Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Case Study #1: The Easy Expert Method

In this post, I show you how to get the near-perfect results of Expert Method, with just one filter. This keeps your gear to a minimum, and your setup simpler to operate.

I’m really happy with how smoothly GBTimelapse’s AutoRamp function is working. All I needed to do was start up the time-lapse software, watch the progress from my folding chair in front of the sunset, and step in at one point to take the filter off. A side note: I recently made the font on the bulb exposure time larger, so I can sit about ten feet away from the laptop and still keep an eye on it.

You can make great time-lapse with inexpensive gear. Last night I captured a pretty cool time-lapse of a Lake Tahoe sunset followed by the Milky Way. Instead of an expensive Canon 5D Mk II, I used a Canon 60D, which has a smaller and lighter body. And instead of using the AutoRamp Expert method with three ND0.9 (three-stop) neutral density filters, I simplified things and only used one ND1.2 (four-stop) filter.

I call this the "Hybrid Method" - simpler than the Expert Method, but very effective.

You use filters when the sky is too bright for bulb exposure. Bulb exposure settings are not camera presets, they are infinitely variable up to 1/1000 of a second. So, the most precise.

I used a 4-stop neutral density filter to get the initial daylight bulb exposure time to 0.4 seconds. Longer bulb times are better, because they are more accurate and repeatable than bulb times near a camera's minimum.

As the sun set, AutoRamp ramped the Av from f/22 to f/4, the ISO from 100 to 3200, and the bulb time from 0.4 seconds to 30 seconds. As I relaxed by the lake and sipped on a beer, the software automatically ramped down the exposure, ramped up the time-lapse interval, and ramped the white balance color temperature. I did have to get up to pause briefly to remove the ND filter about 20 minutes after sunset.

Watch this video showing the camera and AutoRamp setup...

There was a tiny amount of flicker in the beginning at high f-numbers, but that dissipated once the Av got down to f/4 and the bulb time increased. That little bit of flicker was easily removed using GBDeflicker.

BTW, the Canon 60D battery had no problem with this 3.5 hour and 660 image time-lapse.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

How GBTimelapse 3.1 uses your GPS coordinates to reduce flicker

GBTimelapse 3.1 comes with a powerful new feature called AutoRamp, which I’ve mentioned in some previous posts here and here. AutoRamp is engineered to reduce flicker in several different ways - it’s a unique tool unlike anything else on the market, as you’ll see here....

In this post, I’m going to show you how inputting your GPS coordinates into the software can dramatically reduce flicker at sunrise and sunset. There’s some powerful mathematics and a great deal of research backing up this tool, but it’s very simple for you to use.

Behind the scenes in GBTimelapse 3.1, AutoRamp uses a moving average of past luminance values to calculate the correct exposure settings for the next image. This method works fine unless the scene brightness is changing rapidly during a sunset or sunrise. When the sun is below the horizon during twilight, the exposure can change by up to two full f-stops every ten minutes. Bad news for a time-lapse!

Here’s how GBTimelapse 3.1 is a gamechanger: if you’re in a situation with rapidly changing brightness, simply input your GPS coordinates. With this info, the AutoRamp function will predict the correct exposure by calculating the sun’s changing elevation relative to the horizon.

Wow! In other words, to give you the best exposure at sunrise or sunset, enter your GPS coordinates. The software will then anticipate the movement of the sun, adjusting your exposure accordingly.

It’s easy to get your GPS coordinates. Under the Tools/Options menu, check the Location tab to see this Windows form and use Google Maps to find your coordinates...

Also, make sure your computer clock and time zone are also set correctly. The current sunrise and sunset times are shown - make sure they are correct.

To use the location information, check the box labeled “Use Sunrise/Sunset compensation” under the AutoRamp tab. Have fun with your time-lapse!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time-lapse Holy Grail: Get great results with Advanced & Expert Methods

This is an example of what has been called The Holy Grail of Timelapse! In the example videos below, my subject is a clear sky sunset - which is a worst-case-scenario for creating a time-lapse. The sunset transitions from a bright blue sky to darkness, with a bright moon. It’s nearly impossible to get smooth results in these conditions - even the tiniest variation in brightness between frames results in a noticeable flicker.

In the examples, I’ve used this tricky lighting situation to showcase side-by-side the Advanced and Expert Methods in GBTimelapse 3.1. As you’ll see below, GBTimelapse 3.1 delivers awesome results - the smoothest possible time-lapse I’ve been able to achieve. There’s no other tool like this on the market!

•Advanced Method Example

Technical details: Using a Canon T2i with 10-22mm lens, the time-lapse began at f22, 1/15" ISO 100. As the scene darkened, AutoRamp gradually decreased Tv and then switched to bulb mode at 0.7 seconds. From then on, AutoRamp incrementally decreased the Av by 1/3 stop whenever the bulb exposure time increased to 16 seconds. Once the Av reached its minimum value of f3.5, AutoRamp incrementally increased the ISO by one f-stop whenever the bulb exposure time increased to 16 seconds. Once the ISO reached 1600, AutoRamp continued to increase the bulb time to a maximum value of 30 seconds.

In the Advanced Method demo, some flicker occurred in the original time-lapse images due to Tv stepping at the beginning when not in bulb mode. The flicker was easily removed using GBDeflicker.

•Expert Method Example

Technical details: Using a Canon 5D MkII with 16-35mm lens, the time-lapse began at f2.8, 0.5" bulb and ISO 100. Three ND8 filters were stacked on the lens reducing the exposure by 9 f-stops to allow the 0.5" bulb exposure at such a wide aperture. As the scene darkened, AutoRamp gradually increased the bulb exposure time. Whenever the bulb time increased to 10 seconds, I carefully removed one of the ND filters and AutoRamp adjusted the exposure time accordingly. After all three filters were removed, AutoRamp incrementally increased the ISO by one f-stop whenever the bulb exposure time increased to 20 seconds. Once the ISO reached 1600, AutoRamp continued to increase the bulb time to a maximum value of 24 seconds.

In the Expert Method demo, there was virtually no flicker in the original sequence. Absolutely no adjustment of the original images was needed. This is the Time-lapse Holy Grail: a sunset with no flicker!

Stay tuned - upcoming posts will showcase more examples from GBTimelapse 3.1, and will help out with technical details & info.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Basic, Advanced and Expert Methods in GBTimelapse 3.1

GBTimelapse 3.1 gives you new levels of control over your exposure settings. Prior versions of GBTimelapse only had the Basic Method for controlling camera settings. The Basic Method relies on the camera’s program mode, or manual settings, to determine exposure.

Now, Basic is joined by the new Advanced and Expert Methods. These two new methods utilize the AutoRamp feature, giving you more control to produce great time-lapse in changing light conditions.

Three levels of control:
  • Basic Method - Set the camera to Program or Manual mode and let GBTimelapse capture the images at a set time-lapse interval. Any flicker can be removed later using GBDeflicker. Ideal for scenes when light isn’t changing, or quick and easy time-lapse. Basic Method is compatible with unattended capture.
  • Advanced Method - Use AutoRamp to adjust Av, Tv and ISO and automatically switch from standard Tv settings (at 1/3 f-stop intervals) to bulb exposures (at 0.001 second resolution). Any flicker due to Tv stepping when not using bulb exposures can be removed later using GBDeflicker.
    This gives excellent time-lapse results in most situations, including sunrise and sunset. Great for pros and amateurs alike. The Advanced Method is robust, totally automatic and can be run unattended
  • Expert Method - Use AutoRamp with neutral density filters during the time-lapse. Filters can be removed during the time-lapse session, as the sun is setting and the scene is getting darker. Or, add filters as the sun is rising and the scene is getting brighter. GBTimelapse adjusts the bulb exposure time when a ND filter is removed, or added. The Expert method requires your timely action to remove or add ND filters as needed during the time-lapse session.
    Flicker is virtually eliminated - AMAZING time-lapse results! This method is for the pro who wants to tinker with detail and achieve the most precise results possible. Because it requires monitoring, Expert Method is not suitable for unattended capture.
My next blog post will show examples of Advanced and Expert Methods in a side-by-side comparison. I’m so pleased to be posting the video - it shows how amazingly smooth and flicker-free your work can be when using Advanced and Expert Methods.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New feature: How does AutoRamp work in GBTimelapse 3.1?

In the previous blog post, I announced the release of GBTimelapse 3.1, now with a powerful new feature called AutoRamp. In this post, I explain more about AutoRamp, and the technical aspects that make it such a singular, precise and valuable tool for your time-lapse work. AutoRamp is unique to GBTimelapse 3.1, and unlike any other software product on the market.

AutoRamp is designed to dramatically minimize flicker when ambient lighting conditions are in flux. For example, a classic problem when creating high quality time-lapse footage is achieving a smooth lighting transition at sunset. As the sun sets and the sky darkens, your camera reacts by changing exposures in big ⅓ f-stop intervals. Because of this, your time-lapse has a distracting flicker in brightness between frames. AutoRamp solves this and other lighting problems - sunrises, passing cloud cover, shadows and so on - by determining the optimal settings for your camera, and then changing the camera exposure in precise, smooth increments.

When in Program mode, your camera determines the exposure settings at the instant you touch the shutter button, which is bad news for your time-lapse when lighting is changing. AutoRamp uses an advanced algorithm to analyze a brightness history of previously captured images, and determines the optimal exposure settings for the next image. By calculating exposure from an average, AutoRamp stabilizes your time-lapse and protects it from sudden swings in brightness. Also, the software turns control over to you, so you can adjust the sensitivity of AutoRamp’s history stabilization.

If you specify your GPS coordinates, AutoRamp can additionally use knowledge of the sun’s position to reliably follow rapid changes in lighting at sunrise and sunset. With location information, AutoRamp calculates how fast the sun is moving, and can predict how much brighter or darker the next image should be.

AutoRamp stands for Automatic exposure with bulb Ramping. In non-tech speak, that means the software is automatically optimizing exposure in the most precise f-stop intervals your camera will allow. For example, a camera in Program mode changes settings in clunky ⅓ f-stop intervals. It will use certain preset times: 1 second, 1.3 seconds, 1.6, 2, 2.5, 3.2, 4 and so on. In contrast, AutoRamp uses it’s own bulb timer with precision bulb times, and can adjust the camera by 1/1000 f-stop increments: 1.000, 1.001, 1.002. This precision ensures gradual changes in exposure, minimizing flicker.

Below is a sample of what AutoRamp can do. This time-lapse was made using AutoRamp with a Canon 5D Mk II, 16-35mm lens. No flicker removal was used to make this video! The footage shows three different sunsets over Lake Tahoe with the Milky Way appearing in two of them.

In the next post, I’ll be talking more about the different levels of control you have as a user in GBTimelapse 3.1, when you’re working with the AutoRamp feature. Some of you may want to save time with simpler, preset controls, while others may want to tweak every detail for the best possible results in the Expert mode. Stay tuned for updates here on the blog.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Release: GBTimelapse 3.1 - Now with AutoRamp!

I’m excited to announce the release of GBTimelapse 3.1! This version has a unique, game-changing new feature called AutoRamp. AutoRamp is a powerful new method for reducing flicker, and a ton of technical research and development has gone into producing this major new addition.

As you may know from your experience, timelapse videos are plagued by the problem of flicker. When ambient light changes, automatic camera settings change, resulting in brightness variation between frames. This appears as an annoying flicker in your timelapse video, with some frames appearing darker or lighter than others. Flicker is distracting and a big hurdle to overcome when you want to produce high quality, professional timelapse footage.

To avoid this problem, AutoRamp overrides your camera’s coarse adjustment of camera settings, and instead uses special algorithms to calculate optimal camera settings, minimizing flicker. AutoRamp has Basic, Advanced and Expert Methods, so you get to decide how much control you’d like over the settings. I’m going to discuss how AutoRamp works in more detail in my next few blog posts, so stay tuned.

If you already own GBTimelapse 3, simply download and install the new version. If you’ve downloaded and installed a free trial of GBTimelapse before, you’re now eligible to try again - just download the new version for another free trial period.

I really appreciate your feedback - please feel free to get in touch by email or comments. Your responses are valuable and important for future versions!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Product Version Numbers

There have been so many recent updates, things have gotten a little confusing. To fix this, I've added version numbers (1, 2, 3... etc.) to the product names. These correspond to major changes in the software and should help you determine if you need to download a new version.

Here's the basic system:
  GBTimelapse 3: EOS Versions 1.0.0 and above
  GBTimelapse 2: PowerShot/EOS Versions 2.2.7 through 2.2.11 (Discontinued)
  GBTimelapse 1: PowerShot/EOS Versions 1.0.0 through 2.2.6 (Discontinued)
  GBDeflicker 1: Plugin for Adobe CS4, version 1.0.0 through 1.x.x
  GBDeflicker 2: 64-bit Plugin for Adobe CS5 and CS5.5, version 2.0.0 through 2.x.x
  GBResequence 1: Version 1.0.0 through 1.x.x

Your purchased serail number is valid for any new version with the same major version number. For example, if you bought GBDeflicker 2, you can download and install any new release with version number 2.x.x

I hope this will make revisions and upgrades more clear.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

GBDeflicker Best Settings

After users have processed thousands of clips using GBDeflicker, I have a better idea what the default settings should be.

Deflicker method = Smoothing
Nonlinear (or gamma) correction = Off
Favor brighter = Off

These work best for most clips. They will be the new default values in the next release. Please give them a try.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Laboratory Long-term Timelapse Setup

Watch this short video to see how GBTimelapse can be setup for a long term laboratory project...

This project does an FTP upload of every capture image. Here's the newest image from the lab (may be some other subject in the future)

Pumpkin Rotting - Laboratory Timelapse

Here's another example of using GBTimelapse to monitor a laboratory experiment. A Canon 20D tethered to a Windows XP computer ran continuously for six weeks capturing images of this pumpkin.

The setup ran despite a couple of power failures during that time. The computer was set to auto start when power came on, and GBTimelapse was put in the comptuer's startup folder so it would run automatically. Finally, GBTimelapse was set to auto run it's most recent project.

This may be a "concocted" experiment, but it shows what is possible.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hangtown MX - Site Monitoring with GBTimelapse

Site monitoring is a snap using GBTimelapse. At the Hangtown Motocross this year, I put a laptop and Canon XSi in the control tower to monitor the track preparation and the race day action. GBTimelapse was set up to capture images once per minute from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset each day for the week before the race.

Here's what the first day looked like...

and here it is the day of the race...

Drying strawberry - long term timelapse

Photographed using GBTimelapse over a 3 week time span with a Canon 5D and a 100mm macro lens. The nominal time interval between shots was 1 hour. This is just a simple example of how GBTimelapse can be used for a long term laboratory project. Music is "Investigations" by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 3.0"

Storm Clouds Processed with GBDeflicker

We don't get much interesting weather here in Northern California, so when I saw these clouds coming and drove to a good vantage point to get this clip. I used had a Canon T3i tethered to a Toshiba netbook computer running GBTimelapse in its AutoRamp mode (AutoRamp is a new feature in beta testing now). Time interval was 5 seconds.

I removed the flicker using GBDeflicker and made this video using Adobe Premiere Pro.

You can how much GBDeflicker improved the footage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Use LogMeIn for Remote GBTimelapse Control

For the last week I've been running GBTimelapse at the Hangtown Motocross site. The camera is tethered to a laptop computer in the control tower. It's been capturing images every day as the Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle club prepares the track for the first big Motocross event of 2011.

It's about a 45-minute drive from my location, so I've been using LogMeIn to login and control GBTimelapse - saves having to drive out there to make some small adjustments.

I've also had GBTimelapse setup to FTP images every 15 minutes to my web site. That way I can monitor things to make sure everything is working ok.

Here's a short video showing how to use LogMeIn with GBTimelapse...

And here's a time-lapse video from the day of the big race...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Use GBDeflicker Plug-in with Adobe CS5.5

After Effects CS5.5 is out. The good news is that GBDeflicker for CS5 is compatible with CS5.5. But I haven't had a chance to update the installer yet.

You can easily fix that - just copy the plug-in to the new CS5.5 MediaCore folder. Here's how...

1) Find GBDeflicker64.plugin in the folder "Applications/GraniteBaySoftware64"
2) Using the Finder, duplicate the plugin
3) Drag the copy to the folder
"Library/Application Support/Adobe/Common/Plug-ins/CS5.5/MediaCore"
4) Change the copy's name back to GBDeflicker64.plugin

On Windows,
1) Find GBDeflicker64.aex in the folder "C:/Program Files/Granite Bay Software/GBDeflicker64"
2) Using the Windows Explorer, copy the file
3) Using Explorer open the folder
"C:/Program Files/Adobe/Common/Plug-ins/CS5.5/MediaCore"
4) Paste the copy of GBDeflicker64.aex in the folder

AE CS5.5 will now find and use the plugin.

You may need to restart your computer after you install AE CS5.5. On my system, AE reported errors after installation. These error were cleared after a computer restart.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Using Live View Recording

GBTimelapse can record live view images at a much faster rate than traditional image capture. Normal time-lapse captures full-sized still images at a mimimum interval of 2 seconds, but when viewing a camera's live-view GBTimelapse can capture images at intervals up to 10 frames per second. The images are not full-HD sized, but they are useful for time-lapse of people in motion.

The first five seconds of this clip is at 4 seconds per frame, and the last 25 seconds uses live view capture at 1/2 second per frame. You can see how much smoother people move in the live view segment.

Moonlight AutoRamp

I've been beta testing GBTimelapse' upcoming AutoRamp feature by doing sunset and overnight shots of the sky. Last weekend while on a ski trip to Kirkwood in Northern California, I pointed my Canon T2i at the sky outside of the condo window. I expected to get a good clip of a black sky with the stars rotating around Polaris, but instead the sky was bright blue in the middle of the night....

You need to watch in HD to see the stars

.. I had forgotten about the nearly full moon. The light from the moon lit up the hillside so brightly, it looks like the middle of the day.
I wish the clip went on longer, but there was a power failure at 3AM that shut down my netbook computer and the camera.

GBTimelapse Construction Example

Andrew Cutten in Australia has been using GBTimelapse to document construction projects.

Here one of his recent projects...

Bridge 11 Construction - Timelapse from Andrew Cutten on Vimeo.

... and here's a link to his blog where he discusses some of the details

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GBTimelapse Auto Ramp

I'm working on a new AutoRamp feature for GBTimelapse. Here are some test clips of sunset, night and sunrise. AutoRamp can change the exposure automatically over a 20 f-stop range.

Sorry for the window reflection near the start.
The night glow of nearby Roseville, CA was too bright; but you can still see the Milky Way just before dawn.

On Location - Near Lincoln, CA

Caught this cool time-lapse of some clouds just before sunset. Oops! I forgot to set the lens to manual focus. The auto-focus caused a bit of zoom-in/zoom-out, as you can see near the start.

On Location - Mt. Diablo

Spent some time on Mt. Diablo last week. It's a greate place to time-lapse, with some impressive vistas. Too bad the day was overcast and dreary...

On Location - Golden Gate

Earlier this month I did a quick time-lapse from the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This short video shows how easy it was to setup.