Friday, September 14, 2012

How To Build a DIY Motion Control Timelapse Rig!

So Reddit seemed to like the footage I put out of the GoPro time lapse rig I made so here is my attempt to lay out how to build one. I dont really have a parts list because a lot of the stuff I got was just walking through Lowes saying "that looks like it will work!" so to make up for it I took lots of pictures.

My starting point was a slightly modified version of Film Riot's video $10 DIY Camera Slider! but with two differences. The end boxes are laid out like the picture to the left so I could attach a cover plate on top. That plate will be used to mount pulleys and the motor to, but I will get to later... I also added a 1/4-20 Brad Hole T-Nut with some JB Weld to the bottom so I could mount tripods/light stands to it later.

The other difference is the sliding part is only made of two "T" joints of PVC, shown on right, so you can mount the GoPro with the standard handlebar mount. These are connected with a small piece of PVC in the middle and glued with a 2 part epoxy. The ends of this part are covered with stick-on felt and an additional bit of electrical tape just to keep it from peeling away. The other bit on there will be used for the belt drive which I will get to in a few.

To build the "Drive Box" I went to a local electrical surplus store and bought a timer motor (110v AC, 3/4 RPM), a larger gear and 2 pulleys. I cant really be too specific here because each motor had a different gear on it and I was fortunate enough to be in a place where I could dig through a box of spare gears to match it up with. I used a drill to make holes in the cover plate for the motor and gear shaft.

On it goes (from top to bottom) a locknut, large washer, a finishing washer, pulley epoxied to gear, and another locknut to hold the bolt onto the faceplate. Tighten the top locknut only enough to keep everything snug but the big washer should spin easily. The finishing washer was to compensate for the larger inside diameter of the pulley. When you slide everything on, the gear should line up with the timer motor.
By drilling slightly bigger holes than needed, you can position the motor so it gears up perfectly, then tighten down with locknuts. To wire it up all you have to do is take an old cord and splice it on, polarity doesn't seem to matter with these things--it spins in the same direction regardless--but check the specs on it to make sure its 110v or 120v AC first. And being AC, it kind of makes varying the speed limited to "on" and "off."
The other side, attach pulley and try to make it as high as the Drive Box side, especially if you wind up making this with a flat belt. What I found works the best however was the black plastic cord that holds screens into their frames, its rubber but not too stretchy and seems to be pretty durable. I found it useful at this point to sand the inside of the pulleys to get a better grip on the belt, and what the heck, sanded the belt too.
Now to make the belt I wrapped the cord around both pulleys and cut it so it was about an inch away from making the complete loop. This will give tension to the belt and prevent slips (that said, this rig can only handle so much weight so any major vertical movements are limited to top to bottom). At the end I attached wire connectors and clamped them down. These will loop onto the metal "U" on the sliding part.
Because the motor will only spin in one direction, the way you attach the belt will allow you to move the other way. By connecting to the inner post (see picture to the right) the camera will move right to left, if you reverse the belt and attach it to the outer post the camera will travel left to right. Attaching to the center post seems to work the best for less slippage when filming at an incline but doesn't seem to affect horizontal moves.
The last step is to make your gear look all official! After testing I chopped my 5-foot conduit down to 4 to make it more portable and found out that it takes almost exactly an hour for the camera to travel this length. Hope you guys enjoyed this tutorial and if anyone has any questions leave a comment below, or for a response this year tweet me. And if you shoot with your own or improve on it I would love to see! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cable Cam

  So recently I have been busy building random camera rigs, not too long ago I made a DIY light ring, SnorriCam and one of my longtime favorites--a car window mount made from a walker. But recently I have had a fascination with cable cams.

  Over the summer I began experimenting with an old hacked apart rollerblade bottom with a camera bolted to it but it was a shoddy setup at best and the bearings in the wheels were terrible. So a week or two ago I decided to revisit it on a smaller scale.

  The plan was to hold only a GoPro and be small enough to be easily portable. So off I go looking for the best option and for fairly cheap I was able to make one with a 100 foot cord, a Figure 9 to tighten and the rig itself was Erector Set pieces and sliding door wheels.

  This past week I was able to test it out at Pats Peak during the March 1st snowstorm. I ran it down the side of some glades and got some really nice footage, check it out below! (see at 0:00-0:14, 0:24-0:27 and 0:47-1:07)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dyn's Ready! Marketing Project

   You may have heard me talking recently about some music videos I have been working on for a marketing effort towards companies such as Hulu, Expedia, CareerBuilder, LivingSocial, Posterous and FunnyOrDie, well they are finally all out and I can tell you all about this awesome project.

   The company I was working with that started it all was a DNS and email hosting company based out of Manchester, NH called Dyn. My friend Ryan (@Ryhara) who works for the marketing department had this crazy idea to make personalized music videos for companies they really wanted to pick up and work with. I get a message from him last year explaining what he wanted to do and we began talking about translating it on-screen.

   After getting the instrumental track from Verse Media I came in and sat down with Ryan and Tom (@tddenniston). As they wrote the lyrics I would figure out what that video would look like and write out the shot list for that song. Tom then went back to the studio, recorded the lyrics and we started the 3 days of shooting with him, @johnzahr, @AMaeCaron and several other employees as talent.

   After we wrapped and taking some time off for the Christmas and New Years holidays I started the editing process and getting them sent off to Dyn. At that point they created personalized web pages to host the video and explain exactly why they wanted to work with those companies. And lo and behold! As of writing this post they have gotten responses back from Funny or Die and Hulu! As for the other 4, Dyn has publicly released the videos to drum up attention and will hopefully hear from them soon.

   And speaking of attention, check out these articles from Union Leader, The Next Web and Fortune Magazine. This was a blast to work on and hopefully more music videos will be on the way. Here are my two favorites of the campaign:

   If you want to see the rest, go to my "Videos" page.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More Videos For the Interwebz

   Just pumping out the videos this week! Well these videos are actually from earlier this summer/late fall but they have finally been rolled out to the public. Here are 3 Darwin's Waiting Room skits for your viewing pleasure!

   This one is probably my favorite out of the bunch (whoever said "save the best for last"?!). I directed/shot/edited this one over the summer at Hampton Beach on a little "DWR Improv Day" and we came up with this gem about hypnotism as an alternative medicine gone wrong... Or oh so right? No, never mind, oh so wrong...

   This next video, It's Complicated, I filmed and edited--it was actually the first project I worked on with Darwins (and another short improv bit spawned out of it. If you haven't seen Coming Out yet check it out here). It's short comedy about a guy and a girl discussing their relationship with each other, with very different views on the matter.

   And this last one I just hopped on as an editor. Its called Therapy, a short skit about a relationship counselor assuring his current clients he has dealt with worse.

   Hope you like them and check back soon for more videos!

Two Videos This Week

   Great Scott! Two new videos this week! The first one you can see below is a quick preview of Turbulence Park for Bennys' Blog, the Pats Peak Park blog maintained by Ben Ross. I was shooting in the park for part of my weekly video and he wanted something to put in up to show there actually is snow on the mountain.

   And speaking of which, the other video I just posted is the Pats Peak Weekly. While it was shot in the park on the same day with most of the same riders, it has a completely different park section (save maybe two shots) and has a bunch of stuff from all around the mountain, including the time-lapse I talked about in my last post. I got some really neat slow motion footage of some downhill racers and some cool Glidecam shots of ski instructors. This one I went in all gung-ho from last weeks Diversity Day video, I had done all kinds of neat visual things with it I dont usually include on something like this and figured maybe I should go for round 2. Well let me tell you, the Technicolor CineStyle Picture Profile I have loaded on my Canon 60D--the color profile I am using for stuff I want to color grade--is a whole lot harder to work with on the fly than I thought. It is not nearly as forgiving as I let myself believe from last weeks shoot. I had a bit of trouble finding the right exposure as I was shooting and I think what must have helped me last time was the fact I had a clear blue sky that day. Monday the sun was going in and out of the clouds and I couldn't just set my exposure and be done with it. I have heard of some other color profiles that are a little more forgiving than CineStyle, I think it may be worth my while looking into them for this kind of run-and-gun shooting.

   And if you missed the Diversity Day video I was talking about, check it out too! I went all out because it took forever to post so I did some really nice color grading, added a vignette and threw in some light leaks! I'm actually really proud with how it looks so I may keep trying here and there when I get the time to go all out again. Maybe I can get used to CineStyle in the process, haha...

   The great thing about these Pats Peak videos is I really get the freedom to experiment and try out new things with what I am doing and I get in some real practical experience with new stuff I may be trying for the first time. Look for the next weekly... um... probably within the week!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To Defish The GoPro In FCP

    GoPros are awesome. Over the winter I use them on at least a weekly basis. They are great for sports and getting right up close to the action. The Fisheye lens on the GoPro is perfect for that, but what happens when you want a shot without the extreme barrel distortion?

   I have looked all over the internet for examples of how to do this and for the most part the tutorials require either a program I don't have, a plugin I don't want to pay for or it only will work for photographs. So here is a quick rundown on how to do some quick lens correction in Final Cut Pro.

Image size, image after pin-cushion and usable area.
   What helped me figure this one out was actually the articles on defishing photographs. A lot of them mentioned using a pin-cushion tool to pull the corners out. I started looking for a way to do this in FCP and found the Bulge tool could produce similar effects.

   First I imported the footage I wanted to use--a rotating time-lapse from the top of a fan gun at Pats Peak. Now hold on a second. I'm sure at this point you are saying to yourself, "Isn't a time-lapse just a series of photos? Didn't he say this was for video?" Yes you are correct but this method works for video too, the first step is just me converting the photos to a .MOV, so if you are just importing plain old video you can skip the next paragraph.

   Ok, I brought everything into Quicktime and exported my image sequence to Apple ProRes 422 (LT) as a 1920x1440 video, down-resed from its native 4:3 size of 2592x1944. Even though my timeline will be 1080x720 16:9 I still want my 4:3 image to better adjust where I want to crop and a better resolution to reduce artifacts and keep the picture as clear as possible.

And under motion tab: Scale 125
   Now we can take our footage and bring it into Final Cut. I apply the Bulge filter to my footage and then adjust it to make the corners pulled out as far as possible yet shrinking the video as little as possible (because having to zoom back into it will take away the sharpness of the overall image). I also included the Fisheye filter and gave it a negative value because I found Bulge tends to still have some slight distortion in the corners if used alone. See screencap for the settings I used (you can ignore the Flop filter just because I shot this upside down). If you look at the pole on the left side of the video in the viewer you can see how little distortion there is.

   This trick may take some tweaking and as long as you use the same size video throughout, this set of effects can be cut and pasted to other clips rather easily. And the great thing about this trick is you don't really loose all that much off the edges! Sure there comes render time but for a quick and easy lens correction for free with the tools you already have? Perfect.

EDIT: Here it is in the video I just posted!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Keyboard!

   In my quest to be Final Cut Extraordinaire, I got myself a new keyboard! So pumped. Actually it was pretty lucky I got it in the first place. I had been having crazy luck last week with the Goodwill a few towns over (laptop stand, $40 slide trombone for a friend) and wound up finding this old Mac G5 keyboard for 5 bucks. After bringing it home I hopped on eBay and lo and behold, a set of G5 keys for FCP for for $20! These keyboards normally go for $150 and I just snagged it for $25, so this is pure gold to me. The only problem now is I need more stuff to edit!!