Category Archives: Time Lapse Photography

I started out experimenting with time lapse photography by using the Fire Storm fswebcam program for Linux to trigger web-cams to take periodic frames to monitor my house when I was away for the 2013-14 winter season. By being able to take periodic frames, fswebcam also makes it easy to do time lapse photography. The initial experiments with the cameras involved software scripts that looped taking a frame and pausing over and over. For the house cams, I just fired the fswebcam program by using CRON and making time stamped files. I still use loop scripts when I am taking a time lapse as they are pretty easy to work. I have a bunch for different intervals, making it easy to tune the rates. I have learned a lot along the way and now I have enough to share.

avconv replaces ffmpeg for Video/Audio Conversion

Recently I wanted to convert an AVI file to an m4v on Linux Mint 17.3. I tried to use ffmpeg, it’s not there. I can’t isntall it…hmmm. So I did some digging, it has been replaced by avconv. To get avconv….

sudo apt-get install libav-tools

To use

Online, I read that there are some syntax differences between ffmpeg and avconv, so I was reluctant to just symlink pointing ffmpeg to avconv and have scripts break.

But I did a quick test taking a good guess…

avconv -i timelapse-wx-station-4-08-to-7-12-2016.avi timelapse-wx-station-4-08-to-7-12-2016.m4v

…and, it worked. Got me a much smaller file than the AVI and worked it’s magic in a short minute or two.

Video of Weather Station from April 8,2016 to July 12,2016

This was what I was testing out with the conversion. Video taken by using fswebcam to gather a still shot of my weather station once per hour on the Raspberry Pi. Once per day the shots are rolled up into an AVI video and stored in a tmp folder which is mounted in RAM. Well the RAM folder does fill up after a while and I copied the file off and saved it on my desktop. This video shows the weather changing from spring to summer.



Hibiscus Flower

Hibiscus Blooming Timelapse Video

In late October I used a laptop running Linux and fswebcam ran via a looping script to capture pictures of a Hibiscus plant that was blooming. I took one frame every 10 minutes and then used mencoder to produce an AVI video at 12fps. The webcam takes pictures at 640×320 which is a good size for online videos.

The Hibiscus is quite striking as it blooms. Not only does the flower spiral out it opens and spiral back on it self as it closes up again. But the whole thing is constantly vibrating and moving during the blooming process. This movement is something that would not have been noticed without using time lapse photography. It took four takes to get a decent video. On takes 1 to 3, I wound up re-positioning the camera away from the flower as it expanded in size when it opened.



Kombucha with SCOBY

Kombucha SCOBY Timelapse Video

I ran a webcam pointed at a fermentation of Kombucha capturing frames using fswebcam running on a Raspberry Pi server. It ran for a few weeks.

You can see the Kombucha SCOBY’s forming in the video. The setup is behind the PC monitor with a desk lamp and camera pointing towards the back of the desk. This gives fairly steady ambient lighting. I grew a dozen SCOBY’s for the Summer Fermentation Class that was held on June 29th 2015.

SCOBY Timelapse Video AVI Format 8 frames/sec

The video should be viewable most of the time unless I am servicing the Raspberry Pi or I pulled the plug on it during a nasty storm.

Fermented Figs Timelapse

Nothing beats combining two things that are interesting together. I’ve been into fermenting foods and beverages since the late 1990’s and have been experimenting with timelapse photography since late in 2013 ( One of the first projects I set up and Ubuntu Server for ). Combining them together has been an interesting experience lately.

Recently I bought a 50.5 Ounce glass container with a gasketed lid. I got the idea from reading The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, a must have if you are considering getting serious about fermentation, it covers a lot of territory on the fermentation landscape. This jar is ideal for some fermentation experiments as any pressure built up in the container would vent via the gasketed lid.  A lot of times, I don’t worry about pressure build up, because I am close to home and can vent it manually. But this time I was going to be away so this jar would be good to use. I decided to try to ferment some figs in it and create a time lapse video by taking photos every 4 minutes. I ran it for a week, almost 2400 frames.

The Ferment Mixture

The figs were a bit on the hard side so they were not getting used up to much and I decided that they would be good candidates for a fermentation experiment. The fermentation was started by cutting up the figs into small bits and added some sugar water and a pinch of bread yeast. Normally I would have let them ferment naturally based on what wild yeasts are present on the fruit, but I wanted a vigorous fermentation that got going quickly in order to capture the action for the timelapse video.

Timelapse Video Setup

The setup for the timelapse video was a laptop running Ubuntu with Apache and a webcam. The program used to take the frames for the timelapse video is fswebcam ( which I cover in the post on Bread Dough Rising Timelapse GIF ). The frames were taken every four minutes and saved into a folder underneath my home directory. Additionally a frame was copied to the /var/www directory to allow it to be seen on the web. Plus, I have a symbolic link from /var/www to a directory called fswebcam under my home directory. This directory holds the scripts to run fswebcam, under this is a directory called timelapse which collects all of the frames. This allows me to flip through these from the web as well, so I can keep track of the fermentation progress.

I went away for a few days while I was running the timelapse frame capture and it was nice to be able to view it to check on the progress. To get it online, I basically added a virtual server on the router for port 80, pointing to the internal IP address of the laptop, which was hooked to the router via WiFi. This worked flawless and I was able to periodically check in on the fermentation while on the road.

Fig Fermentation Timelapse Photography Setup
Fig Fermentation Timelapse Photography Setup


Timelapse Video AVI

Fermenting Figs 1 frame every 4 minutes for 31s of video




Bread Dough Rising Time Lapse GIF

I do a lot of baking of fresh home made bread and I play around with time lapse photography from time to time. It seemed natural to put together a time lapse video of bread dough rising.

How it was done

I have used the Fire Storm fswebcam program for Linux to trigger web-cams to take periodic frames to monitor my house when I was away last winter. By being able to take periodic frames, fswebcam also makes it easy to do time lapse photography.

Basically for this GIF animation, the camera is triggered 10 times per hour. I run it under Linux using a Bash shell script that  time and date stamps the images when they are saved and creates folders based on the date. Then I open up the GIMP graphics editor and use File-> Open as Layers to bring all the images in, 140 in this case.  Then Filters-> Animation->Optimize (for GIF) creates the animation. I then save it as a GIF with 100ms delay between frames and allow looping. I did find another way to create videos found under the section How To Make a movie, under the section that talks about doing it via SSH on the Raspberry Pi, on the site, How To Capture Time-Lapse Photography With Your Raspberry Pi and DSLR or USB Webcam

Bread Dough Rising Animated GIF
Bread Dough Rising Animated GIF
 Bread Dough

The bread dough is a standard type of dough that I use often. It starts with 100g water and 100g white unbleached flour with a pinch f yeast as a poolish. This is left in a container overnight. Then 2 cups of flour, approximately 10 grams of salt and another pinch of yeast are added and thoroughly mixed. Water is added to the poolish, I start with about 1/2 cup. It is all mixed together adding more water if needed. It forms a dough ball that is worked for 1-2 minutes. Then I let it sit for 15 minutes. Water is contained in the starch bonds, this water is released during the working of the dough, it has a bit of a time delay and it will release even more water for a while after it has been worked. Allowing it to rest for 15-30 minutes allows the water to come out of the bonds and at that point you can judge whether or not the proper amount of water/flour ratio exists by the feel. Then I let the dough rise in a bowl that was coated with olive oil. My standard practice would not dictate letting it rise in open air overnight, effectively this dough has over proofed, but to take the pictures, I decide to just let it go and do it’s thing. Normally, it would be punched down a few times and if I am not ready to make it, it might go in the fridge overnight.

How did it come out by just letting it go and rise on it’s own? Surprisingly  the end product was OK, I actually baked it as in the Pyrex bowl and it was a fairly good bread after all. Baked at 400 F for about 40 minutes. I preheated the oven with small bowls of water in it to add moisture as well, leaving them in while the bread baked. This enhances the crust of the bread.

Technical details on capturing the frames


I used Fswebcam to capture the images. It has to be compiled from the source code. Below are my notes related to fswebcam. I had a bit of a hard time getting it to run last year, but the essence of what I had to do is captured below.

fswebcam – Small and simple webcam software for *nix.

Created by Philip Heron <>

This is the program used to generate images for a webcam. It captures a number
of frames from any V4L or V4L2 compatible device, averages them to reduce noise
and draws the details on it using the GD Graphics Library which also handles
compressing the image to PNG or JPEG.

Installing fswebcam
sudo apt-get install fswebcam

Alternatively install via the DEB packages below if you want a newer version that apt can install, especially if it installs the 2009 version, which it will do if you are using an older version of Ubuntu Linux. Try the latest one that will work, I was able to get a new version that did not complain about missing packages.

DEB packages, try one of these first

I first ran fswebcam on Ubuntu 10.04 and ran into issue with an old webcam (Using palette SGRBG8 was not supported and I got an unsupported palette error), plus all of the features advertised for the fswebcam such as labeling the photos and printing a time stamp on them was not working. It was probably in the works and didn’t make it into the release, or something on my installation was not supporting the label adding feature. But I was able to get the 20101118 installed via a DEB package above.

If using dpkg to install one of the deb packages fails. Or in the case you want to work through compiling this code, follow the guidelines below, which do not cover all cases.

I did compile from scratch years ago to get a newer version of fswebcam installed, beyond what the package manager would install. I have found out that dpkg will install version 20101118 on Ubuntu 10.04 without complaint. Beyond that version, dpkg will complain about missing dependencies. I was able to compile the version labelled 20110707 and that ran on 10.04. If you need to find the version of fswebcam use….

fswebcam --version

The versions currently run to 20140113, trusty release, as of 11/26/2014.


Installing GD Library, do this before installing fswebcam

This part gave a bit of a hard time as my notes below state that there was a few failed attempts to get fswebcam up and running.

sudo apt-get install libgd2-xpm-dev
 ./configure --prefix=/usr
 sudo make install


But I actually tried this first, instead of the command sequence above…
Downloaded libgd-2.1.0
cd to the libgd-2.1.0 directory
then ran…

 sudo make install

Then tried to compile fswebcam again and it complained about missing JPEG GD package, so did  the compile again for GD with this command sequence instead…

./configure --with-jpeg --with-png --with-freetype
 make clean
 sudo make install


Tried this…

install php-gd


So I think the first method of config,make,install of libgd2-xpm-dev is the one to try, first!
I only put the failed stuff here because I am not sure if doing the failed stuff first put in JPG, freetype or something that made things work once ibgd2-xpm-dev was loaded in.

Compile and Install fswebcam

Download the source code from and unzip in a directory named something useful under you home folder. Use tar to extract it.

tar xvzf fswebcam-DATECODE.tar.gz

Best to use sudo make install so that the files wind up being able to be put where they need to be.

Run the following commands in the source folder to build and install fswebcam:

./configure --prefix=/usr
 make install

It’s only requirements are that the GD library be installed with JPEG, PNG
and FreeType support.

Checking to see if the webcam is being read by the PC

Command to see what devices are hooked up to the USB for video…

ls /dev/video*

There is also a porgram called Cheese that can be installed via the package installer for Ubuntu. This lets you see the video live from the web cam. It makes it easy to adjust distance, angles, lighting and focus the cam while setting up the shot.


I created to be called by watch periodically in order to snap a photo, name it the yr,month,day:time.jpg and put it in a created folder label for the date. Then I used to copy to Wuala mirrored path, which would automatically load it onto a Wuala cloud drive. The script below has the Wuala stuff ripped out. At the bottom of this post there is an explanation on how to use Wuala as an NFS drive.

For example, call bash script every 10 seconds…

watch -n 10 bash

Remember to chmod u+x so that it can be made into an executable script. code
# this is the command to run this with watch -n 3579 bash for hourly rate at 255 frames to image
 # this is the command to run this with watch -n 350 bash for 10x hourly rate
# /%Y%m%d/hour-%H/%Y-%m-%d-%H:%M:%S
#now is the filename for the date stamped jpg file
 now=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d-%H:%M:%S")
#dir is the directory that is dated as the date of the picture. I need an IF statement around this so it doesn't keep creating the same dir.
 dir=$(date +"%Y%m%d")
mkdir $dir
#pathnow, I don't think is needed anymore.
pathnow=$(date +"%Y%m%d")
 # example filename: my_program.2012-01-23-47.log
#fswebcam  -S 15 --flip h --jpeg 90 --shadow --title "erick cam" --subtitle "Home" --info "Monitor: Active @ 1 fph" --save $now.jpg  --device  /dev/video0
 fswebcam  -S 15 --jpeg 90 --shadow --title "erick webcam" --subtitle "Dough Rising" --info "Monitor: Active @ 10 fph" --save $now.jpg  --device /dev/video0 -F 50
# Copy cam pic to file that the FTP program will send to the site.
 cp $now.jpg cam1.jpg
#move local copy to local directory only and copy for FTP!
 mv $now.jpg $dir
#put on website to embed into page
 quote USER $USER
 cd public_html
 put $FILE



I was saving the pictures onto a Wuala cloud drive when I originally developed the script.

Might need this package so that Wuala can map as an NFS drive…

sudo apt-get install portmap nfs-common

Location of Wuala drive as it created by default…




Ubuntu Man Page for fswebcam

fswebcam web page

Webcam capture using fswebcam

Shows how-to install fswebcam via package installer, I have not tried this…

To make a movie via the Linux Command line, go to the section on How To Make a movie, under the section that talks about doing it via SSH on the Raspberry Pi, on the site…

How To Capture Time-Lapse Photography With Your Raspberry Pi and DSLR or USB Webcam

From Some fun with a webcam , I like how the code to run the camera has it set the font as white against a transparent footer. The code in bold makes it happen…




exec fswebcam –quiet –skip 14 \
–font $font \–timestamp ‘%d %b %y %H:%M:%S (%Z)’ \
–no-title -r $height\x$width \
–banner-colour ‘#FF000000’ \
–line-colour ‘#FF000000’ \
–exec $capture \
–loop $interval $output



Very cool, a portable time lapse camera using a Raspberry Pi and a battery, stuffed in a tin can. This is the way to go!

Simple timelapse camera using Raspberry Pi and a coffee tin