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Aligning Long Term Time Lapse

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Andrew HoagAligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Jul 30, 2015 at 8:53:41 pm

I've encountered a curious little problem while producing some long term time lapses of renovations that occurred in an office building over a 10 week period. Due to equipment constraints, the best I could do to capture the process was mark several spots in the building that I would go to weekly and capture 60 frames of construction at the time. All camera settings were the same throughout (5D Mark II + Magic Lantern).

I also created some .BMP images of the first week of shots (one from each location) and loaded them into Magic Lantern's cropmarks so that I could have a rough reference on screen when aligning the remaining week's shots.

Needless to say things did not go as smoothly as anticipated. The majority were shot at 16mm and the slightest difference in position becomes very apparent in the form of lens distortion between weeks.

That said, I've managed to load one photo from each week into Photoshop using the auto-align layers feature, which created some very nice results. What I'm stuck trying to figure out is how to apply this technique to all 600 frames across the 10 week period. Auto aligning full res RAW images is requires a lot of processing power, however since I really only need to align the last shot of Week "X" to the first shot of week "Y" (and apply that tranformation to the other frames in that week,etc.) I feel as though there's some workaround I'm missing.

Does anyone have any pointers here? Not sure if I've done the best job explaining, so let me know if I can provide anything else to help. Thanks in advance.

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Blaise DourosRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Jul 30, 2015 at 11:19:10 pm

Warp Stabilizer in After Effects and/or Premiere is probably your best bet. It's designed to cope with exactly those problems in motion video, so there's no reason it shouldn't help with timelapse video, too. With the extra rez, you'll have plenty of wiggle room for the small amount of crop it introduces.

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Andrew HoagRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Aug 3, 2015 at 2:56:00 pm


Wish it were that easy! I've attached a lo-res reference video to illustrate exactly what's going on here. Each cross dissolve here represents the change between Week 1 / Week 2 / Week 3... etc. As you can see there are slight variations in the shot and I'm trying to smooth those out!

Obviously the renovations themselves are going to provide significant change between weeks, but aligining things like the corners of walls should be possible. However as mentioned before the slight variants in lens distortion between weeks is making the task difficult.



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Blaise DourosRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Aug 3, 2015 at 3:53:02 pm

The other technique you might try (if warp stabilizer didn't do anything) is using AE's tracking and stabilization. If you create a tracker, and select all three boxes (Position, Rotation, Scale), you can select three points to track that AE can then use to stabilize the footage. The nice thing about this tracker is that you can correct bad tracks manually. Without some kind of warp stabilization, you're not going to completely correct the lens distortion variations, but you can get the movement to line up much more closely using Position, Scale, and Rotation.
Just a quick thought; make sure that you're using the full-rez image sequence as the tracking input--if you've rendered off a QT movie that you created from the image sequence, you'll rob yourself of resolution and wiggle room for moving the image around.

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Andrew HoagRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Aug 3, 2015 at 4:07:14 pm


I believe that this issue is not about stabilizing footage. The time lapses were all shot on a very sturdy tripod from a similar location each time, and slight framing issues can be corrected with simple position adjustments for each week's image sequence layer in AE.

The issue I'm encountering is almost entirely due to variation in lens distortion between weeks. When I use the auto-align layers function in photoshop, a single shot from each week's timelapse can all be aligned perfectly, giving me the final result I'm looking for (except for only a 1 frame for each week - not all 60 frames I need for each week's timelapse).

I've also attached an image of my timeline setup to add further clarity. I'm really trying to figure out what tools can be used (similar to the auto-align function in Photoshop) within After Effects to properly compensate for these variations. I've had limited success with CC Lens and Optics Compensation, but even that is dodgy. Since I have had perfect success using Photoshop's Auto-Align feature, I feel this is entirely possible. However, PS is just not efficient at applying this process to the 600 frames needed per time lapse.

Thanks for thinking through this with me.

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Blaise DourosRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Aug 3, 2015 at 6:15:04 pm

Ah, I see the confusion.

So, I'm not suggesting that the problem is that the tripod is unstable. And looking at how your timeline is set up, I see why you'd think I'm full of it--my suggestion wouldn't work with this timeline.

Let's say your original stills are 4000x3000. Create a timeline that is the same size as the original stills, at the desired framerate: 4000x3000, 23.976 (or whatever). Render out this timeline to a clip.

Now you can import this new, full-size, full-rez clip to a 1080P timeline. Resize it to the desired initial framing.

Now, apply Warp Stabilizer to the clip. Warp Stabilizer is designed to correct camera movements and make compensations for lens distortion; and while there are no actual movements on the tripod, the transitions from one clip to the next may be perceived as camera movement by Warp Stabilizer...and so it may be able to compensate for them.

If not, you can try the method I suggested in my second post. Since the image sequences will now be one long file, they'll be easier to manipulate using AE's motion tracker.

I'm not aware of any AE feature that allows you to align features from two different clips; to use any of its automated tools, you'll need to get the images all on one timeline.

I also found this:

Photoshop might be able to do it, if you have enough RAM (see above linked comment).

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Andrew HoagRe: Aligning Long Term Time Lapse
by on Aug 3, 2015 at 7:49:11 pm

I just had EUREKA moment I'm quite excited about that leverages several different tools...

The first step is getting a rough match between the image sequence layers using scale, position, rotation - and in some cases Optics Compensation.

However the tool that really seems to be saving the day here is the Puppet tool. By placing several pins on the layer I'm able to match details to the layer below. I am getting some warping on the edges of my frame, however this is all being squashed from full RAW (5616 x 3744) to a 1920x1080 comp, so I'm able to crop effectively.

I also have found that your warp stabilization technique does seem to ease the transitions - so I'll most likely apply on final output.

Thanks for all your help!

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