Monday, December 29, 2014

Pelican Goodness

Amazon recently had a Gold deal of the day on Pelican cases, and I ordered a Pelican 1560 hard case for my DIY time lapse rover.

Using the pick and pluck foam, it provides a snug fit for the Actobotics rover, the eMotimo TB3, and batteries.  The case is deep enough to stash any cables underneath the main level of foam.  I didn't have a secure and safe way to transport the rover, and it always ended up sitting on top of a pile of stuff in the car.  Now I'll know that it's ready to go and won't get damaged during transport.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DIY Time Lapse Rover 1.5 Update

One of the tweaks that I needed to do to get the time lapse rover working was come up with a coupler that went from 8mm to 1/4" so that the stepper motor shaft would connect to the 1/4" D-Shaft.  I originally could only find ones that didn't have a set screw, and the shaft would slip under any torque from the motor.

I settled on buying a coupler from ServoCity, and then drilling out the side so that it would fit the 8mm shart, since they didn't sell one that fit onto a stepper motor.  There was still a bit of play in the shaft under pressure, and I found myself constantly tightening the set screw.  

I finally came across what I was looking for, and ordered an 8mm to 1/4" aluminum coupler from ebay.

Unfortunately, the new coupler had too big of diameter, and I couldn't mount it like I did previously and just replace the old coupler.  I made the decision to make some design changes, and mount the stepper motor  in reverse, and use the NEMA mount from servocity on the back, versus on the shaft side like I did originally.  Luckily, the D-shaft that I used initially was still the right size and everything is mounted more securely and firm.  

The emotimo TB3 time lapse rover is now back in action and ready for testing once again.

If you haven't seen what the rover can do, here is some recent footage from Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Badger Gameday Timelapse with Jump Around

It's not often you get a chance to watch the University of Wisconsin Badgers from the suite level. I brought a GoPro HD Hero 3 with me thinking that I may be able to get some time lapse footage of the game. It's still a fun little camera, as they don't let you into the stadium with professional level photography gear, and it's not worth the hassle of walking back to the car if you get turned away. The GoPro gives a really wide angle of the stadium and crowd, but can't zoom in on the action. Perfect for some time lapse.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

DIY Time Lapse Rover Version 1.5

When I originally built the time lapse rover to work with the eMotimo TB3, the only option that I could figure out was to have the gears outside the frame, and have the stepper motor mounted parallel to the back axle. This wasn't pretty and based upon that original design, the rover was only 1-wheel drive.

The motor and gears hung off the back on one side of the rover.  Not ideal, but it worked.  

Recently, ServoCity released a new bevel gears that would allow me to create a much simpler drive mechanism and keep everything tucked within the frame.  I also made the change to a longer d-Shaft that now makes the rover 2-wheel drive.  The Stepper motor is mounted underneath the main support beam perpendicular to the back axle.  I also changed the way that I mounted the wheels, and brought them closer to the frame, as I figured there was no reason to extend them out the way they were previously.

I'm also using the new stepper motor mount.  Having a motor that has a gear reduction box made it tricky, and I suppose that I could have reversed the shaft to come out the bottom to make it easier.  It's a solid mount to the back axle with a small channel spacer to provide room for the 3/8" to 1/4" coupler.  The back axle is fixed now, and only the front axle can rotate.

The 3/8" threaded mount was rotated so that the TB3 always sits on the rover with the input ports positioned to the back.  This creates a cleaner path for the cables, and always bothered me a bit to have it mounted on a diagonal.  The GoPro mount is still on the front, and the 3/8" screw is ready on the back in case I want to do a scorpion mount for the flexible GoPro mount.

The bevel gears are smooth the rover feels more solid now.  With the wheels moved in, and the motor tucked underneath, the rover is a svelte machine.  Hope to get out and play with it more soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

DIY Floating Wall Mounting Blocks

Save money by making your own floating wall mounting blocks for aluminum metal prints

The 2014 Art Fair season is almost here, and I'm making last minute preparations.  I ordered a number of aluminum metal prints to add to my collection, but didn't order them with mounting blocks.  It adds an additional ~$8.50 per metal print depending on vendor, so I decided to try and save some money by making my own floating wall mounting blocks.  I already have a plunge router, so all I really needed was the router bit, template, and template guide.
I had a 8' x 3" poplar board, and used the Rockler picture hanging keyhole template to create the floating wall blocks.

You'll also need a 5/8" router template guide for the template to work.

A plunge router works best if you have the router plunge depth set properly before your first cut.

I cut about 16 larger size blocks, and a few smaller ones.  I cleaned up the edges with some sandpaper, and they were ready to mount.

Using the double-sided tape, I stuck the new blocks to the back of each metal print.  

In the long run, this method will save me a ton of money.  For this batch, each block cost less than $1.50 each.  I made a few extra blocks for future metal print purchases.

2014 Art Fair Schedule

m2 Photography will be participating in a number of summer art festivals.  I will keep this page updated if I am accepted to any more.  I hope to see you at one of these events!

Monument Square Art Festival - Racine, Wisconsin

Saturday, May 31st - Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Art Fair OFF the Square - Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday, July 12th - Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Uptown Art Fair - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Friday, August 1st -  Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Art in the Park - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Saturday, August 9th - Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cloud Gate Time Lapse

I took a day trip to Chicago yesterday to play with my DIY time lapse rover, and captured one of the most iconic Chicago landmarks; Cloud Gate.  I believe that most in Chicago refer to this as "The Bean" and is heavily traveled by tourists.  Great place to test the longevity of the rover, and capture a ton of movement due the high volume of foot traffic in the park.  The cool thing about the bean is that it's basically on giant mirror, so in essence, this is my and the rovers first time lapse "selfie."

Unfortunately, I had to stand guard over the rover as it made its way around the bean, as I didn't want anyone tripping over it.  Therefore, I'm in the reflection of the bean too.  It wasn't a great day for clouds in Chicago, but there was some whispy clouds that showed up better in the reflection.  The eMotimo TB3 drove the rover hundreds of feet in 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I captured an image once every 10 seconds on 3 different cameras.  The 2 GoPros were there to document the journey, and my Canon 5D Mark III was pointed at the bean.  I had about 15 people come up and ask me what I was doing, and some aspiring photographers interested in the rig.  The problem with the rover is the time for set up, as I have to drive the entire distance that the rover is going to take, and it wasn't designed to go very fast.  So for this sequence, it probably took almost 20 minutes to set up.

I'd like to come back someday to drive under the bean, but most likely I'd have to do that at night.  I also think doing some light painting in the park at night while the rover went around the bean would be cool. Definitely a fun toy, but it take some patience to get the sequence set up and completed.  I definitely think that I can find other fun locations like this, and test the limits of the eMotimo robot to see how far of a time lapse I can do.  Who knows, maybe this set the record for farthest distance for an eMotimo time lapse sequence.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Building an Actobotics Kite Aerial Photography Suspension Rig

The Kite Aerial Photography community is one of those groups where the members are sort of eclectic, and get tons of enjoyment from capturing unique aerial imagery by hanging a camera from a kite.  Anyone who has tried KAP gets not only the satisfaction of flying kites, but the reward of seeing a bird's eye view in the images.  I was hooked from the first session, and have been flying cameras on a string ever since. You've decided that you want to be part of "that" group, and want more information on ways to get started.  As a KAP nerd, I think I speak for the entire group by saying, "Welcome!"

People have been using Kites to capture aerial photography for over a hundred years.  George R. Lawrence made a name for himself using a series of kites to lift a 50 pound camera in 1906 to document post-earth quake San Francisco.  Most modern day kite photographers use a suspension rig which was designed by Pierre Picavet way back in 1912. What has changed is the quality of the cameras, the design of the rigs, and even instant gratification in seeing the images through wireless networks.  I will focus on the actual rig that holds the camera in this thread, and show how you can create your own.  

I'd also like to suggest that you check out the Kite Aerial Photography forum.  There are hundreds of photographers that discuss everything KAP, and should be your primary resource when you start your journey towards kite photography.  Before you even think about launching a KAP rig, please keep in mind that hanging a camera from a kite string can be dangerous.  If the kite fails or the camera falls from the rig, you could potentially cause serious damage to your camera, and injury or death to anything underneath.  I would recommend that you never fly your rig over the top of people, and ensure that there is a safe zone in case of failure.  

What sort of Kite do I need?

I have 4 kites that I use in my KAP quiver.  3 of them are soft kites called FlowForms that do not have any struts or a rigid frame.  Unfortunately, they do not make the original Flowforms anymore, but there are similar alternatives.  The nice thing about these kites is that they are very stable in the sky, which is critical for capturing great imagery.  The less the kite moves around, the less the camera will move around as well. Many fly a Delta kite, which comes in many sizes.  Hopefully it's obvious, the more wind the smaller the kite you need and vice versa.  

What kind of camera do I need?

I once told a worrisome friend of mine when he watched me hang a camera over the water from a kite, "There is always risk in being awesome."  Just understand that with the risk of launching a camera hundreds of feet in the air, there is a chance that you may lose or break it.  So, don't send your shiny new dSLR camera up when you don't know what you're doing.   There are plenty of low cost solutions that will get you amazing results while you learn the ropes.  That being said, you need a camera that has the capability to take pictures automatically.  This is called an intervelometer.  Some cameras have it built in, some use external triggers, and some can be hacked with custom firmware to accomplish this.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on what camera to use.  For this thread, I'm using a GoPro HD Hero 3, which has a built in intervelometer.  It's light, wide angle, and easy to use.  My first camera used in KAP back in 2009 was a Canon SD900 running the CHDK hack.  Since then, I have used 7 different cameras.  There are many options.

Do I need to build my own suspension rig?

Not really.   You can buy Kite Aerial Photography rigs that are ready to go.  I suggest browsing the options at  I think that one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby is building your own rig. I've created many different rigs from static to full remote control.  At this point, I fly 95% of the time with an Auto-KAP rig.  It's simple, and I still get the shots I'm looking for.  Auto-KAP basically takes and rotates the camera while it's in the air.  You can also add tilt to the mix.  Since Kite Aerial Photography is many times a solo activity, I find that Auto-KAP is the simplest way to get the most out of your session.

For this article, I've built a panning rig using Actobotics parts from  I've used a channel mount servo gearbox and hub gear reduction to slow down the rotation, so that the camera has time to take pictures for a number of seconds before rotating to the next stop.   I've also added the AuRiCo, Automatic Rig Controller, which operates the continuous rotation panning servo.  I've set it up to rotate a small amount, and then wait a few seconds before moving again. This really works great on a rig that has Pan and Tilt.  

The picavet suspension, which helps keep the camera level to the horizon, uses aluminum beams with eye hooks on the end.  Normally, I use PeKaBe ball-bearing blocks, which are smaller precision pulleys that really give the smoothest possible picavet.  However, in order to keep the cost of the rig down, eye hooks work just fine.  

Here is the rig without the aluminum beams, and a compact picavet package from

With the rig ready, now you're set to go and fly your kite.  The camera suspension rig is not attached directly to the kite.  It's attached to the kite line about 100 feet below the kite itself.  This helps with stability.  The Actobotics rig above rotates 360 once every 8 minutes or so.

Unlike Ellen's selfie, this one isn't going to set any Twitter record.  However, one of the outcomes of using auto-KAP is the aerial self portrait.  The Actobotics rig worked well, and I was able to keep the kite aloft for about 45 minutes.  

The result is an aerial view of my current home town, Paddock Lake, Wisconsin.  My house is even in the shot as an added bonus.  No leaves on the trees yet, as spring finally arrived a few weeks ago.  

The internet has a wealth of information on Kite Aerial Photography, so do your research before making any design decisions.  I find it very enjoyable to build your own rig and play with different configurations.  Having a simple, auto-rotating platform for your camera will make Kite Aerial Photography easier and more enjoyable.  Fly safe!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Rover is kind of a big deal...

I've had a few opportunities to test the eMotimo TB3, as I want to ensure that when I really need to set up a time lapse sequence, that I know what I'm doing. The TB3 makes it really simple, as I've used it on a tripod, on a slider, and my DIY time lapse rover.  Below you will see some preliminary examples of me setting up the TB3 for time lapse sequences.

 TB3 on a Tripod only using pan and tilt, no 3rd axis, from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas

Holy grail sunset time lapse testing with Dynamic Perception StageZero dolly, on my front porch

Time Lapse Rover testing at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The rover traveled over 90 feet on this sequence.  The goal was to have the rover hit the mid-point when the Milwaukee Art Museum's wings on the Quadracci Pavilion opened up.  Unfortunately, the winds were too high for the Burke Brise Soleil to open.  Since there weren't many clouds, and the signature wings did not open, this time lapse is a bit boring.  However, it was still good practice and I let the rover span the almost 100' arc in just over 2 hours.  What I did discover is that even though the rover is low to the ground, it doesn't escape movement caused by the wind.  Being virtually next to Lake Michigan, the winds were above the 23 mph threshold for the wings to open, and caused some shake to the camera on the rover.  I'm definitely going to attempt this sequence again, hopefully with better conditions.  The wings open at 10:00am, close and open again at 12:00pm, and then close at 5:00pm.

I also put a GoPro on the front of the rover to capture the arc across the cement in front of the museum.  Not too exciting, but definitely shows when the rover in motion, and this camera isn't even linked to the TB3.

One other interesting tidbit is that many people stop to ask about the rover.  I politely try to explain what I'm doing, and people smile bewildered.  You'd think that with the sound of the shutter, and a camera mounted to the rover it might be common sense for people to not stand right in front of it.  Apparently not.  One person even made the comment, "That is the coolest photography accessory I've ever seen!"  I know, the rover is kind of a big deal!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

eMotimo TB3 Rover Testing

The motor on my custom DIY eMotimo TB3 time lapse rover was replaced with a 14:1 stepper that has a good combination of torque and speed. (Speed relative to the original 27:1 motor)  I did some testing over the weekend and headed down to Lake Geneva.  This series stretched 30 feet with 845 images over 70 minutes.  Outside building a ridiculously long slider, this type of time lapse wouldn't have been possible without the DIY Rover.  I have some ideas to try a time lapse sequence where the rover travels over 100 feet!

I did try another sequence at the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, the path I had to work with wasn't exactly straight.  The problem with the rover as it's currently designed is the inability to steer the rover while it's in motion.  I'm able to make manual changes to its direction, for example, like when it gets too close to the grass on the sidewalk.  However, this changes the angle of the camera along the way.  Ideally, the Rover would be set correctly before starting, with not adjustments needed.  Here is the first half of the sequence.  The full sequence, the rover drives over 80 feet in about 2.5 hours.  

I also attached a GoPro HD Hero 3 to the front of the rover during this sequence, and set the camera to capture every 10 seconds.  You can definitely see when the rover's direction is altered, as the GoPro is mounted to the front axle.  Interesting perspective, without needing a dSLR.  I certainly get better image quality out of my Canon, but the GoPro is a great addition.  What I learned from this session is that I need to be very precise in setting the angle of the rover axle, or I need to find locations where I'm not limited to a 4 foot sidewalk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gigapixel Pano from Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas

Finally got to try the eMotimo TB3 on a large and fun subject:  The Las Vegas strip!  Using Panoramic mode, I used a 400mm lens to capture roughly 370 images to create this gigapixel panoramic.  Go ahead, Zoom in!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Testing the eMotimo Rover: First Run.

Spring seems to finally be here.  I needed to spend some much needed time cleaning up the garage, so I decided to put the new DIY time lapse rover to the test and let it run while I was busy doing other things.  I really wanted to test this thing outside, and snow sort of put a damper on that until recently.  The amazing thing about this custom rover, is that you're not limited to short distances like you would be with a slider.  This test footage was captured over about a 30 foot stretch of sidewalk for 1.5 hours taking a picture every 8 seconds.  The destination is outside my house, and not very exciting, but keep in mind that this is a only a test.

The great thing about the eMotimo TB3 is that you just drive the rover from the start point to the end point, and it does all the calculations for you.  You set the ramp up time, number of exposures, interval, etc.  The bad thing is that I currently have the slower (27:1) stepper motor on the rover.  Since you have to drive the rover from the start to finish, and then it has to drive it back to the start point, it takes a bit of time to get set up for a long distance time lapse.

eMotimo only offers 2 options for 3rd-axis stepper motors on their website, the (5:1) for faster moves needed for video and the (27:1) which offers more torque but slower speeds for time lapse.  Unlike my Dynamic Perception slider dolly with quick release mount, it takes a bit of time to get the motor mounted to the rover.  So, I've ordered and installed a permanent (14:1) stepper motor specifically for the rover, and hopefully, it will have a good combination of speed and torque and I'll never have to take it off.  Special thanks to Gunther at LRTimelapse for posting the proper wiring instructions.

This initial test, I set up the rover to go in pretty much a straight line down the sidewalk.  Since the sidewalk wasn't completely level, the rover did drift a bit.  I look forward to setting up a time lapse using a circle or arc, which wouldn't be possible with a slider.  I used Actobotics parts from ServoCity to build the rover, and it allows me to set the angle of the front tires.  Each time there is a break in the sidewalk, the rover dips when each of the wheels traverses the crack, causing a bump in the video footage.  I'll need to keep this in mind when finding suitable locations for the rover, and try and get as smooth of a surface as possible.  I'm not sure if there is a limitation to the distance the eMotimo can handle, but I plan on creating something this summer that is at least a couple hundred feet.

Headed to Las Vegas for a business trip this week.  Just need to decide whether to bring the rover to capture a time lapse of the Vegas lights, or stop by the NAB show!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

eMotimo TB3 vs. AutoMate vs. Gigapan Pro

I recently upgraded my time lapse arsenal with a new eMotimo TB3 robotic panoramic head.  I've really gotten into time lapse photography in the past year, and wanted something that would work on a slider, in addition to 2 axis moves on a tripod.  In addition to time lapse sequences, the TB3 can be used for video sequences as well as creating gigapixel panoramics.

I also have an Automate by Gadget works, and have access to a, EPIC GigaPan pro, so I thought I would do a high level review and comparison of the 3 products.   Please keep in mind that each of these specialize in different things, but have some overlap on features.  I'll start with the Automate, since I've had that the longest.

Automate by the Gadget Works:

The biggest thing that Automate has going for it is the price.  $299.  I purchased mine a few years ago, as it was hard to pass up this sort of deal.  It allows for 2-axis, pan and tilt, time lapse sequences, and mounts directly to a tripod.  It is powered by 4 AA batteries, and seems to last for multiple sessions.  It does have a power input, so if you're near an electrical outlet, that would be good for longer sequences.  I added a quick release plate to mine, as it gave me more flexibility in trying to find the nodal point than the connection platform that comes with the Automate.  There is limitation to how much the camera can tilt up and down to about 30 degrees.  For most gigapixel panoramics this would not be an issue when shooting with longer lenses.  Long exposures can be used with the camera in bulb mode, as well as HDR bracketing.  Since the entire Automate enclosure rotates with the camera, you don't have restrictions on how much you can rotate. With the eMotimo TB3, the cable can become wrapped around the motors if you have it turn more than 1 rotation.
  • Support of camera and lens combination up to 6 pounds.
  • Built in HDR Support using bulb mode on Camera
  • Programmable delay before sequence starts
  • 2 Axis motion control
  • Android app with Bluetooth integration.  Also works with Pocket PC or legacy windows mobile.
  • External triggers can be added such as motion detection, light beam interruption, or Noise detector.
  • Ability to create and save custom programs
  • The automate grabs your GPS coordinates and emails them to you.
  • Automate works with the Promote Control with separate 2.5mm to 2.5mm stereo cable.

One thing that I find is that the Bluetooth connection from my android phone / tablet is sketchy.  I need to reconnect sometimes multiple times, and reset the Automate if it loses connection.  With the added antenna, you can be up to 100 feet away and still have connectivity to the Automate.  There is a remote control screen which allows you to move the robot in real time, as well as trigger the shutter on your camera at will.  The best feature in my opinion is the "Roll you own" option, which allows you to create custom programs.  I find that this is the best way to create motion time lapse sequences that have more than just a start and a stop point.  You can also save these custom programs to use at a later date, so you're not messing around with programming a sequence.  You can use roll your own for time lapse, or multi-row panoramics.  One issue that I have found is that the motor speed is not consistent, and varies based upon how fresh your batteries are.  There are nice features, such as the ability to ramp your motor sequence.

The app for Automate has not been updated since I purchased my unit.  The product might be a lot more useful if they opened up the programming with an SDK, or made the code open source.  There is an auxiliary port that could be used for 3rd axis motion via a slider, but the app would need updates for this to happen. For the price, it's hard to beat, but you have a longer learning curve.

Epic GigaPan Pro: 

This GigaPan EPIC Pro isn't mine, and I have the least amount of experience with it.  I belongs to a friend of mine who is a photographer, but was nice enough to lend it to me for the purpose of this blog post.  Right off the bat, this is a beefy mount.  The EPIC Pro supports up to 10 pounds, which allows you to use some pretty hefty lenses.  This badboy was made for creating Gigapixel panoramics using technology developed for NASA and the Mars Rover.  Additionally, it comes with the GigaPan Stitch software which will combine your photos into a seamless panoramic, and then uploaded to, where you can share your images.  It does not come with a padded bag or case, which is a shame, since the size of this unit alone makes it almost a requirement to have it's own case.  This particular unit has a Really Right Stuff sliding mount to help eliminate parallax by adjusting the camera over the nodal point.  It has a proprietary built in rechargeable battery, as well as an AC plug in.  
  • Retail $995
  • Works with almost all dSLR Cameras
  • Support up to 10 lbs
  • Included Stitch Software
  • Parallax adjustment
  • Remote Trigger port
  • Multiple Triggering option for bracketing
  • Promote Control integration for HDR or Focus Stacked panoramics
The user interface is simple and I was able to create my first panoramic sequence in just a few minutes without any documentation.  Obviously, if you buy one of these, you'll want to read the manual and understand the best way to set up the EPIC  Pro.  The entire unit rotates with the camera, so there is no wrapping of any cables if you rotate too far.  

The timelapse option on the EPIC Pro allows you to capture a series of panoramics.  This is different from the Automate or the eMotimo in the fact that the time lapse sequences on those devices are single or bracketed images, where the EPIC does the entire panoramic series over and over so that you could create large format panoramic time lapse sequences.  

eMotimo TB3

TB3 stands for "The Box" 3-axis pan and tile motion controlled head.  It uses stepper motors which can support up to 8 pounds.  Tilt of 85 degrees up and 75 degrees down, depending on which direction you mount the camera.  The base has both 1/4" and 3/8" threaded sockets so you have multiple mounting options for most tripods.  The Wii type controller allows for remote configuration of the TB3 with a very simple and easy to understand interface.  The TB3 mounted on a tripod alone will give some great motion time lapse sequences, but I think where this unit stands above the rest is the ability to add a 3rd axis.  The wireless TB3 runs $999, but I waited until they had a facebook promotion and saved $50.  Obviously, you'll have to spend more for the slider, motors, and batteries, depending on what options you want.

TB3 Slider Integration

I will be using my TB3 with the Stage Zero Hardware and Quick Release system from Dynamic Perception. I also purchased the stepper motors directly from eMotimo, which work seamlessly with the quick release motor mount on the Stage Zero dolly.  Please note that I did not buy my #1030 rail from Dynamic Perception, but directly through the 80/20 store via ebay.  The only difference is that I wasn't able to get a royal blue rail, and went with black instead.  They are identical except for the color, but about half the cost on ebay.  The motors from eMotimo come with a cable, so it's plug and play right out of the box.  I got both the 5:1 and 27:1 stepper motors, so that I can do both slow time lapse, and also faster video transitions. You can also repeat sequences very easily, which can provide some interesting option in post processing.  I also like that you can use the Promote Control with the TB3 to add HDR or focus stacking into the mix.  I am using the 20000mAh Quad Port Portable battery unit by Anker to power the eMotimo TB3.

By ordering my T-Slot rail off ebay, I was able to save enough money to buy some additional parts to create legs.  If I want to run the slider on a flat surface, these legs will do great.  You can also see that I have my tripod mount on the bottom, so I still have the ability to use this with a ball head on a tripod or two.

Another look at the legs and feet of the slider on the far end.

Another tip that I found on another review of the eMotimo is the use of a swivel or tilt head used normally on a monopod.  Unlike a ball head, this head only swivels one direction, so mounted in parallel with the slider, you can easily level the eMotimo to the horizon, while the slider is not.  I bought the Manfrotto 234RC Swivel Tilt head, which will be used exclusively on this dolly.

Hyperlapse Rover

In addition to using the eMotimo with a 3rd axis slider, I built a "hyperlapse" rover to have a more mobile solution to time lapse photography.  The idea is that the eMotimo robot drives the rover in a shoot, pause, move sequence for greater distances than you could get with a slider.  My intention is to use the rover in scenarios where I can have the rover move along a flat surface over distances from 6 to hundreds of feet.  It can go in a straight path, or it can also arc or go in circles.  The eMotimo TB3 attaches directly to the rover using a 3/8" mount.


I took the eMotimo TB3 up to the roof of the Kennedy Manor in Madison last weekend to test the Panoramic mode.  I had not read any of the documentation that came with the TB3, and was able to figure out the best method for capturing a large, multi-image panoramic of the Madison skyline within a few minutes.  The TB3 is best suited for time lapse sequences, but the panoramic mode worked flawlessly.  I was able to capture a couple large panoramics of the Capitol, as well as the construction on the new Edgewater Hotel.  Just an FYI, software to stitch these images together are not included with the eMotimo robot.  I use Autopan Giga to create my panos.

Click images to view the image on


Ok, a lot of information has been presented, and I'm sure I missed a ton of features that warranted attention. Each of these units works well, but also fill their own niche.  The Automate is packed with features, but has a steeper learning curve and inconsistent results in my tests.  However, for photographers who want to add a time lapse machine that also can do gigapixel panoramics, and stay within a $300 budget, Automate has a lot going for it.  I think if the owners of Automate opened up the software for further development, it would benefit everyone who owns one.  The GigaPan EPIC Pro is a workhorse for creating GigaPixel panoramics, and can carry very heavy lenses.  The ability to create panoramic time lapse sequences is a cool idea, but not sure how often I'd use that.  The real winner in my opinion is the versatile TB3 by eMotimo.  Simple and user friendly interface makes setup quick and easy.  Time Lapse, Video, or panoramic sequences gives me something I can use in many of my photography workflows.  For me, being able to use it on a slider as well as my rover for time lapse sequences make it something I can't wait to play with once the weather in Wisconsin breaks.

Monday, February 24, 2014

DIY eMotimo TB3 Hyperlapse Rover

Update:  Rover Drive Train Update #3
Update:  Drive Train Update #2

I use the term DIY loosely on this, as the only thing that is custom is the rover itself. The eMotimo TB3 is a time lapse robot that is normally used by itself, or in conjunction with a slider. I do have a 6 foot T-slot slider that I'll by using with the TB3 and Dynamic Perception stage zero hardware with quick release. The problem is that the slider limits the distance you can make the camera travel. After my recent DIY Actobotics projects, including the Slow Motion Cable Cam, Mini Auto-Reverse slow motion slider, and adjustable width slow motion ladder dolly, I came up with the idea that a hyperlapse rover would be a complimentary addition to my Time Lapse fleet.  I call it a "hyperlapse" rover only because it has the ability to cover much larger distances, time and patience permitting.

I used Actobotics parts from to build this simple rover that uses a stepper motor and RC Monster Truck wheels to push itself forward.  The eMotimo TB3 allows for 3-axis moves in 2 or 3 step sequences, where you select a start point and then drive the rover to the end point.  Once you set the interval and how long you want the sequence to take, the TB3 takes over and drives back to the start point to begin the sequence. Unlike my ladder dolly, which moves very slow, but never stops, the eMotimo Rover takes a picture, then moves forward and stops, then repeats until you get to your end point.  Very simple set up.

The Wii Remote that controls the TB3, and ultimately drives the rover

One part that is missing is the Stepper Motor mount.  This is a mythical part that is supposed to be released soon, but I couldn't wait any longer and mounted the stepper motor directly to the channel.  The 8mm to 1/4" coupler had to be ordered from ebay, since that also wasn't available from ServoCity, but hopefully they'll release one at the same time as the motor mount.  To offset the motor from the axle, I used a combination of hub and pinon gears.

I have a 1/4" threaded mount on the front of the rover for a GoPro in case I want to do a low angle time lapse as a secondary camera.

I bought Traxxas truck tires for remote control vehicles to give it an aggressive look and some "offroad" capabilities. It can be rear-wheel or front-wheel drive depending on how you set the start and end points, but only one wheel at the moment has a drive train.  I'm using the 5:1 Geared Stepper Motor from eMotimo, and also have the 27:1 motor if I really want to slow the rover down.

The front and read "axles" are able to rotate, so the the rover can drive in an arc or in circles.  I didn't want to have the rover always going in a straight line, so I designed the rover axles to have a bit of rotation.

Unfortunately, the weather in Wisconsin has turned cold again, so I can only play with this inside.  If some of the snow melts, maybe I'll get out and get some initial test sequences.  I'll post as soon as I have something!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

When starting my slow motion cable cam dolly, coincidentally was running a contest for people who were creating custom projects using Actobotics parts and HiTec servos.  I entered my DIY time Lapse cable cam.  I won first place!  Awesome.

Here are the other winners:

2nd Place: 

3rd Place:

4th Place:

Congratulations to the other winners for their fantastic projects.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

50th Annual Camp Jorn Pancake Breakfast

The photo booth was set up this morning for the 50th Annual Camp Jorn Pancake Breakfast.  Fun group of Camp Jorn staff, alumni, and campers who participated in the photo booth.  This group made full use of the prop selection, and had a great time.

Click the image below to watch slideshow!

Click the image below to view more images from the Camp Jorn Pancake Breakfast Photo Booth.