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An Integrated Approach

Timelapse Photography

Timelapse systems deployed in remote locations have severe limitations when using laptops to capture and store images. This thesis design project aimed to tackle these issues by building an integrated solution tailored for the GVI lab at the School of Engineering and Sciences, Harvard University.

Beagleboard

  • The Linux processing unit of the system serves as the backend software that automates the system, provides the user interface, and enables wireless connectivity. The form factor of the embedded device ensures a small physical footprint. Device options range from the Beagleboard to Rasberry Pi.

Interface

  • A graphical user interface allows the end user to access a user-friendly webpage to issue commands and control the unit remotely. The interface supports both desktop access (PC, Mac) and mobile access (iPhone, Android).

Wireless Connectivity

  • A USB wireless dongle - 802.11n - connected to the processing unit ensures that the system is connected over a wireless network and accessible by the end user. Device options range from Netgear, D-Link, and Belkin.

Enclosure

  • A NEMA 4x rated enclosure houses the entire system to prevent it from harsh weather conditions such as rain, sleet, wind, or snow. The temperature inside the enclosure is regulated by silica gel packets to control condensation.

Anti-vibration Mount

  • The anti-vibration mount provides another level of stability for the entire system. Ground level vibrations in remote locations are considerable enough to be aware of, and the mount acts as a dampener that decouples the camera from the tripod.

Power Source

  • External DC power is provided by a battery source, eliminating the need for any AC outlet. Only two devices in the system require power regulation: the processing unit and the camera itself.

Abstract

For Harvard's GVI Lab, time-lapse photography is a critical research component, and deploying cameras for such projects has been known to be inefficient and time-consuming. Creating a portable system to address those inefficiencies requires at least three new features not commonly seen in regular time-lapse setups: an anti-vibration mount for stability, remote access functionality, and power regulation from a DC power supply.

Vibrations and lateral forces - due to harsh weather and obscure deployment locations -can perturb the system creating high frequency vibrations and unwanted blurry effects on image, hence the need to control the forces. Remote access allows for user interaction over a webpage and the ability to obtain near real-time feedback. An external DC supply, such as a battery, makes the system entirely portable, not requiring an AC outlet. The resulting system design includes a weatherproof NEMA enclosure that houses the camera shock mount, hardware peripherals, and circuitry. The shock mount assembly mimics a microphone mount, laced with elastic rope in a suspension system that helps dampen vibrations. An extremely low power processor - an ARM Beagleboard xM - runs the software and 802.11n wireless adapter, acting as web server that can be accessed remotely from a graphical UI written in PHP. The graphical UI gives the user the ability to issue camera commands for remote capture and control settings including ISO, aperture, focus. The processing board would be powered by a 12V battery with an uptime of over 20 hours.