The automation of microscopes, cameras and other devices means that experiments can be carried out with live specimens for long periods of time without the operator needing to be present. The automation capabilities of microscopes can vary from the basic ability to capture a sequence of images, to synchronised control of high speed devices like piezos and LEDs. Almost all microscopes at the LMCB are capable of basic time-lapse acquisition but experiments involving a high degree of automation must be carried out using specialised systems and the nature of the time-lapse will determine the machine(s) of choice.
Since the specimen is usually alive there is also the need to control the environment so it remains viable during the time-lapse. Microscope incubation systems have been developed to maintain the environment at a constant temperature. The usual requirement is for 37°C for mammalian cells, which will often also need to be supplied with CO2, but model organisms may require different environmental conditions.
The LMCB has both wide-field and confocal microscopes capable of time-lapse microscopy with environmental control. The sophistication of automation and the method of environmental control varies between systems. Your experiment will determine which systems will be best for you to use and you might need to prepare your specimen in different plates or dishes so you must always get advice from the Light Microscopy Facility before beginning.