Timescapes - Digital Timelapse Discussion

Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years
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Author:  clonick [ Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

Hi to all,

I'm an intermediate time lapse fanatic were in the past I was used always computer controller cameras like canon powershot... most of the time I use breeze system remote control for take the pics.
then when I start to use magic lantern was fantastic for me and at this moment it is very stable (i'm using canon 550D).

So I probably will start a new project were I will use 2 different cameras for make time lapse for 8 months, so I wish some tips for stability in this, the question is:
I should use magic lantern or breezesys DSLR remote pro app for continuous 1min per picture 8 month project?

I know that the cameras have an ETA lifetime of 100K shots, but the project pays the 4 cameras (or more, and at least two extra in case of fail) for the excessive stress and also the maintenance/replacement of the shutter assembly each 80k shots; so the spend in cameras is not the issue.

the stability is the question... I believe that magic lantern could be more stable taking a picture each minute rather than a computer in a program that by usb cable is executing the shutter command BUT the great advantage is that I could make some software script to maintain pinging to a server (me) the last date-time picture taken, so in case of disaster I could solve this fast. (using a 3g/4g link)
in case of magic lantern, I can't figure how I could have some communication with a computer for make it "pinging" or any kind of signal that I could use for communicating me remotely.

what method I must choice?


Author:  DigiSnapMark [ Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

Try to minimize the complexity of the setup, and the power usage to increase the reliability over the long term.

1) Computer control - very complex. The computer and camera both need power, and both will be active 100% of the time. You must have a reliable AC power source. There aren't many computers that I would trust to operate continuously over an extended period of time, nor would I trust the USB connection to a camera to be 100% reliable. Having the camera awake 100% of the time seems like it might wear out the camera faster.

2) Internal camera intervalometer. I haven't used Magic Lantern... will the camera go to sleep between pics, or stay awake and active 100% of the time?

3) External intervalometer. Much lower power, as the camera is asleep between pictures. External intervalometers draw very little power, and are extremely reliable. Camera will run cooler, possibly reducing noise in the sensor, and possibly extending the life of the camera.

Power: AC or DC
If you are operating from AC power, you MUST plan for occasional power outages. If you are using a computer control, you would need to set up the computer to automatically boot and execute the software, which is not easy. Alternatively, you would use a battery backup inverter system to provide reliable power, but now you have added another piece of hardware, and complexity. The size of the battery in the inverter will determine how long the system will stay operating during an outage... not very long!

My recommendation for long term time-lapse is to use an external intervalometer to minimize power, and then supply power via a DC battery pack. You might need to convert the battery voltage to the appropriate voltages needed to power the camera, and possibly the intervalometer. If the power lis low enough, you can use a solar panel to keep the battery charged, or if you have AC easily available, use the AC to keep the battery charged. A relatively small battery pack can power the system for quite a long time... months for instance.

Here's a picture of how we do this...

Author:  clonick [ Sun Nov 23, 2014 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

Thaks DigiSnapMark for you detailed info...

your proposal solution could be great but maybe is not full for my uses, but definitely help me a lot for consider other variables and avoid possible future issues.

1) I'm IT expert so the computer power and active 100% all time is easy for me (i has been using laptops running 2.5 years without shooting as bot server without problem); I could config a nettop of 9w max, correct well setup the computer runs like Swiss clock. so the computer is not an issue.

2) Magic Lantern seems that the Camera not go to asleep between shots, so I need to consider this because it could causes the canon to die soon.

3) this is interesting because is true, is more simple and must be more realible, so I will try to use this method but need to solve the remote monitor health issue.

the power AC or DC with the computer is not problem as I mentioned, I could share detailed setup and specs for a cheap computer ~$150 (used) nettop could do the job. with a no-break for AC or with a DC-DC with solar charger and a car or motorcycle battery could work.

your recommendations is great but the only thing that I MUST solve is the issue of the remote monitor health... with a computer, I could know when was the last picture created and also I can record temp and humidity with a cheap usb sensor and report this data by 3g/4g to a main server... this is great because I could have all history of the conditions of the camera and also if the camera crashed or stop working, it could alert me instantly! (alert my sms is possible too).

with external intervalometer the camera will work more reliable but maybe I must create with arduino some sensor that when the camera takes picture, inserts the value to an independent computer for know that the camera is alive and report me by internet.

I see in the harbortronics some cellular network module and wifi memory card, but i was unable to found detailed info of what do or how it works.

if the cellular network module transfer the pics of the SD by usb, it could work for me if the terminal usb can be connected to a computer... OR if the wifi memory card does.

the wifi memory card is an eye fi x2 I think.

thanks for your help.

Author:  clonick [ Tue Nov 25, 2014 9:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

as following the answer of the breezesys, they reply me this:

We have plenty of customers who use DSLR Remote Pro for long term time lapse projects. You only get problems with the camera sensor overheating if you use live view continuously which isn't what you would do for time lapse shooting.

so with breezesys could do the job so I will bet using this sistem for 1 year, and I will monitor temp and humedity of the camera for documentation and share by here if this method could work better or not, also I will monitor the power consumption of the nettop and al the system.

Author:  fanf [ Sun Nov 30, 2014 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

My 2 cents here.

Having a computer and camera running continuously over extended period of time is not an issue at all with minimum precautions and not using the cheapest atom based computer from amazon. At least on our side we never encountered any major issues.

You can always add some USB relays and power on/off the camera at regular interval if you don't want it to stay on all the time, again no issues here. Adding temp/humidity sensors is a good idea, we do it on our setups so that we can check if things such as heating are properly working.

If you are used to run linux-based setup you can look at gphoto2 project and with a couple of bash scripts you can get a pretty reliable setup in place, if you need something more complex, you can always give webcampak a try, it's available for download on sourceforge.

Author:  clonick [ Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

fanf, thanks for your reply, definitely it help us a lot and also the webcampak script seems very very interesting, do you know how stable is it?

now we decide to go by the computer as intervalometer, the software used can manage schedule time so we save half of the time for day-only timelapses.

also I'm searching for a box like pelican box or harbortronix housing for put all the equipment in, but this last box is expensive and the window ins't so professioanl because when the sun is in front, i think the solar rays can handle very bad light in the lens of the camera, and some DIY article in google tells how to build a outdoor housing camera with a pelican box, pvc and UV glass but at now i was only found that 2 type/brands of boxes for this uses.

any here have more info about other brands that could work for this? or keywords for search that kind of rugged plastic box? english is not my native language so it was hard to me to found this boxes.

btw, we are developing a own script were the intervalometer pc will report to a main server the health status and last picture taken and will alert in case of some data is out of range, so if someone want to share more info we can share that scripts too.


Author:  fanf [ Sun Dec 07, 2014 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

Yes, Webcampak is stable, we use it in production on very long projects (2+ years).

The critical element is not the software but the hardware, you need to identify an equipment that is not going to fail during your project's lifetime.
Health status, multi-camera setup, ... is also being taken care of by the software, you just have to install it on a central server (or AWS instance) and it will receive pictures coming from other cameras and alert you by email if not pictures are being received.

If you want to go one step further, you just have to spin a Nagios instance on this central server to regularly ping network connectivity, system status, disk usage, camera status, ... If I recall properly there are also SNMP scripts to get camera status part of the Webcampak version we published on sourceforge quite a while back.

I have to admit, the downside of webcampak is a poor documentation, we publish our software as an opensource product but never really spent time on a proper documentation and rarely update the one in place.

But if you manage to get Webcampak installed, it's probably one of the most advanced solution for long-term projects.

Author:  clonick [ Mon Dec 08, 2014 2:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Long term time lapse 8 months to 1.5 years

Hi Fanf,

you info are very interesting for me and i was read a few titles in the docs you shared me really i want to contribute to document/update the docs online.

but I'm still a little confused by some terms you mentioned...

you say that with webcampak you can control several cams if is installed in a central server, what do you mean with that?

1- do u mean that the webcampak can be installed as a "cliente" or server slave and a master server?
i imagin that I need a pc for each cam or set of cams that i want to manage with that computer were in fact, the computer have installed webcampak and that must have internet for report by internet some alerts.
but... there is possible to install that webcampak as a server slave and have several like that in different locations and report all thw status to a main webcampak server? hope yes.

this is because as you mentiones, in an aws instance can be installed webcampak main server and lota los others as a slake, rwportinh to the main.

if not, can be good too but i m planning to have like 3-5 cameras on different locations, one cam per cpu only...

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