I’ve always been interested in timelapse photography. Not until seeing some motion controlled time lapses did I become extremely interested.
I started researching places to buy something to do motion controlled time lapses with. I didn’t need anything fancy, just something that could provide slow movement throughout a timelapse to add some perspective. Surely it wouldn’t be very expensive, its a simple A-B dolly and track. Maybe 500$ tops right? Well as anyone who has actually looked into these, they aren’t cheap at all. I wasn’t willing to pay $1,000 for something that seemed so simple, at least not until I knew for sure I was interested enough to commit to those kinds of expenses.
So I started to dig into how I could build one myself and research what I could do. I had the following requirements:
– I wanted it to be at least 8 feet long when assembled.
– It had to easily fit in an average car for transport so it needed to collapse into 4 feet sections at max.
– It needed to be fairly mobile to take to remote locations without 10 people carrying equipment.
– Cheap – Sub 500$ if possible.
So last year I began building my own solution based on those requirements, VEGA-T (Variable Electric Generated Astrophotography Timelapse), named after
the first star ever photographed (other than our sun of course)
First off I got a speed controller online, some assembly required….
Then I found a small power brick to use as the housing for the speed controller. Later I added a fan for cooling just to be safe.
Time to put it all together with some c-channel, foam wheel for drive, caster wheels to roll on, few bits of square tubing, an aluminum plate, 4 RPM motor and a little transmission box.
Had a 12v battery made locally to power everything. Got a tripod head off Amazon for cheap. Plus plenty of bolts and zip-ties.
Little bit of prototyping work was done in this configuration.
Here is the final version of the track. Originally as you can see above I was all set to use the C-Channel tubing as it was easy to keep everything in line but the rigidity just wasn’t there. 1″ square tubing in everything you see below.
The center section here not only provides center support for any weight sagging but also holds together the track that is in 4ft sections for easier transportation. I’m using 7/8″ tubing as inserts between the track sections. The track attaches to this center square with some wing nuts. Hand crank knobs for leveling on uneven terrain.
A look at the back of the dolly. I do like black. Cable wrapping makes things a bit prettier. You can see I am driving the dolly from the foam tire on the inside of the track. Because I went with square tubing I also had to add guide wheels on the inside of the track to keep the dolly on.
A quick top view of the dolly. I added a few LEDs inside the box to give a power indication from a distance so I didn’t have to walk up close and possibly create shadows in the timelapse.
A final look at the finished product from the front.
I also purchased a ski bag carrying case on Amazon to transport it all in which worked out quite well. Just needed to add a bit of foam to protect the contents.
In the end it worked out pretty well. It did most everything I wanted to.
– It’s 8 feet long when fully assembled.
– Because it is in 4 feet sections it can easily fit in the back seat of almost any car.
– It’s quite light, once I finish the carrying case it will easily be transported by 1 person.
– Although I’m not sure the final cost, it was a fun DIY project to get into motion controlled timelapse.
– It’s definitely simple. Assembly requires no tools, drop the dolly on the track, set your speed and go.