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Ask questions and share knowledge about cameras and photographic technique

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By mcgrumpers
Posts:  254
Joined:  Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:39 am
What timelapse techniques have you been successful with?

I haven't made any timelapses before but I'm comfortable enough with cameras/tech to set something up. I could imagine leaving a webcam in a fixed location and setting it up to take a photo, for instance, every day at the same time. I could also imagine manually taking a picture or two every day with a DSLR while trying to align the pictures as best as possible. But I'm not sure if there are better approaches.

Also, what interval between pictures do you recommend?
What background and lighting has worked well for you?

By PlantPath1232321
Posts:  16
Joined:  Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:40 am
I am new to CPs, so I have yet to make a time-lapse for anything macro, but I have made a few time-lapses of plants (I'll see if I can figure out a way to make an example accessible here).

For mine, I have used a VLC command-line approach to capture images with a mounted USB webcam, which could run in the background while other programs were operating on the computer. As long as you are comfortable enough with command line to set this up, it is pretty dynamic as you can make the image file names basically act as a time-stamp and you can pick the interval at which the images are captured.
Once you have the images, there are plenty of options that will allow you to convert the series of images into a video where you can control the frame-rate.

Although I can't say that my time-lapses are awesome, I did learn a few things. I think if your subject and camera are both staying in one place, movement is not a big issue. What was an issue for me was lighting, as my plants were near a window, so fluctuations in natural (and not-natural) light made a big difference. I also did not light my plants at night time, so there were long periods of dark in the time-lapse, unless removed.
For what I was doing, I was capturing images about every 5 minutes for about a week at a time, which made for pretty smooth time-lapses, except for the problems with changes in light intensity. Hopefully someone can comment better on how to overcome that. I think the best time interval depends on your goal in what you want to capture (growth of a plant, vs response to feeding, etc.), the duration of the time lapse, and what you want your final playback rate/frame-rate to be.

When I get back around to doing more time-lapses (hopefully with some CPs!) I intend to write some simple scripts for the image capture, because even though the VLC command line worked pretty well for me, it does still have limitations (or at least my command line scripting skills have greater limitations than I think I would have in another scripting language).

Hope this provides any help. If you are interested in using VLC, let me know and I can share more details, or point you to other information.
By riveraXVX
Posts:  1099
Joined:  Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:29 am
my advice for longer time lapses, on top of what above poster mentioned - to battle the changes in lighting is to setup stationary lights and stage the area you are going to do the timelapse - think a room inside a (light)box with constant lighting. for photos from there your options are limited to your imagination for what you use/how you assemble it.

using apps and an old android phone you no longer use, a DSLR setup, webcam, etc
By mcgrumpers
Posts:  254
Joined:  Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:39 am
So far, I've been taking a picture every minute from 7am to 7pm using a webcam:
  1. the webcam is connected to a raspberry pi
  2. a cron job on the raspberry pi takes pictures (note: cron is a utility for scheduling tasks)
  3. an LED grow light turns on from 7am to 7pm; this light is controlled by a Kasa Smart WiFi plug + IFTTT
For plants such as scallions, taking a picture a minute works really well as you can see how much the plant moves and sways throughout the day. I am under the impression that my nepenthes, pings, and VFTs don't move anywhere near as much, so I'm going to try reducing the interval to one picture every 10 or 20 minutes.

Like the posters above, I also experienced issues with lighting. The grow light helps keep lighting more uniform but it adds a bit of glare. Setting up additional stationary lights as recommended by rivera sounds like a great idea. I'd imagine that, before taking a picture, the grow lights could turn of and the stationary lights could turn on.

Another issue has been focus. The webcam's autofocus tends to be a bit finicky and doesn't let me control what exactly to focus on. Using a camera with manual focus could solve this issue... I want to figure out how to use a DSLR with this setup.
PlantPath1232321 wrote:Once you have the images, there are plenty of options that will allow you to convert the series of images into a video where you can control the frame-rate.
I'm still trying to find a good solution for this. I've been using photoshop so far but it's too tedious. What options have you tried out?
By PlantPath1232321
Posts:  16
Joined:  Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:40 am
I have tried a few tools, mostly lightweight free ones, so they are certainly not sophisticated, but they are pretty straightforward to use.

The ones I have used are:


and recently playing around with my kids we have done some in Windows Movie Maker, which is pretty painless. For all of these tools, you pretty much just select all the images to be included and it will do the rest. I haven't played with their defaults, I have always set up my photographing to number the pictures as they get saved so they end up in order.

Otherwise with StarTrails and MakeAvi it's been a couple of years since I've done much, but if I remember correctly StarTrails will not handle it well if you go over a few hundred pictures, but I was able to successfully use MakeAvi on a set of a few thousand images.
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