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Old August 28th, 2013, 02:53 AM   #1
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Infrared wildlife filming at night

Question for Alastair Traill (and of course anyone else who can contribute),

Alistair, you posted a thread a few years ago on the dvinfo forum with a question about the infrared abilities of the canon xa10. I wonder if you have found a solution that works best for your (wildlife) filming at night.

I am preparing to film inside a kingfishers nest next year. I'd like to make a webcam like set up, but with a decent camera. I need to be able to film reasonably wide angle, focus at a distance of about 10 cm and use infrared. Preferably black light (so no red glow), but that's not a deal breaker. And preferably with a camera that can also be used in daylight, but that's also not a necessity.

Do you (or anyone else) have relevant experience?
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Old August 28th, 2013, 09:37 AM   #2
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Cees,
You might like to take a look at the new XA20 or 25 for this. They have a wider lens than the XA10 & of course have the infrared capability. The other possibility you have with the new cameras is the ability to control the camera wirelessly. They still have the lanc control too though, so controlling the camera remotely via that & an external monitor is also possible. You should have no problem with the focus at 10cm with the lens at its widest. The new cameras do use a lot more power though than the old XA10, so being able to plug it in to mains power might be necessary.
Let me know if you would like me to try anything with the infrared on the XA20 to test if it will be suitable for what you would like to do & maybe I could test it for you.
Groeten,
Bryce
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Old August 28th, 2013, 10:09 AM   #3
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Bryce,

Thanks for pointing out that there is also a XA20/25. I am not familiar with the canon line of camera's, but it seems they have some nice little camera's with infrared capability.
I will await some more input (hopefully), but may certainly ask you to do a test for me. Will get back to you with what I'd like to get tested by then.

Do you have the camera yourself (I don't see it in your public profile). If yes, what do you use it for? As a B-roll for your EX3?
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Old August 28th, 2013, 10:12 AM   #4
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Cees,

As far as I know camcorders with ‘Nightshot’ or similar ALL set aperture, gain and shutter speed to the maximum so that they cannot be used in full sunlight, (Bryce may have better news). The reason seems to be that IR can pass through some fabrics potentially revealing what is underneath clothing. Manufacturers seem to regard this as undesirable.

The only IR recording I have done is with cheap surveillance cameras. These do not use Infrared cut filters but they have the disadvantage that resolution is low. However useable results can be obtained by carefully positioned lights that give some texture to the subject. Images with black areas give the illusion of greater sharpness. Another problem is that they only have automatic exposure and maybe a fixed aperture. I changed my cameras to ‘C’ mount that gave me variable apertures but did not solve the auto only exposure control.

Beware of surveillance cameras that automatically retract IR cut filters as evening approaches. I tried one of these and after the filter it was retracted the camera would decide that it was not so dark after all and replace the filter thereby cutting the light again. Having put the filter back it decided it really was dark and removed it again and so on. I sent it back.

Surveillance cameras do not normally have finders or means of recording. Mine had a composite out which I fed into my PD 150 or into a laptop. This set-up is far from portable but the cameras are small making them easy to use in tight situations and control remotely.

More recently I have been looking at current surveillance cameras. Some now have 1080p30 and 1080p60 plus HD-SDI out. I purchased one of these. Again there is no finder or recorder. The one I got works OK with a nanoFlash and DP6 monitor. However changing from 1080 to 720 has become very unreliable. The manufacturer blames the DP6 but I tested the camera on another HD-SDI monitor and the problem persisted. Note the menu settings can only be set using a monitor. I blame the camera which is now on its way back to the manufacturer under warranty.

This new camera is ‘C’ mount and has a useful back focus adjustment. It will accept auto iris lenses. The control of the IR cut filter can be either manual or automatic which avoids the problem mentioned above. The results have been much better than those taken with my cheap cameras. With the weather now warming I was hoping to do some work with our resident sugar gliders but there seems to an ailment affecting some of them. I also had a bull ant’s nest lined up. These large ants seem to be active at night as was the local echidna (spiny ant-eater) a couple of nights ago.

Another possible camera that I have started investigating is the Go Pro 3 Black. I notice that some (Novo) have been modified for use with ‘C’ mount lenses but are currently only available for hire. The Go Pro has several advantages over surveillance cameras e.g. built in recording, very small size, and relatively cheap. Rage Cams market assorted lenses with and without IR cut filters but unfortunately without apertures. They have a 16 mm macro? that focuses to 4 feet. .

I would like to get hold of a Go Pro 3 and see how practical it is for me to convert to ‘C’ mount. I would prefer not to hack into a new one at this stage. Does anyone have a ‘dead’ and unwanted Go Pro 3 black?

Last edited by Alastair Traill; August 28th, 2013 at 10:13 AM. Reason: eror
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Old August 28th, 2013, 11:33 AM   #5
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Thanks Alastair,

Though it seemed not to be the right choice I'd still like to ask: what was the surveillance camera with 1080p and HD-SDI that you purchased?

I have been thinking about the gopro as well. I have a hero 2 (not IR). Though I know that the Hero 3 is better, I find the lens distortion to much. To focus at very short distance you have to add a series of Macro filters in front as well.

Another option I want to investigate is to invest in a dslr and get the IR-filter removed.

The advantage of a canon XA (or similar other camera) is that you can also use it as a nice B-camera in daylight. The disadvantage is that, though very small for a video camera, they are still relatively large. This means I have to make quite large boxes aside the nest to place the camera in. It all has to be under ground and accessible in one way or another.

You say that iris, gain and aparture are all set to maximum when in IR mode. I want to film in a very small room (a nest of of only 25 cm diameter) and I can't judge what the DoF will be with max iris. that might be bit of a problem, though probably it is not to bad at widest angle. Movement of the birds won't be to much, so maximum shutter speed (which I suppose will be 1/30th for 1080p30) won't cause problems. Gain? Is it clearly present when shooting IR?
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Old August 28th, 2013, 01:14 PM   #6
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Cees,
Yes I have the camera (& have updated my profile to reflect that).
Let me know if you would like me to do some tests for you.
Regards,
Bryce
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Old August 28th, 2013, 04:31 PM   #7
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Bryce, Thanks for the offer. i'll send you an e-mail.
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Old August 28th, 2013, 04:33 PM   #8
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Ok, sounds good. I am heading off to do some filming overnight, but will be back again tomorrow afternoon.
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Old August 28th, 2013, 07:37 PM   #9
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Bryce,

What happens when you set your Canon XA20 to ‘night shot’ or equivalent when the light is bright? Can you still control exposure, aperture and gain?
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Old August 28th, 2013, 07:40 PM   #10
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Cees,

I will post details of the surveillance camera when I see how the manufacturers deal with my claim. Meanwhile I will send you an eMail.
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Old August 29th, 2013, 05:54 AM   #11
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi
I also use Surveillance cameras. With a C-mount you have a lot of lenses to choose from. Do you plan that you will be able to work with the kamera in the nest or do you plan that it will be fixed? Dust and dirt on the lens or glas will be a big problem.
In this video (10min) I used a Surveillance camera with HD-SDI
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Old August 29th, 2013, 06:49 AM   #12
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Bo,

I want to make a construction so that I can bring in and take out the camera. For cleaning or for using it at another nest when necessary.

Interesting to see what you did. It looks like your camera was also quite close to the subject.

What brand/type of camera did you use for this?
is it full HD?
How close was it to the subject?
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Old August 29th, 2013, 08:31 AM   #13
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Bo,

What lights were you using? From the colour of the leaves etc it looks as though there is some visible light present.
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Old August 29th, 2013, 11:41 PM   #14
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Cees

I note that you want to focus as close as 10 cms. I do not know if you are familiar with the ‘C’ mount but it has a thread of 1” diameter and 32 threads per inch. The lens has the male thread and it is about 4-5 mm long. The distance from seating flange to sensor is 17.52 mm. ‘C’ mount was very popular with cheaper 16 mm film cameras and now with many surveillance cameras.

The screw thread makes it easy to extend the distance of the lens from the sensor thereby permitting closer focusing. If only a short extension is required you can simply add a washer with a 1mm hole between lens and camera. For longer extensions you will need an extension tube.

There is a simple formula you can use to work out what effect this extension will have. You need to know the focal length of the lens and thickness of the washer. Let us say that the amount of extension is 1mm and you have a choice of a 10mm and an 8 mm lens. To make the calculation you square the focal length giving 100 and 64 in this case. Next divide by the amount of extension in mm, say 1 for example. In this case the 10 mm lens will focus on objects 100 mm away and the 8 mm will focus on objects 64 mm away. Applying this logic to an extension of 0.5 mm would give distances of 200 and 128 mm for the lenses in question.
Note that for a 100mm lens a 1 mm extension brings the object distance to 100 m and for a 3.2 mm lens to about 10mm.

I would suggest using a lens that has a short minimum focusing distance. I have a couple of 8.5 mm Cosmicars that focus down to about 18 cms. A good focusing range reduces the need for repositioning the camera if the subject moves out of focus.

Some surveillance cameras have a backfocus adjustment – very handy for setting up zoom lenses but could also be useful for extending focusing range.
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Old August 30th, 2013, 03:57 AM   #15
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Re: Infrared wildlife filming at night

Hi Alastair,

I am not familiar with C-mount, so this is very interesting to know. But I don't get what you mean with a washer with a 1 mm hole. A 1 mm hole would almost completely cover the lens opening, so I probably don't understand you well.
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