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Canon EOS Crop Sensor for HD
APS-C sensor cameras including the 80D, 70D, 7D Mk. II, 7D, EOS M and Rebel models for HD video recording.


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Old July 16th, 2010, 07:25 AM   #1
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Time Lapse Question

I have the TC 80N3 controller and have been using it for time lapse effects. So far I've only used it for 10 minute intervals at 1 frame per second. I've had great results with manual exposure because the lighting has not changed much in the shots I've set up. Now I've been asked to do a time lapse sequence of a cityscape and harbor that goes from broad daylight into night. Does anyone have advice on which metering mode or approach to exposure I should use? I'd rather walk away and come back when it's done, but not if it's going to compromise the shot.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 08:01 AM   #2
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If you want it to go into night you'll want manual exposure. If it's on auto the camera will try to keep it bright by increasing the exposure so it'll never go dark!
Meter correctly for daylight and then just leave it at that - presumably this harbour has streetlights etc and is not completely pitch black? These lights should show up nicely with the daylight exposure.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 11:58 AM   #3
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That will get you a nice fade to black.

One way to do it is to bracket your exposures, allowing for the increase in exposure you'll need to capture the night scene correctly. Then you can either frame blend each set of exposures or separate each into its own timeline and fade between when appropriate. Time consuming - but effective.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 03:29 PM   #4
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I think I have to shoot a test... Bracketing sounds interesting. The camera probably can be set up to auto bracket each single exposure from the controller.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 07:29 AM   #5
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This is almost exactly what you will be doing .... this is a cityscape I shot in Miami a few months ago. Beginning at 7.15pm to 9.30pm - from daylight to night.

YOU WILL NEED APERTURE PRIORITY setting - there really is no other way. If you go to timescapes.org you will see many pro's trying other methods such as bracketing manually and they fail. Philip Bloom has many examples on his site of day to night .... what we call the holy grail of timelapse... and he resorts mostly to aperture priority when the light will change. Sometimes this may cause flicker - or not. But that risk is preferable to complete failure.
In my example I set up correct exposure in aperture priority and set the intervals at six seconds. You need to allow that the shutter will open longer as light diminishes ... by 9pm my shutter speed was at five seconds. Also shoot in raw but at small size so that the 7D will not require to buffer the image as it saves to the card. The small size is still larger than 1920 pixels. Do not shoot jpegs.
Hope this helps.

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Old July 20th, 2010, 09:39 AM   #6
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Jon, I have to disagree. I've had success using bracketing in manual mode. It can be done...
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Old July 20th, 2010, 09:55 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
YOU WILL NEED APERTURE PRIORITY setting - there really is no other way.
Miami Timelapse on Vimeo
It's not the only way, it depends on what you want. In your shot it doesn't go day to night as such, it stays bright, which is fine if that's what you're after (nice shot by the way). But if you're wanting it to go from day to night to go into a nightime sequence for instance then you'll actually WANT it to go dark (either pitch black or lit by street lights, car light trails, lights in buildings etc.) In this case it'll have to be manual otherwise the auto exposure will actively prevent what you're trying to achieve.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 11:37 AM   #8
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I prefer manual bracketing. Changing exposures causes flicker.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 12:00 PM   #9
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I did'nt say other methods cannot work, what I tried to say was that the failure rate for methods other than aperture priority in day to night timelapses is high and why many resort to AP.
Manually bracketing during the timelapse is hit and miss to say the least. Many avid timelapse pro's are writing code and scripts to make manual bracketing work without manually changing exposure. I tried a few methods inc. bracketing and spent way too many hours in post.
A fixed aperture does not work because who wants the daylight to go to black - I chose the view below - looking toward downtown Miami knowing the lights would help the viewer feel it is the correct exposure.

Until a DSLR can step exposure in very tiny increments a day to night timelapse will stay the holy grail. For me, aperture priority gives me more success than switching to bulb or manual exposure.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 02:26 PM   #10
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"who wants the daylight to go to black" ?

Well some do, I've done plenty of fade to black timelapses, it just depends upon where your sequence is going, they're used all the time.
It's quite straightforward - if you want it to go dark use manual, if you want it to keep the light up use auto and get a mains supply or a big battery as when the shutter speeds start to go into maybe 30 seconds or so it uses a lot of power!
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Old July 20th, 2010, 02:40 PM   #11
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What do you mean when you write?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
I did'nt say other methods cannot work
Did you forget what you wrote earlier?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
YOU WILL NEED APERTURE PRIORITY setting - there really is no other way.

Also you wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
Manually bracketing during the timelapse is hit and miss to say the least
I beg to differ; you can do a recce at the right time of day and take some test shots or use a meter - you can even look up approximate exposures on the Kodak website. Check the forecast, shoot RAW, ETTR - there's a lot you can do...

Also, you advocate shooting in aperture priority and then you write:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Braeley View Post
A fixed aperture does not work because who wants the daylight to go to black
Aperture priority maintains a constant aperture and changes exposure by changing shutter-speed, so I'm not sure what you mean here???

I agree with Steve, there are lots of reasons why shooting in aperture priority is wrong; I know some people advocate it, which is probably why so many night city timelapse shots I see are overexposed.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 02:50 PM   #12
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I like the aperture priority method. You can always add a slow fade-to-black in post, but using this method, you get a viewable image and still the idea that night has fallen.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 03:41 PM   #13
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Whatever floats your boat

I've tried bracketing and AP, too, with moderate success with both. Bracketing certainly is the bigger time commitment, and I'd shoot JPEGs, personally, to avoid the extra noise in the shadows when it fades to night. Plus, when you're dealing with that volume of photos, you probably don't need the control RAW would give you. That being said, bracketing produces a cleaner, more natural time lapse.

Since you're shooting 7D, a third option is just using video. I've also done this, and I loved the results. You lose some of the jerky time lapse feel, but since you have to speed up the footage so much in post, you get some of that back. Even a 16GB CF card will give you, what, around 48 minutes of coverage? Find out what time the sun sets, and start shooting 30 mintes to an hour before sunset (depending on if you want to switch out cards). I expose the first segment correctly, then ever-so-slightly tweak the aperture at each 10-12 minute segment. You have to pay pretty close attention to your camera to ensure you don't go 5 minutes without shooting,

Then take the segments (I had 4 segments of roughly 12 minutes each) through your normal workflow video. You can even shoot flat and put some nice filters on in post to make the clouds, sun, etc. pop. Put a really long cross fade on the seams, and they become unnoticable.

On second thought, this may not work as well in the city. I was on a deserted beach, so I didn't have to worry about the continuity of foreground objects during the brief shooting lapses or cross fades. For what it's worth, the results I got with this were pretty awesome.

Good luck!
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Old July 21st, 2010, 07:41 AM   #14
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Please read the entire post. "there really is no other way" means this is my preferred method and I make a point that I think bracketing has a higher failure rate and I state that I have tried other methods.
When I say that bracketing in a timelapse is hit or miss, I mean the entire method (and not the exposure), due to the entire process requiring work that many photographers may not be capable of, so I see more failures on the forums. Also when I say fixed aperture - I mean one aperture setting set at daylight (hence fixed) with no manual adjustment - this goes to an unnaceptable black in my opinion. Most times I adjust the night segnent to go darker in post.
But instead of dissecting my posts, maybe can we see a video?

I take timelapses when I am on location or in opportune moments (in my sample I only had 2 hours use of the location) - often there is no time for prior tests and no going back - I have one shot to get it. So I go for the method which gives me a higher success rate for day to night timelapses, thats all. Other timelapses are done in manual mode with fixed aperture.
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Old July 21st, 2010, 08:17 AM   #15
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Jon, thanks for the example and the clear instructions. I am going to be in a similar situation for the shot I'm planning. I will have one chance at it and not a lot of time to work on it in post. Although I could physically sit there with the camera for a couple of hours and do tweaks, I'd prefer to take an easier route for this one. I think if I can get as good a take as you did there, I'll be pretty satisfied. I wonder if it could be improved slightly by adding some exposure compensation at the right moment, perhaps in steps, so that when the lights come on the image could go a couple of stops under. I might also try Auto White Balance (or whatever it's called), so the night side of the sequence doesn't go too orange. Hopefully I'm going to get a chance to shoot a few tests next week when I'm in NYC. If the results aren't too embarrassing I'll post them here. I can see how bracketing could potentially produce superior results, I'm just afraid that my post processing skills might slow me down to the point of diminishing returns.
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