Introduction: Wind Up Camera Pan

Camera panning is a technique where the camera rotates on an axis, usually horizontal or vertical (sometimes diagonal). Camera panning can be combined with lapse to produce some interesting cinematic results. This technique can be used to capture changes over time that are difficult to notice in real time, like subtle changes in weather or how crowds of people move over time.

Using a regular point-and-shoot digital camera I set the camera to video and wound up my timer. Here's some footage I compiled with my camera pan, these videos were taken over about 10 minutes and sped up to show the slow pan effect:

Making your own is incredibly simple, all you need is a wind-up kitchen timer and a few bits from the hardware store; mine cost me about $4. 
  • wind-up timer
  • 1/4" - 20 bushing
  • 1/4" - 20 threaded insert
  • 1/4" drill bit
  • 3/8" drill bit
  • Drill 1/4" opening in top of timer
  • Friction fit (or glue) 1/4" bushing into top of timer
  • Drill 3/8" opening in bottom of timer for threaded insert
    • Avoid drilling into winding mechanism
  • Friction fit threaded insert into bottom of timer base

Almost all cameras with a tripod mount are 1/4" with 20 count threading (coarse threading). If you are unsure you can just take along your camera to the store and try out different bolts until you find one that fits your camera.

Once assembled the entire thing was mounted on my tripod and I set looking for areas that I could use my wind-up camera pan on. I found that areas that have slow change like boats and clouds work well, as do areas with lots of people like train stations and busy intersections. There's plenty of subjects to capture with this rig, so get out there and capture!

This is not an intervelometer (camera taking pictures at regular intervals), this is sped up footage of video taken with a standard digital camera. Footage can be uploaded and sped up using almost any video editing software.

Making a camera pan from a kitchen timer isn't new and people have exploited these wind-up timers for a while, some other examples of this technique can be found here, here, here, for the iPhone here , a no-drill option here, and this one where they actually used the same timer and method I used (though I came up with my design independently and only finding their design  after I had taken my video). 
Looks like good ideas are hard to keep down!

Have you made your own wind-up camera pan? I want to see your results! Share a picture or video with your wind-up camera pan in the comments below and you'll get a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to Instructables!

Have fun!


TheGeek1984 made it!(author)2017-05-13

I would also like to know if it could support a DSLR.

CairoEvans made it!(author)2014-08-19

Any ideas to make it strong enough to support a DSLR?

mcobb made it!(author)2015-05-22

Seconded. This was just what I was about to ask

softenersreviews made it!(author)2013-03-02

Those instructions are amazing. I made this with my science class, but never that much. Wowzer.

JensonBut made it!(author)2013-01-25

Thanks a lot for the info !

bbcversus made it!(author)2012-11-12

Love this! Will try it out myself! Very smart and practical!

RRVmax made it!(author)2012-10-29

Very Clever

HollyMann made it!(author)2012-10-24

Very smart idea! :) Love it. It would work on my small camera but my bigger one is quite heavy.

theoriginalrage made it!(author)2012-10-23

This is so simple and effective! Brilliant work Mike! Great vid! Can't wait to see more!

londobali made it!(author)2012-10-22

thanks for sharing!

btw, how did you make the stop on 0:53 to 0:57?
at first i thought the winder was finished at that spot, but then it started moving again at 0:57 ?


mikeasaurus made it!(author)2012-10-22

For some reason the timer got stuck during that shot. The panning happens so slowly that I didn't notice it had stopped rotating for about 2 minutes, then I managed to manually engage the timer again with a little push. Though accidental, I like the way that shot turned out.

londobali made it!(author)2012-10-22

yes, i like it too.. it's a great one.. it seems like the panning was deliberately stopped to take the "dad-n-kid playing" scene..

Kdaver21 made it!(author)2012-10-22

Awesome! I've just made this camera pan and here is my result:

Its only a test but works perfectly!
Thank You!!!! :D

mikeasaurus made it!(author)2012-10-22

That's great!
For sharing your results you've been awarded a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to the site! Check your inbox!

What are you going to take panning video of next?

Kdaver21 made it!(author)2012-10-22

Thanks for the Pro membership! :D
I'm thinking in going outside and make some good HD panning videos! I'll keep you posted when they're finished!

depotdevoid made it!(author)2012-10-22

This is BRILLIANT Mike, fantastic results on the time lapse videos! I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a wind up timer on my next visit to the Goodwill.

mikeasaurus made it!(author)2012-10-22

Thanks Ian!

Thrift stores are always a good place to find stuff like this, however I bought mine here for $2. I hope to try this again with a better video camera and shoot clips of over an hour in length to capture even more change like tides and sunsets

gregorylavoie made it!(author)2012-10-21

maybe you could even glue multiple timers together to create movement in multiple directions or speeds by setting them to different times?

mikeasaurus made it!(author)2012-10-22

That's a very smart idea and something for the next version. You should make it and show me how!

Orngrimm made it!(author)2012-10-20

Very cool man!
Thats one of those uber-simple things the world waited for! In fact it is this simple i ask myself why I didnt found that before :)
Will definitely make one of those. IKEA sells some dirt-cheap ones which should work for this.

Thanks a lot for this bright idea! :)

billgeo made it!(author)2012-10-21

Thats right.

I just got that IKEA one last week.
Stainless steel and flat on top, so you can glue a cheep ball swivel camera mount
on top of it and you are GOLDEN!!

Orngrimm made it!(author)2012-10-22

The name it goes by is ORDNING:

Also seems like Adam and the walruss already covered it. Without even gluing!
They used a suction cup:

billgeo made it!(author)2012-10-22

Yea, that's the one!

Extremely simple and opens up a but load of possibilities!

Just can't go wrong!

All I need now is a MCU/servo intervalometer contraption!

chipper35 made it!(author)2012-10-22

Very clever!!

DoofusOfTheDay made it!(author)2012-10-22


pdub77 made it!(author)2012-10-22

Wow. Doing this today, I think. Thanks so much for this idea.

Icedvovo made it!(author)2012-10-22

You sir, are frikkin genius.

Long may you prosper.

jbrett made it!(author)2012-10-22

love it

waif69 made it!(author)2012-10-21

Great idea, cheap and easy. Thanks for the inspiration.

criggie made it!(author)2012-10-21

I like your example of the escalator - good thinking outside the box.

Try the same, with the tripod on a moving train/tram/car/boat?

sodiumcanine made it!(author)2012-10-21

Brilliant Idea, Off to the Hardware Store I Go...!

sabr686 made it!(author)2012-10-21

Nice to see another Vancouver guy! Great simple ible.

lapeyrouse made it!(author)2012-10-21

Pure genius. This is totally inspired simplicity.
My thanks, Keith.

semaj11 made it!(author)2012-10-21

I am very impressed with the results. Love the idea THANK you.

HP_II made it!(author)2012-10-21

I find it fitting that you used a kitchen timer to make your time lapse shots, really an awesome idea and so simple to do.

wires made it!(author)2012-10-21

Nice hack hits my sweet spot thanks

CrazyClever made it!(author)2012-10-20

That is probably the most amazing camera hack I have ever seen! Thank you for sharing your genius!

instruct39 made it!(author)2012-10-20

thats very cool, i like the part with the fish swimming, they look like they are going 100 mph

one-lightbulb made it!(author)2012-10-20

I love it !
Simple solution for everyday problem!

Ninzerbean made it!(author)2012-10-20

Beautiful, and the music was perfect.

danjovic made it!(author)2012-10-19

Superb!! One of the best Ideas I have seen here in Instructables!

iceng made it!(author)2012-10-19

Ive been looking for a solution for my iSaddle and a 360° app...:)


rimar2000 made it!(author)2012-10-19

Very interesting, Mike!

I think that using this method/device you could discover some new feature of the nature or environment. One of these things that pass unobserved but occur in our noses.

ffcabral made it!(author)2012-10-19

This is so awesome. One of those simple ideas that are very useful! :)

The idea of a moving timelapse gives a completely different dimension to it.

ChrysN made it!(author)2012-10-19

Clever idea! Those videos turned out great.

MoustacheCat made it!(author)2012-10-19

Just wondering, wouldn't it be more efficient if you got rid of the half circle on the button? It would be more stable and closer to the center.

Penolopy+Bulnick made it!(author)2012-10-19

Very awesome! I love videos like that :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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