"Time and Time Again" Production Blog

Chronicling the production of the stop-motion animated short, "Time and Time Again" by Mike Bates. All images, characters, weird machines, etc, Copyright 2003-2007.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 
Flashback! Yes, here's a pic from the last time I was in the sound stage.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

 
Canon S60 Review Continued!

Final Image (JPG vs. RAW):

The S60 is the lowest model camera in the Canon line, not only to have the manual and semi-manual settings, but also to have a "RAW" image output option. RAW is the proprietary format the camera uses to store an uncompressed image. One of the problems with the digital cameras that are out now is that usually the only options for picture output is JPG, PICT or RAW. The first one being not very well compressed, and the last two being gigantic files. I don't think there are any cameras with a PNG output, which is an ideal lossless compression format, that would save a lot of room on the disk. So I haven't decided what my final image will be, but I am taking RAW pictures of all my shots, so that I can have the highest quality image to start with, then I can change that to pretty much any format from there.

Frame Grabbing and the Shoot Setup:

Right now I'm using frame frabbing software for the Mac called "Frame Thief" which uses the native DV format of the Mac. To use Frame Thief with the camera, I needed to convert the "Video Out" of the camera into the Fire Wire format that plugs right into the Mac. For that I am using something called a Dazzle DV Bridge, not a cheap piece of hardware, but thankfully my friend had one he wasn't using! And it works great. There may be some cheaper devices that may serve the same function, transferring RCA video into firewire, but I haven't looked into it too far.

One of the biggest problems with the Digital Camera and Stop Motion is that you have an amazing final image, but the available live video output of the camera does not have very high resolution. In fact, the "Video Out" resolution of the S60 is about 2/3 that of normal TV resolution. Bummer.

But for a sort of work-around (I mentioned this in my last comment, too) the zoom control in the Remote capture software has only about 7 stops to it. Which means you can zoom in a few stops closer in the middle of the shot and see a close up view of the subject, great for smoothing over some messy clay, or fixing other little details. Then when you're done, you can zoom right back out to the exact spot it was before, and take the shot. I've done a couple shots where the puppet's head was so small in the frame that I frame-grabbed the whole shot zoomed in, but took the final shot zoomed out, zooming in and out for every shot! I try not to do that very often, you never know how much zooming these cameras can take.

Another little note, sometimes my shots are so dark, that it's hard to see everything that is going on in Frame Theif the same way the final image will see it. So one way to see everything is to run one file in Frame Thief that looks good in the final image, but looses detail the way I see it in Frame Thief. Then run another file that adds another light that is not part of the final lighting setup, but helps see everything on the set for the shot. Then I can turn the light on and off between getting the move right with the frame grabber and shooting the final image. This way I can watch all the action, without compromising lighting quality. Another way to see a dark lighting setup is by changing the f-stop, or shutter speed during the shot. Shooting one Frame Thief file at one exposure setting, then brightening up the exposure for another Frame Thief file. This way it's the same lighting setup, just a little brighter. And thanks to the Remote Capture software's "Batch" save settings feature, you can save all your exposure settings, zoom, etc. then change them, take a shot, then recall them to exactly where they were to begin with. (Except focus, which as we saw in the last installment, is a little different.)

My Friend Flicker: Post-Production and Flicker

Now to watch all this stuff, you've got to put all the images you've shot into an editing program. And the best way to turn that sequence of images into something that an editing program understands is to use Quicktime Pro, a 30 dollar upgrade for Quicktime. This upgrade allows you import a sequence of images, then save them as a Quicktime file. This, your editing program will understand. You can either save it as a reference movie, which creates a QT movie which "refers" to the original image sequences, making for a very small file, or you can save it as a self-contained movie, which contains all the images in it, that is much bigger.

Okay, so flicker. What is flicker? What causes it? How do you combat it? Well, I've thought about it the last few weeks while shooting and the come to the conclusion that there's not much I can really do about it. :( I have tried look a little closer at how my camera causes "flicker", but for my film I've decided little flicker might give it some old timey character, and if I really need to, I may be able to tweak a frame here or there in editing.

A flicker in the images can be caused by the obvious, the camera or a light moving between shots, but there is definitely sometimes a fluctuation in the camera that gives every other frame a slightly different brighness, even when the exposure is locked down. It was okay for a while there, but I've been noticing it a little more lately. Since it is not a fully manual camera, there is probabaly some weird automatic function that resets itself after each photo that I'm not aware of.

But in the end, these are digital images, and the potential to alter them in post-production seems very promising and may outweigh the flicker issue. To read more about flicker, I highly recommend the StopMotionAnimation.com forums. They've got a ton of information already on the site, as well as people who are eager to help. Also, I think I remember some After Effects plugin for combating flicker. Check it out!

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Okay, so there you have it! If I've missed anything or if you can think of any questions, please comment below! I think the camera works great in stop motion for the price, and considering it really wasn't designed with stop motion in mind, all the little quirks it has seem minimal when compared to it's advantages. Thanks for reading!

Now, back to the pictures!

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