Friday, March 14, 2014

A brief sidebar - Time Lapse Photography

I've always wanted a time-lapse camera! When I was a kid my dad (Eric Carr) built a time lapse camera attachment to go on the family movie 8 camera. If you pushed the switch one way the camera took movies. If you pushed it the other way, it took one frame. My father built an apparatus that worked on a clock motor that would push the 'one frame' button once a minute or so. I remember the wonder of a home-made time lapse movie.

Last month I picked up a rather nice Fuji digital camera, but it doesn't have a time-lapse function. I have researched and found some Canon cameras can have a software 'hack' to allow internal programmed time lapse, but my Fuji camera doesn't support that.

So I went back to my father's idea. I built a frame to hold the camera and bought a small gear-motor that runs on DC power. I decided that I wanted the setup to run on 12 volts DC so that I could run it off a car battery when out camping or fossil hunting. A variable voltage power supply is easy to make from a Texas Instrument LM338 variable voltage power chip and a couple of components. This will allow the gear-motor to be supplied with a variable DC voltage, changing the rotation speed and changing the time between pictures. Since the camera has to be on the whole time that a movie is made, the internal batteries won't last long enough. So I also made a secondary power supply using a second LM338 voltage regulator that supplies a fixed 5 volt supply to run the camera off the car battery. A link to Texas Instruments: Voltage Regulator link

So here's a picture of the components. A tripod to hold the camera, the mounting block/power supply, 12 volt battery, camera.

 Here it is in operation:

Once you take a series of pictures they have to be assembled into a movie. Lots of freeware is available to do that. I used A freeware version of Video Velocity from Candylabs. Here's their website: Candy Labs Software . The freeware is limited in what it can do, but it OK to assemble a simple video. I took about 1200 photos over a 3 hour period at the OMSI Paleo lab showing Bernie's rock as we worked on it. It's pretty boring but it shows what can be done. 

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