How Solar Saved the Topcon Time Lapse Project

Customer Overview

Topcon delivers systems that facilitate surveying, earthmoving, and paving operations. These systems help the people that build and feed the world work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. However, operating these systems requires training and support on an ongoing basis. Ideally, customers send their operators to Topcon’s facilities for this training. 

Project Challenge

The Livermore Training Center is situated at Topcon’s global headquarters in Livermore, California. Visitors from around the world come in for support and training. The design of a new training facility was completed, and construction was about to begin. The construction time lapse was used to create teasers for anyone looking to visit the new training center.

The challenge was choosing a vantage point for the cameras that would capture the work and yet not interfere with it. It was also not possible to run power to the cameras since the site was being graded.

Setting up the project 

The main considerations in setting up the project were:

  1. Camera Equipment
  2. Camera Placement
  3. Image Capture Intervals
  4. Shooting Schedule
  5. Media Management  

Camera & Solar Equipment

The GoPro HERO5 was the camera of choice. Since running power lines across a site while it's being graded is not wise, a solar panel was added to the camera package. This meant that the cameras could operate indefinitely—subject to changing the memory cards—without needing a power source. 

Our Time Lapse Calculator is an easy way to calculate just how much solar power your installation will require.

We recommend using a solar panel with at least 10 Watts of power and a 20 Amp-hour battery.

The camera was set to 12 megapixels on the wide setting.

Camera Placement [the challenge]

The main challenge with camera placement was getting them high enough to capture the action while at the same time not interfering with equipment movement on the job site. Four locations were chosen to place the cameras using 16-foot posts to get the height. 

One of the posts was knocked over by construction equipment and had to be replaced - fortunately, the CamDo enclosure protected the camera. 

Image Capture Intervals

The GoPro was set to 3-minute intervals. When played back at 30 frames per second, this was a good trade-off between:

  1. A smooth video look that was achieved by the cloud movement across the frame
  2. A reasonably short finished length of 2:27 minutes

Shooting Schedule

The project hours were 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday so that’s exactly what the GoPro cameras were set up to shoot. This eliminated the need to delete footage that had no construction activity. 

The time lapse ran for a total of 9 months. The use of solar power meant that the cameras shot continuously with no battery changes.

Media Management

The memory cards were pulled every 2-3 months to offload the images. This was the only ongoing management requirement other than the mishap with one of the camera posts being knocked over by a piece of construction machinery. 

Lessons Learned

Since the cameras were mounted on 16’ posts, accessing the media required a lift. In retrospect, had CamDo’s CloudX platform been used with the Upblink time lapse controller, the cameras would have wirelessly uploaded to the cloud, eliminating the need for any maintenance for the duration of the project. 


The Livermore Training Center time lapse project achieved its objective of elevating the awareness and interest of international customers to attend the new facility for support and training. Topcon has installed an additional two cameras to capture and promote another expansion project on the campus.


Ready to start your time lapse project?