Posts Tagged ‘time’

Ban Feminist?

November 17, 2014

So Time Magazine didn’t like the result of their own poll of ‘which word should we ban in 2015‘.

When they pulled the plug on their poll, the word ‘feminist’ had almost 50 % of the entire vote.  Indeed more that 10x as many people thought the word we should ban in 2015 should be ‘feminist’ as those who thought ‘bossy’

feminist poll

 

Naturally I don’t approve of banning words, however in this case I’m willing to make an exception just to see the incensed outrage of the feminists who think only THEY should have the right to ban words!

Review of Brinno TLC200, TLC200 Pro and webcam timelapse

March 23, 2014

Timelapse photography looks REALLY cool, and thanks to modern technology, its now affordable to most people.

I’ve done a LOT of timelapse photography over the years.  A couple of examples:

The most expensive, and versatile way is to just use a DSLR and an intervalometer.  However if you are going to just turn the images into a HD movie, to be honest a DSLR is overkill!

One option I’ve been using for years is a webcam and a netbook.  It actually works quite well, in that there is never a a serious limit on diskspace and it can run for about 8 hrs on batteries.  I have done a timelapse of a transatlantic flight like this.

Then came some dedicated ‘off the shelf’ timelapse cameras.

tlc vs tlc pro

The Brinno tlc200 pro and tlc 200. Two dedicated timelapse cameras that recently came on the market. The principal advantage they offer over compact cameras with a timelapse capability is a ‘stand alone battery life’ where they will run for days to weeks on the internal battery (4xAA).

The first one I got was the Brinno TLC200.  It worked well enough for me to get two of them, however there is simply no contest when it’s compared to the Brinno TLC 200 pro.  The TLC200 has a relatively narrow angle lens less suited for timelapse (which typically requires wide angle lenses), it is poor at low light levels and cannot be focused.

This review is also available in video form:

The Brinno TLC200 Pro works acceptably well.  The lens is quite wide angle, and can be focused manually.  It will run on batteries (4xAA) for days to weeks (depending on how often you take pictures).  My principal problem is if you are running it off batteries, it’s almost impossible to tell if the batteries are flat, or even if the timelapse is still running.  This point can be disturbing if you are running a timelapse for months, and do not want to move the camera to check it’s still working.  It can be powered off USB, but this obviously requires a USB power cable (micro).  They do sell outdoor enclosures, but generally I wouldn’t recommend them.  They are only compatible with the standard Brinno lens, and when in the enclosure, you lose the ability to power the camera by USB.  

The camera records the movies directly to SD card.  It comes with a 4Gb card, but if you are doing anything sensible, I would recommend at least 16Gb.  The Brinno will also automatically stitch the images together into an *.avi file.  With the netbook, the most reliable method is just to record a series of images, which you can then stitch together yourself using video editing software.  I use Sony Vegas Pro (not recommended if you are starting with video editing, it’s very versatile, but that also means it’s very complicated!), but most video editing software will allow you to stitch together a sequence of images into a video file.

This is an affiliates link to the Brinno TLC200 Pro.

Brinno TLC200 Pro HDR Time Lapse Video Camera

When you compare the video of the TLC 200 Pro side by side with a netbook with a wide angle webcam, the webcam is the clear winner.  The downside is of course you need the netbook to continuously run the timelapse.  For me, I just ran a timelapse like this for over a year, so it basically ‘cost me’ a netbook.  This makes things like the brinno seem cheap.  Having said that, it’s very nice to be able to see, day to day, that the timelapse is still running away happily.  This is an option you just don’t get with the TLC 200 Pro.  However if you want an entirely self contained unit to run outside (with cover from the elements) for a day or two, the Brinno TLC 200 is superb!

If you are going to use a netbook/ notebook, the choice of webcam is critical.  You NEED wide angle.  Personally I would recommend the Genius wideangle webcam.  It gives you EVERYTHING.  Most importantly a very wide field of view, it records in 1280×720 and it has a small compact form factor with good exposure.

genius

Genius wide angle webcam. Most superb performer for timelapse! Recommended without hesitation.

Most definitely recommended on every level!

Prior to this I had used the microsoft HD camera.  This in its native form is relatively narrow angle and less suited for timelapse.  The solution that I eventually came up with was to take the front off the web cam, and add a cheap wide angle lens.

microsoft camera

Take the front off your microsoft HD webcam, and you can quite happily add a wide angle lens, which provides quite good results!

This actually worked okay, but for me these microsoft webcams would crash intermittently (randomly from hours to days), which was infuriating if you were taking a long timelapse only to find it ruined by the camera crashing.  This is simply not an issue with the Genius webcam.  The Genius wideangle webcam I have found to be the clear winner everywhere!

The Solar System in Perspective!

August 10, 2011

The Moon, the Jovian (jupiter) system, and the Uranus system, all on the same scale (all photographed prime focus through an 11in f6.3 SCT) aug 10th 2011.

The moon, Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, all to scale.

The moon, Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, all to scale. Click to enlarge.

It’s all part of a larger project I’ve been working on of trying to get time-lapse of various extra-terrestrial bodies.

The real problem is the Earth is just spinning too bloody fast!  Damn, there’s a reason why all those new telescopes are going out there in the Legrange points!

Initially I was having all sorts of trouble tracking the moon!  Hmm that just shouldn’t be, it tracks everything else in the sky just fine.  Then of course, the obvious dawns on me:- it’s tracking the stars and not the moon!  The moon goes around the sky an extra time every 28 days! Thats about 12 degrees a day, or half a degree an hour!  Given that the moons only about half a degree in diameter, no wonder it kept drifting out of the field!  Okay, so I got intermediate time-lapse of the moon, that shows the project is possible.  A failure, sure, but a very instructive failure.

After the moon I took some caps of Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, great for putting them all into perspective.  Then it dawns on me, that it might be possible to do a timelapse of Uranus’s moons too, that’d be really cool.  So I set up the scope to take pictures every 5 minutes.  The results weren’t that impressive (well it only ran for a few hours before dawn), but more interestingly is that you can actually see uranus move against the background stars over this period.  It really threw me, because I was trying to line up the background stars, and it just wasn’t possible, then the obvious came to mind.  Duhh, Uranus is moving!  So yeah, inadvertently I’ve now found that you can watch the planets move in real time!  Probably works best on the faint ones, like Uranus, as you can see more background stars!.

Movement of Uranus vs background stars

The stars in the background are fixed. The two picture of Uranus are taken a few hours apart, and while the moons (relatively close to the planet) don't move much, the planet conspicuously moves against the background stars!) (click to enlarge)

Wedneday 27th July (It’s like sex!)

July 28, 2011

It was a disheveled piece of human flotsam that crawled out of the mountains that morning.  I had spent a night fighting a losing battle again sleep, and had, in terms of results, very little to show for it.  I know I thought to myself, look the night might have been one long concatenated mess, but at least I can haul my carcuss down to town and get a thousand calorie breakfast from mcdonalds, and Im sure you will start to get a grip once you have  a full stomach.  Regrettably, by the time I got down to town Mcdonalds had JUST finished breakfast.  The moment was a cross between ‘Falling Down’ and that moment in ‘Evil Dead, Army of Darkness’ in the alternative ending where he oversleeps.  Oh yeah it was one of those ‘the world conspires against me’ type moments.  After a long deep sigh, the eyes snap open with regained focus: time to go on the offense!  Online I soon discovered that the reason the Orion Deepspace Video camera wasn’t working up to expectation is it has an integration function in the menus!  I laughed, when all else fails: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Spent a few hours rendering and uploading what I had.  Now the next problem, that damn screw!  I need a replacement for that damn screw.  Turns out Ridgecrest has a Home Depot, and I figured that was the logical place to try for a bizarre screw.  I was wrong- they had nothing!  Arse, thousands of bux worth of telescope crippled by a tiny screw.  Then it dawned on me, I could just drill and tap a hole myself for any screw I wanted.  Deep in my mind there was a spark, I had a drill and tap and a load of screws that would fit in the car, they were part of the stuff for the airplanes.

Picked up some supplies and headed back up into the mountains, same place at last night.  This time I was more seasoned on that grinding hill though and got up all the way without even a hint of overheating.

Up at the top of mountains, I sorted out firstly the backend of the telescope,

Then the webcam.

Come the test of first light, both performed admirably.  The sky wasn’t still enough for planets, but it was wonderfully clear.

The Deepsky video camera worked as expected! (~500 bux) :-)

The stripped MS webcam worked admirably (~50 bux) :-)

The video of the planets shot on by eyepiece projection onto the sensor of the D60 (~900 bux) was okay, but not as good as channeling it straight into a video camera.

The 60d I have to admit is a heinous machine for astro!  I got it primarily as I needed 2 DSLRS to do some of the projects I want to get done on this trip, to work with the 40D.  The 60D just idles circles around the 40D.  I think a lot of it is simply a better sensor.  More pixels, if they are not being used for resolution, mean faster light gathering, and lower noise.  The bottom line is the 60D goes up to iso ~6000, at least 2x what the 40D will do.  The 60D will also do video, which I thought might be useful, although thus far it hasn’t panned out, although this might just be teething troubles with the camera.  Just for an example, crank the ISO up to about 5000 and do a 1min exposure (unguided, bar the telescope tracking) on M51, and this is what you get:

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy, 1min exposure, iso 5000, canon 60d

After that, all you need is an intervalometer and deepskystacker.  In many ways it’s such a cheat.  When I was young, I improvised all sorts of devices for the tracking, and there was none of this ‘cap a test frame to see if it’s centered’.  You took the pictures, and after minutes of painstaking guiding, you had to wait till at least the next day to see how well you did when you got the film processed.  Many a time I chuckle at night as to how what used to be hours of work, and a day or two to see the results from can now be effortlessly superseeded by a minute of scope time.

Later in the night, after visiting many a deep sky object, I turned the scope to Jupiter, then Mars, then the very late moon, all using the same magnification, just so I could give folks the scale of these things, all on the same magnfication.  The seeing was abysmal!  Mars was a swimming ball!  However all on the same magnification I got Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the moon!

 

So yeah, I guess its like sex, in the dark, the first time is always a fumbled and inept experience.  However, having seen things in the broad light of day, and having had time to ponder on what went wrong and why, the second time can be more of the ‘tour de force!’ :-)

Monday 25th July (WHOLE SKY time lapse!)

July 26, 2011

Monday 25th July, up after dawn and rolled into LA.  Traffic is a nightmare!  Picked up the fixed camcorder by 9ish and headed over to a mcdonalds for wifi.    Caught up with blog n emails.  Notably I’ve now got a buddy in Hawaii who’s ready to give the global timelapse thing a go.  He sounds like he really knows what he’s doing and certainly has much better kit than me.  However I still needed a location to head to.  I checked out the clear sky forecasts and they were excellent in the Sierra Nevada valley.  Packup up and headed out, charging batteries on the way.  This is always the absolute nightmare of astro-on-the-road is when you are spending so much time out of doors in the hard sunlight, your body really syncs up with the sun in a powerful way.  Almost to the point where, sun goes down and you go to sleep, and yeah it’s REALLY hard to fight against that to stay up all night doing stuff.  On the way out of LA I stopped by and saw Lisa, who had lent me a couch during TAM.  Then the drive out to the North.   Again the traffic was a nightmare.  Got to Ridgecrest in late afternoon passing enroute something that looked like an observatory, but I now believe to be military radar of some sort.  It looks a good site.  Lots of roads leading off into the desert near the top of a mountain, purportedly for dirt bikers, but whatever, looked like my polite surburban 2wd low clearance could handle it.  Picked up the largest coffee I could find, and headed out into the desert.  In the end I hardly had to go that far off the road and was there for a fantastically dark sunset.  However there was wind, 10-20 mph wind.  Firstly thats the kiss of death if you are trying to point a telescope at a point source, and secondly there was a small amount of dust with it.  Now that was great for the lasers, meant you could see them easily, however its a killer for shutter mechanisms, drives gears etc.  I decided I would stand off on setting up the scope till the wind died down.  The wind didn’t die down, not even a little.  However the sky was superb with the milky way forming a glowing arch from horizon to horizon.  Started messing around with the cameras.  Even if I can’t do any astro, I’ve got some stuff to field test.  Most notably the 4mm ‘180 degree lens’.  Gave good piccies of the Milkyway and after a while I decided to laser my name into a mountain, just for yuks.  After that, I spent a wonderfully pleasant night, with the cool desert wind blowing steadily through my car, all the time with my head poked out of the window, watching the stars slowly spin above my head.  Jupiter rose fast and high, and the late cresent moon somewhat after it.  The next morning I was quite happy with the results!

The Solar System in Motion (LIVE) – it’s going to happen

July 25, 2011

For those who didn’t catch it earlier this year, the ‘global planetary timelapse’ project was rejected for youtubes ‘nextup’ program.

However the idea is still a good one, and it’s going to happen!  So behind the scenes I’ve been putting out feelers, and working out how we are going to make this project happen.

As we are unifying several concepts that have never really been put together like this, doubtless there will be a learning curve.  Different guys, with different kit, trying to get a unified data stream.  Hmmm, tricky!

So I’m now heading up to the dark skies round the back of the Sierra Nevada (GREAT SKY FORECAST!)

http://cleardarksky.com/csk/prov/California_map.html?Mn=light%20pollution

to see what I can actually do with the kit I have.  We will then put the project together in stages.  I think our first attempt will be to do a time lapse of the moon from both the mainland US and Hawaii.  We will then try to get people involved in Australia and further around the world (indeed if you are in Australia, or further round the world (so to speak), please contact me @ thunderf00t@hotmail.com, this project Needs You!).  In the first instance it will probably work best with folks who know pretty much what they are doing, but also I would love to put a project like this together with school kids watching the moons of Jupiter, which could be done with almost any telescope that can track.

Anyways Gentlemen, Ladies!  The Mountains and the Dark Skies Await!

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

July 9th (DON’T BLINK!)

July 10, 2011

Up at about 6 after a terrible nights sleep.  Rolled on down to Cripples Creek, beautiful place, but unfortunately now turned into some sort of gambling resort.  Mind you, the place is pretty, but built on a gold rush that ended over a hundred years ago.  Decided to head out to the south towards Canon.  The GPS kept trying to divert me down a dirt road I didn’t want to go down, so I kept going on the paper map, until it appeared the GPS was right.  However after only a few hundred yards the blacktop ended and I was on a dirt road I didn’t really want to be on with some 29 miles left.. AG!  Clock was a ticking so I decided to keep rolling forward.  Initially it was easy through fairly flat forest, but then the terrain got progressively more impressive, then incredibly impressive.  I just couldn’t figure out what such an impressive dirt road was doing going through the middle of nowhere.

The drive was stunning and thankfully very short of cars coming in the other direction.  This is what I love about America, its not so much the things you know are there, it’s the things you don’t.  Lost and just looking for a way back to the main road, and you come across a gem like this!  For me it was at least as impressive as The Needles highway in the Black Hills.  The difference of course is that one crawls, where as this I only saw about 3 cars on.  However that cuts both ways, and more than once as I drove past sharp looking rocks in the middle of the road I though about how vulnerable my position was.  I had virtually no water or food in the car (I wasn’t expecting to be this isolated) and there was no chance of the phone working in such a deep gorge.  Go off the road here, and you may never be seen again!  I took my time :-), and not just due to the vulnerability, it was a beautiful place.  Rocks at the top were a sort of pink sherman granite-like, then lower down it became sedimentary of some sort.

So who would build a road like this?  I just couldn’t figure it out, it was a phenomenally expensive road to nowhere.  The answer came near the bottom.  Turns out Cripple Creek had been a gold rush town, and so they had built a railway up to it.  Hence the remarkably steady grade, and a road going through ‘mountains’ etc.

Back on the main road I picked up some fast food and headed onto Salida.  There I started to put some of my digital affairs in order.  Most notably to do some preparation on the talk I’m giving, and secondly to catch up with the blog and upload some of the footage I’ve got over the past few days.  Damn was the upload at mcdonalds slow.  Took a couple of hours to upload a 50mb video, and both time crashed just before the end (the connection reset) GAHHH!!  Still managed to get a load processed done though, before heading on up towards Montrose pass.  There was a small and very quiet and secluded siding for the old pass where I stopped for the night, oh… and that bliss of when the engine is turned off and there is complete silence in the forest, and just the gentlest of winds on the skin under the moonlit sky!


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