Shot entirely in one week, in and around Lake Powell using DIY video & time-lapse dollies.
A little over a year ago, I was approached by my friend Josh Van Patter to build him a dolly for shooting time-lapse video. This is now the second version of the original time-lapse dolly. The overall concept is more or less the same. The main difference is that the new design is propelled using a winch instead of a high-friction foam wheel.
The downside to the old design was that the pipe tracks had to be almost perfectly level or the foam wheel would tend to slip under its own weight. The winch corrects this problem and, as an added bonus, gives the dolly the ability to climb.
I designed the winch to be removable so that it could be interchanged between multiple dollies, each designed for different applications.
I have four different gear motors that we use with this dolly for controlling the speed. For time-lapse, we use both a 1rpm and 2rpm gear motor. For long track shots and filming in real time, I also have a 4rpm, 6rpm and 10rpm. All the motors are geared with a 24-tooth, 48-pitch brass pinion gear. The larger aluminum gear that is mounted directly to the hub of the winch has 203 teeth.
In addition to the new and improved version of the original time-lapse dolly, I also created a compact travel-size dolly. Both systems utilize the same electronic wench, which can be interchanged to reduce cost.
The compact dolly is really simple; it’s essentially just a drawer box. The drawer slides I use are under mount, full extension ball bearing slides with soft close. They are the same drawer slides I use in high-end kitchens. When the slides are fully extended, the winch pulls the drawer closed giving you roughly 18 inches of movement.
The next phase of this project is making the dolly programmable. This will allow us to shoot multi-day time-lapses and also give us the ability to throttle the speed. Peter Kirwin is the brains behind this add-on. We will be coming out with a post on this as soon as it’s ready. If you want to stay in the loop, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter.
Behind the Scenes w/ Josh Van Patter
This video gives a quick preview of the gear we used to film FADE.
Filming by Joshua VP and Brian Grabski
Editing and Color by Brian Grabski
Home Theater by Admit One Cinema
Interior Design by Annie Tropple
Custom Woodworking by Brian Grabski
Music by Necro – Poetry in the Streets
How we pulled this shot off:
- To keep the lighting consistent, we covered all of the windows with tin foil. We had several “day light” fluorescent bulbs set up on stands that provided consistent lighting throughout the two weeks the flowers were blooming. That lighting setup works great for multi-day shots because the fluorescent bulbs stay cool.
- The camera is controlled by an intervalometer. Each time the camera takes a picture, a red LED light on the back of the camera illuminates. This light lets you know that the shutter is open. (For this shot, we took 3-bracketed images every third minute.)
- An Arduino Duemilanove controls the whole operation. We taped a photoresistor (a simple light sensor) over the camera’s LED light. The photoresistor reacts to the light emitted from the LED, and creates a signal that the Arduino board can measure when the LED turns on. Each time the camera’s shutter opens while capturing an image, the Arduino board knows it.
- As soon as the Arduino board receives the signal that a photo has been taken, we programmed it to wait for 60 seconds–this delay was added to ensure that the dolly will not move while the shutter is open for long exposures. After receiving the signal from the camera and waiting, the Arduino board activates a high capacity H-bridge called a Spike for five seconds.
- The Spike then powers a 2 RPM gear motor connected to the winch. The winch either pulls or lowers the dolly up or down the curved pipe tracks, which are mounted on top of fully adjustable saw horses. The gear motor runs at a fixed speed, so the duration of its runtime determines how far the dolly will move between shots.
- The robotic control of the dolly manages two variables: the frequency of the shots (set by the intervalometer) and the distance covered by the dolly between each shot (set by the Arduino board). Because the track length is fixed and the runtime of the gear motor determines the distance the dolly moves between shots, the run time essentially dictates how many images the camera will take while traversing the track. A consistent number of images means that the length of the final video will depend only on the runtime of the winch. Thus if we want to create a 10 second time lapse with shots covering three hours or ten days, we only need to adjust the intervalometer. This greatly simplifies the field programming of the dolly.
While I was working on my mobile website with Craig Rentmeester and having cocktails on the rooftop of The Cafeteria on a sunny summer day, we came up with a crazy-awesome idea to build the ultimate party invite.
I had just finished up an elaborate home theater project that I was super excited about, and I was in the mood to throw a big party. In addition, I was sitting on a boatload of great time-lapse footage that I had filmed throughout the entire process of the project for my demo reel. The party invite was a great opportunity to double dip, and use the footage twice.
This invitation was much more than just the video. It was a full-screen website, and it also had a mobile redirect for people viewing the invite on smart phones. More importantly, it was an all out marketing campaign. This is where Craig’s brilliance came into play. Craig is the ultimate salesman/internet marketer/fun-guy-to-work-with. He has talent, check him out: (www.relevantemarketing.com)
Craig created a custom page within my full-screen website that listed all the party information, as well as Google Maps embedded for people who needed directions to the party. There was also a link within the page that said, “Invite a friend”. When you clicked on the link, it automatically opened your email application and impregnated the body of the email with a prewritten message. All you had to do was type in your friend’s email address and press send. Pretty slick.
All in all, the party invite was a huge success. Between the website and the mobile redirect, the video was viewed over 200 times. More importantly, my portfolio got a few looks from a couple people in the industry that I really wanted to see my work.
The Finished Product
Click on the images below to view the custom theater built in conjunction with Admit One Cinema and Annie Tropple.
This is a short clip my buddy Josh Van Patter and I filmed this afternoon. We had two cameras rolling, a Canon 7D and Canon T2i. Both cameras were shooting still frame images triggered by a remote timer every 30 seconds.
On a custom mount I made in the shop, I mounted the T2i directly above the drawing shooting straight down at the paper. The 7D was mounted to a new-and-improved time-lapse dolly prototype. As soon as I get the new design painted, I’ll do a post on it similar to the one I wrote for the original Time-lapse Dolly.
We’ll probably use this shot in the intro section of my upcoming demo reel. I’m really happy to be able to check this time-lapse off of my list of things-to-do in 2011!
Click on the images below to enlarge them.