Home Tutorials 2 Axis Camera Movement on a budget – Timelapse & Stop-motion

2 Axis Camera Movement on a budget – Timelapse & Stop-motion

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To add an interesting movement to your shot you don’t need super expensive motorized gear. I’ll show you how I accomplish slide-pan movement (sometimes slide-pan-tilt) without using a motorized head or even a motorized slider.

You own a 3 axis Alexmos stabilizer and you want to add extra movement to your static timelapses? Check out my post on 3D timelapse head .

Of course, the best way to achieve that kind of movement is to use a programmable slider and head. It’s a quite expensive gear, so let’s try to do this differently 🙂 I consider that as a solution related to hyperlapse – you do the movement manually and you assume post-production stabilization.

The gear

First of all, you need a slider. It doesn’t have to be super smooth high-end product, it could be even DIY. I’ve got a motorized slider, but in this technique, I rarely use the motor. In timelapses it could be useful. My controller doesn’t have a stop-motion feature, so sometimes it’s even easier for me to move it manually. But you should decide for yourself, what equipment you will use, this article would be about 100% manual method.

I ‘modified’ my slider by adding a simple tape measure on it (I’ve got free ones same as in IKEA ;)). I use that to move the camera for even distances, for example in carving shot I move the camera 5mm (~0.2”) every picture.

slider-closeup-01

The second thing you’ll need is a tripod head. Don’t use the ball heads, get one that could lock each axis independently – you lock the tilt axis and the camera can be rotated only in pan axis.

Do the math

Start by determining the amount of images you want to take in this shot. You’ve got the tape measure on the slider. Now, take the whole slide distance (not the length of the slider, these are two different things) and divide by the amount of the pictures. That’s the distance you need to move the slider between pictures. Don’t be too precise, round up that number to something comfortable for you – for example in metric system 5mm is an excellent distance because it’s always marked on the tape measure with a bold/longer line.

slide-distance-01

Technique

Same as in hyperlapse, find some fixed point in the frame (if you want to learn more check out my hyperlapse tutorial – I won’t get into details here). You’ve got to adjust the pan of the camera between each shot, so you’ve got to aim something 😉
For example, in carving shot I use the screw head under the wood block. In dwarfs shot, I placed a small piece of black tape on the ball (since the ball was covered in black dots it wasn’t noticeable). Check out the whole slide to be sure, that the point stays in the frame during your shot.

 

Remember, that’s not a hyperlapse, you’ve got a perfectly even slider to move your camera horizontally. That’s why you shouldn’t adjust the tilt during the shot. To aim the fixed point it’s best to use one of the camera grids. Pick one of the vertical lines and place that on your fixed point. Simply, the point needs to be on the line. Doesn’t matter what height, just on the line 🙂 As always, be as exact as you can. That would simplify the stabilization process.

 

The shot looks like this: take a picture, move the camera on the slider for the calculated distance. Then, adjust the pan of the head to cover the fixed point with the vertical line on your camera screen. Take another picture and so on. Easy, right ;)?

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Post-production

Firstly, use your favorite workflow for timelapse/stop motion pictures. For me, it’s LRTimelapse + Lightroom combination, and then After effects. Definitely, Warp Stabilizer inside After effects or Premiere Pro is one of the best solutions to stabilize your footage 😉
Just drag and drop the effects on your imported sequence and let it do its job. If the result is not satisfying, try the one point stabilization on the fixed point, and after that use Warp if needed.
It always depends on what’s in your shot and how accurate you’ve moved the camera. Above I described the basic solution. I would probably do an in-depth stabilization tutorial (using Warp Stabilizer), so like my fanpage or subscribe to my newsletter, if you don’t want to miss that 😉

Thanks for staying with me the whole article 😉  I would love to see your shots made with this technique 🙂 Feel free to post that in comments below.

5 Comments

  1. Sam Forencich

    28 December 2016 at 00:22

    Thanks for this great tutorial. I have friend who does traditional clay sculpture that I might try this with. How many shots did you use in the wood block sequence, and how much work did the artist do between each shot? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Tomasz

      28 December 2016 at 08:48

      Hey, thank you 🙂 the full shot is about 250 shots. Sometimes I use speeded up version – about 125 shots.
      At the beginning we were taking shots more often than at the end, because he was removing much more wood. I didn’t have any interval between the shots planned earlier – when I thought I should take a picture, I just told him to step back 😉 quite risky, but I’m happy how it turns out 🙂 if you try this technique please share with me the results, I would love to see that 🙂

      Reply

      • Sam Forencich

        28 December 2016 at 18:13

        Thanks Tomasz! If I end up doing this with my artist friend I will share the results. I’m not sure he will want to set it on fire though 🙂

        Reply

        • Tomasz

          28 December 2016 at 18:20

          Good luck 🙂 my friend was pissed off that he has to pause his work every picture, maybe your friend will be more patient 🙂

          Reply

          • Sam Forencich

            28 December 2016 at 18:28

            LOL, that is exactly why I’m not sure we will end up doing this. He loves having the camera there but hates being told what to do. I think if I show him your cool sequence I can talk him into it 🙂

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