DIY Motion Time-lapse Panning Rig

By: Chris Daley Photography


A while back I decided to start shooting time lapses. I have always been into inexpensive diy projects. I did some searching on the web and came across a few different versions of the diy time-lapse panning rig. None of them had very thorough instructions though, so I decided to make my own and create this write up with step by step pictures. So lets get right into it.

Items needed:

  • Lazy Susan
  • 1 hour timer
  • Small amount of paracord
  • 10 small phillips screws
  • Strong double sided tape
  • 1 hour epoxy
  • hot glue gun
  • phillips screw driver
  • large ketchup bottle lid

This project only cost me about $30.00 but I had most of the things I needed already so all I had to purchase was the lazy susan and the timer. 

1: I started off with a bamboo lazy susan that I picked up at Bed Bath & Beyond for $19.99

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2: The first thing I did was remove the phillips screw from the middle of the turntable.

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3: Once the screw was removed I was able to see how simple the bearing setup is. It is just a plastic ring with some ball bearings in it. The one I purchased I found did not spin very smoothly. Once it was disassembled I found that the ball bearings had been pressed into the bamboo and caused dents. I pressed down really hard on the center turn table with the bearings in place and rotated it back and forth so that the bearings would press grooves all the way around the rotating surface, essentially removing the dents in the bamboo.2014-07-06 11.05.35.jpg


4: I then decided rather than placing the turntable in the middle of the larger board, I would place it slightly off to one side so that the camera would not capture the edge of the board when using a wide angle lens. I simply used the same screw and a little pressure and reattached the turntable in the position I decided on.

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5: Next I moved on to the timer. I also picked up the timer from Bed Bath and Beyond. It was $7.99. 2014-07-06 11.07.46.jpg


6: There is one screw in the back of the timer that you can remove. Once removed the timer clock assembly and the knob slide out of the front.

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7: Timer disassembled.

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8: Remove the knob.

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9: Timer assembly with knob removed.

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10: I then installed the timer assembly on to the lower board using one screw through the back of the timer into the board. You will have to drill a small hole in the bottom of the timer assembly in order to install it with a screw. Be very careful not to break any teeth off of the timing mechanisms inside the assembly. Here is the timer placement on the board in relation to the turn table. I put the screw through the edge that was farthest from the turn table. I also put some strong double sided tape under the timer for extra stability.

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11: Next, using a drill bit slightly smaller than the screws used to hold the cord to the turn table, I drilled 8 holes evenly spaced around the outside edge of the board.

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12: I then installed the screws into the holes with some small nylon washers. The screws and the washers were both left over parts from past projects so I’m not sure what size they are.

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13: Now that the board is finished it is time to set up the timer dial. This step is where I thought I could improve on the other ones I have seen the most. Most of the others either used the small center post or a piece of cardboard to turn the cord. I decided to use a ketchup bottle lid… Lol. Bear with me on this.

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14: I decided on the ketchup bottle lid due to the size and the notched edge. It is just slightly smaller in diameter than the timer knob and it is thick enough plastic to be sturdy. Using my dremel with a cut off wheel I cut the lid to about ½ of an inch tall.

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15: I then used a sanding drum on my dremel to smooth up the cut surface. Be careful on these two steps as the dremel will throw melted plastic everywhere.

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16: Next I used some 1 minute epoxy to glue the ring made from the ketchup lid to the top of the timer dial. Using caution to make sure it was centered as best as possible. After the ring was glued to the knob I used a glue gun to run a thin bead of hot glue around the upper edge of the ring to help keep the cord in place when it is spinning (hot glue ring not pictured).

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17: I then installed the knob back onto the timer by simply pressing it into place. Next I took a piece of scrap paracord that I had laying around and pulled it around the screws and the knob. I pulled it tight enough to have traction on the knob but not tight enough to put extra pressure on it. I used a rock climbing double figure eight knot to secure the cord and used a lighter to melt the knot to keep it from coming untied.

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18: The last step is to find something to put over the cord on the right side of the turntable so that the cord lines up with the screws every time. I used a simple wire securing clasp with one screw that holds it just right.

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19: All that's left now is to set up your camera so that it will take shots every 2-6 seconds and place it on the turntable. With this set up I get roughly 135 degrees of rotation in an hour. Have fun!

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Here is a 20 minute time-lapse test I did in my living room with no editing and on auto mode. hence the light dark light dark thing it is doing. I am going to be heading out later tonight to use it in the field and get a better representation of what it is capable of.