California Time-lapse


Last December, Katie and I decided to go on a trip to California. A road-trip to be precise! The plan was to go all the way from LA to San Francisco, around Napa valley, through Yosemite and down to Joshua Tree. All in all, around 1930 miles in about 2 weeks, taking in such sights as Big Sur, The Golden Gate Bridge and Route 66.

Of course, being the geek that I am, I decided to setup a camera rig and record the entire trip as a time lapse video!

This video is cut down from about 40 minutes of actual footage. We setup the camera to take a shot every 2 seconds. In the end, we had over 60,000 photos (as this video plays back at 25 frames a second), totalling 33.3 hours of driving, or thereabouts! I took an external hard-disk with me in order to save the snaps, stitching them in batches using ffmpeg. I had to rotate them first, using image-magick, before compression into MP4. After that, it was simply a question of cutting together in After Effects.

The setup looks something like the picture. The idea is to mount the DSLR (in this case, a Nikon D90) upside down on the dashboard. The suction cup attatches to the windscreen and the camera is sandwiched between the cup and the dashboard. This does occasionally slip and in the early footage, you could see the camera gradually make its way down the screen. That said, it was fairly sturdy and only ever fell off once. The suction cup came from Ebay and was fairly cheap.

You need an intervalometer of some kind. The D90, and indeed - many cameras, use a wierd GPS connector to take the photos, so double check what intervalometer you need. I bought one from Amazon and it worked great.