Time lapse video is an awesome way to show off your 3D printing project and is great for racking up views on YouTube, social media, your blog, etc.
However, time lapse can be very challenging, especially for prints which last longer than the battery capacity of standard cameras. I would like to introduce you to my solution for 3D printing time lapse. The Brinno Time Lapse Camera line.
These are dedicated time lapse cameras, typically used for documenting construction activities, dramatic weather changes, travel and more. Brinno camera battery life is unprecedented, lasting up to six months without battery changes.
This Instructable will show how to use the Brinno cameras to make great 3D printing time lapse videos. However, not all of the content is Brinno specific, if you want to use an action cam, DSLR or other camera there are tips and tricks in here for you.
Step 1: Why Use a Brinno Camera
As stated in the introduction, the Brinno cameras are dedicated to time lapse and they do it very well. The secret to the extreme battery life is the cameras essentially sleep between captures. With a capture interval of 10 minutes (typical construction interval) most of the cameras will last for months. Many of my prints last 8-12 hours which is no problem for any of the Brinno cameras. Check out the battery life chart above, the Brinno Pro camera will handle any 3D printing project with plenty of life to spare.
Most other cameras are limited to about two hours of continuous capture. Beyond two hours and you may be looking at a dedicated power supply or changing batteries.
If you are using a DSLR, shutter life becomes a concern, a 12 hour print may require 4,000 pictures. If the shutter has a life of 50,000 to 100,000 actuations a good chunk of it's life was used for one print.
Dealing with 4,000 images can be a hassle. The Brinno cameras create AVI video file in the camera. You can essentially upload the files to YouTube without any additional work. To get a polished video with music and different views you can simply import the AVI files into iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, etc.
Currently, all of the Brinno cameras are 720 resolution. Brinno should have a 1080 camera by the holiday season. Don't let 720 deter you from the capability, larger sensors require more power and 720 is very adequate for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Step 2: Choosing a Brinno Camera
Pictured above in order below.
TLC120 – The TLC120 is Brinno's latest camera, with Wi-Fi file sharing and BlueTooth app control. I really like this camera, it is small and a good all around choice for 3D printing. This is the beginning of the future for Brinno with a slick app to control all of the camera's features and will soon be available in black.
TLC200 Pro – This is a reliable workhorse camera, proven over time. I use this for all of my indoor project lasting from a few hours to a few months. The HDR (high dynamic range) sensor is great for most lighting conditions. The interchangeable lens option is the biggest selling point for me. Quite often I need something other than the super wide 19mm lens included with the camera.
TLC200 Pro with 18-55 Lens – This is my favorite combination for 3D printing and other uses. The 18-55 lens is sharp and it removes most of the distortion seen in the 19mm kit lens, especially close-up.
TLC200 Pro with 24-70 Lens – This is another good option, especially for detail captures. However, the lens focusing is very tricky often requiring multiple test videos or tethering to a laptop for a detailed view.
TLC200 f/1.2 – This is the camera currently offered in Brinno's BCC100 construction bundle. This is a great camera for extremely long term construction projects. I recently pulled one which was working for over a year with one set of AA batteries. This is the least expensive option, it will work for 3D printing but would be my last choice. If you happen to have one or are on a budget, try one out it is still a great little camera.
Step 3: Your 3D Printer
If you are to this point you probably have a 3D printer and something to print. Your printer type will play a big part in your time lapse video success. Printers with a moving bed do not work well for time lapse. With these printers, the object is in a different location for every capture and the movement will most likely be blurred. The above video shows the only moving bed printer footage I have captured.
For the best time lapse videos you will want an open frame, static bed machine. I am pretty picky when it comes to this, my old Solidoodle was about perfect. My current CraftBot+ is a near second, however the extruder is obscured by the top support of the machine's exterior. This makes it challenging for extruder close-ups and print start captures.
From my experience, here is how the contest printers would rank.
DeltaWASP – This is very open for all angles and would make amazing videos. Any delta style printer would be at the top and if you want to build your own, saving some money go with...
Rostock Max v2 – I love the delta concept, you could time lapse the back of a print easily.
Ultimaker, Witbox 2 and Zortrax – I like the extruder being below the enclosure support. You can get a good close-up shot of the extruder action.
CraftUnique CraftBot+ - This is the only printer on the list I have personal experience with and it is a great printer, easy to use and it makes very good prints. The only reason it sits at number four is the extruder is behind the enclosure support. This is nothing against this amazing machine, but for time lapse it is a minor downfall. I want to see the start of a print, with this printer the start is behind a metal crossbar.
All of the Others – These are movable bed machines. I am sure they are all great in their own respects, they just don't rank on my time lapse list.
Step 4: Calculating a Time Interval
All time lapse videos videos require some time interval calculation. You can take a guess but getting the numbers right is very easy with a web site or time lapse calculator app. Here is a screen shot of the Brinno calculator page. There are two Scenarios, the first let's you input the duration and desired capture interval for the result. Scenario two, allows you to enter a desired video length for the result.
Under Scenario 1: I have a 12 hour recording time, and a time interval of 15 seconds. In the Result section, this will give me a final video 96 seconds long.
Under Scenario 2: I have the same 12 hour recording time but I want the video to only be one minute long. The Result section shows I need to set the capture interval for once every 24 seconds. Custom capture intervals can be set in any of the Brinno cameras.
Time lapse is best played back at 30 frames per second. This is the rate of standard video and what our eyes are accustomed to. Slower playback can look like like a jerky slideshow. The Brinno cameras have a Playback Speed menu option. Stick with 30 FPS for the best result.
Be careful, as with any video, things can get boring quickly, you may enjoy a 10 minute video of your print but the average viewer has little patience for videos lasting longer than a minute.
Step 5: Lighting
For any project you will want consistent light. I use three 42 Watt, daylight compact fluorescent bulbs. There are two in the boxes above the printer and one facing in from the printer front. Any reflector will work, to get the light focused in the right direction. Having more light is better, for all cameras, this will increase the shutter speed and reduce the ISO to prevent noisy or blurred captures.
One of the biggest distractions in a time lapse are rapidly changing shadows. In my camera selection video (Step 2) I loved the print, however I felt the shadows were a little too distracting so I didn't use it for my main video. Having some light hit the front of the print will reduce the shadows created by the moving bars at the top of the printer.
Step 6: Supporting Your Cameras
Mounting your camera is a very important aspect for any 3D printing video project. 3D printers move and shake, some more noticeable than others. I strongly recommend mounting your cameras on tripods or stands which don't touch the table the printer is sitting on.
The first picture above shows what not to do. The second is a big improvement, isolating the camera with a gap between the printer and mount.
Step 7: Pulling It All Together
I like multiple camera angles to break up the video with some variety but one camera works too. At this point the creativity is up to you. With a long print one camera could easily handle multiple angles, start at the top, move the camera to a front side for awhile and finish with the camera straight on. With a long print, nobody is going to miss a few minutes out of your video.
With good tools and a little editing work you can easily create amazing time lapse videos of your project.
If you use any portion of this Instructable let me know how it worked out. Good luck sharing your prints with the world.
Filament Note: The filament I used for these videos is a prototype new product by Filabot. They are recreating their Color-Full filament making it more vibrant than ever, however it is not yet available for order. This is a great product for 3D printing variety, you never know what the final print is going to look like. If you are interested in this filament feel free to contact the great people at Filabot.
Author: Josh Banks is the founder of TimeLapseCameras.com an online retail store dedicated to Brinno time lapse camera sales and customer support.