Time Lapse Experiments

May 1, 2004
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Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
In the off season I've been experimenting with time lapse photography. In the past I would usually just run my camcorder for a few hours and then speed the video up in the editor. To get a lot more control over the editing, and a sharper and much higher resolution image, I'm making the switch over to using my DSLR. Here are the first few off season attempts:

All of these were shot on a Canon 60D with an EF-S 10-22mm

July 14 aurora borealis:
Watch video >

The first sequence was 30" exposures, 10 mm, f/3.5 at ISO 800. I noticed the exposures were too long, the motion of the bands blurring the details of the spikes so for the later sequences I shot at 15" and ISO 1600 I believe.


August 3 sunset over Lake Michigan from Grand Haven, MI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqeNF64ojCs

I shot bursts of three photos on a 10 second interval at f/3.5 and ISO 100 varying the shutter speed between 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000. 900 frames total were merged together in post processing for 300 final frames to produce an HDR video. In hindsight I'd shoot longer exposures to smooth out some of the wave motion. The HDR process introduced a bit of a flicker too. Running the video through a deflicker filter should help and I may try that on future time lapses.

August 10 dawn convection over Lake Michigan from Wind Point, WI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSXPmFbxBMI

The first sequence is bursts of three on a 10 second interval again, but I wanted longer exposures this time so I did f/13 ISO 100. I also wanted two stops between frames so the shutter speeds were 0.8, 1/5, and 1/20. The waves are quite a bit smoother here. The backlit blue clouds on white sky were difficult to process aesthetically. The second sequence is at f/13 ISO 100 and 1/100 exposures, not varying the shutter speed for just 450 total frames at a 2 second interval. A woman walked in front of my shot at the end, and I did a hasty job removing her from the frames by pasting over her from sections of previous frames. You can see a glitch at the end where the pasted sections don't line up. I could probably get that to look pretty natural if I spent more time on it.
 
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May 1, 2004
3,387
546
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
Here's another experiment in time lapse. This time I used the Canon 60D in movie mode, shooting at four frames per second using the Magic Lantern patch. I get a natural time lapse this way, great low light performance with the extended shutter speed, and it extends the recording time of the camera from about 12 minutes to about 80 minutes or so. The Magic Lantern patch also enables the camera to automatically start a new video file when the file size limit is reached, so you can just let the camera roll until the card fills up. There wasn't much of a chase yesterday, but I was eager to see how the camera would perform on a chase. I intercepted a few severe warned storms and cloudscapes in central Illinois yesterday with the 60D under the acylic dome where I normally use my Sony camcordre. I was extremely impressed with the results from the camera. The video is very sharp and the super wide 10-22 lets me capture almost the entire sky, perfect for timelapsing storm structure and cloudscapes. There were no overheating issues even after more than three hours of recording, and no other major gremlins. I used the EOS Utility to monitor the video on my laptop and was then also able to stream that preview out to the internet. Worked great, and can't wait to try it out on a real chase.

Watch video >

 
Mar 15, 2004
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Tucson, Aridzona
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Good stuff, Skip.

I've been farting around with TL as well. It gives me something to do while I wait for twilight, when lightning photography becomes practical. My kit is simply a laptop running the EOS software, connected to the 'mighty' 350Drebel. The software runs on a USB link and can be used to control the basic camera functions, as well as DL the images to the HD. Apart from that the software is pretty darned minimal. There are no ramping or other TL-specific features. Minimum shutter interval is a longish 5 seconds - somewhat greater than ideal for rapidly developing convection, telephoto sunsets, etc.

Anyway, I drag the jpg or converted RAW files into 'Virtual Dub,' apply a few filters, set some setting - and it spits out a nice video. VD is free and fairly powerful, but the interface is spartan and documentation is minimal at best. Audio, visual effects, and other stuff are easy enough to sequence or add, once you've deciphered the interface. http://www.virtualdub.org/

A dirt-simple 500 frame sequence.
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/60092457/t1.avi

Shooting this sort of sunset scene, attempting to predict where the best combination of light and clouds will be over the next hour can leave you frustrated! When visualizing this video, I was anticipating some neat stuff to happen on the left side of the frame. This didn't pan out and I wound up aimed too far to the left to catch all of the exploding thunderstorm. Grump! :)
 
Good stuff, Skip.

I've been farting around with TL as well. It gives me something to do while I wait for twilight, when lightning photography becomes practical. My kit is simply a laptop running the EOS software, connected to the 'mighty' 350Drebel. The software runs on a USB link and can be used to control the basic camera functions, as well as DL the images to the HD. Apart from that the software is pretty darned minimal. There are no ramping or other TL-specific features. Minimum shutter interval is a longish 5 seconds - somewhat greater than ideal for rapidly developing convection, telephoto sunsets, etc.

Anyway, I drag the jpg or converted RAW files into 'Virtual Dub,' apply a few filters, set some setting - and it spits out a nice video. VD is free and fairly powerful, but the interface is spartan and documentation is minimal at best. Audio, visual effects, and other stuff are easy enough to sequence or add, once you've deciphered the interface. http://www.virtualdub.org/

A dirt-simple 500 frame sequence.
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/60092457/t1.avi

Shooting this sort of sunset scene, attempting to predict where the best combination of light and clouds will be over the next hour can leave you frustrated! When visualizing this video, I was anticipating some neat stuff to happen on the left side of the frame. This didn't pan out and I wound up aimed too far to the left to catch all of the exploding thunderstorm. Grump! :)
I started making time lapses about a year ago with Microsoft MovieMaker and back then I was working with much smaller time-lapses and smaller files. Since then that software was just not good enough to handle what I was throwing at it. This VirtualDub seems to be just what I was looking for since I don't have the extra bills to toss at software at the moment. I am giving it a whirl and will see how she does. I do have one quick question, is there a simple way to add a title? I can't seem to find any place to do that.

Thanks for sharing!

Chip
 
May 1, 2004
3,387
546
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
Here's another experiment that worked well enough that I think I'm going to play with this further and hopefully employ it while chasing. Using the Magic Lantern mod you can slow the framerate at which the DSLR shoots video. It also has a feature called "HDR video" where it alternates between two ISO's for each frame of the video. You overexpose for one setting and underexpose for the other. You take the seizure inducing flickering video, separate the frames and then merge them back together in separate video tracks, or merge the individual frames with HDR software. You wind up with a nice compression of the dynamic range. Here's an example I shot while driving around at dusk. The underexposed half of the video captures the dusk sky and the overexposed half captures the much darker ground. Merging the two together allows detail to be seen in both despite them being of vastly different brightness:

Watch video >

The technique I followed was to render out the original HDR video from the DSLR to a TIFF image sequence in Sony Vegas. I used the EnfuseGUI (free, HDR software) to merge the frames together into 16-bit TIFF's. Did some additional tweaking in Lightroom on the merged frames, and then imported them back into Sony Vegas as a TIFF image sequence and rendered out the final video.