Time-lapse Dolly Project

time lapse dolly

I was approached by my friend Josh Van Patter to design him a dolly that could move a camera from point A to point B smoothly at a speed so slow it’s almost undetectable by the human eye.  The purpose of this dolly is to capture time-lapse video.

The time-lapse video dolly is electronically controlled, allowing the user to adjust both the speed and direction of which the dolly travels.  The dolly moves down pipe tracks at a rate of about 2’/hr.  It is equipped with an electronic kill switch that cuts the power to the 1 RPM gear motor when the dolly reaches the end of the elevated tracks.  This allows the user to set up the shot and leave without risking damage to the dolly and his equipment in the event the dolly overruns the length of the track.

Check out the New Time Lapse Dolly.

What makes this dolly especially unique is its ability to accommodate curved tracks without binding or derailing.  The dolly is designed on a three-wheeled platform.  Two  of the wheel sets guide the dolly on the outside rail, while the third wheel set assembly mounts to a telescoping arm that allows the dolly to accommodate for any discrepancies in the curved rails.

The dolly rides on a fully adjustable rail system that has the ability to break down for easy transportation.  The pipe rails used are sturdy 1.375” OD steel pipes, the same that are used for commercial greenhouses.  With the use of an industrial pipe bender, custom bent rails systems can be created to capture nearly any shot.

Tutorial Video

Summer Escape


  1. Great job Brian. The video showing what the rig can do is fantastic!

  2. Wow! This looks great! :)
    I´m trying to make a motorized dolly for curved tracks myself. It´s hard to make it good, light and keep costs down…

  3. Very nice work Brian!

    Any plans, drawings and links for the parts list would be great.

    Kind regards,


    • I don’t have any plans or part lists available at the moment, but will hopefully have something up on the website for you all by the end of the summer. All the electronic parts can be ordered from http://www.servocity.com. If you attach a link to this article, I’m sure they can tell you exactly what you need to order. I ordered the wheels and bearings from http://www.warehouseskateboards.com/ The extension arm is a 10″ KV full extension ball bearing drawer slide. Send me a picture if you end up making one!

  4. Hi Brian,

    I don’t have much knowledge (yet) about the working of the electronics in such a dolly. I am gonna make myself a dolly too so I wanted to know which parts I need to get it motorized. I know I need a electronic motor, a battery unit and some wireing, but what can I use to control the speed and what is a servo?


    • Don’t worry about having a speed controller on the dolly, it’s not worth the added expense. What I’ve been doing is hooking the 2rpm gear-motor directly into the 12v battery. Take a look at the pictures of the new prototype in this post: (http://www.designedandmade.com/2011/10/15/fitted-furniture-design-sketch-video/) Start with that, and once you have figured everything out invest in a couple more motors that run at different speeds if you need the dolly to move faster or slower.

      You can also adjust the speed of the shot in post production or by exporting it at a higher frame rate in quick time pro.

  5. The motor speed problem is easily cured by using a programmable microprocessor, such as an Arduino together with a very simple circuit using a transistor. Next step here, maybe? Beautiful work on your website, Brian. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I am highly impressed by the craftsmanship and ingenuity that went into these rigs. Major kudos to you. I am looking into building one myself, and really appreciate the links for the motors and bearings/wheels. I was wondering however, where you sourced the gears. Were they custom made, or are they hiding on the servocity website somewhere? Any tips you can give would be great.
    Again, congrats on an awesome rig, and great movies. Keep up the great work. I would be interested in learning more about the programming variant once you get it up and running.

  7. Brian, I read that you were considering parts lists and plans for the dolly and I was wondering if there was any progress or if these plans might be available for purchase at some point?

  8. You are so crafty! Thanks a lot for sharing! You did a really good job, I love it.

  9. As far as the building part goes I can handle it.I first saw a moving video time-lapse and fell in love with it so I thought I would give it a try.


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