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Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

The amazing little GoPro HDHero cameras can record full 1080p HD video, as well as timelapse and single shots. They’re tiny and easy to rig anywhere, as in the setup below where we used them on a corporate shoot, mounting six on laptops for a video chat, instead of the built-in iSight cameras.

The GoPro mounted on a laptop, using its flat-base mount, Velcro, and blue tape to protect the lid of the computer.

The GoPro provides a higher-quality alternative to the built-in webcam. The wire taped to the side is for a lavalier microphone piggybacked onto the camera.

But camera movement is where the GoPros shine. The HDHero comes with helmet mount, auto mount, body mount, or wrist mount, with both waterproof and non-waterproof housings. I recently bought the HDHero camera, helmet rigging, suction cup for autos, tiny clip-on LCD monitor, extra batteries and clip-on battery pack.

In Timelapse mode on the GoPros, you can only control the interval between shots (2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds). Everything else is automatic—shutter, aperture, video gains, etc. The cameras have a fixed, wide-angle lens. No zoom.

Mush rigs the GoPro with a suction cup mount on the roof of our van in São Paulo.

Shooting timelapse results in folders with thousands of jpegs. A new folder is created each time you start shooting a timelapse sequence. But when you render your image sequences later (I used Quicktime 7 Pro’s File —> Open Image Sequence command), you can control the frame-per-second rate, creating different length clips of the same event, with different speeds of movement. The moving GoPros clips in “Traffic Study” were all rendered at 30 fps, and also at either 10 or 12 fps. Sometimes I used the slower speeds in the final edit, sometimes the faster ones.

Adjusting the GoPro on the roof of the Sprinter van. Then we drove around with the camera running in timelapse mode for most of the next two days.

The blurriness which adds so much energy and motion to these timelapse sequences resulted from the GoPro’s shutter staying open long enough to smear the motion, for one or more of these reasons:

  • The camera itself moved past fixed objects very quickly
  • Objects on screen moved very quickly
  • There was not much light, the aperture was wide open, and the shutter dragged (stayed open a long time) to provide an adequate exposure

We shot most of the static-camera sequences with my Canon 5D and the Canon’s TC-80N3 Timer/Remote Control, variously adjusting the interval between frames from 1/2 to 2 seconds, and varying the shutter-open time from ¼ second to one full second. These clips were rendered at 10 and 30 fps.

Some of the colors and effects are amazing. Editing in iMovie definitely added some down-resing and compression artifacts, but you can’t beat the ease of use (and cheapness of the software!).

Traffic Study

Cinematography: Bill Zarchy, Mush Emmons
Editing: Bill Zarchy
Cameras: Canon 5D Mark II, GoPro HDHero
Edited in iMovie
Music: Villa-Lobos, Prelude #1
Shot in São Paulo, Brazil, in August 2011

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3 comments to Traffic Study—Timelapse with GoPro & 5D

  • Jim

    Bill: I had to tell you how much I enjoyed Traffic Study…always enjoy your work,and am always glad to see you up on my screen.I know I’ve been somewhat silent on this end for awhile,but certain circumstances have kept me that way….I always enjoy what you do,and look in on you all the time

    Love to Suzy,Razzi,Danny and you all……Best Always Jim

  • Hey Jim, Wonderful to hear from you and glad you liked Traffic Study.

  • Nathie Tieman

    This reads like a great article even though I didn’t understand all the technical stuff. I really enjoyed the video as not only did I get a glimpse of you but it was fun to see where the camera went and listen to the great music.

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