Month: November 2014

Wheely – Time lapse write up

I am a massive fan of photography and especially time lapse photography so when I spotted a Christmas market setting up a Ferris wheel across the road from my 7th floor office, I jumped for the most logical (and quiet) tool for a time lapse. The Raspberry Pi!

Here is a super quick write up of what you would need and also what I did (and did wrong) on this little adventure.

What you need:

  • Raspberry Pi + power, sd-card, case etc… Installed with raspbain
  • Pi Camera board
  • Some sort of tripod (but this can even be hot glue and something that stands up)
  • Mass storage device – USB stick or Hard drive (powered)

Step One: Find a location to shoot

I was indoors so I have to find a window where I could set the camera up. I had to consider the reflection so it was a good idea to make everything black. I have the Camera mount from pimoroni which is black and with black screws.  otherwise I just covered everything else in a black cloth.

This image is an example of reflection in action (sucks!)


If the time lapse is at night then try and reduce the light behind the camera so you don’t end up with a massive network cable in the sky!

Step Two: Setup the camera and make a test shot

I used my laptop to SSH into the Raspberry Pi where it was so I could walk away and leave it running without any screens or keyboards waiting to trip anyone up.

To test the camera was working I made my 1st shot using the following command:

raspistill -o /home/pi/test.jpg

which gave me this image (without the reflection)


(the blur is water on the window nothing I can do but can look interesting with light intersecting it)

I had to rotate the camera and flip the image so that everything looked as it should  on the output screen. You could just turn the camera but where is the fun in that.

raspistill -hf -vf -o /home/pi/test.jpg

hf = horizontal flip, vf = vertical flip


Now we are cooking!

Step Three: Attach mass storage device and MOUNT IT!

First make a new folder

mkdir /media/timelapse

Then you can plug in your hard drive and type the following command (assuming sda1 is the drives Identifier)

mount /dev/sda1 /media/timelapse

This now means the anything on the hard drive can be seen in the folder /media/timelapse and in turn you can save to /media/timelapse and it would be on the hard drive.

Yeah well this is important and where I slipped up. When running a pi with the desktop environment any USB stick or hard drive you connect would be mounted automatically. So half way though the timelapes I had to unexpectedly restart the pi… and forgot to re-mount the hard drive!

Why did I use hard  drives instead of cloud or online storage… My office wont allow this device to be connected to our network.

Step Four: Start the timelapse

There are a few ways to do this..

I went with the -tl option.

My command looked like this –

raspistill -hf -vf -o /media/timelapse/wheel_%07d.jpg -tl 30000 -t 604800000

so -tl is 30000 milliseconds (30 seconds) meaning it will take a picture every 30s for -t 604800000 (7 days), the file name has %07d which means the file name will have 7 digits for example: wheel_0000001.jpg this will increase until wheel_9999999.jpg

So at this point check its all working and your happy!

Step Five: Ignore and get on with life

Note: I did not use any magic lenses or changed any settings to adjust for lighting. All that I am experimenting with now.

Step Six: Compile your photos

Ok so this is where I cheat and don’t use the raspberry pi. The data you would be pushing to make the finished video is massive, especially when your compiling 7 days worth of photos at 30s interval’s.

I found a neat tool for MacOS called Time lapse assembler. Its a simple application where you point it to a directory tell it the frame rate and quality, have a couple cups of tea and its done.

I used this app because while the pi is capable of compiling the time lapse when you start running into the 1000s of files, then its just better and safer to use a desktop system like a Macbook.

Step Seven: Upload and share

Well that’s a given right!

In the end this is a quick overview of what I did. I would totally recommend you to read the tutorials on the page I mentioned before as they do a really great job to show you by example how this can work.

Please feel free to leave a comment with how you get on or any questions. Share your results also!

Review + Unboxing of the U-Create Raspberry Pi Model B+ Plug ‘N’ Play Kit

Here in Berlin I am continually looking to push the Raspberry Pi to the German education system and to that end I wanted to take a real good look what educational kits are available and what is best to recommend.

Some of the points I am looking for are:

  • User Guide (so the user is not left alone with the Pi)
  • Complete Kit (nothing worse than missing a cable)
  • Robustness
  • Fun Factor
  • Education Value
  • Bonus items (sometimes its nice to get a sticker)

My good friends at sent me a couple of their kits to take a look and I wanted to share with you my finding.

One kit was the Raspberry Pi™ Model B+ Plug ‘N’ Play Kit. Below is a full review of the kit and an unboxing video!

I was really pleased with the contents of this kit. You had everything you need to get started with the Raspberry Pi with the exception of the monitor of course. I was very pleased to see WiFi and Ethernet cable in the same kit. Often I found that kits like this don’t provide networking cables simply because they are not expected in the home. Yet this covers the possibility that there is no good wifi signal or simply the school does not allow WiFi for security. Also considering headless setup its nice to have the feeling that its taken care of within this kit.

The user guild booklet I found short but to the point. Your given the maximum amount of information you need to get started but without being bogged down with a 150 page book. I loved the fact that the booklet also does not just tell you to get from the box to Raspbain but rather tells the user about other Linux distributions so you could make an informed choice. Lastly I specially found it welcome to see the Pi-Store documented in this booklet. I don’t see that very often which is a shame because it is a great resource for budding programmers.

In terms of fun factor… I did find all the cables a little bland. By no means is this a deal beaker for me. Remember I am looking at this from a educational point of view. One where the teacher would look to supply their computing lab with pi’s, then this kit hits the nail on the head! What makes up for the black cables though is the optical mouse. When I plugged it in both myself and my wife where shocked to find it had a red and blue LED light inside and lit up half our room.

I think that a clear case is imperative. The kids need to see that hardware but keep it protected! So I am very pleased to see that in kit.

All in all I found it a complete working kit that’s perfect for a computing lab or as a birthday (or Christmas) gift for your kids, siblings, parents or even grandparents.

CPC also have other kits available from the U-Create brand. If your looking for just the pi and a case or start to a media center and you can find them all here at:

Pushing the boat out

Its long overdue but I am finally pushing the boat out on this blog. I spent some time tweaking the template but found that nothing really sat right with me. Thus a black hole opened up sucking all my valuable blogging time away.

No more!

November 22nd will be my 5th Raspberry Jam Berlin! I am personally super excited about this because the Jam has moved to the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB). They have a super computing lab there so I am hoping to cut out all the old technical problems we had before. Also this time round I sold out tickets (I say sold out but they are actually free) so its feeling especially good!

Massive thanks to Melanie Stilz for helping me with the university and being so interested in the Raspberry Pi.

Whats happening next! My good friend Jason (aka boeeerb) sent me a couple of LED Flash boards for the Raspberry Pi-camera called: Lisiparoi

You would attach the Pi-camera to the board and when activated it would blast light in that direction. To me it feels like a mini ring flash. There is 2 versions one normal white LED and the other is for Infrared and would only work with the Noir Infrared Pi-camera.

It’s looking like a sweet little bit of tech and the photographer in my is buzzing to use it. Examples, videos and full review coming soon!


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