lego dolly

Quite the hiatus! Especially for this timelapse thing. But after watching some cool landscape timelapses at banff along with some discussions with a friend, I decided I wanted to try some new stuff. Now a days, a lot of the cooler timelapses have panning motions, where the camera slowly moves while it takes its shots. It makes it more interesting to watch. Kind of like Ken Burns effect. Like the House of Cards intro scene: This involves setting up a rail and dolly rig.

The key is to smoothly and slowly slide the camera. I wanted to build a quick and dirty setup to give this a try. What’s quicker and dirtier than using a LEGO setup! I created a flimsy dolly to hold my camera. Small LEGO wheels on a flat table is my “smooth”. Then I used a Technic motor to pull the dolly. All I need to do is tie a string to the dolly and have the motor spool the string in. But the motor turns at 405 RPM. That’s way too fast. I want it to it to be less than 1 RPM. Gears! I have Technic gears lying around as well. Using a 8 tooth gear with an 40 tooth gear gives me a 1:5 ratio. Using 5 pairs of those, I get the RPM down to 405/5/5/5/5/5=0.1296 RPM. That gives me my “slow”. Perfect. Set my focus and exposure, set the intervalometer to 10 seconds, switch on the motor, and watch it slowly roll.

600 pictures or 100 minutes later, I have this trial timelapse:

It ended up rolling 10 inches over those 100 minutes. That means, 0.1 inch per minute or 0.0017 inches per second. Pretty cool. I suspect the flimsy LEGO wheels made the movement less smooth as you can see in the video. Perhaps there was some elasticity in the string. The light flickering is from me occasionally hovering over the setup. So I definitely want to build a real setup that produces better results and that I can use wherever. I want to design something portable and easy to set up. Let’s see if I can get something done!