Quick and Easy Electronic Time Lapse




Introduction: Quick and Easy Electronic Time Lapse

About: Engineer making renewable energy products for African entrepreneurs.
This is a rather short hack for my point and shoot camera. I'm going to disassemble my camera, tap into the shutter/focusing switches and then wire them up to an adjustable timer circuit.

If you've seen my past instructables -- you know I'm a big fan of Time Lapse. However, using a miniDV digital video camera makes things quite expensive and the quality isn't quite as high as it would be with a digital camera. For those with nicer cameras with remote triggers - this really isn't too important for you. But for the rest of us with $75 floor model digital cameras, please - step into my office :)

I wanted to do some time lapse of Robot doing the robot -- the response I got was:

I do not do "the robot" I am robot.


Step 1: Parts and Tools

Suitable Screw Driver(s) to partially disassemble your camera
Soldering Iron
You'll probably want a multimeter or continuity tester

Donor Camera
Timing Circuit*
Thin Wire (connectors optional)
12 Volt Power Supply

*For simplicity and to make reproduction easier for everyone else - I used a timer kit. While it's more expensive, it gets the job done and is a fairly decent package as far as adjust ability is concerned. If you want to build you're own - all you really need is an adjustable astable 555 circuit.

I bought my kit from an Orlando based surplus store - but the kit is widely available online. Searching Google for "MK111" yields a bunch of results for the very same kit I used.

Step 2: Assemble Timer Kit

Gentlemen -- and women.... Start your soldering irons! My kit went together in about 10 minutes. Not hard at all. Simply solder it together, and test it out to make sure it works ;)

Step 3: Disassemble Your Camera

This is a little more complicated. Some cameras are really easy - other are a little more difficult. I'm not going to get into the details of disassembly here (there will be a separate instructable for my specific camera) - but in general, be very careful and don't loose any parts. Especially if this is your only camera ;)

The goal is to find your shutter and focusing switch(es). Mine happened to be in a sub assembly of the camera surface mounted on a film pcb.

Step 4: Wire Up Your Camera

VIA solder, conductive adhesive or in some other fashion - solder on some thin wire to both switches and to your ground. The idea is to close the circuit when the timer is triggered thus triggering the camera to focus and take a picture.

How to find the correct solder pad?

There's a few ways to do it... You can assume that it is simply grounding a positive terminal and use a bit of wire to poke around... Or you can use the continuity tester (perhaps on a multimeter). Obviously, you need your camera to function while you do this - so you might have your camera in some sort of Frankenstein condition (and on) for a short time.

Step 5: Reassemble Camera - Attach to Timer

Reassemble your camera - you may need to cut a small hole for your new wires. Then attach your wires to your timer circuit on the normally open ("NO") side of the relay and the common ground ("COM"). The polarity does not matter too much as we're only completing a circuit with no components in between.

I ran into trouble here. Apparently, I was shorting the trigger switch to another grounded component. Not good. It basically locked up the camera as it didn't know what to do with the bad data. Just be cautious on your wire placement and add some insulation if necessary -- a little bit of hot glue works wonders ;)

Step 6: Take Pictures!

Now with your camera fully assembled and your timer circuit wired up and connected -- you should be able to take some sweet time lapse photos ready to be put into an awesome time lapse video :)

How do you make time lapse video? If you search Google for free Time Lapse software -- it's a nightmare. If you happen to have found something that will string together images into video - for free; please share :) Otherwise, here's my inefficient method of making video out of these images for free (paid for with time).

First, we need a few things.

1. Movie Salsa -- this is software explicitly for stringing images together, and is shareware (free to try type of deal). You can Download it here
2. Other Movie Software - I'm using Windows Movie Maker 2 (aka mm2) because it's bundled with you windows folk

If you're using a mac... I think imovie2 has a time lapse function, but I'm 100% sure quicktime Pro does (for those of you that paid the $30 for it).


Well, first I tried taking mm2 and setting the default image time to .125 seconds and importing all my pictures. That worked fine for a small batch of images. mm2 has a rather interesting

flaw known as the "complexity barrier" - movie files that have too many clips, transitions, effects etc. etc. just won't render. 800+ images is beyond the complexity barrier :p The solution

is to break up the render process into smaller chunks - then combine them into a final video. This takes quite some time.


Movie Salsa will render images into video much faster (and more easily) than mm2 can. Not to mention, movie salsa will grab a whole directory and go to town rather than importing into some newfangled library. The drawback is -- the free version of movie salsa will only do 50 images locked at 10 frames per second (each images gets .1 seconds). This still works depending on your photo delay. I do support the small time programmers, and honestly - I'm thinking abut buying movie salsa for my personal use :)

On to directions

1. Taking 50 sequential chunks of images - and put them into labeled folders (1,2,3... etc.)
2. Render each folder into separate video files using movie salsa -- be sure to play with the video size and don't forget to make a unique name for each video
3. Import all of your new video into mm2
4. Add each video to the mm2 time line
5. Save your movie file (follow on screen prompts)
6. Upload to the inter web and share with the world :)


Remember that when you're dealing with 800+ images -- it's a bit of work to separate into 50 image chunks. But believe me, it's not as bad as doing the whole task with mm2 alone. If you want to save time, go ahead and buy move salsa, Quicktime pro, or whatever third party software you'd like :) This is simply the poor man's (cough: college student) method to get around with free to try software.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    how hard would this be? I don't know a lot about soldering:(


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I built the exact same timer relay kit today. It is a cit noisy though so I can't use it in my room over night.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I have that same power adapter. I use it to power my lego NXT. Instructable may be coming...


    12 years ago on Introduction

    does this run on a 9v battery?
    or do i have to replace the relay to a lower voltage one

    if so how long does the battery last

    and how is the timing affected


    13 years ago on Step 6

    As a long time time-lapser, my favorite tool is QuickTime Pro, (the free viewer "Unlocked" by crossing Apple's palm with a mere $30.00). Once in "Pro Mode" you can import massive quatities with ease in a variety of frame rates, (I routinely process thousands of images at a time). Exports to (almost) all or favorite flavors. I usually go to DV/NTSC AVI for editing, or .MP4 for Websites.

    My next project requires a long duration time-lapse. One or two frames per day over several months in a lava tube cave to study cave slime. Your Instructable is just the ticket to get me going, as my previous stuff relied on a laptop computer for intervelometer.


    Jr Hacking kid

    im 13 and i have an old pentax optio s iv always wanted to do time lapse since age 11 when i first saw it . i would like to know if u can help me with this i am new to opening my camera and i dont want to beak it so is their any way to like gust rig the camera trigger and nothen else ?


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Jr,

    I felt the same way you do about opening up my camera, which is why I built an intervalometer (time lapse control) out of spare parts without damaging my camera, check it out! It's a bit involved but gets the job done.

    Alternatively, the only other detailed documented project I've found anywhere on the web was also right here on instructables.

    I hope this helps you out, good luck!


    14 years ago on Step 6

    If your photo's are all sequentially numbered, use VirtualDub (http://virtualdub.org/http://virtualdub.org/).
    Simply open the first image, set your preferences such as compression (it saves as AVI, but uncompressed AVI's are big so choose xvid, divx, or like I do a lossless codec if you want to edit the film later) and maybe framerate
    Then Save As and specify output avi filename.

    I use it to handle upto 5000 images at once, but it can cope with a lot more (see http://narrowboat.blip.tv or http://narrowbo.at).

    I may try this with an old 2MP camera I have.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    so can you make the long time exposure setting longer for those light drawing pictures?


    Reply 15 years ago on Step 6

    I loves me some Monkeyjam for stop motion animation, but the program does not do time lapse. It does have a tricky import so that you can edit and compress, but it will not work with all .avi's.

    Stop motion and time lapse are time consuming just figuring out all the programs, cameras, and then editing programs to upload them to video hosting sites.

    Here is a Stopmo site that has a current listing of most of the freeware that is available for both Time Lapse and Stop Motion. Most of the programs are frame grabbers...

    Stop Motion Works


    15 years ago on Step 6

    As for the mm2 limitation, it may be a memory limitation, although mm2 makes some absurd use of memory. I noticed once when rendering it couldn't render which I think is this complexity issue you talk about. When My memory was maxed out (unnecessarily but mm2 is crazy) at that moment, so then I rebooted and it was able to render though it used a tonnage of mem.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    To turn your images into a movie, you can use mplayer, which is free.


    15 years ago on Introduction

    VirtualDub can take a sequence of images and turn them into a movie. Plus, you can specify how many frames per second (to speed up or slow down the time lapse video), and you can apply any of the gazillion filters.. resize, crop, deflicker, enhance color, etc. Plus, VirtualDub is free.

    better plagues

    for mac users who are willing to pay $40, istopmotion makes the process incredibly easy for either time lapse or stop motion animation, although again, it's not a free solution.