Sprinkler Timer Time Lapse Panning Device for GoPro or Small Camera




Introduction: Sprinkler Timer Time Lapse Panning Device for GoPro or Small Camera

If you're into photography, time lapse's, and/or GoPro cameras, then you've seen plenty of egg timer-based panning hacks.  Also floating around the interwebs, but not as prominently, are similar devices - but using a wind up manual sprinkler timer as the mechanism to create the rotation.

There is no way I'm spending $40 or more for a device that has to be babied and can't be used in adverse weather, so I chose to build one of these instead, as they are better suited to the outdoor foul weather use that a GoPro camera can be used in.  After pulling the sprinkler timer apart, the internals are indeed either plastic, stainless, or coated steel with an o-ring to help keep most moisture at bay.  The final product is compact, robust, and exactly what I was hoping for.

UPDATE: This is a first rough outing with a Canon Rebel DSLR on it, 2 second intervals run at 30fps.  On the right track, a little tweaking to figure out still.

UPDATE 10-27-13: First attempt with a GoPro.  I hung the timer inverted off a jib so the rotation would go left to right.

Step 1: Timer Modifications

I began with removing the hose connectors with a cut-off wheel in my Dremel.  After they were removed I used some sandpaper to smooth the body of the timer a bit.

Next is to remove the yellow cap containing the timer mechanism from the gray valve body.  In this model, it snaps in at the factory and is simply not designed to be removed without some bit of destruction.  If you look carefully in one of the holes left behind from the removed hose connectors, you will see a vertical plastic block inside - this is where the locking stem from the yellow top cap is clipped into.  Taking a small drill bit I carefully drilled a slot until I hit the locking post inside.  Taking a tiny seal puller or hooked awl, I snagged the latch and PULLED IT TOWARDS ME, releasing the locking post and allowing the yellow timer cap to be removed. 

At this point you have now a separate yellow top with timer inside, and the gray bottom valve body.

Step 2: Remove Timer Mechanism / Install Camera Mounting Bolt

It will be hard to see without some poking - but in the pictures after separating the black inside disc from the yellow cap - you will see the three black locking tabs that lock the two together.  Note in the pictures their orientation, then carefully take the thinnest prying device you have (I would never advocate using a knife in these tight quarters...) and pry the yellow plastic of of them away slightly to release the black part from the yellow.

You will see they thoughtfully molded a guide into the yellow cap for drilling.  After drilling the hole, grind that ring down flat - you need every millimeter of clearance between the bolt and the timer.

NOTE!!!Use a counter-sink flat head type bolt rather than the one in the picture.  It stuck up a bit too far and had to be ground to fit it back together properly.

Bolt the 1/4" x 20 screw into the cap and tighten.  A thread locking compound is added assurance that they won't loosen, as re-tightening will require dis-assembly to reach the screw head..

Step 3: Insert Tripod Mount Into Base

Setting aside the yellow top part, we now address the gray valve body - where a tripod mount needs to be installed.  

Again the manufacturer has provided a guide for drilling, but be careful, as internal structures will push your bit off center as you go through the bottom.  Fine tune the hole so that the "grippers" on the insert have some plastic to bite into.

Mixing up a batch of the epoxy, I put some in the hole and around the edges, then hammered the 1/4" x 20 Insert Nut in flush.  That's all there is to it.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Now you should just have to snap the top timer cap assembly onto the valve body and you are good to go to take some beautiful panoramic time lapse sequences!

Lastly, I wrapped the body of the timer with electrical tape - an innertube from a mountain bike tire would have been better - but none laying around, so the tape it was.

As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome.  Happy trails.

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7 years ago on Introduction

Great idea, thanks! I went out and bought the exact same timer today. I was about to bust out the drill when I realized something. You don't have to drill or cut anything! If you turn the whole thing upside down you'll notice a tiny hole in the bottom of the unit. At first I thought this was a drainage hole--and that may be--but I also realized it's an access hole.

Stick a thin, rigid object--like a small drill bit or fine screwdriver--into the hole at an angle toward the inlet opening (the one with the spinning hose connection). The bit should be about half an inch or so into the hole at this point. Now change the angle of the bit toward the outlet opening like you're pulling on a lever. If you do it right the tip of the bit will disengage the clip holding the timer in place and it should release (catch it as it falls!). It literally took me about 5 seconds of jiggling to get it.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I also just noticed in your photos the base does not have a hole in it. The product I have looks identical to yours except mine is branded as "Yardworks" instead of "Melnor". I bought mine from Canadian Tire so I guess for some reason our version of it has a hole. My suggestion would be to drill the hole for the tripod first which should give you access to the locking clip.


8 years ago

Terrific post: very well documented.
I found a $5 sprinkler timer at KMart: a Ray Padula Time It! manual hose timer. It looks to be a near exact match to the one you hacked except it disassembles with 3 screws at the bottom making a cleaner entry in to the housing. It looks to be a bit bigger too.
These sprinkler timers are nice because its a 2 hour 360 degree rotation versus the 1 hour rotation of the egg timers. Probably good to have one of each...