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Old April 8th, 2006, 10:10 PM   #1
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Shooting Wildlife At Night

Anyone ever tried shooting wildlife at night? Wat kind of equipment/ techniques have been tried? Care to share???
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Old April 8th, 2006, 11:56 PM   #2
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I have tried with Kiwi, with a notable lack of success! The Canon XM1 that I was using simply did not have the necessary low, ie no, light performance. They are almost impossible to see other than with a guide, and lights are forbidden for conservation reasons.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 02:58 AM   #3
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If you can afford to hire, Electrophysics Corp make a device called an Astroscope which relays passive IR from a tube display into a variety of camcorders such as Sony PD150/VX2000 camera family, the Canon XL family of camcorders and others including ENG cams. I suspect that what works for the PD150 with its 58mm filter thread, might work for the Canon XM or that there would be a fit for that camera.

I believe Optex used to do one for the Canon XL family as well.

When using intensified passive IR NV, camcorder gain is best left at 0db to 3db, shutter at about 1/50 sec and f5.6 aperture. Manual focus may be necessary but autfocus seems to work fine.These systems have their own lens. All the camcorder does is take a picture of the intensifier display - the green screen you see in some military footage.

These systems are still getting better with the Photonis tubes apparenbtly being about the best for resolution for which they claim up to 80 line pairs per mm. This would come up to the practical resolution limits of MiniDV. There are higher gain tubes (Gen 3 and 4 ) than the best res Gen II Photonis tubes but apparently the best vision to video is achieved via Gen II tubes.

If you look up Military and Law Enforcement
Technologies and Electrophysics Corp in a search their websites have a lot of information and how to's.

Effective tube display diameters are in the 18mm ballpark. By the time you take a 4:3 frame out of that your resolution is about 450 TV lines. The apparent resolution improves if you can zoom back to allow the tube image to appear as a vignette. This option can be had in the PD150 type cameras with inbuilt lenses.

This technique is helpful in really low light conditions too dull even for an unassisted tube based intensifier when lots of video noise (scintillation) appears in the tube display.

Kampro make a small security camera which uses "C" mount lenses. It is B/W only but is claimed to yield 600 TV lines of resolution. I have seen the same camera used on a recent one-off documentary on big cats. There is a colour version but the night image yield is still B/W.

They require a 12vdc source and the B/W outputs through composite via BNC connector.the colour cam offers this but also S-video or Y/C out. The claim for the colour cam is a yield of 480 TvV lines resolution.

The B/W camera has good low light performance and in darkness is assisted by IR illumination, which can also be had from security companies. These cameras are exported in a sort of OEM deal and are rebadged before resale by the importers. The camera type can be recognised by two small outward facing soft-edged ridges press-formed on the case sides.

You may find conservation authorities take a kinder view on IR illumination.

One of our cinematographers in Western Australia has made large LED based panels for broad area IR illumination.

I understand this Kampro model may be based on Sony Ex-view type single CCD camera chips. It is said to be a 1/3" CCD camera but it looks more like 1/4" to me.

I think I may have a short NV clip up on or it may be at I'll hunt it down.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 03:28 AM   #4
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Thanks, Bob, but I don't fancy the likely problems getting that sort of equipment through both UK and US airport security, en route to New Zealand. The way things are going in the UK, ownership might make me a terrorist suspect here, anyway!

You have probably heard that Optex went bust rather messily a few months ago. Several of their technical staff have either set up on their own on moved to other companies.

I will have a look at what is available in security cameras here, but the amount of gear I alreay take on my trips down under means I am pushing weight limits.

I did manage to get a small amount of usable footage last year in Stewart Island.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 04:10 AM   #5
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Military and Law rent out the Astroscope. They are in Australia. Provided you are a kosher film-maker and can prove it, they should be able to take care of the export licence to NZ and the import back into Australia.

The Kampro is sold in Australia by Ness as a "Ness" camera. If you get a small IR assistance with it, you can work both off a small 12vdc burglar alarm battery which will fit into a Lowepro 35mm SLR camera bag. Combined, you should be able to buy them for about AU$ 500 or thereabouts.

My clip on savefile with the NV is the one titled AGUS DEMO 04, the biggest one unfortunately at 14.5Mb. It is a H264 Quicktime file. Unless you've got the download capacity and Quicktime or VideoLAN, it won't be worth downloading.

Another option you might investigate is thermal imaging. Here in Australia, the fire services, (in WA it is Fire and Emergency Service) have small handheld portable thermal imagers for seeking out re-ignition sources in bushfire areas.

This is a different technology to tube based imaging. In NZ the fire services there may have such devices which may already be fixed to cameras. You might be able to negotiate some sort of the deal with them or with their supplier in NZ.

Pyser SGI in the UK make several devices which are listed on Military and Law Technologies website. There is one which fits up to a CCTV camera via its C-mount and uses C-mount lenses capable of covering a 2/3" image area. There is another, the PNP-HG which is a monocular and has an accessory adaptor which enables small video camcorders or C-mount cameras to attach.

This adaptor is fine for the Kampro C-mount colour camera but via stepdown rings is no good for PD150/VX2000. A lot of zoom-through to clear the vignette causes over-enlargement of a very small central area of the tube display. So it might not be suitable for the Canon XM family either. The PNP-HG is a Gen II device. The same device is now available with the new Photonis tube.

Patching the Kampro into the PD150 in VTR mode is a bit messy as you have to have a separate soundmixer to power a mike and feed audio into the camera via the RCA line-level sockets as the on-camera mike via the XLR connectors does not work in VTR mode.

I designed an adaptor for the PD150 and the PNP-HG device and Pyser SGI have the design. However it is unlikely they will both custom manufacture the adaptor/device and hire it out. The device has to be partially dismantled for the new adaptor to be installed. As far as I know, they only design, build and sell. So Military and Law Technologies or an affiliate in NZ might be the best bet if you want to go with hire of intensified NV.

My adaptor is not satisfactory with the HDR-FX1 / HVR-Z1P (HVRZ1E) as the modifed SW5042 lens set I use has a very distinct soft focus ring around the outer edges of the image in this camera family. For things like Kiwis which are likely to be in deep undergrowth, you would in any event need the same IR assistance as the Kampro cams as tube based intensifiers still need some light in order to work.

Electrophysics Corp I understand may have completed their adaptor for the Sony HDV cams.

None of the intensifier based systems are an economic proposition to buy unless you have a lot of work for them because they are horrendously expensive.

The contact for Military and Law Technologies is Robin Michael.

Ness (I think it is Ness Security Systems or similar) have a website in aAustralia and a downloadable catalogue as a .pdf file.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 04:24 AM   #6
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Furthur to above, the Ness camera model number is 100-447. I think they still stock them.

Nikon f1.8 SLR still-camera lenses, especially primes work quite well into this camera via a Nikon to C-mount adaptor.

This was also an Optex item, but can be found on Ebay from time to time. I think you also have a manfacturer in the UK by name of Les Bosher who does something similar.

The camera is actually a CS-Mount lens camera. They may be supplied with a 5mm spacer for C-mount lenses but you would need to make sure you get it as it may be an added cost item by now. You also have to set backfocus on these cameras which is an easy task.

If you happen to transit through Perth in Western Australia, I could demonstrate these systems to you.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 04:30 AM   #7
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I appreciate your help, Bob, but you have me in way over my head here! I am strictly an amateur hobbyist, and already spend way more than I should on my hobby.

I live in the UK, but travel to New Zealand each November for 10 to 12 weeks. I pass through Heathrow and LA airports on the way and their security gets ever tighter. I would also have horrendous problems with import/export licences, as an amateur. I think the authorities would, perhaps rightly, be suspicious of my motives. I can think of a couple of security people in LAX who would not buy videoing Kiwi as a reason for having high-tech night vision equipment in my luggage!

Their is a firm who sell a vast range of electronic equipment as a straight retail operation here, Maplin, and they may have some sort of innnocuous looking device that would help. I will take a look at their catalogue now that you have put some ideas into my head, for which many thanks
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Old April 9th, 2006, 04:56 AM   #8
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With the Kampro cam and illuminator, plus small 12v battery and some custom leads, I expect you could buy those on arrival in NZ, film your footage and resell them there or work some sort of a buyback deal with the security equipment supplier.

Try an email to Ness to see if they have a NZ affiliate or are represented there. It might be cheaper than you think and just as effective as intensified NV in that circumstance.

There is another option which may be viable for you. Video camera CCDs are apparently sensitive to the near infra-red spectrum as well as visible light. "Super night shot" or similar features in consumer cams is apparently an expoitation of this trait.

For normal daylight vision, this IR light is filtered out optically in all cams as it is not desirable in a daylight image. This filter apparently is disabled in the super night shot mode.

The security cameras do not have a filter in front of the chip. I suspect they may adjust for colour balance electronically.

Some owners who visit here, have experimented with removing the internal IR filter panels from their cams and using small infra-red illluminators to assist in night imaging. A camera tech might be able to advise you on the feasability of doing this.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:29 PM   #9
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did you try sony IR flash light with cheap consumer cameras. and can you make a comparison with your system. I use canon xl2 in daylight and next week I ll get my new sony hc96 and IR flash HVL-IRM. I didn't tried it yet, but I plan to use this cam and IR light for some caves and dens for lynx, otter, and bear etc. at night time behaviour.

so is this combo is effective ?


not: by the way I couldn't open your site at www.savefile... does it exist, ?
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 09:20 PM   #10
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My apology if this is not your given name.

I have not used the branded products you describe.

The security camera, on full gain, gives a performance visually, about 30% less than a passive night vision intensifier (green image) with the same lens (C-Mount 25mm2/3" Cosmicar @ f1.8) when using the IR illuminator.

Beyond the range of the illuminator, the intensifier could see a lot more of other more distant stuff but the auto gain function in the tube closes the sensitivity down. For usefullness with IR assistance on close subjects, the security camera is better.

The illuminator looks like a torch head without batteries attached, has a glass front window and behind that, about 30 LEDs mounted on a round piece of circuit board.

If you are going to light the cave with IR, I would suggest using several IR sources if you can do this discreetly (like without getting eaten by the bear) and trading off the brightness for dropping the lens aperture down a bit to get more depth of field.

This will give you a bit more coverage if the animal moves toward or away from a preset focus point.

Several sources will also give you better images without shadows.

One thing which will go wrong, is if you have a mixed source of visible and IR light. You will find it impossible to get the sharpest focus because visible and IR light behave differently through a lens. Sharp focus for IR means soft focus for visible light.

The Kampro cam model number is 100-447. There is also a product code on the label near a barcode F0651595. In Australia, these are sold by Ness and carry that brand name.

The illuminator is not branded at all. It has a model number, 100-309 and a product code near a barcode, 194023330004.

With the illuminator, at f1.8 on the lens aperture, useful brightness goes out to about 15 metres from the camera position.

If the environment in which you film lacks contrast and the images look very grey, in post, add some green hue. The human eye apparently sees differences in contrast better in green light, which is why intensifier tubes display green.

They could be made to display pure black and white of any other colour.

Savefile .com should work. I tried it and it was okay. You may need to manually type the address. If you copy and paste from posted text into the address bar, it sometimes does not work.

In case I made a typo myself in the last post, here is the address again.
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Old April 26th, 2006, 10:47 PM   #11
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Hi Yean,

Depending on the uses and look you need, I've had some decent results using a tripod and very low slow shutter speeds on the video camera. You end up with a very smooth and blurry look, that has a distinct sort of surreal feel to it. But you can make out the details of the animals, and when they're in motion they tend to flow through the frame in an interesting manner. However you can't really do any camera moves or the whole frame turns to mush, but good for the locked off shots.

Since you live in Singapore you might want to take your set-up to the Night Safari and check it out. They light the place with just a little more light than a good full moon on a clear night.

John Burkhart
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