Timelapse Video of 12-day Solar Installation: Which Camera to Purchase?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by dude712, Oct 31, 2009.

  1. dude712

    dude712 TPF Noob!

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    My current project: film the installation of a 500-panel solar array over 12 days, about 10 hours of work (and daylight, more or less) per day. Final product should be a 4-5 minute video.

    What digital still camera should I buy to make this as easy as possible? The goal is to not edit any footage after the fact, but to devise the interval time on the DSLR wisely, so that I build the video progressively: I found a great calculator for his: Vortex Media's XDCAM Time Lapse Calculator

    Ideally, I'd like to leave the camera unattended after setting it up for the client and either (1) leave it on for 12 days straight and have the option of using some of the night shots (not essential); or (2) train the client to turn the camera on every morning and off every evening, which means "cost-effective" for my client.

    What digital still camera should I buy? Budget is flexible, sub-$1k please. Most important to get a great, easy workflow that doesn't require much human intervention. Thanks in advance.

    I'd like:
    -- the ability to turn it on manual focus;
    -- to go 30 fps, and maybe have the flexibility to go 24f, but not essential
    -- to set up the interval at one photo every minute. It would be nice to have the flexibility to set it up for once every 40 seconds or 50 seconds, or 70 or 80, but doesn't seem like many cameras have that flexibility built into their interval timers (opinions about effective external intervalometers?)
    -- to be able to take the photos at 3MB, minimum resolution 1920x1080, because I want the option of finishing full HD in the video
    -- to be able to take photos for at least 10 hours per day (the Pentax Optio, for example, has a 6 hour limit), and probably 12 just to be safe.
    -- to be able to have a 32GB SD card to be able to store thousands of photos and maybe only dump them once during the 12-day project.
    -- to have the camera automatically assemble the 600 photos per day or so into a video. I use FCP, and it should be compatible with FCP. No editing on this project!
    -- must have AC adaptor capability
    -- And ideally, if you turn the camera off for the evening and then turn it on the next morning, it should have the same settings and be ready to go for the same set-up. Press "go."

    The goal is to devise a workflow that is as full-proof as possible, requiring minimal human intervention -- and thus very cost-effective for my client. They are willing to pay more on the camera to achieve a workflow that one of the guys at the solar installation can handle -- in which they would not need a film professional.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer with regard to a specific equipment list and workflow!
     
  2. ErectedGryphon

    ErectedGryphon TPF Noob!

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  3. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There are no options that meet all that criteria.

    - All DSLRs and many P&S have manual focus.
    - Modern DSLRs can do 30fps video (D90, D300s)
    - The D200, D300, D700 have built in interval timers that can do that. The D300s meets the video requirements too. Every other camera needs an external intervalometer. They are available on ebay for sub $100.
    - No photo camera I have seen has minimum resolution of 1920x1080. Those aren't photo dimensions. Do this in post processing.
    - No camera I have seen can take continuous photos for 10 hours on one charge. You'll need an external powersupply with a powerpack for the camera. Not sure about what models have this, my D200 does so I assume the D300s solution that fits so far would too.
    - 32GB SD card? Well try 32GB CF card and the D300s is still an option.
    - Have a camera automatically assemble your timelapse? no. I haven't seen a camera do this, I haven't ever heard of a camera that does this which gives you an option other than 1 second or half second intervals. (top end Canon P&S cameras do this, but lack intervalometer or AC adapter). Assembling photos into a video takes a whole 30 seconds using any of the 1000 programs that can do it, like Quicktime Pro.
    - Most cameras remember their settings.

    Sorry but unless you engineer a dedicated solution I highly doubt that you're going to find a one shot fits all solutions.

    D300s + powerpack + computer software, would come close. D90 + powerpack (if it's available) + remote + computer software. would be cheaper.
     
  4. Mbnmac

    Mbnmac TPF Noob!

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    Look into a video camera that can have most of the settings you need plugged into it.

    A lot of modern video cameras have the option to timelapse without any external editing required. You will still need to have it plugged in, and depending on the camera you might have to do some minor setting changes overnight.

    Just giving you another option...
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Washington, DC.

    Hey Dude,

    Welcome to the forums!
     
  6. FilmaTroy

    FilmaTroy TPF Noob!

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    your best bet would be to rent or purchase the Panasonic HVX200a video camera, it is the newest top of the line High Def video camcorder on the market, and should have the timelapse option in the menus... that is if you have the budget to get it. they range from 3000 to 5000 dollars ranged on use and condition.... good luck with it though!
     
  7. JamesMason

    JamesMason TPF Noob!

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    Indeed, just make sure you got a big HD on it, those things eat space. Time-lapse in post is also pretty easy now too.
     
  8. bango707

    bango707 TPF Noob!

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    I would suggest setting your camera to full Manual, otherwise the exposure, white balance, and DOF will be changing through the end video, which creates a strobing effect that never really looks good.
    You will be shooting this outside so I would setup (obviously depending on the weather) for sunny 16 and hope for the best.
    I would also stick to using a Digital SLR camera as opposed to a video camera. Still cameras are generally much easier to mount in situations like the one you will be facing and the end photos will be much higher quality. I know that you only want the end video to be 1920x1080 but there is no reason to not to shoot at higher quality.
    As far as the interval (time between photos) is concerned, if you plan to finish on DVD then the video will be playing back at 30fps on most systems. Figure that the guys work 10 hrs a day, no more and no less. That means that if you were to take 1 photo/minute for 10hrs/day you would have 20 minutes of video/day 10x60/30=20. span this over 10 days and you have 200 minutes or 3hrs20minutes of video in the end.
    If you want to create a 4 or 5 minute video you will have to significantly speed up the timelapse when you edit the video. This is easy enough to do as you just increase the speed of the photos in the timeline.
    Also, it is quite easy to take the folder of all of the photos, create a quicktime of the photos, and import it into FCP.
    You can buy a used Nikon D200 for cheap, get a wide angle lens, buy an AC adaptor and some extension cables, find a power source at the job site that is always on and you are good to go!!!
    Just know that you will need to do a bit of post work in the end. There is no way around it.
     
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I suspect dude721 may be a one post wonder.
     

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