Add Pans to Time Lapse Video with Muvi X-Lapse and HandlePod

Time lapse video requires a moving subject to be effective—clouds, ocean waves, people, traffic, all make fascinating time lapse scenes. Another requirement is camera stabilization. A tripod or other reliable camera support is essential. Hand held time lapse would be far too jerky.

Another option is camera movement. Panning creates a much more compelling time lapse video, which is the subject of this blog.

time lapse camera rotator

Muvi X-Lapse camera rotator is inexpensive and does an excellent job.

Add a Time Lapse Rotator
There are many time lapse camera rotation devices available in a range of prices. The unit described here is the Veho Muvi X-Lapse available from Amazon for $17.59. It is inexpensive and works extremely well with some limitations. One is weight. It will support a smartphone, action camera, a point-and-shoot or small mirrorless. Maximum camera weight is 750 grams or about 26 ounces. A DSLR would be too heavy.

It comes with a smartphone holder that is useful but does not solidly grip the phone and is subject to wobble. A strong wind could shift it. A more reliable tripod adapter for smartphones is recommended.

Mini ball head camera mount

AKORAK mini ball head is useful to point the camera up or down while the rotator remains level.

Use a Mini Ball Head
Another useful accessory would be a mini tripod ball head. A small one such as that pictured can be had for as little as $5.99 on Amazon.

The reason for adding a ball head is because the rotator must be level or it will tilt the camera up or down as it turns. If you want to point the camera in a direction other than horizontal, it must be done with a mini tripod head while the rotator remains level.

 

Options are Limited

There are not a lot of options with a device this simple and cheap. Speed of rotation is fixed at one hour for a 360 degree rotation. It can be set for any degree of rotation and there are markings for 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. Also it will only turn from right to left. Left to right rotation is unavailable with one exception described later.

Three fold out feet make the X-Lapse more stable on a flat, solid surface. But what if a level surface is unavailable and you don’t have a tripod? That’s where HandlePod is a useful alternative support. It will attach firmly to any object that the elastic cord will wrap around.

Another approach is to attach it with sticky putty as described in a previous blog. This will easily hold a smartphone or small action cam. HandlePod can be attached to horizontal or vertical supports like railings or poles.

Muvi X-Lapse on HandlePod

Muvi X-Lapse mounted on HandlePod and attached to a gate post.

On vertical objects like the gate post pictured here, the slotted camera mount leaves plenty of room to hold the rotator and the smartphone. It allows full rotation without interfering with movement of the smartphone as it turns.

Muvi X-Lapse on HandlePod

Muvi X-Lapse mounted on HandlePod upside down will reverse rotation from left to right.

As mentioned earlier, the X-Lapse only turns from right to left. This can be reversed on a vertical support by mounting the X-Lapse on the HandlePod upside down as pictured. Now it will turn in the opposite direction from left to right.

There are many time lapse apps for smartphones that work extremely well. An earlier blog talked about Framelapse Pro. Another app for Android is Hyperlapse. These work extremely well and are easy to use. A rotation device such as X-Lapse mounted on Handlepod allows compelling time lapse video panning with a minimum of equipment weight, bulk and expense.

Use Your Car, HandlePod and Sticky Putty for Motion Video

It was over twenty years ago that my wife and I were driving along a narrow country road through the hill towns of Spain. The landscape was beautiful but there was no place to pull over to get a shot. I had a Hi8 video camera that I handed to my wife and asked her to shoot through the window as I drove. She’d never used the camera before, couldn’t see through the tiny eyepiece viewfinder, couldn’t hold the camera steady and it was a disaster. She soon gave up after a few seconds of shaky, useless video.

I remember being somewhat annoyed at missing video of the beautiful scenes through the car window. But I got over it. We’re still together.

HandlePod and Sticky Putty Solves the Problem

HandlePod and Sticky Putty

HandlePod attached to the dashboard with Sticky Putty holds smartphone firmly in place.

How times have changed! Today everyone carries a cell phone with a built-in video camera. Recording a scenic drive through the Spanish countryside or anywhere else is a snap. But holding the camera steady in a moving car is still an issue (and impossible if you are driving alone).

That’s where HandlePod comes in. As described in a previous blog, it is a simple matter to fix lumps of Alcolin Sticky Putty (or similar material) to the feet of HandlePod. Then press the HandlePod onto the dash, attach a smartphone tripod adapter with your phone and start recording.

The Sticky Putty will hold the HandlePod solidly in place and the smartphone video is smooth and shake-free. This system will also hold a GoPro or other small action cam. A video capable point-and-shoot or mirrorless camera will also work.

Shoot Video Through the Side Window

Sticky Putty on HandlePod

Sticky Putty on HandlePod feet will adhere a camera phone solidly to window glass.

If you want to get a shot out the side window, that is also possible. Sticky Putty adheres firmly to glass. Press the HandlePod against the side window and mold the putty onto the glass. Now you can shoot out the side of the car as the world goes by.

HandlePod with Sticky Putty makes your car a reliable moving video platform. And you can turn the camera around to shoot the driver and passenger as well—perfect for vloging and travel commentary. The ability to stick your smartphone or action cam to any solid surface opens up a world of photo and video possibility. The car offers a major opportunity. More to come in future blogs.

 

Adhesive Putty Will Attach HandlePod and Your Camera to Anything

The previous blog discussed three brands of adhesive putty that could be used to stick HandlePod on just about anything. They all more or less worked except for Dap BlueStik (too soft and minimal adhesion). Loctite Fun-Tak is a bit stiff and not real sticky. Scotch mounting putty was the best of the three and easily available. But the search continued for a material that would stick even more firmly.

The Best Material Yet!

Alcolin Sticky Putty

Alcolin Sticky Putty provides superior adhesion to attach HandlePod to any surface.

Alcolin Sticky Putty has much better adhesion and is easily pliable. It is the best material found so far. It comes in a three-ounce package and the putty is a flat rectangle divided in half down the center. It is sandwiched between two strips of paper (save this paper for later).

Sticky Putty on HandlePod–Easy As One Two Three

Sticky Putty on HandlePod

Alcolin Sticky Putty attaches easily to HandlePods feet to stick your camera on any surface.

The Sticky Putty strip is split in half down the middle. Separate the two halves and cut one of the halves into four equal strips. Roll each strip into a marble-size ball. Then press each lump of putty onto the four feet of the HandlePod.

Adhesive putty on HandlePod

Group photo taken with phone on HandlePod attached to the wall with adhesive putty.

That’s all there is to it. Now you can press the HandlePod against any solid surface and it will stay in place. It will hold a smartphone, GoPro, action cam or any small still or video camera on just about anything.

Imagine the possibilities when a wall, a door, a window or any solid surface can hold your camera for whatever photo, group shot, self-portrait or video you want to shoot—no selfie stick or asking strangers to hold your camera!

 

 

 

 

Use a Remote Shutter Release or Self-Timer

Bluetooth shutter release

Bluetooth remote shutter release.

With your camera stuck on a wall you’ll need a remote shutter release to take the photo. A remote for a smartphone is the best method since you can fire the shot whenever you want. They come in a variety of models and prices and will work on Android or iPhone with a Bluetooth connection.

Another option is to use a self timer on the phone which will count down for a programmable number of seconds then fire the shutter. Most phones either have this option or it can be added with an app such as A Better Camera for Android.

Sticky Putty Comes Off Easily

When you are finished shooting it is easy to pull the sticky putty from the surface. It should come off cleanly but anything remaining can be removed by pressing the putty onto the residue and pulling it off quickly.

When you are finished you can remove the putty from the HandlePod feet the same way. Use the paper the putty is packaged with to wrap up the lumps of putty for future use. A small amount may remain on the rubber feet but this is not a problem. In fact it improves the high friction, non-slip properties of the HandlePod, making it easier to hold in place by hand.

Sticky putty on HandlePod is a perfect way to attach a camera phone, Go Pro, action camera or point-and-shoot to just about any available surface. Mirrorless, bridge cameras or other larger cameras will work but it is important to check adhesion first. Make sure the putty will hold on the chosen surface before attaching a larger camera.

Some surfaces work better than others and it is essential to make certain the putty will hold before trusting a heavier, more valuable camera to it. But sticky putty on HandlePod is a simple, inexpensive way to turn any solid surface into a reliable camera mount.

Adhesive Putty Makes Versatile HandlePod Stick to Anything

A recent blog talked about using sticky putty to adhere HandlePod to almost any surface. The material (putty used for hand exercise therapy) was discovered by accident and worked very well. But a number of adhesive putty products will do a better job.

How to Use Adhesive Putty on HandlePod

Adhesive putty

Three common adhesive putty products will stick HandlePod to any surface.

Three materials tested so far include Loctite Fun-Tak, Scotch Mounting Putty, and Dap BLUESTIK Adhesive Putty. Each is used the same way. They come divided into strips or blocks that you can roll into marble-sized balls and press onto HandlePods four rubber-tipped feet. Then simply press the HandlePod onto any surface, aim the camera and shoot. It couldn’t be easier! Now walls, trees, doors, windows, any surface too big for the HandlePod cord to wrap around, can support a camera.

Perfect for Smartphones, Action Cams, Point-And-Shoot

Adhesive putty on HandlePod

Smartphone on HandlePod uses adhesive putty to stick to the wall.

Now you can mount your phone or any small camera on HandlePod and stick it to any surface with adhesive putty. Get in the picture yourself for a full length portrait or a group shot that includes everybody. No missing photographer or outstretched one-armed selfie stick shot.

Test Adhesion First

With the putty stuck to the HandlePod feet, press it against the support and mold the putty onto the surface with your fingers. You should be able to tug on the HandlePod firmly without pulling it off. Then mount the camera, set the timer or use a remote and get in the shot yourself.

This system can easily support a smartphone, action cam like GoPro or a point-and-shoot. Take care when using a heavier mirrorless or bridge camera. Make sure it will hold for the few seconds needed for a self portrait or group shot. The putty will not hold forever so make sure you have plenty of time to get the shot and remove the camera.

Natural Surfaces Work Too

adhesive putty on HandlePod

A point-and-shoot on HandlePod sticks to tree bark with adhesive putty.

HandlePod was designed primarily for man-made objects like posts, rails, columns, etc. But if you’re out in the woods and the only supports are rocks and trees, adhesive putty on HandlePod will do the job. Make sure the putty will stick to the chosen surface. Then mount the camera and shoot.

The putty may pick up bits of bark, rocks and dirt from a natural surface. This can be easily removed by hand. What remains can be kneaded into the putty and will not affect its performance. If the putty eventually picks up too much foreign material it can easily be replaced at two dollars a package.

Different Products, Different Performance

Of the three products tested here each has a different degree of firmness. The softest material is Dap BLUESTIK which doesn’t seem to adhere as firmly as the others. It is adequate for use with a smartpone but not recommended for use with anything much heavier.

Scotch Mounting Putty is much firmer but can be easily molded onto the HandlePod and pressed on supports. It does an excellent job. Use it with any lightweight camera.

Loctite Fun-Tak is the firmest of the three and takes some pressure to mold it into shape. But it performs well and can be used on practically any solid surface.

Adhesive Putty Is Easy to Find

One brand or other of adhesive putty can be found at just about any office supply or hardware store. They usually come in one or two-ounce packages for about two dollars. There are many other brands available which I have yet to evaluate. Adhesive putty is an inexpensive and fun way to extend the versatility and usefulness of HandlePod.

Try Daylight Long Exposures With HandlePod and a Neutral Density Filter

 

Why would you put a dark filter over your camera lens to let in less light? It can make autofocus difficult, complicates exposure calculation and makes hand holding the camera impossible because of the long exposure. So why do it–to let the camera record subject motion over time. Long exposure photography records movement in a photograph and the results can be artistic and pleasing if done properly.

Using ND Filters

A neutral density filter may compromise the point-and-shoot convenience of today’s automatic cameras. Because it cuts the light by as much at ten stops it is best to first compose, focus then turn off auto focus before mounting the filter. Check this YouTube video for more detail on using a ten stop ND filter.

Exposure calculation can be complex, but a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera will usually calculate exposures accurately up to thirty seconds. Set the ISO to the lowest setting and use a narrow aperture (f11 or f16). With the camera on manual and a fixed ND filter it is possible to manually determine the exposure without the filter. Then mount the filter and adjust the exposure time by the given number of stops. Guides are available on line to calculate ND filter exposure.

Variable ND Filter

ND filters come in a range of 2 to ten stops. Variable ND filters are also available. A variable ND filter consists of two polarizing filters one of which rotates above the other. It can reduce the light from about two to more than ten stops. The problem is that manually calculating the exposure for any given setting is virtually impossible.

One way to deal with this is to set the camera to aperture priority and let the camera choose the exposure time. This is a less than accurate method and will require testing and adjustment. Also, exposures over thirty seconds are not possible and must be done manually with the bulb setting.

Choose the Appropriate Subject

Neutral Density Filter

This two second exposure of the Pacifica pier was taken in daylight with a variable neutral density filter.

Flowing water, clouds and people in motion are subjects that can benefit from long exposure photography. Waterfalls and ocean waves make excellent long exposure subjects when done properly. Experiment with exposures of one to five seconds for waterfalls and streams and decide what gives you the most pleasing effect.

Longer exposures of ocean waves can turn the water into a smooth, flat almost surreal representation that stretches the bounds of reality. Done right, the results can be very artistic. The same goes for clouds which can turn the sky into soft, billowy streaks.

People in motion can also work for long exposures. People in a crowded square or busy intersection become streaks of color and interesting shapes. Given enough time, people can vanish completely, giving the scene a deserted look.

For more information on long exposure photography, check out this excellent guide in BWVision.

Camera Stabilization is Essential

ND filter and HandlePod

HandlePod secured to a rail with elastic cord for long exposure with a neutral density filter.

Using a neutral density filter to increase exposure time in daylight to many seconds eliminates the possibility of hand holding the camera. Use a tripod or other sturdy alternative support to keep the camera steady during long exposures. HandlePod is a light weight, pocket size support that can be used effectively with ND filters for daylight long exposures described in this article by Mirrorlessons. A neutral density filter and sturdy camera support opens up a new realm of photographic creativity.