Vega-T

VEGA-T Motion Control

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.
– Simple

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….
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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.
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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.

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Little bit of prototyping work was done in this configuration.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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A final look at the finished product from the front.
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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.

After going through test after test after test it was ready.
We took the VEGA-T to Colorado & Utah last fall, you can see an example here of a shot that used it Tree Time-Lapse

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.

I recently purchased a Stage Zero system from Dynamic Perceptionthat I’ve been playing with. I’ll have a write up on it soon.

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