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 Advice on interval for 2 year time lapse of growing orchard 
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Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:05 pm
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Post Advice on interval for 2 year time lapse of growing orchard
I am planning a two year time lapse of an Almond orchard that is going to be planted in a few weeks. The idea of the video will be to watch the field go from wheat to the trees getting planted then watch them grow. I am a farmer, not a pro photographer, but have a pretty good understanding of photography. I have purchased the following equipment:

Gopro Hero3+Black
Cam-Do PS-003 Programmable scheduler
Cam-Do solar panel + battery + enclosure

I would like to record each day for two years. The scheduler has the ability to record only during hours I specify, therefore only during daylight hours.

The questions I have are as follows:

Since this video will span 730 days, I have concerns about changing light conditions. My concern is creating a strobe like effect.

What would be a good time to start and stop the camera to minimize light issues? I live in Central California, near the town of Fresno.

Should I try to take several pictures throughout the day and set the interval to a specific video length, or take just one each day at noon and use Final Cut to adjust the duration of the video?

I am really concerned that if I take too many pictures I will have to sort through thousands of them and delete the ones causing problems.

I would really appreciate any advice on this and anything else I might need to know that I didn't mention.

Thanks in advance.


Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:26 pm
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Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2011 7:34 pm
Posts: 116
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Post Re: Advice on interval for 2 year time lapse of growing orch
Sounds like a fun project. There are a number of us on this forum who have plenty of experience with long term time-lapse, so hopefully you'll get plenty of solid advice.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to your question. Put simply, there is no way during production to completely and properly deal with changes in lighting in photos taken across hours, days, months and years (though I'm open to others challenging me on this). Even if you shoot at the same time each day, you won't get the same light because 1) some days will be overcast and others clear, and 2) the sun will still be in different places at different times of the year. Not only your light will change, but so will your white balance (regardless if it is set on manual or auto) because, again, the color of the natural light will change. Even when shooting short term time-lapse, the light can change between photos (e.g. the sun goes behind a cloud); how much more during a long term time-lapse!

This said, a few recommendations:
    At all costs, try to avoid the sun shining directly into lens at any part of the day, or at least for as short a time as possible, cos that can certainly ruin your photos.
    Shoot between the same times each day so at least the movement of the shadows is consistent.
    Avoid shooting at dawn and dusk as this is when the color of the light is most different - you can get very yellow photos at dawn and very blue photos at dusk, both of which can be unusable in a long-term sequence.

Ultimately, much of the skill in reducing the strobe effect (commonly called flicker) in long-term time-lapse is in the post-production. The best thing to do is to take lots more photos than you need and mentally prepare yourself to go through them all :) I have just been through a series of photos for a long term time-lapse of a house construction. There were originally enough photos for three and a half minutes of video, but after I cut out the photos I didn't want to use (because of fog, differences in lighting, shadows and color, no activity on the worksite, etc.) I am down to less than 30 seconds. This is a more extreme cull than I would normally do, but it gives you an idea of the benefit of taking too many photos! Thankfully, with long term time-lapse there is usually not a significant change between any two photos, so culling images (usually) doesn't mean you lose important moments.

There are a number of tools which can help you smooth out the flicker in post-production for long term time-lapse:
    You will see a lot of talk on this forum about deflicker programs/plugins such as LRTimelapse and GBDeflicker. While they are designed for small amounts of flicker in short-term time-lapses, they can still be used to lessen (though not eradicate) the flicker in long term sequences.
    As there will be not just light flicker but also white balance flicker, you might also do a batch 'match color' in Photoshop to standardize your white balance. The batch processing is a rough and imprecise way to do it, but its a good place to start and more than a little faster than manually editing the white balance of every individual photo.
    In your final editing program, you will want to do some frame blending (e.g. with CC Wide Time in After Effects), which will significantly smooth out your flicker by blending an opaque copy of the next and/or previous frame/s onto the current frame thus reducing the differences between adjacent frames.

The last piece of essential advice is to go and check regularly that your camera is still working. Nothing worse than setting up a long term time-lapse only to learn three months later that it stopped working one hour in.

Hope that's helpful and I look forward to hearing other people's advice too.

-Matt

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Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:20 pm
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