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Muvi X-Lapse Timelapse Experiements

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Yesterday I got hold of a cheap Muvi X-Lapse. It's basically a device that you can mount on a tripod, and then on top of it you can either place a small(ish) camera or a mobile phone. Then with some kind of intervalmeter software either on your camera or your phone, you can shoot rotating timelapse videos.

The Muvi X-Lapse comes with a clip that should hold most smartphones. I used a paid-for Android app called Lapse It Pro to try it out with my phone. That looks like quite a nice piece of software, although as the makers warn you, processing those still JPGs into a video file can be processor intensive on your phone, so it's something to do when you have your phone charging.

Today I spent some time using my old faithful Canon A470 camera. It's a bit beat up, and is very basic, but it runs CHDK. This is "alternative" Canon firmware that you can temporarily (or permanently) install on many Canon point and shoot cameras to give them lots of additional functionality. Most usefully, you can add an intervalmeter to shoot timelapse videos.

Here's what I shot today:

Timelapse Test in London from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

The stills were assembled into a video using Quicktime Pro. I fear that I may need to play with the settings in Quicktime, because it does seem to have added a bit of pixelation in that phase. However Quicktime is the easiest way to assemble a video from a series of JPGs. I ensured that I'd set the camera to a 16:9 ratio before shooting. I also ran a batch-file in Photoshop to reduce the filesize down to 1080p video size.

Then it was just a bit of tidying up in Premiere and exporting to Vimeo.

Overall, I'm quite impressed. The major drawback with the Muvi X-Lapse is that you have no control of the speed that it rotates. A full 360 degree rotation will take an hour. All you can do to speed up or slow down the video is decide how frequently you will take pictures. The sunset sequence at the end is taken at 5 second intervals, but most of the rest of the video is shot at between 1 and 2 second intervals.

The Muvi X-Lapse itself is probably built on a kitchen timer mechanism. There are plenty of websites that show you how to make your own timelapse device using things like cheap Ikea kitchen timers. But I was happy to pay a few pounds more and have tripod mounts and smartphone mounts built in for me. I'm happy with my purchase.

Woods

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Woods from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Shot as an excuse to try that tracking feature you can do in After Effects. Music chosen because I saw Philip Glass play later that evening. The tracking was done with a Mobislyder, and the video on a Sony RX100. If there's one thing I'm coming to realise about the Mobislyder, it's that a cool hand and plenty of attempts are required to get good motion. That's particularly the case if you're focusing closely. It's also hard to get the speed right.

Licencing Music

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Of late, I've been shooting a few Super 8 films, and have really enjoyed the somewhat back to basics pleasures. I've still got plenty to learn about the medium however.

But I am left with a problem.

Because of the silent nature, the films work much better if I put a soundtrack on them. And that's where I run into problems.

If I want to licence a piece of music to put on a film that I upload and may only be seen by a few people, there just really isn't an affordable mechanism available to me - at least if I want to choose a piece of music I'm already familar with. Although I'm talking about Super 8 here, I might just as well be talking about video in general.

I can upload the video to YouTube where it's Content ID system will probably detect that I'm using a commercial track. Then - depending on the agreement made between the rights owner and YouTube - I may, or may not, be able to leave the video in place. But there are lots of problems with this.

  • I don't know in advance whether a given track will be allowed. I wouldn't even attempt to use a Beatles track for example.
  • I don't know in advance whether a given track will be viewable in my territory. Because of the way music rights are allocated, the relevant agreements might have been reached in North America, but not in Europe or the UK.
  • I don't know how long any agreements might remain in place. If a record label "falls out" with YouTube, my video might get pulled at any time in the future.
  • My video will probably featured embedded advertising that I have no control over.

Now of course, I shouldn't complain unduly, because I didn't pay to licence that music in the first place. I'm actually lucky that there's an option at all to use someone else's music. I realise that when I say "my video" I'm using the endeavours of someone else.

But how about a system that allowed me limited rights to pay to licence some music to use on services like Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook? If I was able to pay a modest amount of money - more than 79p, but less than the several thousand dollars I'd have to pay for full commercial rights - to use the music in my essentially amateur video? £10 for a track perhaps with some limited usage rights?

Might this be another avenue for the music industry to earn revenue?

It's not totally straightforward, since if one of my videos becomes a viral sensation (unlikely) then those digital advertising pennies that YouTube currently generates on a pre-roll could be earning many more dollars than my paltry tenner. But I'm sure there's a workaround.

Of course, I could certainly go down a different route and use rights-free music from the sizeable array of companies that either give it away or licence it. But that's a great deal more work. I'm almost certainly unfamiliar with all the music available, and that leaves me with a lot of work to find an appropriate track.

Occassionally bands and artists will run competitions for fans to make videos. Sigor Ros is doing precisely that at the moment.

But is there a legal, "affordable" way for me to licence a music track for a non-commercial online environment?

Holiday Video

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While I was on holiday recently, I made a short film...

It's a Super 8 film shot on the island of Syros. The camera is a Canon 318M, and the music is from the film Le Mépris and is composed by Georges Delerue.

The camera's filter was misbehaving so I've colour corrected a bit. The zooming isn't smooth, which is a shame, and is generally due to sloppy camera work from me. And I've used cutting to the sun a bit too much - less is more.

Other than that, I was already imagining which music I'd edit this to while I was out there. And the Super 8 does make you think that this holiday took place 30 or 40 years ago rather than last month.

London to Brighton 2010

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I've got a few videos saved up that I've not edited or posted. So I thought I'd work through the backlog!

This was taken last August (so it's been a while) when a few of us cycled from London to Brighton as part of a vaguely radio-themed outing. As you might be able to tell from the quality and colours, it's a Super 8 film.

This year's ride is on 7 August, and I'm sure that there's space for you if you want to join us!

A Video

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This is a short video I made a few weeks ago at the seaside in Broadstairs. Featured are my brother and his family, so you may well not be interested.

But it's shot on Super 8 - Kodak Ektachrome 100D to be precise - and filmed with the same Canon Auto Zoom 318M that my dad has had since sometime around 1974. It's probably not seen a film in it since around 1984 or so. But a couple of AA batteries and it was up and running.

The Widescreen Centre in London sells Super 8 film, and gets it processed (in Berlin I believe), and then telecined into a digital format for editing.

I'm quite pleased with the outcome, and plan to shoot a few more rolls. Be warned - it is an expensive process!

At The Beach from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Timelapses

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When it became clear that it was going to snow fairly heavily near my flat last night, I thought it might be fun to put some timelapse videos together. Indeed, that might be a good idea, but I'm not convinced that I managed the best implementation ever.

This first video is the worst. It's the view from my kitchen window ledge, and was created using a Canon A470 with CHDK to allow it to run an intervalmeter program. So I left it going overnight taking one picture a minute, and in this video each image represents three frames. Unfortunately, the battery had died by morning, so I'm left with a somewhat dull and very grainy video taken overnight.

The second video was taken using a video camera that was powered. It shows the street outside my flat and the houses opposite. The video was created by taking 0.5 sec of footage every minute, with the resulting video sped up by about 500%.

Not a lot of excitement took place overnight, but there lots of movement during the day. I've added a timecode which just about reflects the real time. Spot the multiple refuse collections during the day, the movements of cars and neighbours, and not much more. The snow was relatively constant but not all that heavy, and you don't really see it develop. But you do here excerpts of my clock radio in the morning, and an alarm that went off when I was out in the evening.

Bladerunner

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I'm really looking forward to Bladerunner: The Final Cut, essentially a big DVD boxset that'll be the final version of Bladerunner, a classic SF film that's definitely up amongst my favourites, but which has a troubled version history.

But it's a little disingenuous, for Ridley Scott to claim to claim that he has an aversion to remakes.

I'm a massive Ridley Scott fan, and despite the horror that was A Good Year, it's great to see him back on form with American Gangster, but he was clear when there was a director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven, that it was done for marketing purposes (Note: Wikipedia refers to a Total Film interview about the extended DVD being made as a result of paying too much attention to preview audiences, but I distinctly recall Scott claiming marketing reasons being behind the release in a TV interview. This was around the time, for example, that Oliver Stone's Alexander was being released in numerous versions. Unfortunately, I have no source for this).

Anyway, roll on the 3 December release, and hopefully I'll be able to see it in the cinema too.

Fight Fight Fight

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Sillyness at work this morning...

Very funny...

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Scarily accurate...

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