Friday, 20 April 2012

My GoPro v iOS for timelapse on the move

My travels around the Far East on the Phase One IQ tour were a great opportunity to shoot a few time lapse sequences from every stop on my trip.

I cannot say I planned this at all, but I had the idea while I was in Bangkok after shooting a time lapse in Hong Kong on my iPad 3.

Shooting time lapse on an iOS device is surprisingly easy with any one of a number of app's to do the job.

I tried iTimelapse, Timelapse and Motion pics, all which have their own strengths and weakness's.

The great benefit of this being you can render, export and share it straight away from the device.

The other benefit being no one pays much attention to you, particularly if you are using an iPhone for the task in hand.

The downside of this is that there is still no truly suitable and secure way of attaching your iPhone or iPad to a mount, and the few that are we're not available on my travels.

Even if there were, a bigger problem is that you can't use your device for anything else while shooting a time lapse.

Then there is the small matter of jeopardy - while traveling would you really be happy hanging your main means of communication out of the 23rd floor window of a hotel?

With all this in mind I scored myself a GoPro Hero 2.

Relatively cheap, verging on the indestructible, and not totally the end of the world if it gets stolen.

Try to bear in mind that though the GoPro 2 is a step forward over the first version, low light is still not it's strong suit.

Note in this cracking GoPro promo short there is no low light work at all.

Next the mounting solution.

It may come with a couple of single use sticky pads, a sucker cup, a head band or even a flotation device, and a waterproof housing, depending which version you buy.

But it does not come with a tripod mount.

It is listed as a spare part but I found no shop which stocked them on my travels.

I resorted to buying an unbranded clamp which had a tripod mount in the bottom.

This opened the gateway to a myriad of solutions, the cornerstone of which being the Manfrotto Super clamp which I used in conjunction with the Manfrotto 709B mini tripod, from which I use the tiny ball head to bolt to the clamp, and sometimes use the mini column too.

There are many, many things you can achieve with this set up.

My friends the Bui Brothers use something called the 'Nasty Clamp' which is lightweight, effective and takes up little space in your bag.

I then use the SD adaptor from the iPad camera connection kit to check the framing, the optional LCD screen that GoPro sell would be good but I'm holding out for the WiFi adaptor instead so I can see what shot I'm getting via my iPhone.

Then there is the small matter of powering the camera

The standard battery will power the camera for around two and a half hours.

But what happens if you want to shoot for more than that?

Once again GoPro sell clip on battery pack for additional power, once again no one sold these in the Far East and if they had anyway I'm not sure I would have bought one, because I had another solution.

When I last saw Lan Bui of the Bui Brothers he was travelling with a large external battery called an iSound.

Now it looked big and bulky so I took the mickey out of him for having it.

I mean, why on earth would you need one of these?

Fast forward a couple of months and I had to eat my words as I bought one.

This meaty looking device will charge your iPhone, iPad and yes, you can run a GoPro for hours and hours, though not while in its waterproof housing.

Here it is alongside a hotel flower.

The big downside with the GoPro set up was that while on my travels I had to resort to computer surfing to render my files using QuickTime Pro 7, as I could find no way of doing this on the iPad 3, it should be possible but there was always one factor or another which got in the way.

If anyone knows differently please do let me know.

One thing to bear in mind if you are shooting time lapses from indoors are reflections.

There may not seem to be any when you set the camera up but when the lights come on in the building you are in it can ruin your best efforts.

Here is what happened in Jakarta.

All clear at the beginning......

And then the lights came on, while I was away of course.....

I did get away with it (just) by trimming the worst reflection from the end of the clip and by using local adjustments and a vignette in Capture One Pro 6 to minimise the effect.

I run all my time lapses through Capture One Pro 6 to tweak them, and I found the 'Clarity' tool particularly useful to cut through haze on city scopes.

Here is the GoPro set up on the Manfrotto 709B in the Jakarta hotel.

If you have a busy schedule and you want to make sure the camera is OK, you can even recruit a friendly security guard and reward them appropriately.....

Here is my final timelapse from the roof of the spectacular Marina Sands Bay Hotel complex, which offers unrivalled views of Singapore.

Once again I bolted the camera to the safety railing and stood with the camera for more than three hours, unhindered by security personnel, imagine doing this in London? I suspect it would only be moments before they kicked you off.

I waited until my return home before dealing with the files.

I was bitterly disappointed to see the camera set up had been more adversely affected by people leaning on the railing and made the sequence sporadically 'jump' because of the movement of the camera.

This is one of my pet hates and characterises poor time lapse, in my books anyhow.

I was adding the audio track in Final Cut Pro X and thought I would try the stabilisation setting.

To my great surprise it worked a treat and banished the dreaded 'bounce' of the camera.

Many of us have it in our minds to shoot time lapse but getting round to it seems another matter entirely.

The truth is it has never been easier.

The rewards are great when you do though.

Why not try it this weekend?


Andor said...

Nice time-lapse - esepcially the second half of with sunset and night lights of the towers!

Justin Sutcliffe said...

Very nice explanation of the process and techniques. Really enjoyed reading that. J

Anonymous said...

Drew, There is surprising little flicker considering the go pro is an auto-exposure camera. Is your GoPro2 that consistent with exposures, or did you use software like GB-Deflicker to smooth it out?

Dave Keating Photography said...

Nice comparison Drew. Here is an iPhone holder, I have not held or used it. Looks interesting.

Enjoy your tour.

Regards, Dave

Unknown said...

Hi Guys,

Thanks for your comments.

I will check the iPhone holder out Dave.

Andrew, the GoPro 2 was on auto and it really did surprise and impress me with just how good it was straight out of the tin, no GB-Deflicker applied.



Fass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jasper said...

Nice piece. i've been searching for a Time Lapse Assembler for the iPad 3. There are loads of timelapse apps, but none of them allows to import your pictures through the camera connection kit. I hope someone knows a solution or someone makes one...