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!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Occupy the NH Primary

   The past few days I have been very busy doing coverage of the "Occupy the Primary" movement in Manchester, NH and around the state. Starting Friday several occupy movements took the trek up to New Hampshire to form a temporary camp located in Veteran’s Park, right across the street from the courtyard where news organizations such as CBS have set up camp for the duration of the primary.

   Traveling into the Occupy camp for the first time since they were evicted of Victory Park, I got the impression of a stronger and more organized group of people. I was pleased to see plenty of laughing, singing and drum-playing people--even a group immersed at the art tent making signs and other unrelated paintings.

Vermin Supreme
   While I am sure most of the candidates currently in the runnings are thinking the occupy movement is the last thing they want to be around, one of the most noticeable people at the encampment that day was none other than Presidential Candidate Vermin Supreme himself. Ponies for every American, now I can get behind that.

   Meeting up with several people I knew there, I was introduced to some members of Occupy Boston and everyone talked shop over coffee at Greg's Place down the street from the park. After grabbing a little more footage from the camp I called it a night.

   The next day was even more exciting than the last. After arriving I saw what must have been at least a hundred people gathered at the entrance of the park. Soon after a march began down Elm Street with a Pride Rally taking the lead, the Leftist Marching Band playing away, banners flying left and right and people chanting "We are the 99%!" An interview with Ian Struthers of Join the Impact after the march explains:
Basically, what we're here for is to explain how the 1% has a really heavy impact on the LGBT community, and we are part of this movement and we need to have some attention focused specifically on [us] because we have been ... oppressed for so long.
The 1% is often affiliated with a lot of corporations, organizations who are mainly based with the religious right who link politics, business and policy together.
Attempting to open a portal to another dimension!
At one point the march paused in front of a Bank of America with cries of "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" After everyone gathered in Victory Park where I met up with and  who were also covering the event. I did a few more interviews and then headed up to a local church for lunch.

   After heading back to the camp at Veteran’s Park I bumped into Captain Robert Cunha of the Manchester Police Department as he was talking to the protesters. Earlier when coordinating this event, the organizers were told that nobody could stay in the camp past curfew but apparently there was a misunderstanding about what could be left in the park overnight, so he was there to work it out. Throughout the existence of Occupy NH the relationship with the Police has always been a positive one--even with the aforementioned eviction Captain Cunha had nothing negative to say:
We've been very pleased with the relationship we've had, even during a difficult period in October when we had to clear the park for the park curfew. The folks from Occupy stood by their principals, but were peaceful. They did not resist, they were cooperative and are fighting their battle in court--They didn't take it personally against the officers.
   He went on to talk about their first time encountering Occupy NH during a benefit for Footrace for the Fallen which was to take place in the same park, the protesters elected to go to Victory Park instead and even helped set up barricades for the race and offered coffee to the officers. "That was the first gesture that gave us a very good reading on how our relationship with Occupy was going to be."

The madness that was the Free Speech Zone
   Later that evening marked the beginning of the Republican debate and so Occupy headed over to St. Anselms College with a few tricks up their sleeve. Arriving at the entrance of the school, banners of a Democrat/Republican symbol--half-donkey, half-elephant with dollar bill symbols tying them together--marked "Money out of Politics" could be seen everywhere. As the debate began a coffin arrived and so began a somber march onto the campus as they held a funeral procession for the American Dream. Nearing the designated "Free Speech Area" the procession was greeted with the yells and jeers of supporters of every other candidate out there (save Vermin Supreme who was absolutely thrilled that everyone could make it to his victory party).

   Once inside the yelling and shouting and chanting only continued until, just in the nick of time, the Leftist Marching Band arrived with fanfare and walked right up to the coffin playing a very nice jazz dirge. Four people surrounded by candles were kneeling next to the flower-covered coffin. Their hands were clasped and eyes closed as they awaited the end of the song. The eulogy began over the Peoples Mic as people stepped forward one by one to say their goodbyes.
American Dream. How I barely new ye [sic]. Your beauty was but an illusion ... I found that actually you are the opium of the greedy that have become so greedy they do not wish to just pursue their own American Dream. They wish to suck it from from everybody else. From our blood. And when I realized this I realize I can no longer support you.
New Occupy NH banner in front of their camp.
   After marching out of the college I myself took off to Portsmouth for a premiere of some films I had worked on and unfortunately after catching a cold that evening I was off to a late start and missed the Newt Gingrich hilarity and after most of the camp left to a Romney event, I hung around and got a few more interesting interviews, some footage of the drum circle and checked out the shiny new "Money Runs on Politics" sign. And gosh darn-it wouldn't you know, the cold got the better of me once again so I decided to take the day off and missed the Obama Headquarters Die-In. Well at least I have had a chance to sit down and look at all this great footage and catch up on some pending work from this weekend. Tomorrow I plan to be back in action for the last of the New Hampshire Primary and then I can get this video all done and ready! Keep an eye out for it and for more updates subscribe here and to  on Twitter!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pats Peak, A New Season!

   Pats Peak is open and snow is on the mountain! It was a slow start unfortunately--I mean considering we had more snow in one day of October then in the entire last two months of 2011--but none the less its started.

   The season opener video was something I was looking forward to do, and I was very happy with the end result. It was a good success on Pats Peak Facebook page as well, so maybe that had something to do with it. Like I said, there wasn't much snow around, only a few trails were even open so I had to shoot around that, but overall you can tell everyone was excited for the doors to the new ski season to be open.

   There are a few more videos worth mentioning from this season, a few months ago they had their Octoberfest festival complete with chainsaw sculptures, oom-pah bands and a Civil War reenactment, not to mention a ski sale, beer and horse-drawn skiers! The other video is of the day after Christmas, and the first day of night skiing and I also plan on making a trip up to the Peak again tomorrow to work on a new one. Hope you enjoy the videos!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Music Video Project

   So recently I have been working on a set of music videos for a local companies marketing campaign. Its been pretty intense, with three days of shooting I have produced six 60-second music videos for them. The company has planed to distribute the videos to prospective clients (all of which are household names) in a month or so, so hopefully I will be able to post them up here at some point--because at the moment its a super secret non-disclosure spec ops project!

   Its been fun shooting some funny stuff around Manchester but I'm looking forward to some new projects I have coming up in this month. I am still working on weekly Pats Peak videos (check back soon to see some I already did this year), there are some interesting developments with Darwin's Waiting Room Comedy and this weekend I might be covering some of the NH primaries. So check back here for more updates and follow @NJEdgar on Twitter to see whats going on!