Timescapes - Digital Timelapse Discussion

Two year constuction project documentation
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Author:  Bjorn [ Tue Feb 23, 2016 4:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Two year constuction project documentation

Hi! I am new to this forum, and timelapse in general. I am also in a hurry, so my apologies if my questions are well covered in other posts(utfse).

Last time i bought a camera it was a Nikon FM2. It handled cold weather better than my F3. Anyway, i am in way over my head, i have barely held a DSLR.

Now to the point. Today i agreed to try and make a timelapse video of a two year construction project in arctic Norway(!) So my first question is basicly: What gear do i need? After a quick review of what is out there my thoughts are Nikon D750 with a Sigma 20/1,4. Is this a good option? I will have to leave it for months at the time, so i need AC power and somewhere to store the files. Can i simply plug in an external hdd and have the camera store the files there? What about exposure? Hooking up a cheap intervallometer and leaving the camera on full auto would probably yield less than ideal results? Is there a box i can buy that can handel this? Maybe Raspberry PI or Ardunio based. (I do not understand Python or C+) Software for Linux, Windows or Android? I was thinking one frame every five seconds during daytime and something like every twenty during the night. (There might be a nice northern lights-bonus).

By now i am thinking i will let someone pro make a film of my raw footage. Anyway, i have years to learn how to prosess the images, but the project has already started, so i better start shooting soon.

Author:  sciencelookers [ Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

Look up Harbortronics and Photosentinel. Both companies specialize in hardware for multi-year timelapse. They have already solved all the technical problems you mentioned so you can concentrate on the installation and the photography. Look at the stuff on their website, then email questions. They are very helpful and have more experience in what you want to do than anyone.

Author:  Bjorn [ Sat Feb 27, 2016 4:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

Thanks for the reply!

I have read a lot since my last post, and it seams i may have been too concerned about both flicker and general quality of the photage. My original plan with one shot every fifteen seconds in raw+ the smalest possible jpeg with the D750 would give me more than 40 TB per year. I guess that is just way too much data. I am no longer sure the premium price of a full frame camera makes any sense if i will be capturing jpegs and converting directly to 4K video before any editing is done. Then there is the northern lights-potensial and the general low light conditions during winter...

I quickly found both the companies you reefer to. They supply the kind of systems i am after, but non of them seam to fit my needs perfectly out of the box. PhotoSentinel does custom builds and that might be interesting. The Norwegian solution "Timelapsebox" was way harder to find, but i do think they have a better product. Here is a sample of their work:[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/78526085[/vimeo]

In my understanding non of the controllers of any of these solutions have the deflikker or ramping capabilities of "RamperPro" or "qDslrDashboard". I guess it is all done in post. Maybe this is a nonsubject when you are going this fast?

Author:  Bjorn [ Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

One thing i have been thinking about; Many of the "change of seasons" timelapses i have seen have relatively fiew frames in them. The time passing or motion effect is created by fading slowly between the frames. This makes a much calmer impression than the ones with more frames. In other words 2 fps and fading between them looks less frantic than 50 fps although they speed up time the same.

If my math is correct you would compress one year to about tre minutes with an intervall of one hour and 50 fps.

Could you use an intervall of fifteen seconds and fade between individual sequences two times per second to calm things down but still keep the speed and flow?

Author:  sciencelookers [ Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

You could do that. This is something no one has really mastered.

Shooting one or a few frames per day and using frame blending does a pretty good job of reducing the flicker caused by sunny and cloudy days. This can produce strange artifacts in the images (like a construction crane with multiple ghost booms because the boom was in different positions when the pictures from different days were shot). The overall effect is much calmer than the original non-blended clip. This is the smoothest method I have seen in professional shoots for television documentaries. Its a good compromise which shows what is happening and eliminates almost all flicker.

You could talk to Andre about the possibility of automating the ramperpro for long seasons timelapse going through day and night using the optional photocell. Another possibility would be to use two cameras, one recording daytime and the other for night if you really want both day and night videos.

I experimented with something I called the external exposure equalizer for doing one frame per day seasons timelapse. It uses a photocell to trigger the camera just before dawn. Because the sun is not above the horizon yet, there are no shadows. You are always shooting in nice, evenly diffused light. Because the photocell always triggers the camera when the predetermined amount of light is present, there is no flicker. Each frame is shot at the same light level. The microcontroller then prevents re-triggering for 20 hours so the next time the photocell fires the shutter, it will be the next morning when the light is exactly as it was for the shot on the previous day. We wanted to make it a product we could sell. At the time, not one person showed any interest in it, so that never happened. If you can program a microcontroller, you could make something like it. This would let you produce seasons timelapse of better quality than anyone.

I have seen many instances (mostly on television documentaries where they should have known better) of seasons timelapse where they take some video in each season then cross dissolve from one to the other. I understand why they do it. Its easier and the footage gets accepted by producers anyway. It looks like crap and I think the people shooting it must know this. I like timelapse because it lets me see the world in a new way. Seasons timelapse is the most exciting of all. If all the frames are present, you can actually see tree branches growing, you can see the fall colors don't happen smoothly (there is a change on a cold night, then it stays the same for days until another cold night drops some leaves and colors some more). You can frequently see things no other human has ever seen before. All the subtle information is lost if you dissolve from one season to the next using video taken months apart. If you want to make an artistic film showing all the beauty and unknown phenomenon that timelapse can reveal, then don't bother with the cross dissolve technique. if you just want an easy way to get the job over with, then this is the way to go. I'm sure some people who have done the cross dissolve method for pro shoots would disagree, but this is my opinion...... And none of the others have even bothered to comment. So there's that.

Just one person's opinion.

Author:  Bjorn [ Wed Mar 02, 2016 2:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

Thanks again for your comments.

The reason i an looking in to post workflow is that it might affect the shooting regime, and even what gear to acquire.
The 80 TB-problem of 15 sec. intervall might be solved by purging every week, making a selection and converting to lossy DNG. But another problem with this over-the-top approach came to mind. What shutter can handle 4mill shots? The mirror and iris can be locked, but the shutter of the D750 is only guaranteed for 150K exposures. Even if it does ten times this it will break down within a year. This is obviously the wrong gear or the wrong shooting regime. I am guessing the lather. Or probably both.

When it comes to the RamperPro; I have tried chat, mail and phone to Elysia. Nothing! It looks like a good product (their latest firmware is even called "Narvik", witch is a city very close to my cite) but i do not think it does what i need. It is a bit expensive to be used as a simple intervallometer.

Two (or more) cameras is may be a better choice, but then full-frame is of course out of the question. More angles and lower quality might produce a more interesting result.

Author:  sciencelookers [ Sat Mar 05, 2016 4:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Two year constuction project documentation

Do you really need to shoot at 15 sec intervals for two years? How long do you want the final film to run for? One frame per day would give you 12 sec of video per year. Normally 24 sec would be a really long clip. I guess its because this is the only record of the project? Unless there is some requirement that I am missing, I don't see the need to shoot so many frames.

A more interesting way to tell the story might be to run one camera long-term as planned, but have another that you take to the site from time to time so you can record closer views of things that don't take so long. For construction projects, these closer events could be pouring and smoothing concrete, hanging drywall in a room, putting windows on one side of the building, railings, carpet, moving in some furniture. This would require some editing, although your long clip from the two year camera could be used twice, one time with other closeup clips edited in, and again at the end, showing the two year clip without interruption.

These are just suggestions, its your project. Please post the result when you are done, long lapses like this are still pretty rare and I'd like to see it when its done.

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