I buy cameras with manual function control. All the cameras I use at work do not have a shred of automatic function on them. I want to be in full control at all times when operating a camera.
But what happens when you cannot be with your camera at all times? What happens when the shot lasts hours and hours? What happens when light changes, color temperature changes, distance from subject changes very slowly and it is impossible to adjust as time elapses?
Enter: Green Square and the use of a timer remote controller.
I first experienced the convenience of the full auto mode (located on top of camera via dial setting) on the Canon 5dmk2 DSLR camera when I shot a three week, day to night time lapse at Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. I wanted to capture “Ice-In” as the lake froze over. I needed a camera that could capture the stars at night and expose a bright cloudless day, without me being there!
The only manual setting I used was to slide a switch on the lens to “MF” for manual focus. I did not want the focus drifting at all in the low light.
Take a look at the video below. This time lapse was a true, “Set-it-and-forget-it”:
People on time lapse forums across the internet are looking for the “Holy Grail” of day/night time lapse settings. If you use Green Square auto, you run the risk of annoying flicker. There are post NLE filters for this, but I have never used them and do not own any. And so far, I am very impressed with the Canon 5dmk2 in full auto mode. For those of you who do not know anything about DSLRs or how to set them up, this camera in green square mode might be a perfect fit to shoot image-sequence time lapses.
Using manual settings are a must when shooting astro-timelapses. I set the Canon 5dmk2 to snap a photo every 40 seconds throughout the seven hours of darkness. The 5dmk2 is set to long exposure to take in what little light is in the sky. My exposure settings are as high as 30 seconds, but sometimes less if I want to take a photo every 20 seconds.
The video below demonstrates what happens when you take a photo every 40 seconds throughout the night with a 30 second “sensor burn” exposure. At the end, you will see the video go white. This is not a transition. The sun has broken dawn and since the camera was set to full manual, the settings forced the camera to continue taking a 30 second exposure with locked aperture blades.
I am running tests shooting day to night astro-timelapses for an epic video project that I will be releasing this fall. I am using the Green Square with some great results. I am also using the Kessler Oracle and Elektra Drive stepper motor system on my CineSlider dolly. Very impressed with this kit.
Yesterday, I set up the Canon 5dmk2 on a Bogen Magic Arm attached to the railing in the left field roof Coke-a-Cola corner. I work the large broadcast camera in that position so I was able to watch the 5dmk2 during the six hour timelapse.
I set the camera to snap a 21.1 mega pixel .jpg picture every seven seconds. I locked the focus to manual, but everything else was factory default using the dial set to “green square”. I weather proofed everything with zip-lock bags. The power was provided by the Canon a/c adapter and I used the Canon remote timer to trigger the camera to snap the pictures. The lens I used was the Canon 16mm to 35mm f2.8 “L” series lens. The lens was locked at 16mm. The shutter speed, iso, white balance and aperture fluctuated as the day turned to night and the stadium lights fired up.
I was quite impressed how the 5dmk2 camera tracked iris, iso, shutter and white as the night progressed. I had shot with my Sony EX1 in timelapse mode in the past using full auto and it did not work out as well. I had issues with the EX1 shifting color temperature.
Check out the video below for the tester six hour timelapse boiled down to a minute and a half. I did not add any de-flicker filters or grading to the clip. Music is by Nine Inch Nails.
As you are reading this, I have the Canon 5dmk2 setup to shoot a 24 hour timelapse in green square mode from the high home camera basket at Fenway Park. Great cloud formations happening as I type this blog during my dinner break in the media room! What happens at Fenway Park at night when the lights go out? Lets hope the green auto mode works as well as it has in the past. The one thing that I cannot get the camera to do in auto mode is longer exposure to add some motion blur to the action as people move around in the stands. Suggestions?
UPDATE April 26th, 2010:
I have finished up the 24 hour time lapse at high home at Fenway Park using the “Green Square” mode and auto focus. The test below was entirely shot in automatic mode where the 5dmk2 and the lens made all the decisions for focus, exposure, iso, aperture, and white balance. I wanted to try an experiment in full auto mode just to see what would happen. I have not found the “holy grail” for day to night timelpasing yet, but the green square mode works ok. NEVER use auto focus. I knew this going in using video cameras for time lapse, but wanted to test it out on the DSLR. Set your focus on a point in the frame and lock it down with a bit of gaff tape.
You will see the image “pulse” in and out as the camera is taking out of focus frames. I used an “L” series 16mm-35mm f2.8 and it did not track as well as I hoped. Again, NEVER use auto focus when time lapsing.
In my next tests, I will take the advice of many people who tell me that “Aperture Priority” is the best way to avoid flicker, and the camera adjusts well to drastic light changes. The “AV” (aperture value) mode on the Canon 5dmk2 dial locks the iris and uses shutter speed to correctly expose the picture. I am not certain where I will run the aperture, but I will have to run it at f2.8 wide open to expose anything at night. It will be interesting to see what happens at f2.8 with full sun!
More test to come on this page from Fenway Park.