How does one move the camera while capturing a time-lapse sequence in order to create a smoothly panning video?

Looking for solutions that works in both bright and low-light (short and long exposures) and that is easy to transport and setup (shooting outdoors on sidewalks, streets, etc) and hopefully reliable (starting over is rarely possible the same day).

Traditional time-lapse are understandably shot with a camera in a fixed position. Turning it into a video once can simulate panning and zooming to a limited extent by simply animating the crop region from which the video is made but I have seen several time-lapse lately where the pan-distance is too great to be done via clever post-processing with a single camera.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A movement rig - put the camera on rails, and move it a carefully controlled distance between each shot. Either manually, or with the help of a timer and computer-controlled motor. See e.g. izmostock.com/2011/03/… \$\endgroup\$ Oct 9, 2012 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ See fstoppers.com/… -- you fix it in post! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 9, 2012 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow... that walklapse is very impressive and does not need buying an more gear :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:00

4 Answers 4


Well, I answered in the comments but I'll answer here since I'm not liking any of the answers.

You do need to move the camera for a panning time lapse and you used to need a rig, motorized or not, rails or not, to do this movement. There is a new technique called hyperlapse or walklapse which accomplishes this without any extra equipment, aside from a tripod which you presumably already own.

You basically take the shot, move a few feet down the path you want the time-lapse to travel along, and then take the next shot. You make an attempt to frame the shots the same but you only need to get close.

When the shoot is done you load them into Adobe After Effects to clean it all up. Note, I've never ever done this, nor am I likely to, I've learned all about this technique from watching this video Here's a screen shot from the video:

enter image description here

The left hand side is the smooth, post processed video, the right hand side is a single from from the raw shoot. Notice how the wall and the boat do not line up, yet if you watch the final video the motion is smooth.


If you want the camera to move in your timelapse -- you need to move it!

This is normally done using some sort of rig that allows either translation or rotation of the camera, or both. Unless you build it yourself these systems will set you back at least $ 1000.

Quite common for this are sliders with motor control: Kessler(.com) is one producer.

Answer kept intentionally short.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Also check out sites like openmoco.org, timelapseblog.com. In addition, you could use something as simple as a cheap battery powered turntable toy, or a skateboard \$\endgroup\$
    – camflan
    Oct 10, 2012 at 14:51

have a look at the Genie from New Zealand startup Syrp. It will do the movement for you and at the same time control the shutter and interval of your camera. http://syrp.co.nz/products/

PS. I am not affiliated with these guys, just think they have a very useful and interesting product


A somewhat simpler way to move the camera in Alt/Az is to get a low cost telescope mount and change the orientation. You can get a swivel effect if you break down the mount and let it rotate differently than the earth axis. Put a big wheel on the mount and you now have the opportunity to make the camera go in epicycles. Advantage is that you will have the stars in sync with the motion of the camera.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. I am skeptical though because I suspect these rigs do not stop for each shot, so the frames would have motion blur from camera movement (except for the stars) which is not desirable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Oct 10, 2012 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ There might be motion blur, depending on the length of the individual subframe exposure lengths. Would require testing to determine what duration vs focal length you'd find acceptable. \$\endgroup\$
    – smigol
    Oct 10, 2012 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That is what I thought and it would be too restrictive considering that shutter-speed is highly influenced by other considerations as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Oct 10, 2012 at 16:23

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