So I actually made this a long time ago but am just now getting around to posting it. It’s a short video of 4 timelapses that I shot on my infrared-converted Canon XTi. One really important trick which allowed me to do this easily was told to me by the guy who did the conversion for me: take a photo of green leaves or grass, preferrably blurred out. Then use that image as the source for a custom white balance. Now if you take a photo using that custom white balance, it looks exactly as you see in the video! No processing required, no color shifting. Now that is a convenient tip!
There’s also a color night sky timelapse from the T3i in there, shot on the night I proposed to my wife. Obviously pretty special to me! The sky looks really awesome in that IR landscape shot. I want to do some more timelapses like this with moving clouds since the sky shows up so contrasty and dark in IR.
Ever since I got my wonderful Canon T3i a couple years ago (which I STILL think is the sweet-spot in DSLR price/performance/features), I’ve had a perfectly good 10MP Canon XTi body which has been essentially gathering dust. What to do about this…. I could sell it, although unfortunately, older generations of DSLR bodies depreciate pretty severely in spite of the fact that it’s still eminently capable.
A better option: convert it to an Infrared body. This procedure can be a DIY modification, although it is NOT for the faint of heart. I’d been thinking about this for a long time so I was excited when it came up in conversation that a coworker of mine repairs/resells DSLRs as a hobby. It sounds like this might actually happen sometime in the next few months.
In the meantime, I noticed this really badass timelapse video shot with an infrared DSLR:
There’s a great explanation on Bad Astronomy of why thing appear they way they do in infrared. Basically plants reflect a lot more infrared light than any other color–including green! When you get these photos out of the camera, they appear almost all red in color, so heavy-duty post-processing is needed to get these greyscale scenes with blue skies. I’ll need to learn about all that to get to the point of making videos like the one shown above, but I don’t think it’s anything beyond my abilities. Time will tell, but it’d be awesome to make something like this…
I’m guessing a lot of the readership is already aware of this video, but I’m going to post it anyway because this timelapse is just THAT badass. It’s shot from outer space (on the ISS) and shows some unbelievably spectacular views of the heavens in motion and earth spinning below them. To me, it really drives home the notion that we’re floating in space… a fact that we seldom take time to appreciate. Ultra-cool:
And, unlike a lot of awesome timelapse videos, the music is surprisingly tasteful! I can’t get enough of this one.
I’ve been quietly revamping and improving things around the site, many of which are not really visible to most visitors. First off I’ve remastered the videos section, adding on new sections for Timelapse, Live Music, and others. In keeping with my antiquated technology theme, have a look at the video homepage, which sorts these categories by VHS cassettes.
There is now a page describing and linking to my book, entitled The Gigantic Spaces of Your Playgrounds. You’ll find the link just below the Poetic Table, which also has seven new elements as of this week. One of my new years resolutions is to write a poem a day, and it has been paying dividends. That table has been sitting dormant for a long time, and I want to make some real progress on it. Incidentally, with 118 elements to fill in and 59 pieces now present, I’m at exactly 50% completion! This is a milestone I’ve been hoping to reach for a long time. Just visually looking at the table, it seems like more than that. I guess there’s a lot of those inner transition elements remaining. In any event it feels good!
Here’s another one of those startrails images compiled with StarStax from 384 originals with 10sec, f/4.5, @ ISO 1600 exposure on each. This image shows the time between 8:49pm 10:31pm. I would have gone longer but the lens was starting to dew up!
This post is going to be a wild mashup of things, all of which I’m pretty excited over.
The fangled contraption below is something film geeks will recognize as a “slider.” Not a slider in the White Castle sense, but a smooth rail that moves a video camera from one point to another.
As it is shown above, the slider is equipped for video use. I’ve built a set of legs attached to ball-head tripod mounts which allow it to be positioned in a wide variety of configurations. There is also a shoulder mount, and an extra grip for one-handed wrangling. This is essentially a customized version of the DIY slider described at ZaZaSlider.com, meant to be an improved version of the Glidetrack Shooter slider. Any filmmakers who feel inspired by these shots, you can create the same thing yourself by reading up at the ZaZa website and ponying up maybe $250-350.
For anyone who’s curious, I’d comment that this thing is somewhat impractical for shoulder-mounted use. Yes, it works; the hand grips are comfy and the shoulder padding keeps it from getting fatiguing. Yet… it’s just heavy and big. Even made of lightweight aluminum, a one meter slider is a lot of bulk to double as a shoulder rig, and on the flip side of that coin, anything smaller than a meter is getting into the territory where it’s not enough length to get a decent looking slide. So can you have it both ways, a slider AND a shoulder rig? Eh, sort of.
Shoulder rig ho-humming aside, the slider does work great. The following video shows it in action at Bear Creek, which was the first time I put it to considerable use. The video also shows a good amount of Steadicam footage, shot on a Steadicam Merlin which I rented for the fest. It was a terrific amount of (photo-dweeb) fun to use these both!
These shots are a compilation of cool videography from the festival grounds and miscellaneous shots that wouldn’t logically fit into any of the New Mastersounds or Lettuce videos I posted before. I still have more stuff to sort through… I haven’t even posted the Soulive yet!
I learned quite a bit in doing these videos. Number one lesson was slide SLOW. It’s best to push the slider from its base, and keep hands off the camera itself. Wind can also jostle the camera around. A tougher ball head on the carriage itself may address that issue. Right now I have a pistol-grip Sunpack head on it, which certainly isn’t the paragon of build quality. As for the Steadicam, I was surprised to find that the Merlin was not nearly as well constructed as I expected it ought to be. For $800, I assumed it would be a piece of finely-crafted, impeccably-machined precision. It was not. Given, I was using a rental unit, which probably had been subjected to rough ‘n’ tumble treatment, but still, the joints had wiggle, the bottom counterweight could be bumped or moved in and out, easily throwing off the balance, and worst of all, the quick release plate only loosely held onto the steadicam itself. In the wrong situation, I could see a camera getting dropped by that quick release. Yikes.
I also learned that 30fps is NOT fast enough for quick pans or fast steadicam moves. I defintitely regret not shooting in 720p/60fps, as some shots were blurry messes at 1080p/30fps. I believe it is due not to the framerate itself, but more to the fact that each frame of your movie is actually an exposure of 1/30th of a second when you have low/medium light and video autoexposure is enabled (you could shoot manual but that’s a lot of monitoring and adjusting, when you could be thinking about framing instead). 1/30th of a second is not really fast enough to prevent camera blur, even at wide angle. If you had very bright light, you could might get away with 30fps modes as the autoexposure would be forced into a faster shutter. This is something I need to remember, moving forward as a videographer.
It was super fun to use the Merlin, and it did pop out some mondo-sweet footage. When it works, it SINGS. But after seeing this thing up close and in action, I don’t think there’s any way I’d pay more than the price of my SLR for one. Maybe in 2012 there might be a DIY Steadicam build. But that’s looking far ahead. I digress. Back to the slider:
In addition to duty as a hand-powered video slider, I’m also planning something very ambitious for it. There’s a section on OpenMoCo.org (short for open source motion control systems) called “Project Chronos”. It adds a stepper motor’s super slow motion capability to the slider so that you can do timelapse while your camera moves, like they do in all those super sexy timelapse videos–only for a fraction of the price compared to commercial systems that do the same thing! When I saw this existed, I knew I HAD to build it. This is going to require a lot of soldering, troubleshooting, emailing, and above all, patience. I’ll do some periodic updates on the progress as I go along.
For the boldest and most tenacious of readers who may be interested in attempting their own Project Chronos, mastermind Chris Field has pictures, videos, circuit diagrams, Arduino code, and finished product samples all online for your consideration. I have also began a build thread of my progress over at Timescapes.org for anyone who wants to read the gory details. At the moment I have built two PCBs as pictured below. The blue one is actually a kit with very comprehensive assembly instructions online which made its construction relatively simple. The green PCB is the Chrono-specific circuitry and still a work in progress. More posts on this as it develops.
Also, soldering shit in my free time makes me feel like a badass. Maybe it’s the smoke, or maybe it’s the hardcore nature of building your own circuits. Busting out my resistor collection and putting it back to use felt really good. I said to my girl; oh yeah, these resistors aren’t just going to sit inside a box forever, these have got a cooler destiny… ultra-sweet timelapse!
Caught under a mountain of Bear Creek photos and video, is this timelapse video, fulfilling a couple goals of mine: to do timelapse of a big crowd of people and to do some cityscape timelapse at night. I captured all the still images that make up this footage using my T3i mounted to a gorillapod, as previewed before! Overall I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Timelapse is so neat. I want to keep getting better and more ambitious with it.
Thought that the visuals would go well with drum and bass, so I cut up an old reason track I had laying around. Now that youtube is super-duper-not-cool with overlaying someone else’s music, this is forcing me to include more original audio as well. I guess this is a good thing.
So in the near future there will be some time-lapse movies on here of various places in NYC that I shot whilst visiting my brother, along with my lovely lady. I knew I wanted to do some time-lapse of crowds in motion, but how to steady the camera? Carrying a tripod around the whole trip would be very tedious, and plus it takes up a lot of room on the sidewalk. Solution: one of those gorillapods–you can even wrap it around a signpost and put it above head-level! I bought a gorillapod with ball head expressly for this purpose, and you can see it in action in the photo here. I think it performed admirably well, although it is definitely way more susceptible to wind gusts than a normal tripod.
For anyone curious, the gorillapod actually did stay right in position as it is shown here, except for when a gust of wind would blow the signpost, or my hand went up there to fiddle with it.
I might have to start a new series of posts showing the gorillapod in extreme action poses.
This weekend I attended a Star Party (aka an astronomer hangout session) with the North Houston Astronomy Club and took along my timelapse setup. I got to meet some cool people who are way into the stars, and got in some solid time staring at the heavens during the Orionid Meteor Shower. I’m pretty psyched about the resultant video below because it combines a whole bunch of techniques and tricks that I have never tried before.
Public service reminder: hit the 1080p and fullscreen it. We’re looking at stars. They’re small!
For anyone who’s wondering, those 4 tall poles in the timelapse where the sun is still going down are actually a radio telescope, set up to listen to the sounds of Jupiter as it passes southernly-overhead in the middle of the night. Bonus points for exotic telescopes!
I had done “star trails” images before by using this simple, free program called StarStaX, but I hadn’t realized that the same program can save a picture at every step during the composite-making process, which gives these really neat star trails videos. I also found a photoshop actions file as blogged about on Owen Scharlotte’s site that let me do the fading-startrails effect. This is my first time using either of those techniques. (UPDATED…TWICE!: Owen had a broken link, which is now fixed! His actions are now more sophisticated as well, so click here to download the version I used, which I’ll leave posted as it was requested of me via email from a reader. Please note: I can’t provide technical assistance with this actions file. You’ll have to read Owen’s website and figure out on your own how it works. You should check out his site anyway, as it’s good.)
As with my last attempt, I did a batch process on all 1,145 photos before compiling them into the video. I figured out how to remove hot pixels from the dark parts of the sky (using a subtraction layer on a noise reference image), but I still haven’t mastered removing them from lighter regions near the horizon. There’s definite room for improvement. Another very cool thing: I learned a few neat, new tricks with Shadow/Highlights in Photoshop as well as Curves; two functions I use all the time. Hah! And I arrogantly had assumed I knew all there was to know about these functions! Enlightening and humbling in the same moment. This whole deal was certainly a beneficial learning experience.
But stepping back from the technical aspect of all this, and speaking of humbling, have a look at those stars. Wowzers.
Something that really knocked me out that night was seeing “the great nebula in Andromeda”, aka M31, aka the Andromeda Galaxy. Maaan. I mean… every star you see in the sky is an incomprehensible distance away from us. Jeez, really I can’t even genuinely comprehend the distance from Earth to Venus, let alone the distance from Earth to Proxima Centauri… But holy %*#^ Andromeda, that’s 2.5 million light years from Earth. And you can see it with your naked eye if the sky has clear “seeing”. Hanging out with a bunch of astronomers and having them point out all these fascinating things in the sky was really inspiring. There’s certainly more sensational things to be seen in the sky (Jupiter and it’s four Galilean moons was truly a sight to behold) but looking up and spotting another galaxy, well that blew my mind. I checked it out through both binoculars and a pretty excellent telescope as well. No matter how you see it, it’s dim. But it’s there, and one of the top mind-boggling sights of my year.
You can see it, as my camera saw it on the left. I drew in purple dashed lines connecting some of the nearby stars in the Andromeda constellation that make it easier to spot. The galaxy itself is circled in green. As you can see it’s not much more than a faint blur. But man oh man, did those photons ever come a long way before, by sheer random chance, happening to land upon the image sensor of my camera. At the time that those photons left the Andromeda Galaxy, the genus Homo had literally just begun. Homo Habilis was the species. Definitely still very very ape-like. By contrast, Homo Sapiens emerged 250,000 years ago; an order of magnitude more recently. Wow.
Even though there are fantastic pictures out there of such objects as Andromeda, it’s still so very powerful to see it with your own eyes–to have your own retinas collect some photons that traveled 2.5 million years to reach them. Seeing that is ….. well it’s breathtaking.
Meeting other people who are jazzed about the sky was a highlight of the evening as well. One thing I had hoped to do was learn a bit about telescopes since it’s somewhat of a long-term goal of mine to acquire one. I met a guy named Rusty who had just gotten a brand new Orion model off eBay. It was his first real night out with it, so he was still getting things dialed in, but overall he had it in pretty great form. Seeing his excitement over the new instrument was infectious and definitely made me want to go do some further research. But talking to him at length also made me realize that I have 100% no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to ‘scopes. It’s going to be quite some time before I know enough to even consider a purchase. In the meantime, I think I might invest in a good, lightweight, comfortable pair of binoculars. I had read people saying that this was a great first step into astronomy online, but I sort of scoffed at the idea, thinking, naahh, what I want is a badass telescope! And yes, that IS what I want, but still, a good pair of binoculars is certainly a fun, portable, and instantly-maneuverable way to check out the sky. I think I will be getting a pair.
A short timelapse video I made, showing the night sky from 12:30am-3:30am. I used 830 images to make this, and you can see the corresponding startrails images in the previous post! Don’t forget to hit fullscreen and 1080p on the video. A tiny preview doesn’t do the stars justice!
I’ve wanted to get into making timelapse like this for a long time, so it’s rewarding to put one of these together. I did a batch process on all photos in Photoshop before compiling into a video, which was an awesome idea; definitely want to do more and get better at all of this. Check out that SKY!