Over past 5 years, motion time lapse technique has become vastly popular. The expansion of this relatively peculiar, yet visually immersive filming methodology can be attributed to a fair amount of development in modern DSLR cameras, great advances in stepper and servo motor technologies, and finally an awakening of entrepreneur spirit among many talented developers. With numerous companies offering advanced motion time lapse equipment, choosing the right gear for the “job” may become really difficult. Below, I have compiled a list of key-points, which made my choice, that is working with the platform developed by Dito Gear, far easier and hopefully understandable.
Since the most of my work concerns staying outside for long periods of time, what I would pay attention to when buying a time lapse gig are:
This is an absolutely essential feature of any type of gear designated for an outdoor use. Like it or not, if you shoot in mountains, your equipment will get dirty! Dust, sand, and humid air are an integral part of a palette of “elements” your gear will be exposed to. Add to it a prospect of relatively dramatic pressure changes, due to altitude and you should end up with a complete spectrum of potential “hazards for your gear”. Lastly, your gear will be exposed to the aforementioned factors for truly extensive periods of time.
Dew and condensation
Shooting in an outdoor environment means facing rapid and abrupt variations of temperature, relative humidity and pressure. The most decremental physical effect of the aforementioned factors is water condensation that you are almost certain to experience while shooting sunrises and/or sunsets. Before spending a fair amount of money on your time lapse equipment, think of this point really pragmatically. Moreover, even with a third-parity solution against lens condensation at hand, it always remains to be seen how would it integrate with the rest of the equipment.
There is nothing more frustrating than tens of feet of cables scattered all around your shooting location. It is smart to think ahead and choose the time lapse systems, which come with clean and easy to follow connectivity schemes. It is also wise to pay attention to the type of the cables used by the manufacturer of the time lapse platform. I always prioritize the solutions, which come with readily available cables, like a typical ethernet RJ45. It is cheap to replace should you damage anything, and you can buy it at any electronics store.
Although this point may seem as a no-brainer to you, think of the number of batteries you will need to have on the assignment. Their size, capacity, weather sealing and ultimately consider any additional accessories like power supply or charges, a battery pack the may require. You do not want to find yourself in a situation when a vast amount of money has been spent on a high quality time lapse arm and precise motion encoders, but the whole package is powered by low capacity or potentially hazardous batteries.
Ease of assembly and programming
A decent motion time lapse system should have a functional design, which makes it easy to assemble and disassemble in relatively short time, without the risk of loosing essential mechanical parts. From my personal experience. and relatively thorough research, this is the area where many of the solutions, commonly available on the market, simply fail to deliver. I am thinking here of all the units that come with exposed mechanical parts, gears or wires.
When it comes to control and programming, in the most cases of practical interest, motion time lapse controllers are derived from the stepper- or servo-motor control units. This is why, the vast majority of the gear developers, offer relatively similarly looking solutions, which share the design but differ in firmware. My word of advice is to research as much as possible about the ease of control, programability and firmware update procedures of the aforementioned controllers. I personally (yet, you may feel differently) favor solutions with clean and intuitive graphical user interface, over old-school, and somewhat cumbersome “brick” controllers.
I hope you will find my 5-point “what to look for” guide clear and helpful. If you do have another points of concern, please use the comment system below this post.