Construction Time Lapse Photography

2009 August 25
by Otto

If we’re going to build a house I want a cool photo record of it. But we would like to avoid having a thick scrapbook of photos we bore guests with. So I figured, why not make a 30 second time lapse video of the construction process?

Here’s the final setup of my time lapse photography setup. To read the details read on below.

Construction Time Lapse Photography setup

Construction Time Lapse Photography setup

After much research, here’s the setup I chose: A Canon 40D (I had one around…cheaper cameras work fine) combined with a Canon TC-80N3 remote controller. It’s generally used for remote triggering, but can be set to do an infinite loop of pictures with a set interval. (Infinite, that is, until the camera battery dies or the memory card is full.)

Then I picked a place to mount the camera, which in my case was a power pole at the back of the lot. (I later had to move it, to a temporary power pole mounted a few feet in front of the original pole. So if you’re from Northwestern Energy, don’t have a cow. I’ve moved the camera off your pole.)

I did a lot of research on using an external battery, like a car battery, to power the camera, but in the end nothing seemed to really make sense or be practical. So the bottom line is I have to go out and swap out the battery roughly weekly. In the winter it might be more.

The mounting and housing took some work. After considering various ideas I decided to use a bucket (I got mine from Ace hardware, a square black plastic bucket) that I turned upside down and cut a window out of. I chose black because I want it to heat up quickly in winter so the camera heats quickly after cold winter nights.

I got a piece of glass for the window and attached it using silicone. Since I’m worried about condensation, I cut a hole in the top of the bucket (the top when turned upside down) and then used some plumbing supplies I found at Ace to make a little roof over it. The idea is that condensation can get out but rain can’t get in.

A piece of plywood forms the base of the camera stand. To that I mounted the head of a tripod. To make it smaller, I took off the tightening handles of the tripod and replaced them with allen-wrench-ended screws. I cut off two sides of the plastic bucket so the bucket mounted over the edge of the plywood base, and then I hold the whole thing in place with a bungee cord. Aside from the tripod and the camera equipment, the whole setup cost maybe $20.

I set the camera to take pictures every hour. So let the fun begin!

Here are photos of the setup:

Camera Mounted on Tripod Head and on Plywood Board

Camera Mounted on Tripod Head and on Plywood Board

Plastic Bucket with Window and Condensation Vent

Plastic Bucket with Window and Condensation Vent

Mark Installs the Camera to the Power Pole

Mark Installs the Camera to the Power Pole

The completed setup mounted on the power pole

The completed setup mounted on the power pole

overview of the timelapse photography setup

overview of the timelapse photography setup

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Josh permalink
    January 3, 2010

    Great Idea! Did you worry about someone stealing it? I know it would be a lot of work for someone to get to it, but if there is a will there is a way.

  2. Otto permalink*
    January 3, 2010

    Theft could definitely be an issue. My approach has been simply to try and fly under the radar–if no one knows it’s there then the likelihood of theft is pretty low. And few people look up and even if they do, chances are they won’t guess that under a plastic bucket suspended from a power pole 15 feet up is a reasonably nice digital camera.

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