Custom time-lapse system captures 20,000 pictures per week

Earlier this month we were approached by a client with a challenging brief: could we provide a remotely-managed camera system that takes pictures at least 10 times faster than normal? And due to a lack of an electricity supply at the camera location, could it be powered by other means?

When our company was formed we decided to create our own hardware and software from scratch. While our camera system is built from off-the-shelf components, these are modified and adapted to the particular needs of long term time-lapse photography. Managed by our custom software, the overall system has proven itself to be robust and reliable -- just what is needed when a camera might be filming for months or years.

Our custom, bootstrapped approach has also turned out to be useful for when non-typical projects arise. Speakeasy Productions required a pair of cameras that would take photos every 15 seconds for a duration of 4-6 weeks (for this length of project we would normally take pictures every 3 or 4 minutes). The subject was the assembly of a wind turbine, and the nature of this work means that in between long periods of inactivity, short bursts of work are carried out at unplanned times, when logistics and fair weather can overlap at short notice. The fast-shooting nature of the photography can usually be adequately carried out by a photographer based at the site, but for a month-long project this was not possible. After a couple of days of coding and testing, we had adapted our software to meet the client's aims. We're now halfway through the project with 90,000 pictures taken.

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Our unique hardware yielded other benefits for this particular project -- designed to be battery-powered from the very beginning, the system has incredibly low power consumption, up to 80% lower than other systems. And as everything is built in-house, we have considerable data on the power usage of each component and how this can be managed. This allows each camera to run from a small battery pack while still uploading images and diagnostics files to our server, a true remotely-monitored solution.

The progress will continue: next month we hope to install our first solar-powered system. Combined with the wireless internet already included in the system, we'll have an entirely off-grid camera that can operate anywhere.

Posted on September 30, 2013 and filed under New time-lapse project.