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time lapse pinwheel explosion

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brian klassentime lapse pinwheel explosion
by on May 26, 2011 at 12:54:49 pm

Hi all,

I shot a spur of the moment time lapse in the backyard the other day. One of the neighbor kids had stuck a bright, multi-colored pinwheel in the ground. It was windy and the pinwheel spun continually but at different speeds. It was mostly sunny with a few clouds skidding across the sky. The camera and subject were in dappled shade for 95 % of the shoot. I shot manual and tried to hit the middle for exposure given the constant change in light due to trees blowing, clouds and the sun's arc. I shot fast, 1/3200th as I wanted to freeze the pinwheel while the out of focus background shimmered. ISO 160, Medium JPEG. It came out well and I really like it. A bit blown out at the end, but nothing terrible. Some flicker, but with the out of focus background and the conditions I think it works.

I did some color correction, etc. in Bridge/Camera Raw then opened it in After Effects. Worked on it a bit more: color, contrast -- and then rendered it (1920x1080). I've tried rendering it in a variety of formats and various codecs with the same result. The pinwheel breaks up. It's like a ceramic plate cracking but not falling apart. Is it simply that the bright, spinning, multi-colored pinwheel simply contains too much data to render well/correctly? Is it the formats/codecs I've used that are the problem (Quicktime/h.264, h.264/mp4, quicktime/mpeg4...). Should a 52 second time lapse take 5 hours and change to render? Should I have used Bridge/camera raw? Or something else?

This is my first time lapse editing adventure, and first use of After Effects. My knowledge of formats and compression codecs is nil. I use the Adobe production suite on a PC. My desire is to use formats and codecs best suited to Vimeo and a web site of my own I'll be starting in a few months. Any specific information about this specific pinwheel issue and/or what software combo, and formats/codecs to use for Vimeo and web use would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

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Dave LaRondeRe: time lapse pinwheel explosion
by on May 26, 2011 at 3:41:22 pm

Are you suffering from the notorious Rolling Shutter problems inherent in DSLRs?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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brian klassenRe: time lapse pinwheel explosion
by on May 26, 2011 at 4:56:50 pm

Thanks for the reply, Dave.

I don't know. I am shooting with a Canon 7d, Zeiss 35mm. The individual frames are fine. The composition clip looks fine in AE when previewing. Runs well, smoothly, no pinwheel breakup. When it starts to render you can see the problem. Also in the final rendered clip. I thought maybe it was an artifact of the rendering process. Simply the way it "looked" as it rendered. But it's in the final re-formatted/compressed clip also. And the breakup only seems to occur within the pinwheel. The rest of the frame looks fine.

An acquaintance recently told me not to download from camera into Bridge, as it changes color data. So I don't. Though, once again, the individual frames seem fine, prior and after editing.

I tried to use a piece of software called LRTimelapse to smooth out the flicker and exposure, but it kept freezing up. I don't know if I dragged something along from there into AE. But, once again, the composition clip looked fine in preview.

Sorry this is so roundabout. I like a good puzzle, and this is baffling me. I'm assuming there's some setting or combinations of settings that I have wrong that is throwing things off.

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Dave LaRondeRe: time lapse pinwheel explosion
by on May 26, 2011 at 5:34:55 pm

Well, here's the conundrum...

At the moment it's really tough to diagnose your problem, because we're not speaking the same language. It appears you speak Still Photographer but I speak After Effects, with its very own arcane terminology.

Moreover, it appears you're trying to use AE intuitively, and that's a real recipe for disaster.
There are too many little details in the application that can really hose you if overlooked. Worse still, you don't even know what they are, so you're unaware you've overlooked them.
An example: AE defaults to assigning a frame rate of 30 fps to image sequences, which is NOT the same frame rate as TV's 29.97, and can lead to problems.
Another example: AE stinks on ice when compressing to long-gop codecs like h.264.
Another example: the lossless files AE renders rarely can be played smoothly. A typical hard drive can't keep up with the high bit rate.

An aside: I'm still scratching my head over the fact that you shot JPEG images, but color corrected Camera RAW images; I don't get how that's done. But then, I speak AE.

AE's a great application, but it really does demand that you learn the basics before you use it. Here's a free way to get knowledge of the basics:

For about the same price as a video game, here's an even better way:

As tempting as it is to jump right into the Fun Stuff in AE, it's like jumping into the deep end of the pool wearing lead weights. Good luck as you acquaint yourself with AE... and don't delete those images; you can use them as practice.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA

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