Saturday, 08 May 2010

I decided yesterday to start using my Nikon D200 digital still SLR camera to do some interval shooting, and then took the series of images to make a time-lapse film. It’s something I’ve messed with before a little bit, but for some reason I decided I wanted to dive right in.

I made a couple so-so quick and dirty videos yesterday, and then shot some night clouds moving across the star-lit sky last night. The nice thing about living where I do is that there’s lots of sky and trees to help frame the shots, and the city lights are fairly far away. So clouds get a glow on a long exposure at night but the stars show up nicely, too.

Anyhow, another cool thing about this new little hobby tangent is that I can spend three to five minutes setting up a interval series shot, click a couple buttons, and then walk away for about 90 minutes while the camera takes its pictures. That works great for quickly starting a shot between work calls or what have you.

I used to be a photographer professionally – back when people still shot film. That was two careers ago, and I miss it at times. So I have a pretty solid understanding of how things work for different types of exposures, and all the weirdness that goes with long exposures. But with digital cameras things get messy when you do exposures more than a second, and the whole video noise thing is really pretty annoying.

At any rate, I came up with a few videos, so I thought I would post them here along with a few noted about how they’re made.

My initial videos were kind of messy, but you can click the links to see them if you like. Gotta start somewhere, heh.

I’ll start here with a video I made today, which took advantage of the rather spectacular clouds building in the sky over my house this afternoon. To see this video in its highest quality, view it in HD at YouTube.

The night shot at the end of the above video was filmed last night. I didn’t quite capture the stars as brightly as wanted, but it still turned out pretty nice.

So, tonight I decided I wanted to try again. I adjusted the shooting exposure (went from a 10-second exposure to a 15-second one) and the result was the quick video test below, which shows the stars much more clearly I think.

Night clouds and stars take two from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

It’s not really too hard to do these time-lapse films. I have a camera that will do interval shooting, and I also have a remote intervalometer shutter release for it. Some consumer cameras have this feature, some require an external controller like the one I have.

Once the series of photos is made, I import them into QuickTime Pro. You just choose File > Open Image Sequence and then point at the first file in the numerical sequence. As long as the files are one complete numerical list, QuickTime will import them in the right order. Then I export the files as MP4, 1920x1080 and 5,000 Kbps or higher bit rate.

After that I pulled the film segments with the soundtrack audio into Windows Live Movie Maker on Windows 7, produced the video with transitions and what have you, then exported to a new hi-def video. I also automatically published to YouTube.

That’s about it. I will try to post a more detailed tutorial sometime soon, after I do a few more time lapse sessions.



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Photography | Random Stuff | Tablet PC
Saturday, 08 May 2010 01:52:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 05 May 2010

Once again this year, I have been asked to shoot an Independence Day fireworks show for Western Display Fireworks, and this year it will be in beautiful Anacortes, Washington up on Fidalgo Island, next to the San Juan Islands. I’ve never been there before, and am looking forward to the shoot. There’s an airport up there, so I may just have to plan a weekend flight up that way to scout out the site before the show.

If you think you might be interested in being part of the volunteer fireworks crew, this is your invitation to find out more and see if it’s something you’d be interested in. It’s hard work, but that never hurt anyone. We do some heavy lifting at times, and it’s a bit of a dirty job. But once you’ve experienced it, it’s awfully hard to stay away the next time around. I first smelled the smoke and caught the commercial fireworks bug back in 2000, and soon after that I got licensed as a pyrotechnician/operator and have been shooting shows ever since.

This year we will head up to Anacortes on July 3rd, set up all day on the 4th, shoot the show and clean up after (yes, it’s quite a long day), and then return to our respective homes on the 5th. You'll handle the shells, set up and load the mortars, help wire them all up to the firing equipment, learn all about how they work, participate in a full set of safety lessons, and - most importantly - you'll be a key part of bringing an awesome July 4th celebration to the people of Anacortes and the surrounding area.

We need a crew of about 6-8 people, and at this point I have myself plus three other people confirmed and on the crew list. So, there’s room for a few more! Pretty much anyone who can handle explosives per the federal government can participate (I’ll explain those rules to people who express an interest, but suffice it to say pretty much anyone can help).

Last year I asked for volunteers here and on Twitter and we ended up with a great crew of people who had a lot of fun. So, I’m hoping for the same thing this year!

The fact is, it’s not often you get a chance to blow up thousands of dollars of someone else’s stuff, and we’re talking about the real thing here – not the little stuff you buy at your local fireworks stand. This year’s show consists of 3-inch to 6-inch diameter shells and is bigger than the show we shot last year in Des Moines, Washington (a couple of videos from last year’s show are embedded below to get your appetite going).

If you think you might be interested, drop me a line at 503-766-2258 or email me (address is in the side bar). I’m glad to answer questions!

Here are the videos from last year – The first one was shot from right in the middle of the mortar tubes at the firing location, and the other from the spectator end of the pier. Enjoy!

July 4th 2009 Fireworks - Des Moines, WA from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

Fireworks - July 4th 2009 - Des Moines, WA from John Losey on Vimeo.



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Fireworks | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 22:16:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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image Okay, file this one under super-cool. A company called Parrot has built and demonstrated a flying model helicopter (quadracopter?) called the AR Drone. With four blades, it’s controlled by an iPhone using WiFi and the phone’s motion-sensing capabilities.

It also streams video from a camera mounted on the flying machine back to the iPhone. It’s a like mini predator drone for your living room or back yard (well, sort of).

I want one. Or at least to play with one. As a product it looks to be well-executed and a lot of fun.

Check out the Web 2.0 conference demo video below, as well as a Parrot video. A whole slew of additional videos from Parrot are available on YouTube.

You can also find out a whole lot more about the AR Drone from the Parrot web site – Just click here.

 



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Apple | Geek Out | Tech
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 11:38:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 03 May 2010

On Friday evening last week I stood in line for about an hour along with a slew of geeks and even a few nerds at the Apple Store in Tigard, Oregon to get one of the first Apple iPad 3G models. There were about 35 or 40 people ahead of me in line, and a few more than that in line behind me by the time the 5pm release clock rolled around and the Apple staff came screaming down the hallway in the mall.

Within only 15 minutes I was already on my way back out the door of the store with a 64GB 3G model in a bag, and about $930 less in the bank (I got the AppleCare contract based on past experience). I picked up the model with the most storage simply because (again based on experience) I have tended to skimp in that area and have always come to regret the choice. So, this time I was all-in.

As I have mentioned before here, I use my iPhone for all sorts of things, but especially for aviation related tasks. Since the Foreflight aviation software for pilots was released in an iPad HD version in early April, I knew that was going to become my electronic flight bag. In fact, I might not have even bought an iPad at this point if it wasn't for Foreflight. I waited for the 3G model before buying because its built-in GPS can be used by Foreflight's maps and location-based information system. I'll write a Foreflight HD review soon. It's quite awesome, especially considering this is the first rev if the HD version. I can't wait to see what they improve and add over time. Check out http://www.foreflight.com for details.

After using it for a few days, though, there are lots more reasons I'm glad I made the jump and picked this thing up.

There are so many well-worn cliche statements about the iPad that people have used over the past month. Some of them are especially true, though. For example, reading and writing email on this thing is awesome. It's the way it should be.

Not everything is so perfect in iPad land, though. I wrote this blog post in a program (BlogPress) that is available in a HD version that uses the full iPad screen space, but it won't publish to my site. I guess the metaweblog API isn't good enough for it. :) Unfortunately it appears a good, solid, full featured blog authoring app is a pretty serious gap in the bazillions of apps available on the App Store. There's an opportunity just waiting for someone to tackle it.

The 3G radio, as one pretty much has to expect, pulls down the charge on the battery faster than the iPad model that's just wifi. Of course, you can turn 3G and wifi off and on as you like, independently. How much battery power is actually used with a 3G connection seems to be dependent -- and this makes logical sense -- on the distance from the cell towers and the relative transmit power needed to make the radio connections. Id imagine its also dependent on the type of connection and the frequency band in use on a given tower. Common sense applies to battery life just like any other device. On both models backlight brightness also contributes to batty life, of course.

I've started searching for a high-output car charger, since the iPad needs more than the typical iPhone charger puts out. Kensington and a couple other companies are making a 2.1-watt charger that will allow the iPad to charge in the car in a reasonable amount of time, so I will be picking up one of those soon.

A few of my favorite other apps that have a place on my home screen page:

I set up and tried the AT&T navigator turn by turn software that I already had running on my iPhone. Even though its not iPad screen optimized and I have to use the zoom resized to go full screen, it works great and even better than on the iPhone 3G. The iPad has much louder and clearer voice navigation (and music sound for that matter) and the GPS is fast and more accurate. It just runs better overall. The iPad is a terrific GPS device it seems. Time for some custom iPad dash mounts. Do a YouTube search and you'll see a couple.

I've started using one iPhone app again that I'd let languish for some time because again its just better on the iPad even though you have to zoom it to use the full screen: BeeJive Instant Messenger. The extra real estate and bigger typing surface is great. I hope they release a HD iPad version soon.

The Safari browser on the iPad is awesome and almost so second nature I forgot to mention it. I did notice though that some sites optimized to work with iPhone are a little weird in the iPad browser. Google Voice is a good example (for both the mobile and standard interfaces especially when it comes to the voice mail playback areas of the interface).

Netflix for the iPad is pure genius, and as more flicks are released for streaming it just keeps getting more and more worthwhile. Hulu needs to get their iPad act together now, for real. The ABC video app is cool and now it plays over 3G with a new update, too. (updated) word is they will be updating it so you can play video over the 3G. Right now ABC's app only streams over wifi.

My favorite game so far is FlightControl HD, a top-down view map game where you land airplanes and helicopters and keep them from crashing into each other. Relatively simple, pure genius. Addictive stuff. I haven't tried many other games just because I'm not a huge gamer. Some of the driving games sure look fun though.

The Weather Channel HD app is also really slick. Lots of great info there, in a well-used piece of screen real estate.

There are others, as well but that gives you an idea. I'll write more at a later time.

Anyone else got a list of killer apps for iPad 3G I should be sure to check out?



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Apple | Geek Out | Mobile | Tech
Monday, 03 May 2010 17:33:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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