How to make the best time-lapse video – Part 2

The equipment and how to build your time-lapse unit

 

While there are many commercial options for ‘off the shelf’ ready made time-lapse boxes – at LA Media we always build our own. We looked at the commercial options available but found them to be pricey, not fit for our purpose and requiring modification to make things work the way we wanted….so we decided it would be easier, quicker, cheaper and more effective to build our own.

Every box will be different so I’m not going into specific construction details here but  I am going to go into the details, assets and considerations that we use so that you can as well.

 

The Box

Adapt for purpose…. Have you got anything lying around that you can reuse? We found an old Peli case that was doing nothing useful and decided that would be the starting point for our box.

Peli case

We cut a hole in the front and fitted a small window of glass for the camera to look through. NB We had to pay a Glazier to cut the glass to the right shape and size – it was our first expense but a tiny one.

Some old bits of timber we found were then repurposed for our interior shelving.

We drilled some access holes into the Peli case. These were for our mains cable, power supply and the 4 aerials extending from our router.

On the back of the Peli case we fitted three brackets (which we had to buy – very cheap). These were to function as our clamps for when we wanted to mount the box unit onto scaffolding.

Finally – we weatherproofed the window and any holes we had made in the Peli case. Winter-spring, rain-shine the box has to be dry on the inside because of the electrical and fragile nature of the equipment that was going to operate inside it for a long time.

 

Time-lapse box with camera installed

This process takes a couple of days to complete as we spend a good deal of time discussing the logistical layout of equipment inside the box – before we started on building the box itself.

 

What goes inside the Box

We strongly advise that you DO NOT re-purpose or adapt any old tech-equipment. Everything you are going to put inside the box should be hooked up, tested and proven to be reliable before you decide to install it into your ‘beautifully’ crafted box.

Camera and lens

Make sure the camera and software of choice integrate to run time-lapse and check you have  appropriate input/output connection to the computer you will need to install.  We use Canon cameras and Mac Mini computers and are connected through HDMI.

The camera is best mounted onto a ball joint and then fixed onto an internal shelf. This ball joint mount allows for fine tuning  adjustments once the camera is in place.

Use your camera’s mains power adapter (usually comes with the camera) to ensure that the camera can be connected to the mains power supply that you will run into the box.

Your lens should be appropriate for the field of view you want to see and aligned with the window you’ve already made in the Peli case.

Computer 

This is where your time-lapse software of choice (we use Dragon Motion) will be installed. It drives the time-lapse, all camera activity and enables your remote connectivity through software such as VNC.

Photos from your time-lapse should be stored on the computer’s hard drive (do not use a flash card in the camera – not enough space) and when the computer’s memory is nearly full,  you need to perform a data download/transfer to free up more space.

Image of Dragon Frame Software

Router

The router is how you make a G4 connection and it should come with a unique stand alone IP address. It will require a SIM contract like any mobile telephone but is worth the cost as this is how you will connect remotely to your time-lapse.

Multi-point plug board

The power board for the unit (we use a four point, 13 amp, surge protected plug board) will be inside the box and it’s cable will run to the outside through one of the holes you have already drilled.

NB most construction sites operate an electrical distribution of 110V for health and safety reasons so always check the power supply is suitable for  your needs.

health and safety is critical so put a weather protected plug on the outside end of your power cable and make sure that whatever it plugs into is also weather protected. It’s a good idea to follow any cable supply back to the source where you will check that the fuse rating it is protected by is appropriate and secure and weather protected.

Final Touches

Clean your box window inside and out and carefully wipe your camera lens

Pack some bubble wrap around all the elements you have placed inside your box. This helps keep things secure and provides some thermal heat for the unit for when things get really cold.

Close and secure the door of the box and then….you are ready to go.

 

The last steps in making a professional time-lapse are: 

1. How to install a unit

2. Delivering the maintenance

3. Produce the final product

 

So keep an eye open for our Part Three in this time-lapse series where we will get into all that..

Man standing in front of time-lapse camera

If you’d like to see the time-lapse work we have delivered for others, check out the rest of the website and if you have any questions, e-mail us at louise@lamedia.co.uk or give us a call on 0131 622 0220.