Time-lapse photography with CHDK

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

As I’ve already alluded to in a previous post, I’ve been using the CHDK firmware supplement with my Canon PowerShot A550, which on it’s own is an outstanding camera, alhamdulillaah. This firmware add-on, though, really takes the cake!

One of the features made possible by CHDK is the ability to run scripts which take the enabled features of your camera and do interesting things with them. One such script enables one to take a sequence of images of a fixed interval over a period of time – i.e., time-lapse photography! So, over the past two days, I’ve gone-ahead and played with this feature a bit by just collecting images from my office window while I diligently “worked”.

Through the script menu, I was able to setup the time-lapse to take one photo every second. As my office is on the 4th floor of large cubic structure in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, I had a nice view that combined parking lot-and-street activity with some nice cloud shows. That both days were signficantly overcast actually proved to make the videos more interesting – so much so that the last image sequence was pointed more towards the sky to capture the natural splendor up above.

Note: All videos are in free and open source Ogg Theora format.ย  If you do not have a player that supports this already installed, then I recommend the VLC free and open source player.ย  Most users of a GNU/Linux or other *nix-based systems will probably not need anything special to player, so this note is mostly for Windows users.

Creative Commons License
Time-lapse view from my office window by Basil Mohamed Gohar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


This was my first image sequence out of my office window. The white balance is really off, unfortunately, because I didn’t attempt to adjust it at all. Subsequently, the entire image sequence has a color hue due to the tinting of the office building’s windows.


My second image sequence came out a little better with regards to color, because I set the white balance to “overcast”. This is still not as accurate as it could be, however.


The third image sequence is the longest, and first one from the second day. This is a sequence of 600 images in total! I manually adjusted the white balance for this and the next sequence, and as such, the color appear much more natural & realistic in these two sequences.


The last & final image sequence for this batch was really just something I did without giving it much thought. Amazingly enough, it turned-out to be the most interesting until the end when it gets cut off (due to lack of space on my SD card) – the direction of the clouds began to change! This sequence in particular encourages me to try to stake-out a day with excellent cloud activity and just setup the camera to capture as long a sequence as is sane.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and these clips as much as I did making & manipulating them. I’ll make another post explaining how I captured the images & converted them into videos. Feel free to post comments and/or questions should you have any.

7 Comments to “Time-lapse photography with CHDK”

  1. AlBaraa says:

    how do I open the .ogv files? — I haven’t used that file extension before. What program are you using?

  2. Basil says:

    I updated the post with a link to the VLC player download page (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/). This is an easy-to-use and feature-full free/open-source player for Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux, and a few other platforms. It can play just about any format, audio or video, out there.

  3. AlBaraa says:

    Jazakallahu khairun bro ๐Ÿ™‚

    I must say…these are amazing mashaAllah. I didn’t realize that digicam video resolution has become so high. How high is the max rez for a timelapse video?

    I wonder if it can do hd…after all it is motion photography. Might as well take 12MP shots and string em together (that’s 12K…as opposed to 1080p…aka 1K), okay…12MP shots are overkill for video…id LOVE to see 4MP shots…does the camera have that option?

    Also, you know what what be better? — if you can get one of those len attachment adapters (Something like this: http://www.bugeyedigital.com/product_main/ckc-unicam37.html ) for you camera and apply a polorizing filter (comes for like $15) in front of your powershot…the images will come out cleaner and w/o a reflection from the window.

    PS: I suggest that you installed this WP plugin called “Subscribe to Comments” http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/subscribe-to-comments/ — this way anyone who comments can get an automatic notice in their email that there has been a response.

  4. Basil says:

    Actually, these images are just a sequence of stills that I stiched together into a continuous video. Each original image is a high-quality JPEG at 3072×2304 resolution (7+ MP), which is the normal maximum my camera (Canon PowerShot A550) can do. With the CHDK firmware add-on, I can take RAW format images, which have a marginally higher resolution (like, a few dozen pixels or so in both dimensions).

    I was also thinking to crop the images into a 16×9 aspect ratio so that I could have a “widescreen” video, instead of this plain 4×3 mess.

    As for still photography, I am currently looking at – and have been for a while – at a Canon Digital Rebel XSi, alternatively known as the 450D outside the US. Since you’ve expressed some interest in this, maybe I should include more of my thoughts and musings on my blog, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Jazaak Allaahu khayran for the links. I think I might install that plugin. I’ve noticed it on other blogs, and I didn’t even think to look for a plugin for it. I like that feature as well myself.

  5. AlBaraa says:

    Wa iyyak for the links.

    Looking forward to see more techie stuff re photo and audio!

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