Waterproofing your timelapse rig

You might remember the post we wrote about BerryCam, a way to operate your Pi’s camera board (available from any of our main distributors – check the “Buy a Pi” links at the top right of the page) from your mobile phone, from  the other day. Jim, one of the BerryCam engineers, has also been playing with the camera board in another project: a waterproof timelapse rig in a coffee can.

This is not, of course, the first timelapse setup we’ve showcased here: but it is probably the most robust and self-contained, and importantly, it’s waterproof, so you can use it outdoors in the sort of interesting weather that’s just begging to be filmed in timelapse.

What you’re watching here is the tide on the Isle of Arran: a soggy environment. A parts list, instructions, code, tips on stopping someone mistaking your camera for an abandoned jar of delicious coffee, and tips on what adhesives etc. to use in environments with fluctuating temperatures and humidity are all available from Jim at Fotosyn’s blog.


skittles avatar

No seal is perfectly tight and pressure differences between the outside and inside of the can will suck in humid air which then condensates and won’t be able to escape.

The only way to prevent water from getting in through the seals is to install a pressure equalization valve that keeps water molecules outside and acts as a path of lowest resistance for the air.

I learned that the hard way when I build my enclosure for a year long time-lapse. Check out post 10 of this thread for images:

Dave avatar

“No seal is perfectly tight”??
Anything can be sealed against any Earthly pressure (by which I mean 6 miles deep or hundreds of miles up) providing the implementation of one of the least acknowledged inventions of the modern world is correctly applied…. the humble o-ring.


skittles avatar

“Anything can be sealed against any Earthly pressure (by which I mean 6 miles deep or hundreds of miles up) ”

Well, I guess you’re technically right (at least in the short term and leaving quantum mechanics aside ;) ), but a coffee can isn’t exactly a submarine or a space station. Large differences in pressure out stress on every seal and it will eventually break.

Robyn avatar

Hey Skittles!

Thanks for your comment. I’m wondering if I can pick your brain about the one year time lapse project?

I’m interested how you managed the data from each image produced and what you were using for a long term power source. My startup is looking to do a one year time lapse of our farm but I’m not really sure where to start with it.



Inky- avatar

Looks like it’s looking Southerly towards Plada, with Ailsa Craig in the background.

mrpi64 avatar

That’s awesome!

Dave avatar

Love the second half when the tide goes out revealing the rocks, quite eerie.

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

Very cool! I’ve been looking into time lapse for quite some time now and this is great information!

The Raspberry Pi Guy

Jim avatar

Thanks all!

Take on board all the laws on physics when it comes to moisture but I’m aiming this at hobbyists too removing too much need to build custom units or repeated trips to B&Q or Maplins.

For the time the unit was out 4 times in a week in squally rain and sunlight and overnight didn’t seem to have any trouble.

Maybe an o-ring is something worth looking at…

liz avatar

I restore old fountain pens when I’m not doing Pi stuff, and if you’re trying to seal rings or threads to keep them water/ink-tight, scuba-grade silicone grease is the way forward. (Dead cheap too in small quantities; you can find it on Amazon.) My educated guess is that this wisdom also applies to coffee cans.

AndrewS avatar

RaspberryPens ?

Lovely video above – it’s great the way it just keeps going and going, revealing more and more rocks.

Simon D avatar

I use plumbing silicone grease for the same thing. Comes in a little tin looking like lip gloss. Don’t taste the same though.

If you want an even thinner layer of grease then Finishline Dry-setting bicycle chain lube. (the one with the red label). It’s a silicone grease in a high-capillary volatile carrier. So you put it on something, like say a chain, and it sucks in and stays there.

OT: it also works for door hinges. Normal idiots use branded mineral oils or spray: this stuff neither lubricates nor goes or stays where you put it. But with drysetting you put it in the hinges, it flushes out the useless “oil”+other muck, which you wipe off with a bit of loo paper. Meanwhile the silicone grease is refreshing the parts that other oils cannot reach. The carrier evaporates and it stays where you want it.

Robert_M avatar

You know – for as long as that camera was running, I was sure it would capture a shot of whoever it was who pulled the stopper out of the bathtub.

(Translation: Fantastic video! Definitely a project idea to keep in mind for my Model A.)

3xBackup's avatar

Love the video. The only thing I could think of that would be better would be if it was anchored below sea level, when the tide is out. And having 2 raspberry pi’s one filming the terror of the device creators face as the tide comes in and the other one filming the change from air to underwater and back to air again :)

dan3008 avatar

bookmarked for project when i get time :D

James Moore avatar

Going to try and make a longer clip. I have a stripped down Pi Model A running the script, using 2900MAh batteries. I got a full 12 hours the other day which is really cool.

Graham avatar

After 20 years of saying it, made it to Arran last year. Stayed at the campsite at Lochranza. Spent an afternoon with that guy at the craft shop on the headland. When we where leaving he shouted after us “Follow your dreams…” – man it was a hard place to leave…

isch avatar

I can’t open the blog of Jim at Fotosyn’s. Is this Website down?
Can someone confirm this.


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Mark CD Ashdown avatar

Here is a very interesting alternative approach which Kit Wallace has engineered – http://kitwallace.tumblr.com/post/86417337249/timelapse-and-raspberry-pi

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