Introduction: The Always-Turning-Kaleidoscope-Time-Lapse-Photography

About: I like to build things for one reason only. To have fun. Creating for me is a way to let my imagination loose and explore. If you like the things I have created, subscribe.
This is a great, easy project that anyone can do and learn from, because it involves the basics of three great things: photography, woodworking, and electronics. And what is it, you ask. Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so watch the time lapse video (made of thousands of pictures!) to see what this project can accomplish.

More videos on step 8.

Pretty cool, huh?  This kaleidoscope gives time-lapse photography unlimited potential. Here's the steps you need to make one. Enjoy.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Unfortunately, this is a project where there are common materials and tools, and then expensive stuff that you may or may not already have (ex: DSLR).

- DSLR. I used a Nikon D90.
- Intervalometer. Unfortunately/fortunately, Nikon doesn't make one for the D90, so I had to buy a third party one. It actually works surprisingly well, though, and saved me a bundle.
- Long mirror
- Duct tape
- Electrical tape
- Wood glue
- PVC pipe
- Motor. I used one that had 7 RPM. It worked very well; you want the motor to turn very slowly.
- Battery snap
- 9 volt battery
- Scrap wood
- Hose clamp
- Big wooden dowel
- Nails, Screws, Bolts, Nuts, Washers
- Tripod clip/mount

- Glass cutting kit
- Washable marker
- Chop saw or hack saw to cut PVC pipe
- Jigsaw
- Utility knife
- Soldering iron and solder
- Drill and different sized drill bits
- Square and Ruler

Step 2: Building the Kaleidoscope

First step, grab your best camera lens that is suitable for time-lapse.  You don't want to use a huge telephoto lens, or a small macro lens. Your best bet is the kit lens, if you are not sure what to use.

Measure the lens if you want to, but you can just eyeball it. This will give you a rough idea of how big to make your kaleidscope (and I would recommend erring on making it bigger).

Alright, now we can start. First, get a long piece of mirror. Then, using a glass cutting kit, carefully cut out a piece of mirror. The pieces I cut out were 6 inches long, but looking back I would have made them smaller (about 5 inches). I only know the basics of glass cutting, but you just scrape the cutter along the mirror, and then tap it with the other end of the cutter. It should just break right off. Then, trace the outline of the piece with a marker twice. Cut out those two pieces. You should now have three identical pieces of mirror. Tape them together in a triangular prism shape with a strand of duct tape. You need to allow some space between the pieces so that they can fold together, but not so much that they are loose. There! Now you have a basic kaleidoscope. Test it out with your camera.

Step 3: Housing for the Kaleidoscope

Now, take your kaleidoscope to your local hardware store that sells PVC pipe. You want to find a piece that is just slightly bigger than the kaleido scope, and that is about a foot longer in length. Pay for it, then bring it home. Once home, wrap the entire kaleidoscope in lots of duct tape so that it fits very snugly in the PVC pipe. 

Here's a basic outline of how we want the kaleidoscope and housing to be, from one end of the pipe to the other. On one end, we want about half an inch of just PVC pipe, followed by the kaleidoscope. This gives it some protection. Then we want about 3-4 inches of just PVC pipe, so that your camera lens can slide in.

So, you may need to cut the PVC pipe if you have extra. I used a chop saw, but you could just use a hack saw.

Alright, to recap, you should have a kaleidoscope that can fit snugly in a piece of PVC pipe that you cut down to size.

Step 4: Motor

Now you need to get a motor. I just had one laying around, but you could get  one at radio shack or a similar store. You also need a battery snap. To connect the two together, simply strip the wires of each with a utility knife, or your teeth (careful). Then, solder the two together. Easy peasy.

Quick test, grab a 9 volt battery, snap it into the snap, and see if the motor rotates.

Step 5: Woodwork

Woodworking time! This is pretty confusing, because it's hard to explain, and my camera was unable to be used during parts of the build. So bear with me; I'll try my best to be clear.

I used a lot of scrap wood, because I was just building it one thing at a time, and realized that I might make mistakes and waste nice wood. Bottom line: scrap wood works fine. 

First things first, we need a base. Mine was 18 inches by 10 inches. It was pretty heavy, which is what you want.

Next, we need to work with the motor. First, get a piece of scrap wood about 5 1/2 inches long by 1 inch wide. Cut a small groove on the bottom of it. Then, take a hose clamp and fasten the motor to the piece of wood.

Now, take a big wooden dowel (the diameter I used was 1 3/4 inches), and cut it into two identical pieces that are about an inch longer than the kaleidoscope pipe; mine were 10 inches long. These next steps are very important. Make sure that each time you drill, it is nearly perfectly centered. Now, find a drill bit that is the same size as the motor shaft, and drill it into one end of one dowel. Then, find three long-ish nails, and a drill bit that is the same size. With the remainding three ends of both dowels, drill a couple inches deep perfectly centered and straight with the nail-sized bit. This is a good time to wrap the dowels and kaleidoscope pipe in electrical tape. It will increase friction immensely, and therefore help the whole thing spin.

Next, take two other scraps of wood. One piece you want to be about the length of the width of the base (so for me, 10 inches), and about 3 1/2 inches tall. With this piece and a jigsaw, cut out a half circle about 4 inches long from the center of it, and about 2 3/4 inches deep. Then, wood glue and nail this piece to one end of the base. The other piece of scrap wood should be cut down to a 2 1/2 tall by 3 inch wide rectangle (note: I made mine too long [4 inches], and that got into the way of the lens. I then had to cut out a quarter of circle out of the piece, once it was already nailed down. It was very tricky, don't make this mistake). 

Now, you should have.... A base with a piece of wood (the one with the half circle cut out) attached to the end of it. Two dowels, one has the same sized hole on each end. The other dowel has the same hole as the other dowel on one end, but on the other end it has a differently sized hole drilled in it, sized to fit the motor shaft. The motor is attached to a block of wood with a hose clamp. Finally, a small rectanglular piece of wood 2 1/2 inches by 3 inches. 

Good? Alright, next step. Remember the three nails? Take two of them. Nail them into opposite side of the board with the half circle (you may want to drill the holes where you want them first, and then hammer in the nails). Take the motor attached to the wood piece and fit it into the dowel. Then, fit the dowel into the nail, keeping it loose, and nail down the motor into the base (about two inches in, length wise). Then, take the other dowel (the one with the two identical holes), and fit one end onto the nail that is sticking out. Again, keep it loose. Now, you should have one nail left, of the three originally. You also should have the rectangular piece of wood left. Mark where the nail will meet the dowel, and then drill a hole, hammer in the nail, and then fit that into the dowel. Then, wood glue and/or nail that rectangular piece of wood onto the base.

Let's do another recap, shall we? You should have a base of wood, with two pieces of wood attached to it, and a motor. Between one piece of wood with a half circle cut out of it, and the motor and smaller piece of wood are two dowels. Both dowels are loosely suspended by two nails. The motor should be attached to a battery snap, so snap it onto a 9 volt battery and make sure the one dowel spins. Then, put the kaleidoscope pipe in between the two dowels. It should spin slowly.

Step 6: Camera Mount

Next, you need another scrap board of wood, tripod clip/mount, two screws, and two bolts, washers, and nuts. I got my tripod clip from a broken tripod I practically got for free at a garage sale. If you have to, you can buy a junky tripod for cheap and just take off the clip. Screw the tripod clip onto the board of wood. Then, screw your camera into place. Position it exactly how you want it, and then drill two holes on the each end of board, and on the base. Line up the holes, and then bolt them into place.

Step 7: Optional Step

This may or may not be a problem for you, but it was for me. The kaleidoscope pipe continually would ride up until the mirrors would scrape my lense. To fix this, I grabbed another piece of wood, marked out a design of how I wanted it cut, and then cut it with a jigsaw. Then I nailed it into placce. This piece was a barrier between the PVC and my camera, and it worked very well.

Step 8: Time Lapse

Time lapse photography is very simple. For this rig, you just set the board down, and leave it for a couple hours. You take pictures at a certain set interval of time, and then play them back very fast. I won't go into more specific details, because you can find instructions everywhere. Plus, it's good to experiment yourself. I will tell you how I made my movie, though. I pretty much set everything up, and took an automatic picture. I then changed all of the manuel settings to mirror the automatic ones, and set the focus to manuel. I set the interval time to three seconds. I shot for a couple hours, and then I put them all in Quicktime Pro. I used a 6 fps playback speed because the kaleidoscope made things difficult at higher fps rates. That's really it. Have fun, and I would love it if someone actually made this and did a video, and posted it here.

Another time lapse video.

The set up in action.

This project is also great for regular videos shot with your DSLR or video camera, and for stills. 

Kaleidoscope video.

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