Home Movie Theater – Behind The Scenes [Video]


Video Credits:

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


Image Gallery

Multi-day moving time-lapse

time lapse dolly

This project was a collaborative effort between Peter Kerwin, Joshua VP and Brian Grabski, with special thanks to Kyle Pettis for loaning us his beautiful copy of Rembrandt’s Lucreacia.

 How we pulled this shot off:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Image Gallery

The Ultimate Party Invite/Guerilla Marketing

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.

FADE: a short film [Video]

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. Like this Dolly? Buy one Now.

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.

Order this Time-Lapse Dolly

make a time lapse dolly

Order this fully assembled time-lapse dolly for just $599.
Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.


  • 12V battery
  • 1 rpm Gear Motor
  • 24-tooth pinion gear
  • 203-tooth aluminum hub gear
  • 18 inches of movement
  • 2 rugged nylon handles

Comes ready to shoot. Measuring 11” wide x 19” long x 4” tall, this compact travel dolly fits in most carry on suitcases.

Price: $599.00, plus $29 shipping on orders within the continental US.

Note: Does not include camera mount or battery charger. 

Fitted Furniture Design Sketch

Furniture Design Sketch

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.

Chevron Veneer Top [Video]


About the cabinet:

The veneering on the tabletop is a Chevron pattern.  Some people refer to this design as a French Herringbone.  This particular style looks awesome on hardwood floors.

For this project, I used Curly Figured American Walnut that I got from Certainly Wood.  The quality of their veneers is excellent.  I highly recommend them.

The finish I used is an oil-based varnish.  The thing that I really like about varnish is that it tends to amber significantly in the first few months; which adds a lot of warmth to the strong character of the wood.

The hardware was hand-made out of brass and leather.  The brass was finished to look antique.  A great place to find hardware like this in the Twin Cities is Nob Hill.


About the video:

This is a 30 second HDR time-lapse that I filmed over the course of 23.5 hours.  I mounted a Canon T2i on a custom-made ceiling mount directly above my workbench, and shot still images on a remote timer every minute for the entire process.

I bought a Tokina 10-17 f3.5-4.5 Fish Eye lens special for this particular shot, and I’m really glad I did.  I love the way this lens bends the light and captures almost the whole shop.

I also used a Canon AC Adapter Kit for Rebel T2i.  An advantage to having it plugged into a cord is that you are not moving the camera at all.  Even a slight bump will show up in the final shot if you’re not careful.

This footage will be going into my upcoming demo reel when it’s complete.  I can’t wait to finish this project; hopefully I’ll have all the shots I need by the end of the year!




Multi-Use Chair/Table

What are the Whiskey Sessions?

The answer: Kicking it with my good friend Mike Prom, drinking Knob Creek, talking shop, and sketching out big ideas.  The by-product of the first Whiskey Session was the hidden drawer mechanism that we collaborated on.  Now we are working on our second project, a Mulit-Use Chair/Table.  The design is pretty much ready to rock, and I will be starting on the prototype very soon.  Once the prototype is complete, we may potentially do a production run of 100+, manufacturing all the parts using a multi-axis CNC router.

  • Brian Grabski, author of the briangrabski.com, and president of Minneapolis-based designed & MADE Custom Woodworking. Specializing in custom cabinetry, furniture, and fine finishes, available at www.designedandmade.com. Brian can be reached at 612.702.9972 or e-mail to brian@designedandmade.com

Furniture Spin [Video]

My favorite part about making custom furniture is the marketing aspect of it. I invest a lot of time and energy making videos that showcase my work with the help of my buddy Josh Van Patter. It is a really fun way to get the word out to a lot of people that there is a young guy in the Twin Cities who is making high-end custom furniture.

6 hours of heavy lifting for 7 seconds of footage, I love it!


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 available for purchase.

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