A Stitch in Timelapse…

Timelapse, the process of apparently speeding up time, is something I seem to do a lot of. It can make the task of filming ‘watching grass grow’ subjects into something quite interesting. The EX1 has been great for this, especially its slow shutter tricks. But timelapse, by its very nature, takes time – and often one will want to be letting something happen in front of the camera whilst you can be covering other things. Getting another EX1 just for that seems a little, well, over the top. Ideally, we’d have another little camera with high quality imagery and long battery life to cover these situations.

I once had such a little camera – a Pentax Optio 720Z – which had a great party trick: it was a compact cam that could do timelapse. Stick it somewhere quiet, set it to take a photo every minute or so, and leave it. A while later, up to 99 high resolution images to import into QuickTime Player (File –> Open Image Sequence), select a good codec, and you have a four second 25fps movie you can import into Final Cut Pro, even pan and zoom around in true Ken Morse style.

Well, it got stolen (from the office, not on a timelapse job!). And there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I trawled shops both real and virtual trying to find a good replacement camera with a built in intervalometer (the thing that enables you to do time lapse). Sure you can buy separate boxes, but it all gets complicated and you have to remember to bring it and have enough power in it, and you’ll need the right model for your camera. Plus some way to attach it to your tripod or whatever. The little Pentax was so much simpler.

To cut a long story short, I’ve bought a second-hand Nikon D200 rather than a happy-go-lucky Nikon D40x – Rick will be shaking his head in distain as he’s Canon man. I’ve always liked Nikon, and the D200 came with a useful f2.8 17-55 lens, a separate battery pack and some other bits for about the same price. But imagine my joy of joys when perusing Ken Rockwell’s great site (http://www.KenRockwell.com) – turns out that the D200 has a built-in intervalometer!

Sadly, the interesting Nikon D90, which does 24fps HD albeit with exposure limitations, does NOT have an intervalometer, and neither does the Canon EOS 5D MkII – which would be of great interest to me if it did 25fps HD even though the price tag is somewhat scary. The price of a Canon EOS 5D with a couple of zooms isn’t far off the price of a 35mm adaptor with rails and some secondhand lenses, with the Canon producing a whole new look. I can imagine it being a brilliant talking-head and candid camera. But 30fps to 25fps conversion and audio recording issues are pretty tough to crack outside the indie film world. And lets be frank: the DSLR form factor isn’t really optimised for shooting video.

A stills camera that can shoot HD did seem an odd proposal for me, but I am warming up to the idea. Not as your main camera, not even as B-Roll, but in the same category as lipstick-cams, pole cams and the like: special purpose, ‘special sauce’ shots and sequences.

And I’d be sure to bring a decent stills camera to every shoot.

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