A time lapse video can be made to look really good if the camera is panned while the picture taking happens. The result is smooth motion during the video, and there are plenty of examples of this on You Tube.

There are lots of ways to make cheap panning mechanisms, with the most popular involving an old egg timer. However these approaches have some limitations:

  1. Once the panning starts you don’t stop it, even if you panned away from an area where something happened 10 minutes after the start
  2. The panning is typically a linear motion – the same speed all the time
  3. Most panning mechanisms do not have vertical panning, only horizontal

Number one comes from the limitation of having to set up the motion before starting to take the pictures. It can be difficult to anticipate in advance what might happen in the scene and once it does even if the motion was somehow changed, it would have to change slowly to avoid disrupting the video in a jarring way, missing the item of interest anyway.

Number two can be solved by using a PC or microcontroller to control the camera motion in more complex ways. However this is added time and expense for design and setup.

Number three can be solved by using two motors, one for horizontal and one for vertical. Again, unless the motion is very simple and defined in advance, a PC or microcontroller would be needed.