Last year, we highlighted Dustin Farrell and he’s becoming one of the go to guys with HDSLR timelapse – (here’s our first post on him: “Astonishing Canon EOS 5D Mark II timelapse from Dustin Farrell“). This is his new collection called “Landscapes Volume Two” and it is getting huge attention after our post on twitter and gizmodo where they called it “the most amazing time lapse video yet.”
And, as you read Dustin’s comments on the video below, you’ll see him comment about writing for planet5D – well, we’re pleased to announce that indeed he will be writing posts for you on planet5D in the coming months!
And, if you’re interested in timelapse, maybe you’d come to the Chronos Film Festival – “It’s about time” the world’s first timelapse conference
Landscapes Volume Two
Dustin’s behind the scenes:
It has been nearly a year now since my first video hit the planet5D airwaves and now I am pleased to announce the completion of “Landscapes: Volume Two”. I am still rocking the 5D2. In fact, I had to send the original in to Canon to have the shutter replaced. The repairman told me there was over 200K shutter actuations recorded! Now Crew West Inc. is the proud owner of two Canon 5D Mark 2 cameras. This past year I have continued to refine my skills as a time lapse shooter and I think that many will agree that I have indeed done that. Volume One was something that I was very proud of. However, it was my first full year of shooting time lapse. I knew that the bar could be raised higher and that I had plenty of room for improvement. What I have learned about DSLR time lapse shooting over the past year took my videos to the next level that we all aspire to reach.
Many time lapse shooters feel that since they are compressing their stills into web videos, they can skimp on glass. I guess it all depends on your final output, but if you are finishing to HD for Vimeo like I am, mediocre glass will rear its ugly head. I had a few shots in Volume One that weren’t tack sharp because of a cheap lens. The only lenses I ever shoot with now are the Canon primes like the 14mm 2.8 and the 24mm 1.4. If I ever shoot something telephoto I use “L” glass for that as well. Take it from someone that has shot over a quarter million raw frames now, glass matters even when compressing for the web.
I also discovered some incredible software that helps me make my shots even better. As the editors like to say, “Editing is everything.” The first software I would like to mention is SNS-HDR Pro for HDR (high dynamic range) batch processing. My initial attempts at HDR processing were a nightmare. Not because I was doing anything wrong, but because the software I was using was unable to consistently tone map each picture. The result was an unsightly time lapse that flickered from frame to frame. With SNS, the processing is very consistent and 9 out of 10 of my batch processes come out flicker-free.
Neat Video is a noise removal plug-in that many of us have heard about before. The problem is that the video used in all of their tutorials was low resolution, high ISO, and/or highly compressed. I make it a rule to try and avoid shooting any of the three. I figured that the Neat Video plugin wasn’t for me and that it must not work well on uncompressed high resolution video. Actually, it is quite the opposite. The plug-in actually excels in a 16 bit color space and works better than I could have ever imagined at removing noise from astro time lapses. I have grown to depend on Neat Video.
I finally heard enough great things about the Stage Zero Dolly from Dynamic Perception from other time lapse shooters that I had to buy one. Once the learning curve was over I really began to enjoy using it. It is a much smaller and lighter dolly than any of my homemade motion control. It made many shots that I once would have called impossible, possible. There are locations in “Landscapes: Volume Two” that required over 3 miles of hiking. The Stage Zero dolly made motion control possible at even my most remote shoot location. One of the things that I really enjoy about using this dolly is the ability to do vertical moves with it. The shot at :55 is an example of that.
The most challenging thing about shooting time lapse is the fact that you have one chance to get the shot right. A wrong move, poor planning, dead battery, car head light, etc, etc can ruin the shot you have spent hours setting up and shooting. Because of this I have become an excellent location scout. There is so much on the line when devoting your day or night to one shot. Scouting is often a must, otherwise you are just gambling. The final shot in Volume Two is a full-moon night shot that I truly wanted to nail. During the scout I noticed a house in the distance when its motion detecting porch lights turned on. Had I not scouted this shot the night before I planned to shoot, the shot would have been ruined. Instead, I was able to contact the owner and get permission to unscrew the bulbs.
The amount of knowledge that I now have of time lapse shooting and editing is truly amazing. I seriously could add a page every week to planet5D if planetMitch would have me. One of these days maybe I can do some classes or at least some online tutorials. Hopefully it won’t be nearly a year until “Landscapes: Volume 3”, but being a full time DP at Crew West Inc., chances are likely. My final tip and words of wisdom are to find your niche. Find the one unique thing that you are good at in the film or video industry and master it. You are working in one of the most competitive industries and you must do all you can to stand out from the crowd. That’s what I did.
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)