First timelapse using the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

A timelapse video of a friend’s garden party using my new GoPro 3. The camera was simply cable-tied to a ladder propped up against the garden fence.

The camera was set to take a photo every 10 seconds at 7MP resolution and wide angle. Generated about 8,500 photos over the ~24 hours it was left running. These were then edited down to 1440×1080 size to make into a 1080 HD video, and also the end half of the video was trimmed which just showed the garden through the next morning.

I used the GoPro iPhone app to be able to see what the camera saw over wifi, as it has no LCD screen, and was also up a ladder. This helps with getting the positioning right, and you can also fully control the camera functions from it, a great bit of software.

Because of the duration of the recording I couldn’t rely on the battery, so the camera was connected to power via USB. This meant the camera couldn’t be in it’s waterproof housing, but thankfully the weather was good for the whole two days it stayed up there!

There are some nice effects going on in the video, I particularly like the clouds (who doesn’t like timelapse clouds?) and the dawn breaking in the early morning. The exposure seems to shift a bit from frame to frame giving a flickering effect in some places, although I’m not sure what, if any, control you have over that with the GoPro. I know older versions used to fix the exposure settings based on the first shot, meaning you could have some awful videos if the first frame didn’t have ideal lighting. I think the newer versions now treat each frame independently, but maybe a half-way house of some sort would benefit. I don’t really know what I’m talking about with this stuff, so I’ll just let it do it’s thing!

The music track was added in YouTube editor, it’s one of the many free tracks you can use, and seemed to fit nicely. Also the fade out at the end was done in YouTube editor. I was rather impressed by the range of features in it, much easier than doing it in Final Cut Express and waiting for the long render times.

The time clock in the bottom left (hopefully it shows up in this embedded video) is actually YouTube annotations, overlaid onto the video, they are not part of the video itself. I found an article on ‘hacking’ the annotation editing page to allow you to edit the annotations as an XML file, rather than having to add them manually. This was essential here as the annotation is resized and positioned to that corner, no way I could do that exactly the same for each one using the drag ‘n’ drop annotation editor. Using an XML file meant a few minutes of copy/pasting and editing and I had each annotation in the exact same spot covering 30 minutes of the time lapse (7.5 second of video). Instructions and tools to help with this found here: http://stefansundin.com/blog/277

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UKPS Videos

I’ve put together more videos for the UK Pyrotechnics Society this year, from the AGM meeting in March. Editing was a little easier this year as I’m a tiny bit more familiar with Final Cut Express and only had 2 cameras this time with identical resolutions. We had no special lighting so they are a little grainy after the brightness tweaks in FCE, but not too bad.

I also decided to improve them this year by using a separate sound recorder, as the audio was a big issue last year. I bought a basic Sony ICDBX112 digital dictaphone and some great value lapel mics from Amazon. Unfortunately the recorder doesn’t have a digital out, so I had to transfer the recordings to my laptop using the headphone out on the dictaphone and mic in with a 3.5mm audio conector and Audacity, a bit old school!

As most of the speakers had powerpoint presentations I decided to overlay those onto the videos too. Trying to read the content on the video directly was tricky in some places due to quality and lighting. I managed to export the keyframes of each presentation as PNG files and then overlay and position them in bulk onto the videos. It took a little time to adjust all the timing so they show at the right points, and all the animation/transitions are lost, but I think this makes the videos much more useful to interested viewers.

Chris Clarke on Pyromusical Design

Chris Clarke on Firing Systems

Steve Miller on Pyromusicals

Some videos I’ve edited for the UK Pyrotechnics Society

Sidney Alford’s keynote presentation at the UKPS AGM 2012

Editing this in Final Cut Express took a very long time, not aided by doing it probably an hour at a time over several months. As Sidney was moving around a lot I needed to switch between footage from three different static cameras. Each was a different format and resolution, so getting them all into the one timeline at the right proportions and scale was quite a nightmare. I probably had to try 20 to 30 different exports before getting the cropping, proportions and de-interlacing right across the whole lot. The quality between the three cameras also varies, so although it was exported in HD, not all of the footage was HD and it shows quite obviously.

The sound was also an issue, as we had no proper sound recording and microphones on the day, it was all recorded on the cameras’ on board mics. In the end the audio from the nearest camera was used, although the level of noise was a problem, as well as the varying sound levels as Sidney walked towards and away form the camera. I used a free app called The Levelator to get the level as consistent as possible, and a couple of audio filters to try and remove the hiss, hum and background noise. The end result is far from excellent, but a lot better than the original source audio, so overall I’m happy with what I achieved.

Shaped Charges Demonstration at the UKPS AGM 2012

Footage from three different cameras were used for this, including some nice close up shots from my camcorder. Once the footage was all imported and munged to the same proportions this one wasn’t too bad to edit.

Fireworks Display at the UKPS AGM 2012

Very basic, no real editing other than to remove some empty bits of footage. I have yet to figure out how to video fireworks properly though with regard to focus, as several of my own YouTube videos will show. Auto focus struggles a lot of the time, but on the occasions I’ve tried using manual focus my camcorder screen is not high enough resolution to see when you get the right focus. It can look nice and sharp on the little preview screen, but when you get the footage onto a computer it looks blurry. I think this is where higher spec equipment comes into its own.