DIY Photography Hacks: make your own motorised time lapse slider

DIY Photography Hacks: make your own motorised time lapse slider

If you’ve ever watched time lapse movies of setting suns and blooming flowers but thought it was something you could only do on a budget like the BBC’s, well think again. Our technique editor Chris Rutter explains in our latest DIY Photography Hacks post how he built his own DIY version of a motorised slider to shoot amazing time lapse movies on a budget.

DIY Photography Hacks: make your own motorised time lapse slider

Inspired by the tracking time lapse movies 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 requirement for a time lapse slider is that the camera needs to travel very slowly and smoothly along a glide rail. As your camera glides down the rail you will want to set it to take pictures about every 2 to 5 seconds.

After some failed attempts at making my own glide rail, I decided to buy one, which I purchased from Sevenoak, 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.

DIY Photography Hacks: time lapse slider motor

Motor (cost around £35-40)
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.

Main pulley
This is a 60 tooth aluminium pulley with a 5mm bore. This was attached to the drive shaft of the Celestron motor.

DIY Photography Hacks: time lapse slider secondary pulley

Secondary pulley
This 24 tooth aluminium pulley was attached using a shaft and bearing to the opposite end of the rail from the motor.

Bearings for secondary pulley – pillow block bearing

DIY Photography Hacks: time lapse slider drive belt

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.

To see Chris’s slider in action and the type of footage you can capture on a fraction of what the BBC spends, click on the video below!


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  • jmeyer

    Hi, thanks for your comment! To be honest… I don’t know the answer to your question. But I’ll pass your query on to Chris, and I’m certain he’ll know!

  • jonny_campbell

    Hi, great post! My existing DIY motorised dolly is made of lego and tentpoles so this looks like it could be a good upgrade without having to spend hundreds! Could you give in more detail the parts you sourced from Motionco?

  • iniesta

    tilt will be when he moves the DIY up I guess, on vertical.

  • Tyler Hegamyer

    Only good for very slow movement with this motor, if you want to speed things up I would go with a different motor option.