Introduction: The TIRR (very Simple Timelapse IR Remote)

Picture of The TIRR (very Simple Timelapse IR Remote)

This new timelapse circuit is much simpler than my first one which had an IC Atmega8, a voltage regulator for the camera, a light sensor to interrupt shooting at night, and of course a potentiometer to set the interval. That was a complicated project (for me) and there was too much chances to make some mistake in design and construction.
I then decided to design this new circuit, this time very simple, which doesn't need any microcontroller, is connected to an IR remote (mine is for Olympus Camedia bridge camera, but you can find similar ones for almost any compact and DSLR camera) and it includes a simple voltage regulator only to supply the IR remote control. Digital camera should need its own PSU (or battery, but it should be a very powerful one for a timelapse). So the TIRR was born!

Step 1: Intro

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I preface that I'm not very competent in electronics, I only have a base knowledge, but I've searched a simple timelapse circuit tutorial before planning to design it, and I couldn't be able to find anything similar. Maybe someone better skilled would correct some my mistake or add some useful component to my design.

Step 2: The Remote

Picture of The Remote

In my case I already had an old C5060 Olympus bridge camera, so I bought for a few $ an infrared compatible remote control, I opened it and I took out connections for shutter and batteries. The top surface is a thin plastic layer glued to the bottom case of the remote. If you lift it with a knife, with a little of patience you could unglUe it and reach the pcb, where you can weld some wires to the shot and power traces. 

Step 3: Choose the Box

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Before cutting the copper board and designing the circuit I suggest to choose a nice enclosure.
For my timelapse circuit I've decided that one of these transparent boxes from Muji could be very appropriate. The shop has various sizes of these containers, and I've found a model which is the right size to keep 4 AA batteries inside, plus a little rectangular circuit.

Step 4: Refine It

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Unfortunately it has a fixed divider which I had to remove, together with the guides for the removable dividers. Anyway if you have right tools it's very fast.
If you have already a cool box, of any type, you should design the pcb for that size.

Step 5: A Little of Theory

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The project bases on the Astable Mode of the NE555 chip. I don't focus too much on that because there is in much more competent people from whom you should learn. I only explain you that this chip generates a square wave (on, off, on, off, on..) which you could personalize setting the right values of the two resistances R1 and R2. Astable mode of NE555 is good explained here:
I want that my circuit activates the shot button for an istant and repeat this every certain period until battery discharges or I turn off everything, and the interval between shots should be customizable. Actually there are three resistances in the variable circuit because R1 appears to be the sum of two of them. With some simple calculations I've retrieved the right values for the three resistances. I've used Tspace for the contact time and Tmark for the interval, indeed if you check the formulas with R1 variable between 2.2K and about 102K (2.2K+100K) and R2 equal to 470ohm you'll find that Tspace turns out to be 0.3 second fixed and Tmark varies from about 2 seconds to about 70 seconds. It's very rare to make timelapses with more than 70 seconds between shots because with that time also slow clowds will appear to move too fast in the final video.
You can see the circuit in action with Falstad applet. It doesn't work very good in simulation (pheraps because seconds are too much long time intervals for this simulator) but my circuit works well.

Here you have the components list, note that I already had some of them (as the variable resistor), so I chose these, but maybe you can find a different combination of values.
100 kohm variable resistor (better logarithmic)
470 ohm
220 ohm
2.2 kohm

10 nF ceramic
10V 1000 uF electrolytic

And also:
an optocoupler PC817 (but probably also a NPN transistor as the PN2222A is good)
an IC NE555
a 3.3V voltage regulator L78L33 (with two not essentials capacitors, one 100 nF and the other 330 nF)
a battery holder, better with wires
and a switch

Step 6: The Voltage Regulator

Picture of The Voltage Regulator

As I said I've added a little 3.3V voltage regulator to power the IR remote so that I don't need to keep two different sets of batteries (one to reach 5 V for the IC NE555 and the other to give 3 V to the remote).
Here I've tested the operation of this chip, of course it works great! You can check if IR LED turns on simply looking it through your cellphone camera, or any digital camera with a display.

Step 7: I Love Routing...

Picture of I Love Routing...

If you are not able to etch a circuit board this is simple enough to use a prototype solder board. Just solder your components on the board and connect the right contacts.
In Fritzing you could design your circuit on a breadboard, and then arrange your components on a pcb. You can draw your traces or let the program auto-route them.
This is the image of the finished pcb. The program will print for you the pdf with routes to etch (pay attention to choose the right one, Fritzing makes for you the mirrored image too). Pdf is handy because you don't have to worry about print's measures. I've retouched the image and added some identical circuit on the same sheet so you can keep them in reserve. 

Step 8: Toner Transfer Tecnique: Printing...

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I would transfer my trace on copper board with toner transfer method. If you're lucky enough to find the right paper, you'll obtain a good results. Anyway this method is difficult (but good the same) for pcb with very thin traces, but it's handy for this instructable.
You need an old iron (mine is new but I'm trying to make it old very fast), a laser printer and some sheets of right paper. To know if your paper is right you have to try it. They also sell some dedicated paper which should be perfect, but maybe you wish to try with some magazines. In my case it worked well. I suggest to clean very well the copper board with a steel spunge. Then clean with alchool both the board and the printed side of the paper.

Step 9: ...ironing...

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Place the scheme with toner against copper and keep it in position with two little tape pieces.
Now, it's VERY IMPORTANT you always keep a cotton dish-cloth or something similar between iron and paper, unless you'll ruin iron steel surface. With iron head pass on the back of the paper so that the toner acts as glue, then remove tape which otherwise should damage your iron surface (yes, it's very weak to scratches). Now press your paper hardly with iron at max temperature, wait 2 or 3 seconds, and make it again, trying not to burn the dish-cloth and your cotton ironing board, or anything you've used as base.
Now let everything cool down and then, paying attention to not blend the paper sheet (which otherwise comes off taking toner with him), put everything in cold water and let it get soften.

Step 10: ...removing Paper...

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After some time, maybe 10-15 minutes, you could try to separate paper from copper. Toner (with some paper scraps) should stay on the board, and you could patiently remove last paper scraps with a sponge or scrubbing them with your fingers, or much better with a teethbrush. You'll see that teethbrush removes gently almost all the paper without scratch the toner traces.

Step 11: ...checking Traces...

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Then you have to check meticulously the toner traces and fill with a permanent pen (mine is Medium size but one with Small head is much better) where it's lacking. Also with a toothpick remove the toner between traces if you see it connects them where it shouldn't. Done? Your copper board is now ready for etching.

Step 12: ...preparing Etching...

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Etching using ferric chloride is very simple. I've made some plastic supports to handle and shake your pcb without touching the acid. They also keep the pcb upside down and reduce the needed amount of ferric chloride to cover all the copper. To make these handles I've used some transparent plastic socks holders, softening them on a flame.

Step 13: ...dipping Into Acid...

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Dip your pcb into the acid in a plastic container and shake every some minutes to remix the fluid and accelerate the process. If ferric chloride is unused you'll see soon some dark copper mixing at the acid and making the solution darker. Your acid will become dark and it will lose some efficiency, so if you think the process has taken too much time, next time use more ferric chloride.
Keep windows open because the process makes some fumes, and I think they're not much healthy.
After about 30-40 minutes (in my case, but you could have a different etching duration) you could take out your pcb and clean it from acid with paper and then a lot of water.

Step 14: and Checking...

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After then clean your pcb from toner, using a kitchen sponge, or also with some attention, a steel sponge.
I've obtained a good (but not perfect) result, as you see in picture. There are some border traces with a lot of cracks, but they should work the same, in doubt let's test them with the multimeter. If you observe carefully you also see a little unexpected connection between two traces, let't break it with a cutter.

Step 15: ...and Drilling

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When you've finished etching your pcb clean everything with kitchen paper and then with lot of water.
It's time to make the holes. With your column drill (which of course you have built following my Instructable) choose the right size of bit (I use usually 1mm, but bigger for potentiometer anchoring holes) and carefully drill every hole. Pay attention to not detach the copper routes.

Step 16: Circuit Comes Alive

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Your pcb is ready to go to solder process! Remember the trick to solder easily, heat the traces and the pins, not the tin!
I don't teach you how to solder because I'm a bumbler in that, I strongly recommend you to follow Dave's soldering tutorials on
To choose right LED (I mean the LED I liked more) I've connected a temporary socket... it was an hard choice, had I said you that I felt in love with my first 3mm red LED when I was 10 years old? ;-)
After that, I soldered the LED with short pins to diffuse the light over the transparent surface of the box.

Step 17: Does It Work?

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Now that every component is in place you can try if pcb fits right in box and test your circuit again. I had some trouble because this white batteries holder is much bigger than the black one I've misured before, and which I've used for this other project, so I've cutted the two shorter sides.

Step 18: Let's Finish the Case

Picture of Let's Finish the Case

So, insert the circuit in the box, glued it on the bottom side, connect everything and see if it works fine. Here is when I've usually the worst feeling that nothing works!! ;-)
I've used some elastics taken from a bike tube to keep everything closed, because I've already cutted the locking mechanism of this box for another project. Then I've glued the IR remote on the back side of the box, lettig the wires come out from some slots cutted in the side. Of course also switch and knob need their holes.

Step 19: Turn on It...

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Everything works great! If you turn on the switch and rotate the knob from one end to other you'll have an interval variable from about 2 seconds to about 70 second, perfect for any timelapse. I've still to decide how to keep the remote in front of the camera, anyway it could stay a little aside to not interfere with the picture, maybe a little tripod should work well, or maybe a brace linked to the main tripod of the camera.

Step 20: ...and Have Fun!

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You'll see the orange LED which lights at shot time, and red LED on the camera which indicates having received the command to shoot (this camera will take photo after about 1 sec.)
Here is a timelapse video I've made with my own circuit. Hope you like it, it frames a square in Milan during a summer night.

Remember that you also have to determine how much time your camera needs from one shot to the next one. This interval could vary also depending how much fast your memory card is, because your camera has to save a shot before taking another one. If you set an interval too short with your circuit, your video will fail. Also note that DSLR have an option to reduce white dots in long exposures. Maybe you would disable that option, because usually it takes the same amount of time of the shot itself.
So... that's all! I hope you could build your own circuit and make some great timelapse movie!


Junophor (author)2013-02-09

Hello andrea biffi

This is a very good instructable, really good explained and very good to follow step by step.
The only thing I miss are the headlines of each step. So this would change your famous project to an excellent one!!!
Such a detail might be very important for the result of eg. acontest;-))))

Keep up your great work!!!!!

Aeon Junophor

andrea biffi (author)Junophor2013-02-11

Hi Aeon, I'm so pleased to know you like my instructable, yours have always been my steampunk best reference!
If you think it's better to add the titles I'll definitely do that.

Sleep E (author)2013-02-10

Great job! I really enjoyed your presentation, thank you.

1-big-dog (author)2013-01-13

This is not just a good instructable, it is an EXCELLENT instructible!!!!!!!! Excellent photos, very complete descriptions, and a nice time lapse video to show how well the circuit works. I am very impressed!!!!

andrea biffi (author)1-big-dog2013-01-14

thanks! :-)

chuckyd (author)2013-01-13

I couldn't find a definition for "ungle" that fit in the sentence. What is it?

andrea biffi (author)chuckyd2013-01-14

sorry, I forgot the U!

GCLumpkin (author)2013-01-13

What make and model camera is that in the first photo of this Instructable?

andrea biffi (author)GCLumpkin2013-01-14

it's a fabulous (in my opinion), but old by now, Olympus C-5060. Still good for timelapse (if you don't want your expensive DLSR overflows his shots capability very fast).

mlwats (author)2013-01-13

I made a timelapse controller for my Nikon D80, like this one 3 years ago. keep it simple and reliable and you will never fail to get great shots. Best and most useful camera accessory, i ever made.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer. I'm also investigating electronics, robotics and science in general. I enjoy hacking and ... More »
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