SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP
A smart, cheap setup for shooting long-duration time-lapse movies. By Ken Murphy
We’ve all seen time-lapse movies that seem to
speed up the world around us. The effect is very
compelling, making processes that normally occur
at a rate too slow to perceive unfold before our
eyes, such as the blooming of a flower.
Photograph by Ken Murphy
I’m working on a time-lapse movie that captures
the dynamics of weather and clouds, and the
patterns of sunrise and sunset for an entire year.
I need a setup to capture a large number of
images. I need to collect these images without
interrupting the image-capture process, and to
access the system remotely. I want to do it on the
cheap, without sacrificing quality.
Here’s the solution I came up with: I’m putting a
dusty old PC back into service, installing Linux and
gPhoto image capture software, and connecting
it to my old 4-megapixel Canon A520 camera via
USB. The camera will be mounted in an improvised
(yet sturdy) outdoor enclosure. With this setup, the
images can be continually captured directly to disk,
around the clock, and I’m able to log in remotely to
control the camera. I can also compile the images
into movies on the same system.
1. Install Linux.
Note that installing Linux will wipe out any data on
your PC. You can download the Ubuntu installer for
free ( ubuntu.com), or buy the DVD from Amazon.
The installation tools will walk you through the entire
process, asking you to select various application
You’ll likely want an OpenSSH server so you
can remotely and securely log in, a web server such
as Apache so you can view your images remotely,
and any scripting languages you may find useful,
such as Python or Perl.