Posts Tagged ‘ GoPro

14 day time-lapse – the result

Last month I wrote about setting up this time-lapse and promised that I would post the results as soon as I could and I’m now able to do so. I’ve had to wait for the footage to be approved by Harley-Davidson so I’m sorry for the delay, here it is.

So as you might remember I decided to set up my GoPro on a Cherry Picker overlooking the event site that was hosting the European Bike Week in Faaker See, Austria. This seemed like the best solution at the time and the initial results looked great.

When I left Austria I left instructions for the cherry picker to be lowered once a day to check that the camera was still functioning and if required to change the card, the latter would only be required once because the 32Gig card installed would last 10 – 12 days by my estimation.

Of the 14 days the camera was running there was really only once where a problem developed, luckily this was discovered in the middle of the day and as it turns out the camera only missed around 4 hrs. I’m not really sure what happened that time, the GoPro just locked up by all accounts, the time-lapse icon and the red light were no longer flashing yet there was plenty of room on the card and the camera was turned on.

When I reviewed the footage after returning from Austria I discovered a much bigger problem, and one that I had not considered. The theory was that if we raised the cherry picker to it’s maximum height each time the camera would end up in roughly the same position, and that part actually worked well, what I hadn’t considered though was that the hydraulics themselves could actually lose pressure over time!

Luckily the main parts of the lift that controlled the height were reliable, it was the very last part of the lift that caused the biggest problem. This last section effected the angle of the camera and each time the cherry picker was re-extended the last section would slowly sag, settling after around fours. The change was only a small one, 2 degrees at most but it was enough to make the results look awful when played back in extreme fast forward.

When editing the footage I had to keyframe these rotations out, I couldn’t totally remove all signs of it in the time I had available but I managed to remove the worst of it. You can still see the evidence in the results though so I’ll chalk that up to a learning experience!

I also wanted to remove a lot of the night time footage and after doing so there was a visible jump in the joins. I ran the results though the warp stabiliser in after effects to try and smooth these out and it did a pretty good job, although again not perfect.

So all in all I learned a lot, the results are not perfect but I’m still happy with them, and more importantly so is the client.

The 14 day time-lapse – in at the deep end!

I haven’t really been caught up in the whole time-lapse movement which has become increasingly popular with the introduction of DSLR’s into the video world, it’s not really something that’s ever interested me that much before although I’m not entirely sure why after all I have a passion for slow-mo footage so why not manipulate time in the other direction?

With this in mind when I was asked to do a 14 day time-lapse for Harley-Davidson showing the setup of one of their European motorcycle events I had to learn, and quickly because the shoot had to start in just five days!

The request had quite a few challenges, firstly there was no network on site during the setup so all of the images would need to be stored on the cameras memory cards, secondly the camera was going to be positioned outside atop a 10m lamp post and open to the elements so it had to be waterproof. There was also the issue of power, no camera that I know of can last 14 days so we would need to rig up mains power. The final and probably most troublesome challenge was that I couldn’t stay with the camera, I had to leave it for ten days before returning to film the event.

My first thought was to use a GoPro but with no experience of leaving one running for that long and no way to run it on mains power within it’s protective shell I had to look elsewhere.

My next thought was to use an exterior security camera as these would be designed for life outside. I actually ordered a high-end Sony security camera that sounded like it was going to be perfect, it could record HD video as well as stills at certain intervals and featured an Exmor sensor as used in the EX1 so I thought the images would cut well with the rest of my footage. The Sony also featured the ability to be powered via a network cable which I thought could make things simpler, saving the need to run mains power to the top of the lamp post.  The camera was not cheap costing nearly £1,500.

Once the Sony camera was delivered however it soon became obvious that it wasn’t the right solution, it was designed to be hard mounted to a wall and would require a lot of work to make a suitable mounting solution that kept it waterproof. The power over cat5 lead also turned out to be pointless as running the camera that way didn’t support the use of the cf card. The supplier also mentioned that they were not confident that it would record images reliably enough for a time-lapse. I couldn’t take the risk and returned it.

With time running out I reverted to the GoPro and set about adapting it to be mains powered whilst still being waterproof. GoPro do actually make a skeleton case that allows power to be delivered to the side camera but with only two days before flying out to Austria to setup I didn’t have time to order one so I had to adapt what I already had.

The thing about the GoPro is that the only way to power it is via a USB lead. The good news is that a simple iPhone power supply does a fantastic job of providing the required power for the GoPro. I decided to attach the GoPro Battery BacPac to the camera as this allowed the power to be connected on the back rather then the side so all I needed to do was find a way to get a USB lead through the back of the case and protect it from the elements.

A few minutes with a dremel and a bit of creative bodging with insulation tape and a washing up glove soon resulted in my very unimpressive looking endurance GoPro! I could have sealed the cable in place but I wanted the camera to have airflow around it to avoid any fogging issues.

Ugly isn’t it!

For my own sanity I left this camera doing a time-lapse for the two days before flying out to Austria, it did this well and worked reliably, I decided on shooting a still every 60 seconds as this resulted in enough images to make the sky look fairly fluid as well as making the 32GB memory cards last as long as possible. By my calculations each 32GB card should last around 10 days so a card change would still be required.

On getting to the location in Austria the challenges didn’t stop. H-D had supplied a cherry picker to allow me to mount the camera but it soon became obvious that the light pole that had been earmarked for the camera meant that the GoPro would be facing the Sun all day and  as a result the images produced would be less than ideal quality. I really needed to camera to be the other side of the event ground but we didn’t have any mounting options that side.

After much consideration we decided to mount the camera to the cherry picker itself, that way we could position it where we wanted, send it up to it’s maximum height and easily lower it for card changes and the occasional check. Power was delivered from a nearby lamp post and the iPhone charger and associated adapters were all smothered in insulation tape.

The results were much better with the sun now behind the camera and the view across the event location was fabulous. I left instructions about changing the card and how to check that the camera was working and flew home with fingers crossed that it all worked out.

I’ll post more about how it went in the next few days once I’ve had chance to process the results. There were a few lessons to be learned that I’ll share with you, some camera related and some not but all good points to consider if you have to do something similar.

See the results here




Harley-Davidson Eurofestival 2010 – part 1

After three weeks of working on this project I’m finally at a point where I have some time to write about it. I’m going to be posting my report in three parts, starting with this one which is all about the preparation and the ride to the event near St Tropez.

The plan with the project was to shoot footage for a short documentary about a group of Harley riders making the trip from the UK to the Event in St Tropez via the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and of course with the last part of the journey through France. Once at the destination I also needed to be able to cover the event for Harley-Davidson so that they could post video clips on their gallery website soon after the event.

Choosing the right bike
I too was riding a motorcycle so I had to spend a lot of time choosing the kit and the bike that would allow me to work efficiently with the minimum of gear. As you’ve probably seen from my previous posts I chose the BMW GS Adventure for this job as it offered everything I needed. Most important was plenty of fully waterproof luggage capacity, the GS was especially great in this department with it’s three fully waterproof aluminium boxes on the back, a tank bag and a lot of tie down points for things like tripods.

I hired the bike for two weeks from Superbike Rental who I have to say were fantastic. The bike was pretty much brand new and the service I received from them was second to none, I highly recommend them if you’re looking to hire a motorcycle in the UK.

The GSA was fantastic to ride, it was fitted with a full satnav system which proved to be invaluable at times but by far the best feature for this trip was it’s heated hand grips, I didn’t expect to be saying that when I hired the bike!

Camera options
When it came to choosing cameras I was torn between shooting with my trusty Sony EX1 or going with just my Canon DSLR’s. My initial thoughts were that main benefit of going with the Canon’s would be the small size and portability of the little cameras as well as the ability to gather some shallow depth of field footage which I know would work well with the subject matter at times.

After much thought and some testing however I felt that shooting everything with a DSLR wasn’t going to be practical for the project, the main reason for this was the inability to view the LCD from low angles and that I needed to have the ability to shoot both wide and on telephoto without swapping lenses. I know there are lenses out there that could offer this functionality but I wanted to work with what I already own, which are mostly prime lenses other than my 70-200 2.8. Packing 3 or 4 primes soon makes the DSLR package less compact than something like an EX1 as well.

In the end I decided to use the best of both. I packed my EX1 along with a shotgun mic and batteries in one of the bikes panniers and then put the 5D fitted with my 50mm 1.2 prime in the the tank bag. This turned out to be a really practical solution because if I needed to grab a shot quickly I simply had to stop the bike and grab the 5D from the tank bag without getting off.

Occasionally I’d go ahead of the group and they’d give me a few minutes to get set up before passing me, for those shots I tended to grab the EX1 and shoot at 50fps giving me the option of slowmo in post.

Zoe fitted with a GoPro HD Hero

I also took two GoPro HD Hero’s with me, the plan for these was to move them around between riders and grab shots of the riders as well as POV shots. This worked pretty well although the plan was a bit thwarted by the weather, more about that in a bit. I build a mount using a Manfrotto super-clamp and a cine-arm which worked well for positioning the camera in different locations on the bikes.

As well as the cameras I obviously needed to take a few other bit’s and pieces on the bike. I was able to send some gear ahead of me in a flight case but I wouldn’t get that until i arrived at the event so I needed to make sure I had all the basics with me for the riding phase. On the bike I had chargers, various cables, a shotgun mic, my NVS2500, two 500GB hard drives, my Miller DS20 tripod, my Glidetrack Shooter, Rode videomic, ND fader & other filters for the 5D, rain covers for both cameras, an LED light, a 5 way power outlet with a Euro adapter fitted, my Zoom H4n and all of the required bits and bobs that those things need.

My kit filled the top box and the biggest pannier on the right side of the bike, the pannier on the left had my clothes and shoes inside with the tripod and glidetrack strapped on top in a Manfrotto tripod bag.

Data Wrangling
I didn’t want to take my laptop on the bike as a 17″ macBook Pro isn’t the most compact of machines and space was very limited. So, for on the road backups and card emptying duties I used my Nexto Di NVS2500. The NVS worked a treat throughout the whole trip, I’d simply offload every card I’d used during the day and then do a sync of the data on NVS onto an external drive. Once the footage was on the NVS and a backup drive I would empty the cards ready for the next days shooting. I used a 500GB lacie drive for syncing which was powered by one of my Sony BPU-60’s using the adapter supplied by Nexto.

The only time I really missed my laptop when offloading footage was just to be able to view a selection of clips to reinforce to myself that I had the data before deleting the clips from my media cards. To be fair the NVS can do this with SxS cards from the EX1 but at this time I couldn’t do the same with 5D or GoPro footage. I think this is something Nexto will be adding at a later date though. Using GoPro’s is especially hard without a laptop as you have no way at all to see what you’ve recorded. Luckily one of the riders brought along a small macbook so I was able to check the GoPro footage a couple of times.

Batteries & Charging
On the bike I had 2 x Sony BPU-60’s 6 x Canon Lp-E6’s, and 6 x GoPro batteries. The Canon & Sony batteries were easy to stay on top off, I didn’t use a whole battery in either the Canon or the Sony in any given day. In fact I only charged those once during the riding phase of the trip.

The GoPro batteries on the other hand were more of a challenge because I used all of the batteries up each day. To charge a GoPro battery it needs to be in the camera itself which then needs to be connected to a USB port. If I’d had a laptop with me this wouldn’t have been a huge issue but without one it became my biggest challenge each night.

I used a standard iPhone charger to power the GoPro’s as it uses a standard 5v USB output. I planned to take two of those but for some reason forgot one so ended up constantly battling to swap batteries in a goPro during the evenings and night-times in order to get as many batteries charged as possible ready for the next day.

Shooting the riding out phase of the trip
During the planning of this trip I was more than aware that there was a chance that we could get some rain at times so I went to a lot of trouble to make sure my kit could be made watertight. I had all my kit in BMW’s watertight pannier bags which fit inside the also watertight panniers. Boy did that turn out to be a wise decision!

During the ride to St Tropez we rarely saw the sun, it was generally cloudy / stormy weather with pleanty of rain thrown in for good measure, not just regular everyday rain either but torrential rain, hail, extreme winds, cold and even lighting tried it’s best to stop us in our tracks!

The BMW’s waterproof panniers kept everything nice and dry, but the additional waterproof liners were also great because when I had to open the panniers I could do so without the contents getting soaked by the rain. The only things that really suffered a few soakings were my Miller tripod and the glidetrack as the manfrotto tripod bag strapped to the pannier on the left of the bike wasn’t waterproof at all.

The weather was a nightmare on the cameras, the GoPro’s are waterproof, but the footage doesn’t look great with rain drops running across the lens and they have a tendency to fog up when it’s raining too which renders the footage useless. It’s quite demoralising to position a camera on a rider or a bike and then check it an hour later after riding through some amazing scenery to find it had fogged up within the first few minutes.

I still managed to get some nice footage on the 5D and EX1 but the cameras can only capture what’s on front of them which most of the time was just cold wet people riding dirty bikes under dull grey skies. Not exactly what I had in mind for this project.

We rode through some fantastic places, over mountains and through impressive gorges that on a better day would have looked stunning so we did do some exciting stuff, it just didn’t look that good on camera when we were there unfortunately. At one point we were in the alps and the temperate got down to 2 degrees. enough to make the BMW give me an ice warning!

So all in all the shooting of the ride out to St Tropez was defeated by the weather. I did get some nice shots but certainly not enough to make the documentary I’d planned. Maybe the trip home would provide more options, better weather and chances of some decent footage?

In part 2 I’ll be talking about my workflow at the event, my thoughts on using the 5D for event work and how the glidetrack shooter enabled me to offer something new for the client.

New workflow tutorial – how to create slow motion using cinema tools.

I’ve been asked a few times about the method used to create slow motion shots using 50p or 60p footage. This process applies to clips from Canon DSLR’s that shoot 50 or 60 fps at 720p, the GoPro Hero HD, Sony EX cameras and pretty much any other camera that will shoot 50 or 60 frames per second.

I’ve created two video tutorials showing two different approaches to conforming video clips with Cinema Tools, one describing batch conforming and the other showing how to conform individual clips from within Final Cut Pro.

Click here to read more and comment.

GoPro first test

Something special happened today that I look forward to every year, it was the day when my bike came out to play for the first time after spending the winter in hibernation.

Apart from the usual pampering that the bike normally gets before it’s first outing of the year I also set up my new GoPro cameras for they’re first test run. One was mounted permanently on top of my helmet and the other was moved around the bike a bit to see how it coped with vibration and shock.

Both cameras were recording at 720/60p which although is not the best quality option does allow you to create nice slow-mo footage by confirming it to 25 fps in cinema tools.

The only problem I had with the cameras themselves were minor, firstly the lenses kept fogging up, I’m not sure if this was due to it being pretty cold but I had to keep stopping and opening the waterproof housings to let the lenses de-mist. I also didn’t have the angle of the helmet camera right, I’ll correct that next time!

Generally the biggest weakness is rolling shutter which results in a lot of wobble where there’s vibration. It’s not impossible though, I’d be happy using at lease some of the shots.

Below is a quick video showing a sample of the results, nothing has been colour corrected, it’s just straight out of the cameras and converted to ProRes so that I could edit it in final cut. Note the flying cat basket towards that tries to take me out towards the end! Don’t worry, I think it was empty!

The music is by one of my all time favourite bands ‘Killing Joke’ Click here to buy it on iTunes