Daniel Riley of the popular YouTube channel rctestflight has been building tiny autonomous boats, and recently he realized that the platform would be perfect for shooting photos for hyperlapse videos. In this 14-minute video, he explains how he made and tuned a boat for automated hyperlapses.
Riley built the latest version of his boat out of pink insulation foam, making it unsinkable. It moves through the water using two propellers mounted to the back.
One challenge of the project was allowing the boat to shoot stable enough photos for use in a hyperlapse when all of the images are turned into movie frames. And Riley wanted to avoid collisions with other boats, so he would be shooting long-exposure photos at night.
To shoot stable images, Riley mounted a GoPro to a $300 Freefly Movi gimbal designed for smartphones.
As you can see from the sample hyperlapse shots starting at 5:30 in the video, the autonomous boat is able to shoot smooth hyperlapses while panning the camera to the left. And to keep the boat out of the shots, Riley plans waypoints that direct the boat to only make left turns, and the length of the route is matched to the pan rate of the camera so that the boat roughly turns with the camera.
“It’s not a perfect solution, but the resulting hyperlapses were pretty close to what I initially was going for,” Riley says.