hortont · blog · video

α ↔ ω : The End

2009.12.10 in school and video

Today marked the end of a somewhat awesome semester of Intermediate Video; with that, of course, marked the end of our final projects.

I've got a lot of stories to tell about this project, but very little time right now to tell them! There's a big test that I need to do well on tomorrow (the last one was during the week I was out sick; I ended up taking it right after I got better, to not-so-great-effect), as well as a lovely RCOS presentation that I need to prepare. So, stories later.

For now, there's a copy of the video at YouTube (I apologize for the bars and tone; the professor requires them, and I forgot to remove them before uploading; jump to 0:30 to skip them!). Watch it in HD!

Or, if you're adventurous (and have a lot of time), there's a 400+MB H.264@720p version on Jayne. (not currently available)

The music (which I made overnight last night, in Logic, and isn't very good) is around, too.

It was a fun video to make, anyway! I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the data; the RAWs are wayyyyy too big to keep around, but the Apple Intermediate files are only a few gigabytes, so I might (should) keep them.

α ↔ ω : More Pictures

2009.12.03 in school and video

Dill, grown, reaching for the light

A young Shiitake mushroom

More baby basil

A plant, soon to die

A snaking beanstalk

α ↔ ω : The Process

2009.11.25 in school and video

Now that you've heard my long diatribe on why I need to take tens of thousands of frames of growing plants (totaling hundreds — or possibly thousands — of gigabytes), I'll explain my process for managing and processing the images (the technical side of things), in case anyone ever wants to do something similar...

I've got two cameras for this project; a D80, and a Coolpix 8700. They're both way beyond the point where quality is a problem when compressing down to my destination format (HD@720p, or @1080p if Nate gets his way). The D80 has an antique 55mm Micro-Nikkor attached (along with a PK-13 extension tube to get to 1:1 if I need it); the 8700 has a reasonable macro feature on the built-in lens.

Both cameras are set on full-manual — shutter speed, aperture, white balance, focus, everything. The D80 is outputting RAWs; the 8700 is only outputting JPEGs (for reasons I'll explain in a minute) — this means that a shot from the D80 is about 8MB, and a shot from the 8700 is about 1MB.

Each camera takes a picture once a minute. To achieve this, the D80 (which doesn't ship with an intervalometer feature, and I have yet to finish my intervalometer project) is tethered (via a nice, standard USB-A-to-USB-mini-B cable) to my EeePC running Ubuntu. The Eee is connected to an external (USB) 160GB "buffer" hard drive.

The general flow of photos from the D80 to Final Cut follows something like the following:

  • a) gphoto2 instructs the camera to take a picture (every 60 seconds).
    gphoto2 --capture-image-and-download --filename "%Y%m%d%H%M%S.nef" -I 60
  • b) The photo is taken, saved to the SD card, then immediately copied to the 160GB hard drive (by gphoto2) and deleted from the camera.
  • c) Cron runs a script every hour that rsyncs the photos to a large (2TB) pool of storage on Jayne (I manually check occasionally to make sure that the 160GB drive isn't running out of space, and remove the copied pictures when it is; I haven't made this automatic simply as an extra layer of backup in case something goes bad).
    rsync -a /home/hortont/timelapse jayne.hortont.com:Backups/
  • d) Every few hours (or more often, if I'm bored), I use Adobe Camera Raw to render the most recent NEFs (still on Jayne, over the network) into a bunch of JPEGs on Kaylee's disk, fixing saturation and contrast problems on the way, as well as setting a reasonable white balance.
  • e) I then use Quicktime 7 (damnit, Apple, fix Quicktime X!) to render the image sequence to 720p H.264 — this is just for observation, not for editing. I watch the video a few times, show it to people, etc.
  • f) If I'm happy with what I've got and am done with the current plant/angle/lighting/whatever, I go back to Quicktime 7 (after having rendered all of the frames with Camera Raw), and export to Apple Intermediate at the resolution of the camera frames. I keep the full resolution so that I have lots of pixels to play with in Final Cut, for things like SmoothCam, and so that I can choose the crop later. This results in gigantic video files, but they're still easily less than half the size of the JPEGs (and ~1/10th the size of the RAWs).
The above process would be more or less the same for the 8700, except that I have no idea where the nonstandard tethering cable that Nikon was using back-in-the-day is, so I have to the 2GB CF card on the camera. This means that RAW is out of the question (sadface), so all of the steps up until e above are unnecessary for this camera (with a significant loss of maneuverability with the images in post, as well as the fact that I then have to take the card out of the camera every few hours — which of course disturbs the timelapse and adds a slight hassle).

α ↔ ω : An Introduction

2009.11.25 in school and video

I realized recently that I never actually introduced this project; a lot of people around me have already heard about it (or been directly affected by it, by being asked to put up with shutter noise every minute for the last few days or to fill up bowls with water), so I forgot! The basic idea is that I don't like filming people, because schedules are hard to coordinate, it's hard to find people who are convincing actors, etc.; I also don't like the quality of video that comes from the PDX-10s (or, to be honest, the higher-end-but-older-PD-170s) that the school provides for us to use. I don't have access to a video camera at all that would satisfy me, quality-wise, as I come from the super-crisp world of still photography!

Anyway; I decided I wanted to do something completely avoiding both human actors and video cameras for my final video project (after having dealt with both of these things for the first two projects, to reasonable success — but without a lot of comfort). So I proposed a short (~5 minute) video on "the birth and death of things". This elicited a "what!? you have 80 years?!" from one of my classmates; I noted that "things" in this case would be plants, and perhaps insects (molds/fungi have since been added to the list), since they are a) easy to give life to, and b) legal to kill within the timeframe of the project ;-)

So now I have to take video, with my DSLR (and my old Nikon point-'n-shoot; I need lots of video!), of a bunch of plants being born (and, later, dying). I ordered a ton of growing supplies: lights, greenhouse domes, seeds, pots, soilless mix, etc., as well as some fabric and various other supplies.

The initial plan was to fabric-off a chunk of our "porch" (it has walls on all sides, but the glass is missing from two of the windows), in order to make a situation in which I controlled all of the light in the room, so that lighting on the plants would be consistent between day and night. So, once the fabric got here, I set to work. I succeeded in making a blacked out area; unfortunately, plants didn't seem to want to grow in the mid-thirty-degree-F weather that seems to be hanging around Troy. Bummer!

Luckily, I had a set of herbs (basil, dill, and something else which I can never remember even though I look it up every day — it's cilantro!) growing in the warmth of our kitchen windowsill. When I got back to Troy this Sunday, the basil was just starting to pop out, so I decided to put it under the camera. I ended up taking apart my dresser to fabricate a warm completely-enclosed growing space; this is currently the most successful of my growing areas (the third is under my desk; I believe that success is just a few days off there — unfortunately, I'm leaving for Thanksgiving later today!).

So, yeah! That's the plan, anyway!

α ↔ ω : The Beginnings

2009.11.24 in school and video

I'm beginning to see tiny bits of success trying to make plants grow for my final Intermediate Video project... in fact, I already have ~20GB of frames (from two cameras). Some cool video, some crap. It's going to be a long journey!



The Usual Suspects : That's a Wrap!

2009.10.15 in school and video

After I got home from Boston and finished Tuesday's homework, it was time to finish up my recreation of the last three minutes of The Usual Suspects. I had edited a good deal of the video while on the train; during that part, I had an epiphany of ridiculousness, as I realised I was editing video, composing music, and mixing audio on a 1800s era transportation device, using an inch-thick slab of aluminum and silicon... quite ridiculous!

I had a lot of trouble composing the background music for this on the train; once I got home, I borrowed Robb's mini-keyboard, and things got a lot better.

The raw music, for your listening "pleasure":

Background Music!

The Final Chord!

What you've all been waiting for, the video!, or Quicktime+H.264 format

The short-and-silly blooper reel!, or Quicktime+H.264 format

Nate's face (in not-quite-police-sketch-mode), which comes printing out of the printer as the reveal takes place:

The final cast list is also up. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to convince as many people as I would have liked to help me, so there were some shots which were infeasible, and I ended up playing quite a few people (Kobayashi and Keaton, most importantly, but also all of the rest of the usual suspects, except Verbal, of course).

I now have to figure out what I'm going to do next! We have one more project; the only requirement is that it be between three and 12 minutes long... that's awfully open-ended for me! We'll see! I'd really love if I could avoid having people in my next project (not that I don't love you guys, but it's a hassle working around a bunch of people's class schedules); I'd be even more happy if I could avoid the ER (that's equipment, not emergency), by doing something involving only what I can do with my still camera. We'll see, again!

TUS : And so it begins...

2009.10.13 in school and video

I just got back from GNOME Summit Boston; I'll write about that experience at a later date... I edited together the first 2/3 or so of the video on the train on the way down to Boston (I had to work on proglang homework on the way back, which I somehow finished within the bounds of a single day), and tonight I started throwing the audio montage on. I'm really not sure what I'm going to do about the music, though, because there's simply no way I can duplicate the whole thing in time. At least, not if I want it to sound good...

Also, Nate sprained his ankle, so recording the last bits of video tomorrow is going to be really awkward. In addition to the fact that I don't have any extra actors to be the few remaining people. Really bad.

Remind me not to do anything for my final project (the next project) that requires cooperation; I'm really bad at shepherding people/asking people for help/etc... and it's not good!

We'll see. It'll get done, somehow.

TUS : Mug Smash!

2009.10.09 in school and video

This was hard.

I can't believe how hard it is to break a mug. We had to break it into two pieces with a hammer, then hold it together while dropping it (with liquid in it!). It worked out not-too-bad; we then slowed it down to 25%, which is a little sketchy because of the already-really-low framerate, but Motion seems to have done a reasonably good job making it not look horrible.

TUS : Props

2009.09.27 in school and video

Connor and I went to Goodwill and Walmart today, in search of props; then Mike and I went to the VCC to print lots of pages of old FBI/LAPD crime reports, and some very special (read: TUS-specific) pages. The results:

The original 'big board' in the movie:

My board:

Kujan (will be played by Connor), with tie, suspenders, and coffee cup:

Matt, uncooperatively modeling the ties:

The mug (we got two, since we have to break one!):

Kujan's suspenders, on Matt:

TUS : Shots, Audio, a Script

2009.09.25 in school and video

I guess I'm going to write a little bit every few days about the process of this whole recreate-the-last-3:30 of The Usual Suspects thing.

Connor is going to be Kujan (the investigator/police person). We'll have to find/fake suspenders, somehow. For him, and for Rabin (the other cop). Need to find someone good for Verbal (this is vital), and someone reasonable for Rabin. Kobayashi, too, and Keaton, and another extra cop. That's all, really, most of the other people are from behind or such so they can be anybody.

I sat down and stepped through the video and wrote down every shot. Fun! I started, but haven't quite finished (it's done now), stepping through and writing down all of the audio (well, primarily the dialogue, I'll worry about music later).

I also found a copy of the script online. Unfortunately it's a little different from what actually ended up happening... and misses the audio montage during the last 3:00 or so.

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