Posts Tagged ‘camera’

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!

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The Cirque of the Towers

September 27, 2011

What a hell of a few days!

When I staggered out of the wilderness last night, in the dark, exhausted, without any food, or drinkable water and with a broken plane, I had only one thought. What a fantastic couple of days!

Panorama looking down on Jack Ass Pass near the Cirque of the Towers

Panorama looking down on Jack Ass Pass near the Cirque of the Towers

     The story starts with wanting to go see the ‘Cirque of the Towers’, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. However I wanted to get some video of it from the air! Now the story of my failure is long, and surprising short of predators, although, for some unexplained reason it has a llama in it!

     Now getting into the Cirque is a bit of a chore in that you have to drive some 30 or so miles down dirt roads (which can require a LOT of attention if you are in a low clearance 2 wheel drive car). However once you get to the Big Sandy trailhead, it gets interesting! Getting to the Cirque is a hard days hike, but easier as a 2 day trip. Its about 8 miles in, and about 2-3000 feet of ascent. However I was packing in a plane and all the kit to go with it too! Not to mention a tent, enough to stop me freezing in the expected well below freezing temperatures, and enough emergency kit that I could make it back to the car in a tight pinch.

INTO THE CIRQUE!

     The first thing I noticed was:- no mosquitoes! That was such a blessing. Previously when I’ve been here they make your life a torment in that whenever you stop, great clouds of them descend on you, and bug spray and nets or not you get peppered with bites. Same goes for when you pitch the tent, you basically have to throw up the tent and get in it asap just to escape from the bugs. This time, NOTHING, nada, not even a hint of a mosquito. That made the walk through the dry piney forests of Big Sandy incredible pleasant, but in the back of my mind I was fully aware that the reason there were no mosquitoes was that a hard frost had killed them all. It was likely to be cold that night.

     I left the car at 2pm, not out of any great plan, I just knew that was plenty of time to set a ‘base camp’ of sorts. There are also significant wildcards about heading out this time of year. Thankfully it’s too late for nasty thunderstorms, but snow is more likely to be the real hazard. First sign of bad weather and I would have to abort. No way was I prepared for harsh weather, and even getting back to the car would only be half the battle. However the cirrus cloud which I wasn’t quite sure if it was a front coming in (in which case I would be screwed) or was just some weather created by the mountains, burned off, and the rest of the day was as beautiful, pleasantly ambiently warm as a man under a deep blue sky could hope for.
The place was near deserted (the crowds of summer gone!), and I only passed maybe 5 people heading up to Big Sandy lake. Then came the first choice, to head up to Temple or into the Cirque? (right or left at Big Sandy lake?) I opted for the Temple, a giant triangular looking granite monolith. Merely to sand under Temple is an intimidating experience. I pitched camp in the last trees under Haystack. In this case it primarily wasn’t for fear of lightning, but in the full knowledge that it would be several degrees warmer in the trees, and given that I really wasn’t sure how my sleeping bag (‘rated’ to below freezing) would actually perform. As it turns out it did just fine, however my pillow was a pair of boots with a pair of pant (trousers) and fleece thrown over the top, prove more troublesome in getting a good nights sleep. Also there is the latent fear of the night predators. I’d hoisted the food into a tree, but you know that you are ALONE. There is no help. That sort of exposure sharpens the mind, and gives on a very light sleep. Was up about sunrise, although no direct light filtered down into the valley.

The view of 'Haystack' from the tent in the morning

     After a breakfast of ‘instant noodles’ I headed up towards the cirque of Temple, taking only the plane and some food. It was a pathless bushwhack, but not difficult. The sharp spike of Steeple rising steeply over the lake making for some excellent views before coming into the presence of Temple. And YES, I went to Temple on a Sunday!

View of Steeple over Clear lake

I was completely alone in this cirque.

     The condition for flying were as good as one could hope for up in the mountains. Scarcely a breath of wind, with giant mountain shadows littering the landscape. Bummer was the voltage regulator had fallen off the transmitter side of things on the plane, and I assumed my wiring was regularly color coded. Well anyway, I plugged in the battery, and theres this futt sound and a smell of burning electronics. I’ll wager that’s smells not graced the presence of Temple before! So that was the end of the possibility of remote video, however, I could still just record with the camera on the plane. It’s SOOO much easier to fly without the Helmet of Magnetar! Sure you can’t fly out of line of sight, but you only have to worry about flying the plane. Flight was fantastic!.

Best flight EVER! 🙂

     I then decided to head up onto the unnamed mountain in the middle of the cirque (the mountain of broken planes?). By the time I had gotten up there, there was a random wind blowing up to 15 mph, but the view was phenomenal!

Random un-named mountain (Plane Destroyer Mountain?) near the Cirque of the Towers

-The location of ‘Plane Destroyer’ mountain

     But a 15mph wind that’s tricky. The plane is already heavy (almost 1kg) which means it has to fly faster to maintain its lift. Further I was already at almost 11000 feet which means that in order to get stable flight you need to fly faster due to the thin air. Getting into the air proved trivial. Getting it to land, that was difficult. You see I probably only had 10ft or so of uneven granite to land on. I was ontop of the mountain, to overshoot means the plane falls off the cliff on the other side. To undershoot means flying into a granite block! In the end, after several aborted attempts where the plane, due to its slower speed and the irratic wind had almost been tipped over, pretty much out of desperation, I bought the plane in ‘hot’. Sure it was fairly stable, but on ‘landing’ the camera and motor broke off. In many ways it was a relief, in that there was now no way I could do aerial video of the Cirque of the Towers (meant I didn’t have to take all this kit up to the pass). I packed up and took the short way down. Risky to be sure as I had no surety that the path wouldn’t end in an impassible cliff. Thankfully it didn’t and I saved myself about a mile of  bush-whackin’ down to Temple lake and back again. On the way down, of all the bizarre and unexpected things, I found a llama with no apparent owner. WTF?

Random Llama!

     It took to its heels as I approached. Dropped down to base camp by about midday, packed up and cooked what food I had left (more raman noodles!). Then the trek down to Big Sandy lake. Got to the path up the Cirque of the Towers by about 2ish. Took basically all the water, wine and food I had left, and headed up towards the cirque. I was very tired by this point, and to make matters worse, lost the trail just before the first lake and ended up in a giant boulder field. There was many a hole you could have fallen into and never been seen or heard from again! I reached an overview of Jackass Pass (my target) by 4pm, but I was a spent force. I could go no further. It was a double blessing that the plane had crashed, for there was a steady 30 mph wind gusting higher near the cirque, all but impossible to fly in. I hung around on the pass till 4:30, full in the knowledge that I would be walking out in the full dark. Going down was fast, aided by the fact that I kept the path the whole way.

Defeat at the Cirque

     Got back to my pack at 5:45pm and began the weary trudge out. I was all but out of food, all but out of drinkable water. Now its true that I had both water treatment and a water pump, but was reluctant to risk using them if I could avoid it. (theres a really nasty bug in the water around here called giardiasis). By 8pm it was near full dark and I was walking on a head lamp, so tired that I could only walk for 10 or so minutes at the time. Turns out the headlamp was fantastic, as not only did it free up both hands, but periodically you could sweep the local area looking for glowing eyes! However it could only penetrate the murk for 20 or so feet, and I was ever fearful of losing the path. I eventually managed to get onto the flats near the trail head, but was lost in what turned out to be the campground. It was both a delight and a nightmare to find those park benched. I knew I was REALLY close to ‘home’ but had no clear idea which way to go. I then found a road. Again, great, but which way to go when you can only see 20 feet? Turns out it was the one way loop around the campsite, and if I had known I was probably only a couple of hundred feet from my car. I guessed good and as I came over the gentle rise, what do I find on the other side, but my ‘little blue New Yorker’! Dumped everything asap, tanked up on water and chocolate before crashing for the night, having to run the engine periodically to stave off the cold of the night freeze.

My baby flies at 5000 ft!

August 25, 2011

No that’s not the level of ascent, but the absolute altitude.  You will recall that as you get higher, the air pressure drops.   That makes it a real pain in the ass to fly planes.  So by the time you are up to about 14000 ft, you have only ~70 % of atmospheric pressure.  That’s 30% reduction in thrust, and lift.  It also changes the stability and handling characteristics of the plane.

So it was with an element of trepidation that I decided to fly the plane at 5000 feet (previously only flown at sea level), on the shoulder of mount Shasta, a 14000 ft extinct volcano in northern California.  The conditions were perfect (dead calm, good lighting), however the terrain was not.  Trees everywhere.  Trees have a habit of reaching out and ‘grabbing’ rc planes.  What it really is of course is the plane is quite small, and so distance is really quite hard to judge, y’know ‘will the plane fly in front of that tree, or into it?’  Keep ‘sky’ behind the plane is usually a good, if hard rule from keeping your plane from the clutching branches of the trees.  However the flight went pretty much perfectly.  I really used the headset for the first time, although as with everything there are always unforseen teething troubles.   In this case it was, as my head looked upwards to see the plane, it moved the headset so I could no longer easily see what was happening on the plane.  And yeah, when in flight, you really don’t have the luxury of ‘ooh, I really think I need to adjust these straps a little!  The plane flies at ~20 mph, and at that speed it can be real easy to lose ‘orientation’ on the plane.

Flight was pretty!

Upper frame, Mount Shasta, from the air! It's still over 2 miles above you at this point. Lower panel, that's MEEE, from the air. 🙂

Anyways, it was a very ‘buzzzzzzzzed’ Tfoot (shaking hands etc), who once again managed to get his plane back to the road clearing where he had taken off from!

OMG, WTF IS ON HIS HEAD!

August 18, 2011

YES its FULLY OPERATIONAL!

The headset has 4 basic components. High gain antennae, diversity receiver, base station recorder and video goggles, both taken off the same AV (audio/video) feed.

The plane has a hero HD camera on it, which records HD on its own, but also pipes AV through to the transmitter, which then goes down to the base station.

I had doubts about if it would fly or not. The plane is now over 1 000g (heavy for an easy star) and a lot of the new weight is ‘high’ on the plane. Weight above the center of gravity will destabilize the plane.

Thankfully it looks like it all works fine! W00T. Now to try it somewhere fun!

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!

Why is Potassium gas Green?

June 18, 2011

So my interest was really spiked here when I found that when reacting with water, potassium gives off a green gas!

While the green of potassium gas has been known about for over a century, being found in Encyclopedia Britianica articles as far back as 1911, the origin of that green color is proving a little more elusive.

If you know what you are doing it’s relatively easy to observe.  250 mg of potassium is ‘the right’ scale to work with.  Much smaller and it’s all over before you get a chance to do anything, much bigger and you run into problems with the metal exploding, or the hazards of hydrogen build-up.  All you need is a heavy glass vessel of about the dimensions of a wine glass.  Insert a burning acetone taper through a small hole in the top of the vessel and to burn out all the oxygen, and then drop in your potassium.  The green color is easily visible.

I’m tempted to propose it’s due to the solvated electron, which is a hot research topic at the moment as it’s part of the principal mechanism by which radiation damage happens to DNA.  It’s known to be stable and blue in liquid ammonia, but survives only picosecond in water.

A bead of Sodium Potassium alloy in anhydrous liquid ammonia. The blue colouration is due to the presence of solvated electrons

It’s an interesting suggestion, but I think the observation that you get the green color when there is no water around pretty much kills this idea.

So how do you get a green gas.  Well the only other metallic gaseous vapor I’ve seen was mercury which I once boiled to test the calibration on a thermocouple.  That has no color at all that I can remember.

Well as you will recall virtually all the gases are colorless, e.g. all the Noble gases (helium, argon etc) and all the first period gases (nitrogen, oxygen, and mostly fluorine).  However the heavier halogens have colored vapors that get more heavily colored as you go down the group.  Chlorine, light green, bromine, brown etc.

Chlorine (left) and bromine (right).

The reason these gases have these colors is the same reason the sky is blue, Rayleigh scattering.  That’s related to the polarizability of the molecule.  This is a very different mechanism from the electronic transitions that give the classical flame colors of the alkali metals!

It’s well known that all the alkali metals have stable bound states as diatomic molecules, similar in electronic configuration to hydrogen.  IF K2 had a similar polarizability to Cl2, it may well be green like chlorine!  Regrettably finding the polarizability K2 is not as easy as it sounds.  A significant difference between H2 and K2 is the bond energy.  H2 has a bond energy of about 400kJ/mol, while K2 has a bond energy of ~50kJ/mol.  For reference, the hydrogen bond, the thing that holds water together as a liquid, has a bond energy of ~20kJ/mol.  If you heat any bound state and eventually the species will gain enough energy to separate and become individual species.  With water this happens at about 100 oC (boiling, ~400 K).  For hydrogen it’s about 3000 K.  You can actually do the real calculations, it’s just I’m too lazy at the moment, and so I’m just going to do a linear extrapolation between these two.  That gives K2 breaking up at about 2-300 oC.

Well that would fit nicely with green gas being evolved at lower temperature, but as the temperature rises, the diatomic species break up, and the relevant polarizability of the molecule, and hence the Rayleigh scattering, and hence the color is lost.

Great, so if this is a working hypothesis, then the diatomic metals should match their corresponding halogen right?  The bummer is sodium.  Sodium gives off a blue vapor when it boils.  Fluorine is almost colorless.  ARSE!

The game is not over yet!

I’ve decided I need to see sodium vapor for myself, but how to do it with only the junk I have to hand!  What I really need is a nice small sealed silica tube that can take temperatures over a thousand degrees C.  Hmmmm, thinking, thinking…..