Introduction: Time Lapse Dolly

About: my main interest is in photography, but i like to tinker and Arduino has opened many more options for creating electronics projects I could have not even imagined in my younger years. it also allows me to give…

If you have always dreamed of making your own motion time lapse video's but lacked endless funds to buy time lapse gear and were not great with electronics or programming then this is the Instructable for you.

My goal with this and all my instructables is to create a piece of equipment that doesn't cost the earth, is easy for someone else to impliment and is capable of competing with more professional offerings. In this instructable I have gone for slightly more expensive components in order to reduce the amount of experience required to follow it. With this instructable there is no need to solder (although you can reduce the cost slightly and purchase the Egoshield with some assembly required).

The Ustepper and Egoshield represent a large part of the overall cost of this instructable but keep in mind this is a quick change part as it is held to the motor by magnets and would allow quick change between one of my single axis time laspe rails and this project allowing more versatile use and increasing the value of this device.

I have been working with the guys at Ustepper to make my last time lapse rail instructable more accessible to people with no electronics or programming experience and they have come up with a cool add on to their Ustepper called the Egoshield. this is a plug in module that can be bought fully assembled and along with their Ustepper module can be used to create all sorts of motorised projects like this one.

some of the parts I have used are very specific and although I have included all of my 3D models you may find you have to modify them to suit your specific needs. and that being said it is also possible to scale the Dolly up.

The goal of this project was to create a motion time lapse rig that wasn't tied to a rail and could allow much greater movement albeit over relatively smooth surfaces. The main hurdles to over come were finding suitable wheels and finding a way to secure the camera to the rig to ensure it did not lens plant at any time. The wheels were easier to find than I expected after raiding my sons old Lego Technic kit I found several wheels that would work. I thought about creating the whole support for the camera from scratch and also using one of my existing tripods, however i found these had too large a foot print and being in the need of a small travel tripod i decided to search Amazon for one. I managed to find a perfect tripod as a travel tripod and as a tripod for my dolly and if you dont mind pink its even cheaper.

parts required:

  1. Camera remote trigger lead see last step for more detail
  2. Ustepper
  3. Egoshield
  4. Stepper motor
  5. power tool battery or alternative 12-24volt battery
  6. 3D printed parts or wood alternative.
  7. Tripod
  8. lego wheels
  9. a short piece of elastic i used to secure the tripod to the dolly
  10. various nuts and bolts.

Step 1: 3D Printing Parts

I decided to try and make the base from wood but my woodworking skills are practically non existent and having tried and failed in wood i decided to take the wood mock up and transfer the dimensions to a 3d model and print the parts out. I had to compromise and print the base in several parts due to the size limitations of my 3d printer. I then had to bolt the parts together as per the images above.

for power you could use any 12 to 24 volt power supply but given recent events with Lipo batteries in phones and hover boards it has become harder to get these power sources at a reasonable price from places like eBay etc due to the inability to post them via air mail. With this in mind I wanted to find an alternative cheap source of rechargeable high capacity power and for this I found that power tool batteries made a good choice and are readily available. I use Ozito rechargeable power tools already and it seemed an obvious choice to use one of these batteries so I designed an adaptor plate and use two crimp spade connectors to make a secure connection to the battery terminals. If you have an alternative 18 volt power tool battery available I recommend searching thingiverse as someone may have already designed a plate to suit your battery.

Step 2: Uploading the Required Code to the Ustepper

Before we can use the Ustepper to control the Dolly we will need to prepare it by uploading the code to it using a USB cable from you computer.

to start you will need to download the Arduino IDE and install it

once installed we need to add the Ustepper board and Egoshield libraries

first of all open the Arduino IDE and click tools, Boards, Boards manager. search Ustepper and click the Ustepper board file and click install.

once we have the ability to program your Ustepper we need the code to program it with to do this we need to add the Ustepper and Egoshield time lapse library so..

again with the Arduino IDE open click Sketch, Include library, Manage libraries, and search ustepper we want to install the ustepper and egoShieldTimeLapse library.

now we just need to open the egoshield timelapse example so click File, Examples, and scroll down to egoshieldtimelapse, examples, timelapse this should open a new arduino window.

before uploading check the board type is set to Usepper and that the com port is set correctly in the tools menu. now click the upload button.

Step 3: Controlling the Camera

The guys at ustepper have included an option to allow the ustepper to safely control the camera's shutter but given the number of different trigger connectors for all the many brands and models of cameras you will need to source a lead from eBay etc specifically for your camera.

It needs to have a 2.5mm plug at one end and the correct plug at the other end to suit your camera.

to help with this I did a quick eBay search however its not exhaustive and you may need to refine it to get results specific to your camera but give me a poke and ill help as much as i can here.

once your connected its time to get out and take some epic motion time lapses. all operations are performed using the 4 button interface. Using the record button to open the time lapse menu you then use the left and right buttons to set the step distance and interval hitting record to confirm each setting and when you are ready hit play.

I have included the full PDF instruction manual for the time lapse function from ustepper as it goes into a little more detail on how to operate the controller.

Epilog Challenge 9

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Epilog Challenge 9