Gear and DIY projects

Time lapse slider

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Inspired by the tracking time lapse shots I've seen on many BBC productions, I thought I'd have a go at building my own DIY version of a motorised slider.



The main requirements for a time lapse slider is that the camera needs to travel very slowly and smoothly along a glide rail. After some failed attempts at making my own glide rail, I decided to buy a one from Sevenoaks, and then set about working out how I could add a simple continuous motor and drive unit.
For simplicity I decided that a simple, continuous drive would be much easier to build than a stepper drive and controller. The motor and pulleys used mean that it takes around 20 minutes to travel the length of the rail, but the motor also has a speed control, so it can be slowed down to allow for even longer tracking shots. So, here are the parts that I used to construct the slider (scroll down the page to see some pictures of how it all goes together) -

Motor - I used a Celestron Astromaster Motor Drive, normally used to power telescopes. This has a built-in gearbox to produce the very low speeds that are needed for the slider. This is the large black box you can see at one end of the rail. (cost around £35-40)

Main pulley - 60 tooth aluminium pulley with a 5mm bore. This was attached to the drive shaft of the Celestron motor.
Secondary pulley - 24 tooth aluminium pulley. This was attched using a shaft and bearing to the opposite end of the rail from the motor.
Bearings for secondary pulley - pillow block bearing
Drive belt - MXL open length belt, 1/4 inch wide. This was attached to the camera platform, and around both pulleys until it was tight enough to transmit the drive from the motor reliably.
The belts, pulleys and bearings cost around £35, and were all purchased from motionco (www.motionco.co.uk)

I have done a quick test shoot with the slider, which you can find here - Time lapse slider test

slider 1


Slider 2


Slider 3


Slider 4


Slider 5