DSLRs have the best image quality compared to any other consumer camera. With price points for these cameras reaching as low as $400, DSLRs can make a very good dedicated time-lapse or monitoring/documenting solution.

What you need

  • A computer. Any old PC or laptop will do. For new setups we recommend using an Intel NUC or similar.
  • A DSLR, any recent Nikon D or Canon Eos camera will do.
  • A waterproof housing for your camera if mounted outside.
  • A high quality USB extension cable, if going over 3m (10ft) an active repeater cable is recommended and maybe required depending on video resolution or camera used.
  • VideoVelocity to record/broadcast the imagery to Teleport and/or record locally to your PC.

The camera

A DSLR offers the best image quality you can find. Pair it to a PC and you have a great remote viewing setup.

  • Preferably, only use webcams with 1080p (or better) sensors. Unlike most, these webcams are built with image quality in mind.
  • Nikon or Canon DSLRs are supported. Unfortunately other manufacturers don't have good support tethered operation. Some cameras including point and shoot cameras such as Nikon 1 or AW100 will work using the WIA project type in VideoVelocity.
  • Turning off auto focus is recommended in most situations to prevent any image jitter from frame to frame.
  • Turning off vibration reduction such as VR on the lens is recommended as it can cause shifts in the image from frame to frame.
  • Turn off any sleep modes on the camera. Once it goes to sleep while tethered it may not wake up until physical interaction,.

The computer

This is the key component that will enable your DSLR to record and broadcast video. The key aspect here is reliability and more reliability. You don't want your this to be restarting or crashing on you, requiring physical access to the box to get it going again. So only use proven stable hardware that has no history or crashing.

  • Any reliable laptop or ATX computer will do. If it can run Windows 7 smoothly, it's capable of running VideoVelocity and recording at 1080p with a DSLR.
  • If you're building a dedicated system, consider using an Intel NUC available here on Amazon. It's designed for scenarios just like this and is highly configurable.
  • Turn off Windows update, auto installation, the updates can be downloaded but installation will be done manually by you when you're read to restart the box.
  • Enable remote desktop, this will let you monitor the system and perform any updates to it when needed.
  • Remove any unused PCI or USB connected devices, these may cause problems and draw power.
  • Make Windows auto-boot and enable 'Start with Windows' in VideoVelocity. This will ensure that in case of power failure the system will auto start recording.
  • In the BIOS power configuration, enable 'Always on power'. This will make sure the PC is always on when connected to AC. This is important.
  • Hookup your DSLR and do some tests to make sure it's working.

The cable problem

USB has a length limit of 5m, and in practice, for camera use it's more like 3m. To overcome having to place your PC right next to the camera an extension cable is used.

  • You can use a simple extension cable if it's less then 3m long. Anything over that we recommend an active repeater USB cable.
  • Only use high quality cabling and HUBs.
  • Some cameras are very finiky and will not work reliably if used with USB hubs or long cables. You may need to a short cable and hook in directly into the computer for reliable operation. Using the cable that came with your camera is recommended..
  • Placing an AC powered USB hub at the end of your extension cable may improve camera performance and stability if you're having problems.
  • For distances over 3-5m an active repeater USB cable is required. Quality cables like those from SIIG are recommended.
  • Use electrical type on all connections if you're wiring is exposed to weather. You can also then spray the connections with a 'leak-seal' product to ensure moisture does not get inside.

Weather proofing

For optimal image quality you don't want the camera behind standard window glass, it causes a washed out image. Placing it outside solves this problem but creates another, moisture and heat exposure.

  • Due to the size of DSLRs there aren't many options for weatherproof enclosures. You can modify an underwater housing for your camera or create one from scratch using a plastic container and a polarizing filter for the light opening, sealed with silicone.
  • Unless you can manage seal the enclosure perfectly, you will likely want to leave vents for moisture to flow to avoid moisture build up in the housing. Installing a small fan in the housing will help by circulating the air.
  • Unlike webcams, DSLRs have more strict operating temperatures, if you're working in a very hot or cold climate, a housing such as this one may be required .

The software

VideoVelocity will do the rest. It will capture from the camera, on a schedule and stream HD frames to Teleport.

  • Simply install VideoVelocity time-lapse capture software on your Windows 7/8/10 PC (XP works but is unsupported).
  • Run it and select the 'publish live to Teleport' project type. It will start your webcam and you're ready to record or stream.
  • Make sure to check the notes in 'The computer' section above, to make your system ready for reliable, long term capture.
  • In the 'Input Webcam..' section, selecting YUY2 for the 'Stream type' and the lowest frame rate possible, is recommended to lower CPU usage.

That's it! You now have a reliable, very high image quality broadcast and time-lapse recording setup.

Let us know what works for you and what doesn't. As well as pics of your own custom setups of course!
Happy time-lappsing!