A Motorized Time-Lapse Camera Slider

Build an automated Arduino-based camera slider for your next photography project.

Do you enjoy photography? Maybe you're an amateur or semi-pro. Or maybe you're just looking to create some fancy camerawork. A team of students from Colorado State University teaches you how to build your own automated camera slider for time-lapse photography (camera not included).

The idea of the project stemmed from a team member’s interest in photography and video and the desire to capture more dynamic time lapses without purchasing an expensive commercial unit.

The goal for the motorized time lapse slider was to create a functioning device that allowed for complete customization in capturing dynamic time lapses. The device was designed to be portable, customizable, modular, and portable – all things a photographer requires in a product. The ability to be customized allows for the use of a wide range of cameras in a wide range of situations. And the modular nature of the device allows a photographer to take photos in any environment while being able to break down easily and reassemble without missing a shot.

In creating this project there were challenges faced in powering the device along with the resulting motor control problems. We tested (and destroyed) multiple motor drivers in testing power options. In the end we determined that the motor driver we selected was not the best option for the motor and battery combination we were working with. A motor driver that could handle more current would have yielded better performance; the Big Easy Driver from Sparkfun (available on Digi-Key) would be a good choice. In the future finding a lighter weight power source will be a necessary improvement in order to improve the portability of the device.

Download the Parts List

Download the Arduino source code .

Download the Slider source code


(Right-click any image to download a larger format version)

Building this time-lapse slider is primarily a matter of assembly should your parts come from Openbuilds.com. These parts interface together very well and leave only a few parts to be machined or built.


Cart Assembly:

One of the few modifications that needs to be made is drilling a 1/4-inch hole in the center of the gantry cart for the tripod head attachment. The cart assembly begins with the assembly of wheels on to the gantry plate. Wheel width depends on the rail width you are working with. When assembling the wheels ensure the eccentric spacers are on the same side of the rail. This allows the cart to be adjusted to create a slop free fit on the rail. In our build, each wheel used a 30mm M5 screw with 3mm spacers.

The motor mount plate is attached to the gantry cart with two M5 screws with a double Tee nut. The NEMA motor attaches with 4 – M3 screws.

The two limit switches were mounted to the gantry using M3 screws and nuts. The limit switch enclosures are cabinet magnet mounts with the magnets removed. The switches can be held in place with hot glue.

The motor wire was shortened up, wrapped in sheathing, and soldered


How does the timing pulley drive mechanism work? Does the pulley just scrape along the side of the rail? It is not clear from the diagram.

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