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 Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months 
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Joined: Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:46 pm
Posts: 3
Post Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
Greetings!

I am new, both to this forum and to time-lapse photography. I've been reading and watching everything I can, but I just stumbled upon this forum tonight.

Which is lucky, because I was about to purchase a camera that probably wouldn't have done anything I wanted it to.

I'm working to establish web content for a non-profit organization, and a few people have said "I wonder if we could record a time-lapse video of the farm growing this year." Seeing as I was one of the farming interns on site last year, I had a keen interest in being able to pull that off.

I'm starting from scratch, with a budget of $1000. My concept thus far has been to get a relatively good, but affordable camera - I had been looking at the Canon Powershot line, as I'd heard they had internal interval timers and are under 300 - building a bit of a weather-proof shelter for the camera, hooking it up to a motorcycle battery (which itself I planned on hooking up to a solar charger) and letting it take maybe 4 shots per day (6 am, 10 am, 2 pm, 6 pm) for May and June (we're in MA, so the season is a bit later). I'd stop by once a week or so to get the data off the camera (maybe more frequently in the beginning, to make sure it's running correctly).

Does this seem reasonable? I planned on getting about 5000 shots and making a video that was 3-5 minutes long. It would be for a relatively large audience (as in, not friends and family), so it sounds like I might want to go RAW. What size card would I need if I wanted to empty it once a week?

I realize my ideas here might be totally off base, so feel free to tell me that I'm out of my mind. ;) Any suggestions, tips, words of encouragement, or even constructive teasing would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, and I'm really glad to have found this community.

-Rick

From what I've been reading here, the internal interval timers don't seem to allow you to take stills that far apart.


Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:12 pm
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Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:12 pm
Posts: 196
Location: Amelia Island, Florida
Post Re: Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
Hi Rick,

I'm no expert on time lapse (Owen can verify that for you ;) ) but maybe I can help you with the Powershot cameras, as I'm using a couple of them. I am an expert on low budget projects...

There is third party firmware, CHDK, which loads into the camera when you turn it on and adds features to the Canon software, such as the use of intervalometer scripts (basic programs) and also allows the camera to capture RAW images. I know nothing about RAW format, so I don't know what you'd need to process the pictures.

CHDK Wiki is here:

http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

Here's a list of supported Powershot Cameras:

http://mighty-hoernsche.de/

The intervalometer script I'm using looks like it will go to 99,999 pictures and 99,999 minutes. You can plug those numbers in, but the basic software might stop at 32K, I'm not sure. I usually only take about 400 pictures, so I've never tried the very long timing, but the script is a very simple basic program so I don't see why six hours would be a problem.

Basically format a card, install the CHDK firmware for your camera, put the camera in CHDK mode (which automatically loads your default script), and hit the shutter button to start going. There's a maximum size limit card wise, 2 GB because the cards are formatted in FAT16 format I think.

From a project standpoint, I'd offer a few things to think about. First thing is the quality of the result you want will probably determine the camera you need; if you need 1080p HD, then a little Powershot probably isn't the camera for the job. A lot of the Powershots shoot in the "W" mode (the right aspect ratio for 1280x720 pictures) for me that's a plus because my goal is simply a half way decent looking imitation 720p Zootube movie.

You'll probably have to swap SD cards, so you want to make sure the camera doesn't have the card slot on the bottom, because it'll be blocked by the tripod mount or quick release and once you start, you don't want to move the camera at all. I have an S3 with the slot on one side, but my A530 slot is blocked by the tripod mount....

I used to work in the mainframe computer business, and the buzzwords were "Fault Tolerance". If your budget allows it after you've picked your weapon of choice, you might want to consider more than one camera so that if one goes down, the other one keeps shooting until you get the broken one back up. It might make your final product more interesting to have different camera angles too. Five minutes of one angle of corn growing will probably put most people to sleep. I have experience in making time lapses that put people to sleep, so Owen won't need to verify that ;)

Lots of 5 to 10mp Powershots on Ebay cheap, so you can save some budget going the used camera route maybe.

Only other thing I can think of is you might not want to point the camera at sunrises or sunsets, depending on the timing of your pictures. Anyway, good luck, hope some of that helps, and look forward to seeing your corn grow this fall.

Almost forgot, there's stuff like this available also, I found this on the net a couple months back when we were trying to figure out a camera to put on my friend's boat. Definitely not HD, but won't break the bank either. You can put a dozen of these on the farm and still have lunch money left in the budget:

https://www.wingscapes.com/projectcam-l ... #learnmore

Jim


Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:20 pm
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Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:07 am
Posts: 629
Location: Sydney
Post Re: Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
I'll agree with Jim on some points here :) , you need to learn to walk before you can run would be my first comment and I'm sure many will agree. You will want many different angles to keep me from falling asleep. Anything over 10 seconds and I'd fall asleep no matter what it was. Many cameras too incase of failure.
I wouldn't have a clue how to pull off a 3 months time lapse by the way and i wouldnt want to risk it turning out crap either. Why don't you try and make it into a 2-3 minute short film instead? Maybe shoot some video of planting, watering, machinery ect then add a few small timelapses of say seeds sprouting, then add a few sunset timelapses over the crop and then a sunrise then a close up of morning due on a 10cm tall plant then another timelapse growing a little more then a starlapse over your crop followed by some more watering then a wide shot of your crop at 30cm followed by another short time-lapse growing a little more ect ect. Someone stop me here before I write a feature please. This way you'll get that much experience and when you stuff a few shots it won't matter and your audience won't fall asleep. Or you can just tell me to shut up. Either way goodluck

Owen

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Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:20 am
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Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:02 am
Posts: 160
Location: France / Canada
Post Re: Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
Hi Rick,

Alternatively to Jim approach you might also want to give a try to PC controlled cameras.

The setup I've been initially working on is a powershot camera (initially S50, S70 today) bought for 50€ (30€ the S70 one year later) on ebay.
It is controlled by an old laptop (Gericom, bought in 2002) and connected to Internet via Wi-Fi.
Powersocket customized from a standard power converter.

The thing is available here: http://buhl.spottrotters.com/ (sorry in French), pictures of the setup here: http://buhl.spottrotters.com/installation/

It has been running for a over a year now without any major issues, probably one issue every three months (Wi-Fi router crash, laptop crash (due to dust in the fan), ...

The nice thing with this approach is that you don't have to unload the card, everything is saved on the hard drive of the laptop. You can then offload it once every few weeks/days for security.

You can use multiple camera to get various angles, everything controlled from the same computer. Connecting the cameras via Wi-Fi (using embedded computers such as Alix pcengines.ch or Wi-Fi USB extenders (I think it exists :)) - Updated after reading Owen's comment :).

The project then became webcampak (see dedicated post on the forum) as we started to work with DSLR cameras.

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Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:24 am
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Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:05 pm
Posts: 444
Location: US Virgin Islands
Post Re: Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
I cant contribute any working knowledge but I did want to point out that 4 shots a day would net 360 shots over the 3 month period. This would result in a 12 second time lapse.

I would bump it to 24 shots a day. 12 day and 12 night. You can always cut out the night shots. this gives you more flexibility. If you just used the 12 day shots this would create a 36 second timelapse. Which is pushing the envelope of keeping peoples interest. But given its such a long time period it would keep my interest. What type of crops? Something that is going to grow several feet?


Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:22 am
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Joined: Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:46 pm
Posts: 3
Post Re: Suggestions for Recording a Farm Growing for 2-3 Months
Wow! Lots of new data...thanks!

I really like the ProjectCams...I think they'd be great to have one or two of around for backup shots and different things to splice in.

And yes, now that I think of it, 3-5 minutes of watching a garden grow probably wouldn't keep people's interest...however, if I have a couple different shots (and there are a lot of ideas), that would probably make for a great video.

I don't know about actual video footage...one of the goals of this project is that someone isn't there very often to work on it. I may stick with just the timelapse for now.

I'm also very interested in controlling multiple cameras from a single laptop with 'embedded computers'. I'm not entirely sure what that's all about, but it sounds perfect. Is it just an issue of each camera having its own tiny mobo attached and then all of them having wifi connections to the main laptop? This is particularly interesting to me because I actually have an open hard wire connection to the internet via an open connection on the telephone pole.

I am still concerned about quality...the ProjectCams are obviously very convenient, but I think I'd like to have a few of the timelapses in 1080p, if that's at all affordable. It sounds like the powershots could come close...is there a similarly priced camera that could do that, or am I looking at dropping the entire budget (or more) on one that could take that quality?

I had been looking at this camera: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-PowerShot-SX210IS-Stabilized-Black/dp/B0035FZJM6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299196280&sr=8-1 . I see that the SX200IS is on the list of supported cameras...this might just be a slightly newer model? Would 14.1 MP get me closer to that 1080p?

I had also heard a lot of talk about some of the Ricoh cameras that were in this price range. Are those worth looking into?

Thanks again for all the advice. I'm really excited to get started.


Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:55 pm
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