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Old April 6th, 2011, 12:17 PM   #1
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Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hello,

I am a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and work with one of the rarest cave bat species in North America. The past couple of years we have been toying with the Sony DCR-HC46 and 62 handycam cameras in Nightshot mode to record bats flying in and out of caves. This method has worked well when we are counting total numbers of all bats as we can clearly see the bats, but the image quality is not high enough to make out individual species. As some of you may know, White Nose Syndrome is now decimating North American cave bat species (nearly 100% mortality of all bat species once a cave is infected with the fungus). Our priority now is to actually identify individual bat species exiting the caves. In order to do this, we must be able to clearly see the bats ears. I ordered two Sony HVRA1U cameras in hopes that the High Def clarity would help in identifying bats, but what I have found is that while in Nightshot the shutterspeed is auto set to 1/60 (or 30..not sure). Images are still blurry and not of high enough quality for us to actually identify the bat species. We have various 840nm and 940nm flood lamps illuminating the cave and the camera seems as if it should work if we could increase the shutterspeed as we have plenty of light. I know the issues Sony has had in the past with Nightshot and their reason for implementing restrictions, but am hoping that someone may have figured out a workaround.

I am also open to other suggestions as we only have this summer remaining to get accurate counts. We expect that the vast majority of bats in our area will not make it through this winter.

Thanks so much. I will try to answer any questions you may have about our gear so we can try to tweak our equipment. I am a biologist by training and am not very well versed in the technical lingo of the DV world, but will do my best.

Shea
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Old April 6th, 2011, 02:34 PM   #2
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi Shea,
Maybe try taking your question over to the Canon XF forum here: Canon XF Series HD Camcorders Forum at DVinfo.net
The XF 100/105 has an infrared mode & the quality is right up there! Not sure however if you are able to adjust shutter speeds etc. I'm sure though, that someone there will be able to answer your question.
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Bryce
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Old April 6th, 2011, 04:43 PM   #3
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi Shea
Can you use a red light with bats? If you can then you wouldn't need the nightshot mode. I've used it with a Trailmaster setup and it does work for other animals. Not very covert though, which is most likely not a problem for you.

Gordon
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Old April 6th, 2011, 06:08 PM   #4
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi Gordon,

Unfortunately, the bats respond negatively to red light. We have used it in the past and it seems that the bats will not exit the cave when they see the big red "eye" looking at them. This is why we have moved to the 840nm and 940nm lights. They still emit some red glow, but its not quite as intrusive.

And Bryce,

I now wish I had gotten on this site prior to ordering the HVRA1U's. There are likely some other cameras that would have been better for this application. Unfortunately, we have them and have got to make them work to the best of our ability. I really thought we had something that would work until we turned on the Nightshot and the shutter speed setting was grayed out.

Thank you both for your comments. Keep 'em coming :)
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Old April 6th, 2011, 06:19 PM   #5
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Curious if replacing the constant output sources with a high frequency xenon strobe having an IR bandpass would be an option, e.g. something like Bock Optronics Inc. although it seems stills would be more appropriate.
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Old April 6th, 2011, 11:54 PM   #6
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

I have an HDR-HC1, which is a close cousin to the A1.

If the nightshot functions are similar, you have both a nightshot and super night shot function. According to the manual, super nightshot runs brighter (up to 16x), but it sutomatically adjusts the shutter speed to maintain illumination. There is no mention if standard nightshot mode does adjust shutter in standard modem, but it's possible that it does.

About the only thing I can think of is to increase illumination with the floods and see if it will cause the A1 to increase its shutter speed. It should be possible to test this behavior to see if it does in fact do this, indoors. If it does, then you can solve the shutter speed issue with illumination - assuming it doesn't bother the bats.

Hope this has been of some help.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 03:46 PM   #7
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Sorry for the delayed response. I have been out in the field testing our equipment. I have uploaded a 14sec clip on utube hoping that it may help better explain what it is that we are doing. As you can see from this video we are clearly able to capture the bats, however, it is extremely difficult to identify the bat species. I am hoping to speed up the shutter speed in order to prevent blurred images. I am interested in Jim's comment about using strobes. Has anyone else tried this or think it may work for our application? Please note that in many instances we have to carry this equipment in the hills for several miles in order to get to the cave, so weight, power, and bulk is an issue. Any other suggestions on lighting, use of the Sony HVRA1U, etc...please chime in.

Again thank you all.

Utube link:
YouTube - Gray Bats Exiting Cave - IR Video - V1.1

Shea
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Old April 11th, 2011, 03:51 PM   #8
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Also, any suggestions on editing software? We are hoping to be able to quickly zoom, pause, and identify images.

I have ordered the HVRMRC1K Memory Recording Unit for the HVRA1U. As I understand the description, I should be able to import the video onto the computer without dubbing from the tape. Anyone else use this device? Have any "need to knows" or suggestions on its use?

Thanks,
Shea
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Old April 11th, 2011, 05:51 PM   #9
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

I took a look at the manual for this item.

It records internally in either raw DV, AVI (DV), or HDV. I'm assuming you'll be recording in hi-def mode, so this would be HDV. The file is stored on the flash card as an *.M2T when in HDV mode,, and that's a normal file format. However, most folks these days don't have a PC or desktop with a flash card slot anymore, so reading data off of the flash card isn't an option for them.

The best way then, to get the video from the unit, is to simply play it back on the device and capture into your PC via firewire.

Sony Vegas will work handily with HDV files, and is easier to learn and use than a lot of other editors, IMHO.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 06:47 PM   #10
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi Gene,

You are correct. We are recording in HDV. Most folks dont use CF cards, however, lucky for us much of our bat acoustic hardware requires CF so we have the equipment necessary. I ordered 32 gig CF cards which will get about 45 min - 1 hour HDV footage I expect. I would like to get a full hour as that is about how long it takes for the bats to fully exit the cave. Running four cameras per night and recording every night for nearly a month the option to just drag and drop the video into the computer with the memory attachment seemed very appealing (though they have not arrived yet and I have yet to test them). The computer we are using has and internal CF reader, 4 TB memory (figured we needed a lot as each night we will collect nearly 100gb of data), 4 gb ram, a rocking graphics card, and is simply a beast. Its really a GIS computer, but figured it would work well for video as well.

Currently we are using Power Director v.8 as our video editing software. Its not great. I would like to be able to mark and label specific time spots on the video (IE: mark and label - "Gray bat" or label the acoustic file for each bat as each bat exiting will have an individual acoustic record), cut smaller segments without a lot of hassle, select and zoom, slow down speeds, enhance video, etc...and I dont want to spend to long learning the software. PD 8 currently works, but is not what I was hoping for. We purchased it a couple years ago and need an upgrade. I only have a few hundred dollars left in our budget, but if there is something out there that is really worth the money I may be able to find a few extra dollars. When researching I seem to remember something about linear vs nonlinear software (cant remember which is required nor can I remember the difference between them).

I will take a look at the Sony Vegas software at work on tomorrow before heading to see if I can get a good shot of the Ozark Big-Eared Bats (one of the rarest bats in North America). If I am able to identify the ears I will be super happy as they are one of the primary species of concern and they fly silently without much for acoustic signatures (which is why I am trying so hard to get good images). I will post a small clip if we are able to get good images! Preliminary testing indicates that we may be able to do it with proper light placement in the cave and camera positioning. Two weeks of testing remaining before we go live.

Hey, thanks Gene for your interest and repeated responses.

Shea
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Old April 11th, 2011, 07:08 PM   #11
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi, Shea...............

I hope no one minds me saying this, what with the equipment inventory climbing to Federal Budget deficit levels and all, but IMHO, using a video camera of any sort for this application (nobody mention the Phantom, OK?) appears to be on a par with attempting to swat an annoying mosquito with a mini gun.

You'd get infinitely better bang for your buck (and maybe, just maybe, actually achieve your objective) by dropping the video and reverting to good 'ol steam stills photography.

Those of you of a certain age can possibly cast your minds back a decade or four, to those stunning (at the time) tack sharp still photo's of bullets cutting playing cards in half, exploding apples and light bulbs etc etc, the list was endless.

Still camera, set to "bulb", a high energy/ speed flash unit and a light/ sound whatever flash trigger unit and that's all it took (oh, and keep out of the way of the bullet!).

In your case you're luckier in that the "bullets" will dodge you instead (neat trick) and all you need is a DSLR with infinate/ long period "bulb" setting, remote release/ hold unit for same, one or two stonking high speed flash units, some super light weight stands, a light activated flash trigger unit and a bit of diy to make an IR/Laser trigger lattice to give you a fighting chance of actually catching a bat in the frame.

As most good modern flash units will let you set a flash duration 100, 1000 or even 10,000 times faster than any shutter speed you'll find on a camera, video or still, if the bat breaks the trigger, it's yours in pin sharp glory and even, drum roll, in colour!

No downloading to see what you got, it'll show you, right there and then.

For your application, nobody has built a better mousetrap.


CS
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Old April 11th, 2011, 07:40 PM   #12
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Just for clarification, a 32 GB CF card in the MRC gives you 150 minutes. I recommend the Sandisks. Avoid the Kingstons.

If you don't care about stitching the split clips together (there is an 18 minute clip-length limit with the MRC due to the way the disks are formatted) your transfer to the PC can be as fast as 10:1. Using Sony's utility which rejoins the split files it'll be closer to 3 or 4:1.

Either way, much faster than realtime capture from tape.

Wouldn't a conventional visible-light flash seriously screw up the bats' navigation? I remember being told not to use flash when we were bat-watching in New Mexico.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 08:27 PM   #13
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi Chris,

Loved New Zealand by the way, went there on my honeymoon.

I do not even want to begin to get into a federal budget debate. I don't think this is the place for it; however, I will mention that all the equipment used in this project has multiple purposes, projects, and uses and will be used for long term monitoring (10 years plus). I have tried very hard to ensure no dollars go to waist and we get the full potential out of each buck. So, thinking ahead, I've tried to purchase items that can be used on multiple projects as we may not have any funds in the future (IE: I have a graduate degree in GIS as well as biology...so I use the computer for GIS as well as video-the Anabat acoustic monitors are hidden in trees year round-the cameras are used on multiple projects, outreach programs, and are great tools to interest young people about technology and the outdoors as well as do science...its amazing when I do bat programs how many kids who play first person shooter games know about IR, Nightvision, and Thermal imaging from games but never have connected it to science and bats).

There are a few issues we have with using onsite fixed camera systems. First, they would be stolen. Its amazing the number of people who break in to steal stuff out of caves, bust though gates, and deface the inside of caves. We really cant leave anything out as someone will break it, shoot it, or steal it. Another issue is time. We only have a four week interval to collect the data from 50 plus caves. Video allows us to collect the data and review it later and allows us to collect from multiple caves per night with limited personnel (hence multiple systems). There are other logistical and biological issues...but Im already long winded.

I do appreciate your concern and suggestions.

Hi Adam,

Standard light flash would be bad. However an IR flash may work. Im still curious about the IR strobe Jim mentioned.

Thanks guys,
Be back on in a few days. Hope to have some good images. I do appreciate all of your comments.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 12:10 AM   #14
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Hi, Shea.............

The Federal Deficit is a US problem (hopefully never to become mine, but as things go Global..) and wasn't necessarily created just by you folks, so don't take my comments too harshly (I really wasn't trying to yank your chain).

I was never thinking of leaving equipment "on site", your problems with that are the same problems experienced anywhere, so I wouldn't even dream of suggesting it.

Having written the above post I did some further investigation on IR shooting in general and stills in particular with a sideways look at video.

What came to light is that stills flashguns, filtered to exclude visible light out, do still give pretty good IR light output.

They still have a major advantage in that they have exceedingly short flash durations.

So, take your video camera's with "locked" shutter speeds, or even "unlocked" shutter speeds.

There is no way you guys can lug enough gear to where you have to lug it to get nearly enough steady IR illumination, even if you could wind the shutter speed up to maximum and then some.

Assuming you can't and it's set to the minimum for 30p, for example, say 1/30th second shutter, if you were to use the flash setup I outlined but with the flash units masked for IR (turn off the other IR illuminators to prevent streaking) then each frame should have one or maybe two 1/25,000 of a second bursts which should catch the action sharper than any video camera could ever do, even though it IS a video camera (don't anybody mention the Phantom, or the Budget Deficit will really go to hell in a handbasket!).

No use whatsoever for counting numbers, but if you want enough detail to distinguish species, I can't see any other alternative.

I realise that time isn't on your side but ................. hey, I'm a bat lover too!

(Just wish we had some here in NZ)


CS


PS: You do realise that as a Federal Department, you should have access to "unlocked" systems that would be far better suited to your requirements than the "prosumer" gear mentioned up till now?

Last edited by Chris Soucy; April 12th, 2011 at 04:02 AM.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 07:31 PM   #15
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Re: Going Batty...Need help with HD IR Video

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shea Hammond View Post
Hi Gene,
Currently we are using Power Director v.8 as our video editing software. Its not great. I would like to be able to mark and label specific time spots on the video (IE: mark and label - "Gray bat" or label the

Shea
You should be able to use the Movie Studio version of Vegas for what your doing - and save a few bucks.

Adding markers and regions is a snap with Vegas - and you can try out the product for 30 days free at Sony Creative Software - Vegas video - ACID & Sound Forge audio editing

Good luck with the bats!
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