping Up

All done! The Pi will snap a photo once daily which will be automatically uploaded to your Google Drive account. Hang it with a view of something nice and start thinking about your next project.

<p>Cool. Do you have any pictures of birds using the house?</p>
<p>Thanks! None yet. I was thinking about adding a motion sensor to start recording video when a bird approaches... that might be fun.</p>
<p>If you do your video capture using PikrellCam then motion capture is done on video motion. Option 2 could be to use a PIR, option 3 would be to setup some sort of entrance hole trigger... various ways to to it. I've had a play with various combinations so of these: http://nestboxtech.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/2017-double-camera-bird-box-intro.html</p>
<p>How are you able to get both adiqite light and focus in such a small area? </p>
<p>The more flush the camera is to the surface of the front board, the better. That's why the inside of the front board has about 1/2&quot; drilled out from the inside to bring the camera forward more. You could also probably use a larger drill-bit on the front to make a cone-shaped opening instead of just a pinhole.</p>

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