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Thread: Time Lapse Questions

  1. #1

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    Time Lapse Questions

    Hello everybody.

    After being asked to do headshots of the cast of a musical that my daughter is in and successfully doing this, I was asked to do a Time Lapse of the Set Building Day. Having never done this before but having had a play with Stop Motion a Little I decided to accept the challenge.

    I have an external power supply for my D7000 and D800 and software that will turn the photos into a movie I have some questions.

    1. This session could take a day, so What File Format should I set to. Obviously raw would be a mistake and I think HiRes Jpeg also but I would want the result to have reasonable quality.

    2. I know that my D800 has a Time Lapse setting and reading past Time Lapse posts I see this records to a movie format rather than files. With my D7000 I can use it tethered with ControlMyNikon or my remote trigger to capture time lapse and this also gives me the capability to save files to my laptop, a bonus I think. Advice on which would be best would be appreciated, I am leaning towards the D7000 so I can save files to the laptop. I currently have a problem with ControlMyNikon tethered to my D800, it just won't shoot.

    3. Should I just leave the camera in Programmed Auto or opt for other possibly manual settings. One doesn't know how over the day how lighting may change etc.

    4. What Time Interval should I use, 1 sec, 5 sec's, 1 minute?

    I really appreciate any advice and I know there are some very talented photographers on this forum...
    Last edited by bencarl; 29th September 2013 at 02:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    I've never shot any video with my still cameras (I have both a D90 and D800) and only use my video camera (Panasonic AF100) for this type of work. Remember when doing time-lapse work you are shooting video, so video playback is going to be the ultimate output.

    You are going to have to make some fairly basic decisons up front, based on you requirements:

    1. Image size; 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080 tend to be the two most common video formats. Your editing tool may dictate what you can / cannot do.

    2. Framerate - 24fps is standard movie framerate and give you a "film-like" look, but in PAL countries 25fps (frames per second) and 50fps are standard (NTSC countries run at 30fps and 60fps) for the "video look". If you are planning to stream the video on the internet, 15 fps is pretty common.

    3. Length of your final product as an example, if you want to produce a 10 minute final product, then at 24 fps * 10min * 60 sec / minute = 14,400 frames. If you are looking at shooting at 50fps, then you are looking at 30,000 frames of capture. I hope you have a lot of space on your hard drive if you plan to shoot this in RAW on your D800 and then downsample....

    4. You time interval is going to depend on the length of the shoot. If for instance, you are looking at shooting over a 12 hour period, using the previous example of 10 minutes of final product at 24 fps 14,400 frames required. 12 hours * 3600 seconds / hr = 43,200 seconds of shooting time. 43,200/14,400 = 3 second interval.

    5. Shooting 100% manual; turn off autofocus and auto exposure. The last thing you want is the camera to seek focus between every shot; the result will be very hard to look at. Same issue for exposure; you don't want the DoF changing between shots, nor the exposure as the flickering will drive the viewer crazy. Do your homework by studying the lighting levels and pick one that will work for the sequence of shots. In HD video, focus is critical. If you can use an external monitor using your camera's HD output to set your focus, do this. The screen on the back of your cameras are terrible for validating your focus (one reason I shoot with a higher end video camera is that is has features to help achieve a good focus).

    6. Change your coverage as the day goes on. Having 10 minutes of video of exactly the same view is very, very BORING!. Change your coverage to keep the video interesting. Watch a music video or a TV program and see how long the editor shows a particular shot before moving to a different one. It is usually measured in seconds; a shot that doesn't change after 7 to 15 seconds is fairly rare.

    7. Practice (including assembling a final video) to help you figure things out before you do the real thing.

    8. Once you have things figured out, then you can go back and plan how you are going to shoot. You need to position your gear so it is stable (a video tripod is way better than a camera one) and protect it and any power feeds from the construction work and bystander traffic. You really don't want anyone tripping over your gear or the power cords....

    9. In still photography, composition is what drives the final product, in video, it's all about the editing....

    Good luck!
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 29th September 2013 at 01:10 PM.

  3. #3

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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    Hello Manfred.

    Firstly I would like to thank you for your insights. It seems there are very few on the forum that have any experience at shooting Time Lapse.

    I have been doing some testing with the D800 tethered to my laptop and using Nikon Control Pro II to control everything.
    I have found taking a shot every five (5) seconds was ideal for the test and I may reduce this slightly for the tasks ahead. For the test I simply pointed the D800 at my street from my first floor balcony and let it run for an afternoon. I used my AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm 1:4G ED Wide Angle Zoom Lens as I plan to use this with the planned musical set building and bump-in Time-Lapse exercises. The result turned out very impressive. There were almost 30 gig of photos to process.

    I currently use Corel Paintshop Pro X5 Ultimate for photo editing etc. running on one of my Core i7 desktops and found with close to 4,000 shots to process to create a time-lapse video takes quite some minutes to complete. I can just imagine how long this task would take on slower PC's.

    All in all I am pleased with my test run result as a first and feel better prepared for the up coming tasks.

    Thanks once again for your input...


    Reuben

  4. #4
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    No problem Reuben - good luck! It sounds like you are off to a good start.

    The reason that you will find limited expertise on a photo website is that time lapse is video, rather than photo production.

    Based on your workflow, I'm not surprised about the large files you are dealing with. If you shot is standard video mode, your file size and rendering times would drop, but then, these are standard video modes on the D800, and I don't know enough about the intricacies of that camera when it comes to time lapse video. Paintshop Pro is not software that immediately comes to mind for assembling video either; people on Macs tend to go with Final Cut Pro and people of PCs tend to use Adobe Premiere Pro for serious video work.

  5. #5

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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    Hello Manfred.

    For video editing etc. I use Corel VideoStudio Pro X6, not that I do a lot of video work.

    Thanks again for your input.

  6. #6

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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    dpreview say he has
    1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50, 30, 25 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps)
    or should he use stills
    6144 x 4912, 6144 x 4080, 5520 x 3680, 4800 x 3200, 4608 x 3680, 4608 x 3056, 3680 x 2456, 3600 x 2400, 3072 x 2456, 3072 x 2040, 2400 x 1600


    Manfred which would you suggest he uses?
    And how does Windows Movie Maker or AVS rate on the scale I deleted Corel because it couldn't handle the MOV files that my Panasonics give me and went to AVS.

    I did some animation awhile back and got stuck just before the finishing post with much too big a file and when compressed 'horrible'

  7. #7
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Time Lapse Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    dpreview say he has
    1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50, 30, 25 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps)
    or should he use stills
    6144 x 4912, 6144 x 4080, 5520 x 3680, 4800 x 3200, 4608 x 3680, 4608 x 3056, 3680 x 2456, 3600 x 2400, 3072 x 2456, 3072 x 2040, 2400 x 1600


    Manfred which would you suggest he uses?
    And how does Windows Movie Maker or AVS rate on the scale I deleted Corel because it couldn't handle the MOV files that my Panasonics give me and went to AVS.

    I did some animation awhile back and got stuck just before the finishing post with much too big a file and when compressed 'horrible'
    The format used should reflect the final use of the video.

    Standard TV resolutions are 1920 x 1080 or 1024 x 720 at 24, 25 or 50fps. 24 fps give that "movie" look, while the 50 is definitely going to give a video look. Shooting in an NTSC rather than PAL country, I've never used 25/50 fps as our standards are 30 / 60 fps.

    The 640 x 424 at 24 fps is a format I don't recognize. Image size looks like an old computer video size, but the 24 fps is quite fast for streaming.

    If it were me shooting, I would go 1920 x 1080 at 24 fps, as that will give a good HD image. I don't know the specifics of the compression Nikon uses, but like most video, I expect they use some for of GoP (Group of Pictures) compression. Implementations are often constant size, regardless of frame rate and image size, so higher frame rates and larger images are compressed more than smaller ones, so compression artifacts and quality actually suffer at higher frame rates.

    My experience is with Panasonic as well, but the higher end video cameras output MTS (for Blu-Ray output) files and Adobe Premiere Pro could handle this, but Apple Final Cut Pro could not at first, but does now. My work is now pretty well purely with the AVCHD format, which Sony and Panasonic co-developed.

    Shooting in one of the image formats means he will be recording and throwing away a lot of data for the final output, so I'm not sure why I would churn through than much disk storage and processing power. I don't know AVS at all, but Movie Maker has one major drawback; you can only output Microsoft wmv format files, meaning that you have to do playback on an MS machine only. Again, I've been using Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro for my editing for years and have not kept up on the other video editing software.

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