DIY GoPro timelapse trick – Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend

GoPro egg timer
DIY – GoPro camera attached to an egg timer?

There were a few shots I had in mind while on my visit to the Cairngorms the other week, some of which were timelapse. And specifically, scenes where the camera moves within the scene. Normally, to achieve such effects will require a considerable investment in specially manufactured equipment. Alas, I don’t have a great deal of money and consequently had to think outside the box – so to speak.

After spending some time scratching my head and a bit of research on the internet I came up with the following DIY trick. One I’m sure some of you could take advantage of too!

It’s not the first time someone has come up with the idea admittedly but I’ve put my own little spin on it….

What do you get if you set a GoPro video camera to continuously fire away capturing photos and fix it to an egg timer? (note around the 50 second mark, me wandering over from my camp to the collect the camera!)

There are a number of ways I go about producing timelapse scenes. One of which is using a DSLR or other camera (in this case a GoPro). All you do, is manually set up your focus, exposure et al and continuously shoot pictures over a given period. Once all that’s done, you drag and drop your photos onto your PC and using software gather all those pictures and stitch them together to produce a video.

There are various ways of doing this, and the above can be a little more complicated than I describe (eg, exposure can change within a scene, white balance etc) but even so the principle is very simple.

Video is generally 24 frames per second. Or you could say, 24 pictures a second. Using your DSLR or other manual control enabled camera you will need to take 24 photos to produce just 1 second of video. I’m sure you can do the math. You’ll need quite a few photos to produce just a 10 second video!

Personally, I use Sony Vegas Pro for my video editing and one cool feature of it, is I can open a folder to import the photos taken and the software will ask me if I wish to produce an “image sequence”. Once you’ve ticked various boxes for settings and so on, it does all the work for you to compose a short film.

GoPro set up on egg timer
Cheap and cheerful timelapse in motion

So, back to the GoPro….

These diddy action cameras can take pictures as well as video and you can set it up to take a photo every 2 or 5 seconds and so on. Handy for timelapse.

But because it’s small and light it’s proven handy for the following wee set up to enable me to produce timelapse video where the actual camera moves within a scene. In this case I super glued some fixings for the GoPro onto a cheap egg timer!

To ensure the camera stays perfectly level and vertical while it moves and fires away, I glued some spirit bubbles onto the set up.

So out in the field, I’ll fix the egg timer to a tripod, then the GoPro, twist the egg timer so it gradually rotates over the course of an hour and hit record. Job done.

Admittedly, you can’t manually control the exposure and so on with the GoPro camera but given the right scene and conditions it can work out OK. You just have to judge it for yourself. Personally, I’ll only use this method on certain occasions and will likely stick to my DSLR or video camera for timelapse.

It’s worth noting that the pictures will be quite large in terms of data. So you need a fast and large memory card and of course quite a powerful PC too. The video you ultimately produce will in fact be around 4k resolution or more. ie, 4 times greater in detail than standard HD video. That’s a serious amount of data, but a beautifully rendered scene!

And speaking of timelapse, here’s another featuring the team building the igloo the other week in Strath Nethy. I toyed with the idea of filming something like this but I was mindful of my memory cards and batteries running low for the rest of the trip. Thankfully David Lintern from SelfPowered had the same idea and consequently used his DSLR. The final result was well worth it I thought! Big thanks to David!

Pingu Palace Timelapse from Self Powered on Vimeo.


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