Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

F900 - Time Lapse With Hi-Def

Published : 1st October 2003


I am shooting a Hi-Def feature and we're planning on doing a lot of time-lapse. We have tested a couple of digital still cameras with using frame blending in post and have had some success. Does anyone have any experience with this? The biggest problem I've found is the time it takes for a frame to write to memory. We've found software from both Canon and Nikon to run their cameras from a laptop but we had a hard time getting a consistent frame rate out of those.

Any information would be great.

Thanks

Douglas Glover
Cinematographer



Douglas Glover writes:

>I am shooting a Hi-Def feature…we're planning on doing a lot of time->lapse

The still camera route is quite often more trouble than its worth.

A cinematic solution is to use an HD camera head and then pump the SD out to a AJA/CineWave/Boxx and use the really cool intervolometer in Adobe Premiere.

Use it all the time. It's bullet proof.

Scott Billups - LA



>I am shooting a Hi-Def feature…we're planning on doing a lot of time->lapse

Been there, done that little camera thing.....

The challenges are :

You need to find/make an adaptor to get the tiny screw threads to a BIG/solid head & sticks lack of flexible lenses, and very poor quality simple filters, like a ND grad's.

Frame carefully as they are not 4.3 or 16.9, and frame wider than necessary as you will likely lose some image area after a stabilize filter is applied in post to sort out wobblies.

Like Scott, I would go with proven and reliable solutions unless you need the small size (or not so small once on top of a Ronford F7 & sticks though).

I did pull this off - in a place that camera's are strictly not allowed ( in a country where camera's are not allowed, and no not China). We dropped a Cannon onto a sandbag (carefully) and sorta hung around for hours drinking tea while the sun went down and the lights came on - worked well enough, but not a first choice, or even a good choice really, just a last choice....

Dermot Shane
Vfx guy
Vancouver, Canada & Shanghai, China



>...we dropped a Cannon onto a sandbag (carefully) and sorta hung >around for hours drinking tea while the sun went down and the lights >came on

How were you controlling it?

Blain Brown
DP
LA



Blain Brown wrote :

>How were you controlling it?

I reached over and went click...carefully....many times

Did I say it was not a good answer...but having seen the inside of jail cell in Central Africa ( for having a ACL on my shoulder - I had the permits, but they were ripped up in front of my face as I was thrown in jail, and yes - that camera was a write off after I got out a few days later....) I really did not want to repeat the experience.

But it had pissed me off enough that I was not going home with out the shot...even with the Camera in bits. I used DS|HD to stabilise & CC the frames, lost maybe 15% around the edges as the stabilise kicked in.

It turned out OK, but if there was another way I would have used it, and I really should not have been there.....

I do not think the Canadian embassy would have been so helpful the second time around.

Ta, from the land of post - where I get to stay at home and my daughter is so very happy about that.....

Dermot Shane
Vfx Guy (used to be a camera guy)
Vancouver, Canada & Shanghai, China



We do this regularly with our Sony HDW-750 HDCam with optional HKDW-703 picture cache board. This board stores up to 150 frames before recording to the tape, so the heads aren't constantly spinning. You just set the total record time (up to 100 hours) and the record interval (5 sec. to 40 min.) and start recording.

Renting one of these seems like a much more elegant solution than any of the others mentioned. While the 750 shoots at 1080/60i instead of 1080/24p, it shouldn't matter for time lapse.

Jason White
Audubon Nature Institute



Mr. Glover

Your posting states you will do a lot of time lapse on your upcoming HD feature. I don't know what HD camera system you have chosen to use on this project. If you are using a Sony F900 you can time lapse a few ways. If you are using the Panasonic 27F you can select frames to be flagged down to 4 fps.

For Sony :

You can single frame record with the F900 by turning on the single frame record function in the maintenance menus (page 8). The camera then records one frame every time you turn the record switch on. It becomes a still camera in essence. I would recommend using an RMB 150 or 750 remote paint box to turn the camera on and off so you don't have to touch the camera body. You have to stripe an HD tape with black or bars before you do this.

There is an aftermarket inter-volometer made by Simm Video in Canada that will take over the camera and do the time lapse function for you. This item works well I think. Some rental houses have it to rent or you can buy from Band Pro in Burbank, CA. Again you have to stripe an HD tape with black or bars.

You could just roll the locked down camera in a normal record mode and pull the frames in post. You have 50 min loads for the F900 camcorder or longer if you are chained to a F500 deck.

If you are buy chance using the very new HDCAM SR system with the F950 this system can under crank to 6 fps right in camera. It looks great buy the way.

Best of luck with your show.

Mike Spodnik SOC
HD cameraman at whatever frame rate.
Ashland, OR



You could also consider using an MSW900 or 900P (PAL) as "B" time-lapse camera, you would have to upconvert but it's like having a programmable Norris motor on a film camera.

Sam Wells



Sam Wells wrote :

>You could also consider using an MSW900 or 900P (PAL) as "B" time->lapse camera, you would have to upconvert but it's like having a >programmable Norris motor on a film camera.

Or you could use a SDX 900 with news record board installed. Not sure about the MSW 900 but I have a Norris and nothing I have seen for electronic cameras comes close I am afraid.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.



Let's not forget that the difference with video and film is that with film we were always used to getting our effect 'as is' in the camera. With video I have done 100% of my time lapses in post. Just run off a few frames here and there using time of day and then put them together later based on the time code and the effect you want and you have the easiest time lapses in the world. For those long shoots, to leave video heads running along time ain't the greatest thing in the world. That single frame Sony option is nice.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
www.film-and-video.com



Walter Graff wrote:

>For those long shoots, to leave video heads running along time ain't the >greatest thing in the world. That single frame Sony option is nice.

Panasonic SDX 900 with news record board fills up a 15 second buffer with frames and drops them to tape when the buffer is full which Is a better deal than having heads spinning all the time. I can think of a few scenarios where 15 seconds of frames could be 75 minutes of real time, which seems a waste of head time/ power especially because a 75 minute real time lapse sequence ain't shit in the time lapse world.

It nice to be able to BEGIN to approach this electronically, and I will say that if some one worked with a manufacturer, we could get them up to speed with the film world in the matters of time lapse, because all the camera functions are there to be able to do sort of what a Norris LPC 90 does, but they still have a ways to go.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.



>...we could get them up to speed with the film world in the matters of time >lapse, because all the camera functions are there to be able to do sort >of what a Norris LPC 90 does, but they still have a ways to go.

I have to ask, in the end do they really care? I'm not saying they don't but video is still about ENG news cameras for the most part. That is the bread and butter, not 400 plus cameras for the entire film industry. Look at next weeks SMPTE meeting in NY. It's about digital acquisition and specifically about tapeless acquisition. All the manufactures will be showing the latest stuff they have. Now I have seen some talk about that that here but I have to ask, do you really think the priority is to invent a system that records tapeless for 4oo plus cameras or to create a system for the 10,000 plus news cameras?

The hint at the SMPTE meeting about what is important in the future is in the ad for the event:

"Does this signal the end of tape recording in the field? Certainly this presents the opportunity for change in the news acquisition process."

Once again when you give someone a hammer everything looks like a nail.

The film industry as I see it and video is the bottom feeder when it comes to listening. Sure ideas will trickle down from news ENG cameras but I wouldn't bet the farm on any major introductions for motion picture acquisition from the guys already with offerings. It just isn't economically feasible in a time when modular multipurpose equipment is the future. Let's not be selfish and think the major manufacturers are adding all sorts of bells and whistles for a few hundred cameras. Sure they may listen now and then, but the spread sheet still shows where the money is and as it stands it isn't in time lapse videography any time soon.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.



Walter Graff wrote :

(Referring to time lapse capability of video cameras)

>I have to ask, in the end do they really care? I'm not saying they don't >but video is still about ENG news cameras for the most part.

I don't care if they care. They are the ones building the capability in so they are thinking this is something they have to include for what ever reason . I didn't ask them to make a time lapse video camera and various manufacturer's have built in some time lapse capability in how ever lame a fashion it has been implemented up till now. It is getting better. This capability is not going to make or break their overall sales in terms of units by any stretch of the imagination.

What I am saying is this “either make it what it can be by taking advantage of every thing that you have available to you in a camera system, using something like a Norris as a model, or park the idea completely and walk away”.

There is no point in doing a half assed system with half assed capability and calling it a feature.

While time lapse is cool it is also labor intensive, mentally challenging to design, boring to execute, and if everything goes right beautiful to look at. The first three of the afore mentioned 4 qualities mean that most people aren't going to like trying to execute a beautiful time lapse, because it takes a lot of work. excuse me I digress...

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.



>There is no point in doing a half assed system with half assed capability >and calling it a feature.

Seems like that what they did in the beginning and called it a format.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.



Walter Graff wrote:

>Seems like that what they did in the beginning and called it a format.

Tough not to agree with that....

Mark Smith



>all the camera functions are there to be able to do sort of what a Norris >LPC 90 does

OK, OK it's not a Norris but it might do the job. Forgot that theSDX900 Panasonic has this feature also - I haven't seen that camera yet.

The MSW's use a buffer also.

I think Mark is right in that it would not be rocket science to implement

Sam Wells



"You could also consider using an MSW900 or 900P (PAL) as "B" time-lapse camera"

Do these two cameras allow you to shoot at exposures of a 1/2 second or more at a time at different intervals like a Norris would?

Doug Glover



>For Sony : You can single frame record with the F900 by turning on the >single frame record function in the maintenance menus…

We are shooting with the F900. I haven't done a lot of time lapse in my career but slower shutter speeds seem to be what helps sell time lapse when you have moving items in the frame (cars moving, etc.).

I believe that the shutter on the F900 will shoot only as slow as 1/32 of a second. This is why we are trying to solve the problem with a digital still camera. I've been told that the Panasonic Varicam and the new Sony 950 can shoot at 6 fps.

Do these actually shoot at a slower shutter speed like 6 fps on a film camera?

Thanks,

Doug Glover



Doug Glover wrote :

>I've been told that the Panasonic Varicam and the new Sony 950 can >shoot at 6 fps. Do these actually shoot at a slower shutter speed like 6 >fps on a film camera?

Did a film on Varicam last year where I shot a time lapse on a lark as we were waiting for dark at a location. I think I had the exposure at a 1/4 second and probably could have gone longer except that it was going to extend the light too much. It was our last day of shooting and production did not want to wait another hour plus for it to be "dark" for the camera. On the Panasonic you can de couple the exposure time from the frame rate by using the synchro scan feature though it won't give you that 1/16 second to multiple second swing in exposure time that a Norris will.

Mark Smith DP
Oh Seven Films Inc.



Frame-rate and shutter duration are always "coupled² in that the frame-rate establishes the maximum exposure duration, which is the reciprocal of the frame-rate. For example, the maximum exposure at 24 fps is 1/24 of a second on the Varicam, shorter on a film camera because of the blanking period required to transport the film.

A film camera has two frame-rate advantages; it can capture at rates faster than 60p and it can produce shutter durations in excess of one second, which is the maximum on the Varicam. (Set the camera to 1 fps and the shutter off).

The Varicam has the advantage of being able to shoot shutter-off, thus giving longer exposures at any given frame rate. Of course you can set the shutter to any angle on the Varicam as well.

Another huge advantage for the Varicam is that you can see in real time the effect when shooting under-cranked. I just did a tourism commercial that used under-crank on almost all scenes and it was invaluable to be able to instantly adjust the frame-rate and shutter to best effect.

I¹ve not heard of the Sony HD cameras being able to shoot progressive at speeds other than 24/25 sync and 30.

Best regards to all,
Leo Ticheli
Director/Cinematographer
Birmingham/Atlanta



We do this regularly with our Sony HDW-750 HDCam with optional HKDW-703 picture cache board. This board stores up to 150 frames before recording to the tape, so the heads aren't constantly spinning. You just set the total record time (up to 100 hours) and the record interval (5 sec. to 40min.) and start recording.

Renting one of these seems like a much more elegant solution than any of the others mentioned. While the 750 shoots at 1080/60i instead of 1080/24p, it shouldn't matter for time lapse.

Jason White
Audubon Nature Institute



Jason wrote :

>1080/60i instead of 1080/24p, it shouldn't matter for time lapse

Let us not confuse (P)progressive capture/record compared to (I)interlaced capture/record. A 60 i frame is made up of 2 fields CAPTURED a 60th of a second apart where as a progressive frame is captured at the same instant.

Both should look exceptional but not the same.

Regards

Michael Bravin
Chief Technology Officer
Band Pro Film/Video, Inc
www.digiprimes.com



>A 60 i frame is made up of 2 fields CAPTURED a 60th of a second apart >where as a progressive frame is captured at the same instant.

Sorry about that. You are absolutely correct. Don't want to confuse anyone.

>Both should look exceptional but not the same.

I understand the interlace/progressive issue, but correct if I am wrong, a frame of progressive video with no motion will look the same as an interlaced frame with no motion. For almost all of the time lapse that I have done (nature mostly), the motion has been almost imperceptible, so both would look the same (disregarding frame rate which can be altered in post).

Jason White
Audubon Nature Institute