Wednesday, March 23, 2011

360° Time Lapse at the Hard Rock Hotel

So I planned a mini-vaca to visit some friends in San Diego.  I rolled up at the local Hard Rock Hotel in the Gaslamp District of San Diego, CA.  Ordered me up some Woodstock suite, complete with walkaround balcony for some good quality lapsin'.  I applied some discipline to myself on this trip, such as one camera bag, 2 lenses only, and no large tripod.  Also, don't think, just make.

< "Stay classy, San Diego..."

< The Gaslamp District of San Diego.  It used to be the red light district for the Navy liberty weekends, but has since been renovated into a thriving arts and shopping district.

Not knowing what I would be encountering at the hotel room, I came prepared with a full array of rigs, clamps, and adapters.  All this gear, and my 17" laptop, fit snuggly in my Urban Disguise 60 camera bag.

< When I reached the room's balcony, I was very pleased with the multiple angles I could shoot.   I had the San Diego convention Center to one side, and the San Diego skyline to the other.  I also had a really low angle view of the Gaslamp District's busy streets.

< Sunsets are always a gamble, and I was disappointed that the sun went down behind another hotel.  Made the best of it by focusing on the sunset reflections in the windows of the buildings.

< Night #1 exploded into a monsoon in the streets of San Diego.  This time lapse was shot with the 60D, 50mm lens, and lenskirt.  I'll post the video time lapse when I finish the longer piece edit.

< I used the lenskirt, which did a great job cutting down the window reflections.  I mounted to the gorillapod and set up on a hotel chair.  The floor to ceiling windows of the Hard Rock were excellent for maximizing my shooting angles.

The weather finally cleared up enough to venture out onto the balcony for some sunshine time lapses.  I was running my 60D & iPhone (iTimelapse app), and clicking away.  One horrible overlook was forgetting to bring an ipod.   My new laptop didn't have my iTunes, and my iphone was busy working on the time lapse.  I contemplated silence, while bathing myself with the San Diego sunshine.

< I mounted the Camalapse egg timer to the Delkin Fat Gecko dual suction mount, and shot the 360 degree time lapse of the San Diego skyline and the Hard Rock Hotel.  I also used a Contour camera mount, that I improvised together with some gaffer's tape to hold the iPhone 4 in place.  I would've used the iPhone shockmount, but the winds were too strong.  Quick note: my new GLIF mount didn't arrive in time for this trip, but it would've worked great here.  Also, I'll never travel without the Delkin.  Let me repeat that: I'll never travel without the Delkin Fat Gecko.  So versatile, and sturdy.

Overall: I really liked the Delkin Gecko mount with the 60D and iPhone 4.  The lenskirt for the 60D worked really well for its first time in the field.  The Manfrotto suction cup malfunctioned, and never worked, also knocking out the Bogen Magic Arm.  I stuck with the Delkin and Gorillapod, which turned out to be my champions of the trip.  The Pedco Ultraclamp was also a great mounting option (especially with the Bogen), but I didn't use it as much as the others.  Good times.

< Rain Jacuz for the dedicated.  "Spring Break, my ass..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

iPhone 4 Two-Axis Time Lapse Rig

I had some free time to kill, so I hooked up my iPhone 4 with the Camalapse 360 ° egg timer, the Kessler ElektraDRIVE, and the Philip Bloom pocket dolly.  I created an affordable, two-axis time lapse rig for the iPhone 4.

< The Camalapse egg timer ($25) hoists the iPhone 4 and shockmount holder.

< The Kessler Oracle controller with the ElektraDRIVE motor pod and Philip Bloom pocket dolly.

< With the Kessler ElektraDRIVE 200 series motor pod.

< The shockmount holder fits onto mic stands, but also has a 1/4" f adapter to mount on top of the Camalapse egg timer.  It works great because you can get to the back of the camera to set up your shots.  However, outside in the wind, the iPhone 4 turns into a wobbly sail.

< I used the ElektraDRIVE 200 series motor, which is faster than the 500 series motor pod.  The speed of the egg timer is fairly matched by the speed of the 200 series motor pod.

< The Bogen Magic Arm (with additional adapter) mounted to the Philip Bloom pocket dolly made a nice way to skim the tops of the blades of grass.  I tried to find a way to mount the camera upside down (like HDSLR), but was thwarted by the auto-level of the iPhone 4.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: Kessler Oracle Controller & ElektraDRIVE Motor Pod

The review: I enjoy making time lapses so much, I invested in the Kessler Oracle Controller and ElektraDRIVE motion control system.  I've wanted to try out this gear for a long time now, so I was very excited to get started.  After watching several video tutorials, I connected the motor pod to the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly, and was up and running in less than 15 minutes.  It's a nice, tight seal between the dolly and motor pod, and a simple two-cable power up.  I ran off A/C socket power, while I charged the battery.  When it was ready, I connected to the Oracle Controller, and spent the better part of the day time lapsing with no power issues.  The "simple" set up in the Oracle was easy for me to get a quick start, and once I finished my 30 minute calibration, I was shooting my first motion-controlled time lapse.

< The battery-powered Kessler Oracle controller & elektraDRIVE motor pod with Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly.

< The Kessler motion control time lapse system.

< When using the outrigger feet of the pocket dolly for ground shots, you might need a monitor to be able to see your shot.  The IKAN v5600 is perfect for time lapses on the pocket dolly due to its light weight.

< Oracle controller resting on my improvised Redrock Micro 15mm rod holder.  The knee pads help with ground shots.

< iPhone 4 time lapse of my time lapse.

After several practice runs on the front porch, it was time to get the gear out in the field.  I packed up my gear into one 1510 Pelican case (Oracle, monitor, batteries), one camera bag (with 5DMKII, 60D, 70-200mm, 2x extender & 14mm wide), and the pocket dolly.    I chose a nice sunny spot at El Porto Beach in Manhattan Beach, CA, and quickly set up a low key time lapse.  The key to not being hassled in the field is to keep the gear as inconspicuous as possible (e.g. leave cases in the car).

< Out in the field shooting a beach lapse.  Very low key set up, and the stone bench made for a great level shooting platform (but no tight foreground).  I stashed the battery and Oracle under the bench, and enjoyed the sunny view.

<  The ElektraDRIVE 500 series motor pod connected to the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly.  I'm also rocking the 2x extender, and a Singh Ray ND filter.  My rule of thumb for the time lapse is one exposure every 10 seconds for over an hour.

Overall: This was my first experience with Kessler gear, and I'm very impressed with the simplicity & sturdy design of the system.  You can use the ElektraDRIVE for time lapses, and motorized dolly moves on small sliders like the Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly ($1000).  There's still plenty for me to discover like the smart lapse system in the Oracle, and any number of tweaks in the advanced mode (e.g. incline power, slow/fast ramp up/down).

From my initial test day with gear, I've already started to plan my epic single axis time lapse movie because the time lapse and slider possibilities are endless.  It's great gear, and at an affordable price ($1400) for the independent production company or specialized HDSLR filmmaker.

Ethics statement: I wrote this review because I purchased and love the equipment.  No company is sponsoring me.  I would not endorse a product I did not believe in.