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Old February 10th, 2008, 09:03 PM   #1
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Capturing Polar Bear activity with Interval Record Mode

Hi All,
I am a wildlife biologist studying polar bears at their maternal den sites during the den emergence period (March). In the past I've used Sony cameras which have the interval recording option to capture bear activity at the dens. These cameras, enclosed in heated housings and powered by 100 aH batteries, can run about 4.7 days before the 1 hour digital tape is exhausted. I need to extend that run time somehow... but the hard drive cameras don't have interval recording, the dual memory cameras (which will run for 15 hours!) don't have interval recording, and so forth. Searching the web for cameras that have interval recording is unproductive. I know Canon has the GL2 which will run an 80 minute tape which adds about 2 more days (I run at 30 second intervals for 0.5 seconds... or 30 frames/minute). Any suggestions how I can break through this data storage limitation?

As it is we have to snowmachine out to the dens, replace the video tape then return. It is a very expensive airline flight to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (I live in Utah) to service these so extending the run time would be great. Of course, someone might say, just set the interval to 1 minute but that is a bit too long to capture polar bear movement while outside the den.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you may have
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Old February 10th, 2008, 09:50 PM   #2
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Hi Thomas...........

What immediately occurs is to stop using tape at all (even in a camera that can use it) and go for external hard drive options running off the Firewire port.

Don't know how many hours you'd get on the biggest currently available but it would sure beat the heck out of a 1 hour tape.

FireStore is one name that springs to mind but there are others.

There may actually be a solid state memory device available to do the same thing (even better) but my knowledge on availability is pretty sketchy.

Got to be the way to go if the unit can be made to operate properly with time lapse.

There are heap of bods here who know infinately more about these things than I, so I'll wait for them to chime in.

Good luck,


CS
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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:21 PM   #3
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Ooh, here's a thought............

Giving this the full effort of my one rather overtaxed grey cell.....

If you want to go full HD with this, get a camera like a Canon XH A1 (or any other unit which has a VCR Stop facility), take the Firewire feed to something external that can select the intervals for time lapse on it's own, and you don't need it on the camera at all.

Not sure if there's a unit available on it's own or a combination capable of it but I'm sure someone here will.

Oh, and yes, the A1 O/P's FireWire even in VCR stop (I just checked), and for all I know, if suitably powered, will do so for months.


CS
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Old February 10th, 2008, 10:37 PM   #4
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Bears!

Sorry to jack your thread at all, but thought I'd give you this link to a video I shot this past fall in Churchill, Manitoba. You might know the biologists speaking in it.

http://www.bansheeproductions.ca/CHU...NAL_WEB_HI.mov
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Old February 13th, 2008, 08:39 AM   #5
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Good morning,

Batterywise you could run off a 12 volt battery for ages!!!

You can use a hard drive that will give you probably weeks of footage, particularly if you shoot in SD instead of hdv!!!

I have a car battery that I can setup with my camera stuff.

I look forward to seeing a post of some of your footage!!!!


good luck

The canon gl2 should be able to do that for you.
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Old February 13th, 2008, 08:47 AM   #6
 
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1-an external 12v battery to power your system. capacity can be chosen "as needed"
2-nNovia makes an external storage system(connected via firewire) that writes to either a hard drive, up to 250Gb, or a 16Gb solid state memory. the system runs on 12v, so, everything is consistent.
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Old February 15th, 2008, 11:34 AM   #7
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Polar Bear activity monitoring

Thanks for the various suggestions... A problem, but not insurrmountable, is that external hard drives must consume power and how much is of concern. Presently with a 100 aH 12V gel cell I can power a variety of Sony handycams with interval record option for about 10 days (I believe that the ones I'm using draw 0.4 aH)... right now the digital tapes (1 hr run time) are the limitation as even in interval record mode they will run 4.7 days continuous. So I have ample power to push a hard drive. I guess I need to do a bit of research to figure out how much they consume and how a camera that is constantly queueing up and down might write to it. Seems like the HD is going to have to be spinning constantly... or?

There are externals interval record devices but they are power hogs. I am going to use one methanol fuel cell out this year. It is about the size of a small briefcase and can produce 5.0 aH contiinuously for 1 month on 5 gallons of ethanol.... problem is the highly refiined ethanol costs $100/gallon... nothing free in this life!

Thanks for your input thus far....
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Old February 15th, 2008, 12:07 PM   #8
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Daisy chain 2 FS-4s together will give you the equivelent of a 6 hour tape. Then using your interval recording in the GL-2 you should be able to extend that rather well. Yes the drive will spin constantly.

Another option to cosider:
Visit your local Electronics or Robotics Hobby group. Work with them to develop a small motor and logic controller to manually push the button at your rates. Even better, add a motion sensor and only record when there is motion. Your tape ought to last a while then. You would have to guestimate when to change the tapes though so you might miss something.

These folks could help you with a timing circut too so that you could turn on the second FS-4 above only after the first fills.....I don't remember what menu settings might have to be selected to make this work. While your at it a photocell can determine day and night so you could save tape/battery by not filming and/or powering down stuff at night.

Might check on power consumption for a mini-pc with a firewire port vs the FS-4. Then you could script it.

Lots of ideas.

Randy
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Old February 16th, 2008, 12:22 AM   #9
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Polar bear video capture

Thanks for the various thoughts Randy.

A couple things: The FS-4s are not cheap but it's good to know that they are 'out there'....

Motion sensors won't work... the bears, at this point in time, haven't broken out of their snow dens so who knows where the entrance will be, precisely anyway. IF you put some device close enough for the beam to be broken the bears would find it and destroy it with their inspections. Close equipment = destroyed equipment. My camera sits at about 125 m from the den...

Interestingly nighttime is a good time for data. I need to be able to monitor nighttime activity so on Sony's I use the color slow shutter option which pushes into dusk and pre-dawn quite a ways. On clear nights the moon allows 24 hour viewing; the northern lights also light things up... so turning it off when dark is to be avoided....

Like most biologists I suffer from 'data greed' so giving some up would be hard.


I am not a technophile at all so help me out a bit:

1) where do I find these FS-2 external hard drives?
2) what drives them? (do they get power via the firewire connection OR do you have to use external power?) How do they 'know' to queue up for data that is coming from the sony camcorder in a non-continuous stream?
3) would hooking them up be fairly straight-forward?

and

5) what would solve some problems would be a digital8 tape that is is longer than 60 minutes. The sony camcorders I use all use Digital8 tapes and I can't find anything longer than 60 minute lengths. I wonder why that is...?

Thanks!

Tom S.

Last edited by Thomas S. Smith; February 16th, 2008 at 12:47 AM. Reason: adding a new thought
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:10 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas S. Smith View Post
Thanks for the various thoughts Randy.

Like most biologists I suffer from 'data greed' so giving some up would be hard.


I am not a technophile at all so help me out a bit:

1) where do I find these FS-2 external hard drives?
2) what drives them? (do they get power via the firewire connection OR do you have to use external power?) How do they 'know' to queue up for data that is coming from the sony camcorder in a non-continuous stream?
3) would hooking them up be fairly straight-forward?

and

5) what would solve some problems would be a digital8 tape that is is longer than 60 minutes. The sony camcorders I use all use Digital8 tapes and I can't find anything longer than 60 minute lengths. I wonder why that is...?

Thanks!

Tom S.
1: Most any video store will have access to them. I got mine at B&H which is a DVinfo sponsor.
2: On board battery. There is an AC adapter that comes with it and if you search around the forums for it you will find that others have 'hacked' a solution to have a bigger battery for it.
3:Firewire cable to camera, set camera interval settings. FS-4 is set to recieve start and stop signals from the camera. yeah the HDD will spin all the time. HDD technology is getting better and better all the time and its not so bad to have one spinning all the time IMHO. Also, it appears that the HDD would be easy to swap out in the event of failure, but I have not cracked the case open on any of mine yet. Most data would likely be lost in the event of failure.
4: I missed that question, what was it?
5: Having never used Digital8 I can only offer ideas. First that comes to mind is the size of the cartridge. You might could open a case and splice in more tape. You would lose footage where you placed the splice but would the risk of loosing 1 minute (estimate) of footage to gain another 10(again a guess for illustration) be worth it? If you find a rather spirited 'tinkerer' he might could make modifications to a cartridge and/or loading mechanisim to create more room. Of course any such attempts would void any warrenty so test using old equipment......but again, just thinking outside the box.

-Randy
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Old February 19th, 2008, 09:27 AM   #11
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Although the specs on FS4 indicate 15v for the AC adapter plug I use a 12V lead/acid battery straight to that plug and it works. The lithium battery provided is good for only 90min. which is too low for all-day run and gun like I do.
Dont know how much it would last in days. The max i used it was 13h always on and forgot to check the battery's voltage after that.
Will do a test of continuous recording and post it later.

Hope this helps
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Old February 21st, 2008, 02:27 AM   #12
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Hi Thomas
Perhaps you should take a closer look on this unit?
https://bmumford.securewebsites.com/photo/camctlr.html
its got a lanc control and timelaps function, and have a lot of other cool functions and sensors. It also have a light and motion sensor. Perhaps you can set it up to save you some power. Record only in daylight, or by movement.
And the controller don't draw a lot of power. Check out if you can use it to control a camera with big memorycards.
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Old March 14th, 2008, 05:06 AM   #13
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I need to do the same sort of thing as Thomas, but for bats in a dark cellar. My Sony A1e has the infra-red capability, but doesn't have the interval option. My old XM2 had the interval option, but not the infra-red.

Can anyone recommend a program that I can put on the (windows) laptop to control the Sony in this way? Preferably without going to the expense of something like Premiere Pro.

Thanks
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Old March 16th, 2008, 07:51 AM   #14
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Hi All,

Not sure whether this is a possible solution but I first got into film a few years back by way of 'Stop Motion Animation'. The software I have always used has a timelapse function. You connect the video camera via firewire to a PC / laptop and the software captures a frame at whatever interval you set it to and stores the image onto the hard drive. The point of this is obviously to compile the images into a video file for export - but you have all of the single frame images stored providing you with the still images - no tape, it might be worth a look.

The software is called Stop Motion Pro - www.stopmotionpro.com

The only issue I used to have with it was that the images were saved as bmp files which took up a lot of space, but this was in version 4 - they are now on version 6 which may use jpegs or a more efficient way of storing the images.

Obviously once again you may have power issues out in the field particularly for a laptop, but it might be an option for Annie.

Cheers
Pete
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Old March 16th, 2008, 01:31 PM   #15
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Hi Pete

Thanks for the suggestion. Someone on another thread suggested Scenalyser which I downloaded and it seems to do a good job on time lapse. However, the input has to be firewire, and my firewire cable wasn't long enough - so the start of the monitoring project has been delayed. While I'm waiting for the longer cable to be delivered, I'm going to have use an Eco-watch camera, which allows me to record with MovieMaker, but only records continuously at normal speed. So everything is a compromise.

I've even tried hooking up the old GL2/XM2 to the Eco-watch camera, but it does interval recording only in direct recording mode, not when the input is from another camera source. Pity, as it would have made life much easier.
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