Showing posts with label time lapse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label time lapse. Show all posts

Monday, March 25, 2013

Capturing the blizzard of March 2013 with time lapse video

A storm that came late in the season, the March 2013 blizzard (dubbed "Virgil" by the folks at the Weather Channel) caught many off guard in central Illinois.

In the Champaign-Urbana area, local schools cancelled class first. Then, the community college.

And at about 9 pm, the University sent out a mass email, warning UIUC spring breakers not to attempt the drive back to campus. Finally, at about 1:30 am, Illinois officially cancelled classes.

When it finished here in Urbana, Ill., the storm dropped more than 11 inches, breaking the previous March 24 snow record. In my hometown of Springfield, it dropped 18.5", beating a single-storm record that persisted for 113 years.

Snow began falling at about 2:30 pm on March 24. As soon as the snow began to fall, I started building a time-lapse setup, and took my first pictures at 2:38.

While I've detailed here before how to make a time-lapse camera, those previous designs were battery-powered, and had a life span of 12 hours. Like the previous build, this used a camera presupposed from an unmanned aircraft system.  But the forecast called for a snow that could last up to 20 hours, so I designed this setup to run on AC power instead.

As it turns out, it's much less complicated to run a time lapse camera on AC power. No battery calculations are necessary. All that's required is the camera, the camera housing, an AC extension cord, a USB cable, and an AC to USB adapter.

Time-lapse weather camera at 2:39 pm on Sunday, March 24.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Time-lapse photography with drone parts

Let’s say you’re a journalist and you want to record an important event taking place over an extended period, say 12 to 72 hours. Or even a week, or longer. If you want to record the event with video, that’s far too long to expect anyone to watch it in its entirety.

You can, however, record the whole thing and use some kind of time compression in post-production software. But if you’re recording on high definition video, you can only expect to record about four hours on a 32 gigabyte SD card. Even if you manage to capture 12 or 72 hours of high-definition video using a hard drive, it’s going to be hard to work with such a big file.

The solution is time-lapse photography, which simply means taking photos at regular intervals and turning them into individual frames on a video. During hurricane Sandy, a number of news sites and tech-savvy citizens used a time-lapse photography to document the storm's impact on New York City (below). If you’re not in a hurricane-prone area, you can find other weather-related applications for this technique, such as recording a flood-prone area during a storm.

Of course, you could just as easily record important non-weather events, such as big construction projects, or traffic on a bottlenecked road. Compressing these large-scale but slow-moving events into a one or two-minute clip makes for dramatic video.

At its most basic, you only need two things to pull off a time-lapse video. You’ll at least need a camera equipped with an intervalmeter (a fancy way of saying it can be programmed to take photos at regular intervals), and software to turn the photos into videos.

A camera battery will only last so long, though. If you’re hoping to capture an event longer than three hours, you’ll probably have to rig up an external power supply. This power supply can be as simple as a motorcycle battery hooked up to a voltage regulator, or it can be a sophisticated, computer-controlled lithium polymer setup with photovoltaic (solar) cells. Then there’s the matter of finding a memory card of sufficient size, and a mounting solution with sufficient stability.

Simple is better. If you’ve got drone journalism equipment lying around as I do, you likely already have all the requisite components to make a great time-lapse video. The following is a breakdown of my own experiment in time-lapse photography, which you can replicate or modify to suit your own needs.