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Video Production

Posted by Tom Benedict on 22/06/2011

Back in the 80’s there was a great series in Dragon Magazine called Snarf Quest. I liked it so much I wound up getting the compilation. It’s still one of my faves. There’s this great scene where Snarf, who is spending a year trying to accumulate enough wealth and fame to claim the title of king of his village, finally realizes he’s in way over his head. In the last frame his friend is explaining that all they have to do is… and Snarf is thinking, “Ya gettin’ in deep, man!”

That one frame explains my descent into the world of video production. “Descent” is probably the wrong term since it’s actually pretty darned cool. But it’s the only word I could come up with that jives with the whole drowning feeling that keeps coming over me.

Here’s a f’rinstance: I know video (and audio, since they go hand-in-hand) is more involved than still photography. Even so, I marvel at how few still photo formats there are compared to the almost limitless supply of audio and video codecs, container formats, compression algorithms, yadda yadda yadda. The only real format debate in the still photography world is RAW vs. JPG, and that has to do with how the files are initially created. Outputs are typically JPG (web world and print world) or TIFF (hard core print world). Video? Cripes, take your pick. Depending on the situation there are dozens of choices to make.

For software, my choices came down to this: I need to do the work on a Windows PC. I need to work with a number of HD file formats. I need to be able to export HD video files for use on a web server. I need to be able to export DVD quality or better videos. Ideally I need enough tools available to deal with kite aerial videos, which tend to be jittery from camera motion.

After some hemming and hawing, asking of friends, and poking around at the software that was already installed on my computer, I gave PowerDirector 9 a try. I liked it, it fit the need, so I got it. I’m sure there are those who will say I missed package X, Y, or Z, which is clearly superior. Sure! And when you enter my esoteric world of CNC cutting strategies I’ll chortle at your XZ pocketing and tell you how in your case contour-parallel was clearly superior. Whatever… Both make holes in parts, and PowerDirector 9 fits the bill.

I’ve got almost all the footage I need to finish the Push N8 video, and now I have the software as well. Over the next couple of days I hope to make my first rough cut. If the learning curve isn’t too steep on PD9, I plan to be finished and off on my next adventure in the following weeks.

– Tom

Posted in Kite Aerial Photography, N8 Push, Software | 1 Comment »

Kiholo Bay Hike

Posted by Tom Benedict on 18/06/2011

Back in June of 2008, I hiked along the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii, from Anaehoomalu Bay to Kiholo Bay. For a serious hiker it’s probably not that impressive a trip. For someone like me, though, it was huge. Just past Anaehoomalu Bay I launched my first kite of the day and flew a camera almost the entire way. This was early on in my kite aerial photography career, so even though the photographs I made that day aren’t as impressive to me now as works of art, they still stand out as photographs of one of my best trips of discovery on this island. I found more beautiful spots to do KAP in that one day than in any other day I’ve spent with a kite winder in hand. I’ve chosen to go back, this time with the Nokia N8 gear as well.

I know the route, and have a good idea what to expect. I haven’t been back to many of these spots since the tsunami, though, so there will be new things I have not yet seen. In 2008 when I first made this hike, it was my first significant KAP outing with my then-new Canon A650IS camera. In many ways it ushered in my change from an avid but casual KAPer to a serious kite aerial photographer. It’s my hope that this will be one of the last full-day sessions with the A650IS as my primary KAP camera. After this I plan to finish building the rig for my T2i and move in yet another new direction.

I also hope it is my last full day session with the N8 hardware. I am eager to complete the film I set out to make in 2010, even if it is not of whales the way I had intended. It’s time to move on.

Photographs to come, I’m sure.

– Tom

Posted in Kite, Kite Aerial Photography, N8 Push, Photography | Leave a Comment »

World Wide KAP Week 2011 – Day 3

Posted by Tom Benedict on 02/05/2011

I managed to squeeze in two sessions today.  One turned out well, the other… not so well.

The day started at Anaehoomalu Bay.  Ever since the tsunami I’ve been fascinated by how the sand moves around now that the fish pond is open to tidal flow.  It’s still evolving, and is quite different from the session I did there a week after the tsunami.  I didn’t make a good panorama of the break in the fish pond wall this time, but instead focused on the resort area and the beach.

Waikoloa Resorts May 2011

Anaehoomalu Bay Beach 2011

I flew the Nokia Push N8 gear here, too, with mixed results.  There’s new software for the phones that fixed many of the ills that were causing me grief in the field.  I tested the software out at home with really good results, but somehow got something wrong when I flew at Anaehoomalu Bay.  None of the stills took at all, and all the videos were rotated ninety degrees to one side.  BUMMERS!  I was really looking forward to processing the several panoramas I did this morning.  I’ll see what I can do with the video, but I’m not holding out too much hope.  Of course this means I need to return here for a redemption round with the N8 hardware once I get this sorted out!

In the afternoon the family and I went to Hapuna Beach.  The wind at Hapuna has been slim to none the last several times we went.  I didn’t really hold out much hope, but I brought all the kite gear anyway.  The wind was lame.


But the sunset was really quite fine.

Sunset Boogie Silhouette

I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring.  I have at least one KAP session I need to do for work, possibly two.  I also have an elevated pole session I need to do for the school my daughter goes to.  It should be a good week!

The only real downer in all this is that I got my first migraine after returning home from Hapuna.  Not much pain, but full-throttle visuals and nausea.  Maybe too much staring up into a bright, sunlit sky?  Who knows.  I just hope I can get out tomorrow.  World Wide KAP Week only comes around once a year!

– Tom

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World Wide KAP Week 2011 – Day 2

Posted by Tom Benedict on 01/05/2011

I got a late start to the day because of a bake and plant sale I needed to bake cookies for.  But it was time well-spent.  I did some pole photography at the bake sale using my A650, which the school can use for PR, and I handed off forty snickerdoodle cookies to be sold.  (In case you don’t know what a snickerdoodle is, it was my favorite cookie as a kid, and it’s still my favorite one to make.  Mmm!)

After dropping my daughter off at home, I took off to do KAP.  This time the wind prediction was right on the money.  The wind was almost non-existent all along the Kohala Coast, but right around the time I reached the turn-off to Upolu Point it finally picked up.  The windmills were cranking!

Upolu Point Windmills

I turned left with a smile on my face. I knew exactly where I was going: Mookini Heiau!

Before describing the session, a quick note on Mookini Heiau:  To the best of my knowledge it is the oldest operating heiau in the islands.  It was built more than 1500 years ago, and as the legends go the stones came from Pololu Valley, passed hand-to-hand for 14 miles, bucket-brigade fashion.  It was originally dedicated to Ku, and was a luakini heiau, or a place of human sacrifice.  More recently, Momi Mookini Lum, the current kahuna of Mookini Heiau, re-dedicated the heiau to the children of Hawaii in 1978, and in 1994 re-dedicated it a second time to the children of the world.  Today it is a place of healing, and not human sacrifice.

Mookini Heiau is a notoriously difficult place to fly.  There is a dirt road that hugs the coast, and a narrow track that runs up to the heiau itself.  This limits where you can stand to fly a kite.  The best angle would require hopping a barbed wire fence and flying from the middle of a private field.  I haven’t gone so far as to hop the fence or ask for permission yet, so to date I haven’t flown here at the best angle.

The wind at Upolu Point is some of the fiercest on the island.  Today it was blowing 13kts on the ground and easily double that in the air.  I forgot about the higher altitude speed-up at Upolu, and put up a Flow Form 16.  I just about got my arms pulled out of their sockets!  I flew the Push N8 gear from the Flow Form, but eventually took everything down.  It just bounced around too much and was exhausting to fly.

Getting the kite back down was a struggle.  I was glad for my gloves and for my carabiners!  Once the Flow Form was rolled up and back in its bag, I pulled out my PFK Nighthawk, a gift from Pierre Lesage and Heidy Baumgartner, two fellow KAPers and all ’round great folks.  (Thanks, guys!!) The Nighthawk flew like a charm and made for a much more civil session. After flying the Push N8 gear for a second time, I put my A650 rig on and flew some more.

Mookini Heiau 2011

I’m pleased with how the heiau came out.  Each time I’ve flown here I’ve been surprised by the landscape.  The first time I flew here was in the middle of a drought, and everything was an apalling gray color.  The second time the rains had come and the landscape had turned green.  This time it was as if I’d made a sepia-toned black and white photograph.  But it really was this color!

This is a four photo panorama.  I don’t think this would’ve been possible with the Flow Form, or with any of my other kites for that matter.  This one is entirely due to the PFK Nighthawk: the best high wind KAP kite I’ve ever used.  Again, a huge mahalo to Pierre and Heidy.

To put the icing on the cake, when I returned home from this session, dumped all the cameras to my computer, and put all the batteries in their respective chargers, I got an email from Ricardo Mendonça Ferreira, a fellow KAPer and the software developer for the Push N8 project.  He had new software to try!  Both phones were still plugged into my computer, so I got the new stuff loaded right away.

To cap it all off, the kids were bummed all the cookies went to the bake sale.  So we made a second batch of snickerdoodles.  This time, just for us.  Yaaaay!

I hope everyone else is having as good a World Wide KAP Week as I am this year.  Keep flying!

– Tom

Posted in Hawaii, Kite Aerial Photography, N8 Push | Leave a Comment »

World Wide KAP Week 2011 – Day 1

Posted by Tom Benedict on 30/04/2011

The opening day of World Wide KAP Week 2011 didn’t start as smoothly as I’d hoped.  That northerly that was supposed to come in around 11am never did, and when wind did finally develop, it was coming out of the south.  I’d gripe, but I have to cut the meteorology models some slack.  Any time vog or clouds cover the inland lava fields, it wreaks havoc with the wind.  Most of the wind on the west side of the island is generated by thermals, so if they never get a chance to set up, the wind never gets going.  Kona was covered with clouds, so that northerly never happened.

Emily Hates Kites

On the way south to Kona for my non-existent date with the non-existent wind, I stopped at the far end of the Blue Hawaiian airfield near Anaehoomalu Bay.  Their wind sock said it all: nada.  The graffiti in the foreground makes me think Emily doesn’t like kites.  But that’s probably just circumstantial.

Manini Owali toward Four Seasons

After running errands in Kailua-Kona, I saw the wind finally had picked up.  But it was blowing out of the south.  Go figure!  I stopped at Manini Owali Beach at Kua Bay to finally get some KAP in.  It was a good session.

I had mixed luck with the Push N8 gear.  The zero wind conditions earlier in the day led me to do some videos from a pole.  I’ve got a 22′ pole I keep strapped to the top of my Jeep for opportunities like this, so it was a simple matter to pop the pan servo off the N8 rig and bolt it onto the pole.  I like the sequences I did, but I really wanted to back them up with KAP flights later in the day.  Unfortunately that never happened.

After flying my A650 at Kua Bay, I pulled out the N8 gear to give it some time in the air.  Unfortunately all the pole work earlier had depleted the rig batteries to the point where the Bluetooth modem on the rig didn’t have the juice to connect to the phone.  After fiddling with it for about twenty minutes I gave up on it and put it back in my bag.  RATS.

When I got home the first thing I did was start running all my batteries through my battery conditioner.  Most AA and AAA chargers charge the batteries in pairs.  Some time ago I got a La Crosse BC-9009 charger.  It charges each battery separately, which helps keep batteries balanced and happy.  When they start to go downhill you can also use the BC-9009 to do discharge/recharge cycles on them until their current capacity is closer to peak.  This process takes roughly a week, though, so I try not to do it unless I really need to.  The nice thing is since it charges the batteries independently, you can see when one starts to lag.  At that point it’s best to go ahead and recondition the whole set and check their capacities to make sure they’re still matched.  It’s handy.

Unfortunately I have no idea what the weather is supposed to be like tomorrow.  The wind models I use haven’t run in the last 24 hours, so there are no new models to work with.  ARGH!  In any case the plan is to hike into Pololu Valley on Saturday, and go to a beach Sunday.  I hope to pad that with a Saturday evening flight and a Sunday morning one as well, but I haven’t planned those out just yet.

I hope everyone is having a good time with World Wide KAP Week.  Keep flying!

– Tom

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A Day With The Honu

Posted by Tom Benedict on 19/04/2011

I took my KAP gear and the Push N8 KAP gear to Kiholo Bay last Saturday.  As with most places there are a couple of ways to hike in there.  Most people prefer to park somewhere along the bay and hike in along the coast.  Personally, I prefer to park at the highway and hike in across the lava.  The flow is about 150 years old, so relatively fresh in geologic terms.  It’s barren, it’s harsh, but it’s beautiful to me.  I love it.

The end of the hike is the lagoon at Kiholo Bay, an equally beautiful spot.  Unlike an anchialine pond the lagoon has a surface connection to the sea, but it’s so shallow it’s almost cut off from tidal flow.  The water is extremely still, and is fed both from the ocean and from freshwater springs.  The result is a body of water whose salinity is highly stratified.  At the surface the water is remarkably clear with relatively low salinity.  The deeper you go, the higher the salinity in the water.  Below a certain depth the water is saturated with saline favoring organisms that color the water a beautiful aquamarine similar to the color of a moraine lake near a glacier.  The only environments I’ve found similar to the one at Kiholo Bay are salt ponds such as the ones at the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Pacific Green Sea Turtles, or honu, can be found at most beaches in Hawaii, but because the lagoon at Kiholo Bay is free of sharks, their main predator in the open ocean, it’s a favorite of theirs.  I have yet to do a photo session at the lagoon where I didn’t see dozens of turtles swimming, eating, or sunning on the rocks.  Photographer heaven!

A little over a year ago a friend and I developed a technique for photographing honu from a KAP rig.  It involves letting out line fast enough so the KAP rig glides out over the surface of the water.  When the rig  reaches the honu, the line is stopped and the rig slowly drifts into the sky.  Meanwhile the photographer trips the shutter.  It worked well with my A650IS rig.  I was eager to try it with the Nokia N8 hardware!

The Nokia gear worked, but I had trouble using the technique.  No fault of the hardware.  It was just too light, the kite was too big, and the wind was too strong.  Even letting out line as fast as I could, the rig went up instead of out, so I never got the low altitudes I needed.  Eventually I packed the Nokia gear away and pulled out my A650 rig to give it a go.

When we first used this technique, there were two of us.  I ran the kite and winder, and he ran the rig and camera.  I stood upwind of the honu, and he stood about 90 degrees to the kite line.  I let out line and jockeyed it side-to-side so I kept the rig in line with the honu, and he called “Stop!” since he could see when it was directly overhead.  This time there was just me.  I was curious if I could do it single-handed.

After a fashion, I could.  But there were some lessons learned:

I could judge distance out to about 20-30′.  Past that I couldn’t tell when the rig was directly over the honu.  This limits how useful the technique is, but at Kiholo Bay it can still be used.  At mid to low tide the drop-off is quite sharp, and the turtles are only ten feet or so from shore when feeding.  This also brings the technique within reach of a 25′ pole, so I may go this route in the future.  (Sorry, KAP purists…  I’m after the vantage point rather than a particular technique.  If the pole gets me what I need, I’ll use it.)

Older turtles turn white.  I don’t know if this is because of the organisms living in the water at Kiholo Bay, or if there’s some other mechanism behind it.  Regardless, pure white turtles are a lot less photogenic than you might think.  Younger turtles have more texture and color.

There are three distinct bands of background for turtles at Kiholo Bay.  Close in, you get turtles sunning themselves on the rocky shore.  The rocks are dark lava rock.  This can skew exposure readings on the camera.  Worse yet, white turtles on a black background can easily overcome the dynamic range of the camera.  Further out, you get submerged lava rocks.  These are still black.  Wet, they’re even darker than the ones on shore.  The dynamic range and metering problems only get worse in this zone.  Even further out, the water is deep enough for the organisms in the saline-rich waters to color the background a lovely aquamarine.  Young turtles photographed over this wash of color really work.

Noon is the wrong time to do photography over water, pointed straight down.  The reflections off the water kill you.  Some time after 3pm is probably better. Likewise, doing photography straight down into the water during the golden hour around sunset also doesn’t work well because the light doesn’t penetrate the water deep enough to light the subject.  My guess is 4pm-5pm is the ideal time for this technique.

Polarizing filters really work for this application, but this brings up my final lesson learned from this trip:  My A650 is noisy.

Ok, to be fair I didn’t learn this on this trip alone.  I know my A650 is noisy, though for a compact camera its noise characteristics are actually quite good.  The problem is that kite aerial photography already starves cameras of light because of the requirement of fast shutter speeds.  Start throwing filters in front of the lens, or doing your photography under overcast skies or at sunset, and the situation only gets worse.  By the time you add up all the conditions I was operating under at Kiholo Bay, I simply didn’t have enough light left.  The photographs were too noisy to use.

One more reason why I’m moving to the T2i for KAP.  And one more reason why I’m interested in trying this technique from a pole the next time I’m at Kiholo Bay.

– Tom

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N8 Update – Pololu Valley

Posted by Tom Benedict on 31/01/2011

Things haven’t been 100% smooth with the N8 hardware, but I’ve had tons of help from the Push N8 team, so things are moving apace.  The only real issue remaining is one with the rig, which we’re in the process of troubleshooting as I write.  Meanwhile I took all the other hardware, including the Didakites rokkaku, and hiked into Pololu Valley with my family.

Pololu is a very photogenic place to fly a KAP rig, but the winds are often unpredictable.  This makes it a great place to test kite stability.  I had some serious concerns after the first few sessions with the Didakites rok, but after I replaced the bridle and tuned it according to Gary Engvall’s plans, it became an incredibly stable, hard pulling workhorse.  Within minutes of walking out on the black sand beach, the Didakites rok was in the air, and I was hanging my temporary makeshift N8 rig from the line.

Corner of Paradise N8

For the first three flights my wife acted as director of photography and signaled me to walk forward, back, left, right, let line out, or take line in.  It was so strange to see her staring at a cell phone, but completely aware of what was going on over her head!  I’ve never done KAP with video feedback, so the idea is completely new to me.  We did those three flights that way, and then she handed the controls over to me.  I walked around for a bit and got used to the idea of seeing what I’m photographing.  Then I finally gave in and tested something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I found out I was to receive one of the N8 rigs: have one KAP rig photograph another.

The eventual plan is to use my A650IS BBKK rig to photograph and video the Push N8 rig in action.  Even if I never use this footage in my Push N8 film, it’d be neat to see and share with the folks at Nokia and Hyperhappen who made Push N8 possible.

But old habits die hard.  I set up the link between the ground and aerial phone, started a sequence, and…  stuck the phone in my KAP bag while I walked around flying the A650IS rig.  Old dog.  New trick.  Give me some time.

BBKK HoVer 3

But it did work.  And true to form I had some wonderful serendipitous shots in addition to the ones I’d actually planned.  One that worked out particularly well was a double-whammy in the luck department.  At the end of one walking sequence my wife put me on, I found I was standing right next to a valentine made of beach rock.  Two people whose initials were T and R apparently loved each other in 2011.  Hey!  My name starts with a T, and my wife’s starts with an R!  Now that’s luck.

Making of Valentines

It was a great day.  The phone-to-phone link worked flawlessly and held throughout the various sessions.  The kite flew like a champ.  I tried out something new and had it work great.  Things are looking up!

– Tom


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Nokia PUSH N8 On The Way

Posted by Tom Benedict on 12/01/2011

I got word the Nokia N8 PUSH KAP hardware should be shipping in the next few days.  I’ve pretty much had to scrap my plans for a nice long lead-up to using the gear to photograph whales, but I think the delay was worth it.  I’ve developed my own fair share of gear in the past, and even knowing the gear intimately as the developer doesn’t save you if things go wrong in the field.  I’d rather run a project late with solid gear than try to run it on time with gear that has issues.  It was a good call, even if it puts a time crunch on things down the line.

The whales are here, though, so I need to get a move on.  I have some other commitments that are also crowding in, but it looks like I should be able to arrange time in the meanwhile, regardless.  Ideally I’d like to get at least two good hour-long sessions with the gear on dry land, and then one more over the water, flying with an offshore breeze.  If all of this works well, I’ll feel a lot better about taking the N8 PUSH gear out on a boat.

My biggest question at the moment is how the user interface works.  I’m so used to working with an R/C transmitter for controlling my rig, using a touch screen will be a real change.  I’m also not used to having video feedback, so I really have no idea how this will pan out in practice.  I hope I like it.  I just hope the video feedback isn’t distracting.  (I get the feeling in the next month I’ll look back on this and think, “Boy were you ever a stick in the mud, Tom!”  But hey, I still wash my dishes by hand.)

In any case I hope to have more updates on this project in the near future.  Things are finally starting to move!

– Tom

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Video for a Still Photographer

Posted by Tom Benedict on 26/11/2010


I’m a still photographer.  I’ve known this myself for years, but I’ve also had this pointed out to me by others.  The first time someone made a point of mentioning it to me was right after I’d finished a short course on broadcast video production. I think their exact words were, “You’re terrible at video.”  Yeah.  Thanks.

My class partner and I actually did make a video that year, and oddly enough it was shown on TV far too many times.  It’s not because of its stellar production or camera work.  I’m certain it’s because they were short on material and this one took up a full thirty minute slot.  We’d shot video of a Physics Circus, an extravaganza of physics lecture demos all jammed together into one extremely entertaining event.  Anyone who thinks physics is boring has never seen a pencil blown through a sheet of 3/4″ plywood by a fire extinguisher, or seen the kind of damage you can do with a giant Tesla coil.  Physics is FUN!  It’s also highly photogenic.

It could have been a lot more photogenic.  Unfortunately one of the two people throwing the show was an uptight dweeb who didn’t want cameras in his face.  So we were forced to keep our cameras firmly attached to tripods at the back of the room.  Of course this didn’t stop someone else from using their camcorder handheld at the front, and getting all kinds of good footage of the event.  When they reviewed it, their comment was, “There’s no motion to the cameras.  You’re terrible at this.”  Yeah.  Thanks.  That’s because you made us not move.  The irony was lost on them.  And as awkward as our video was, it still got more screen time than anyone else’s.  Go figure.  I honestly think it’s because ours was edited to length.

I’ve made some videos since then, but comparing those to my still photography, it’s still achingly apparent that I’m not good at video.  I look at a really well produced sequence and see they have these sweeping crane shots or these dramatic focus pulls, so I try the same effects and it’s invariably bad.  Comically bad.  But that’s ok.  Everyone who cares knows I’m a still photographer.  When I make a video, it’s ok for the audience to laugh or groan at inappropriate moments.  It’s all good.

Until now, that is.  The final product of the PUSH N8 project is a video.  A video.  In the infamous words of Charlie Brown, “AAAAAAAAUGH!”

So I’ve been doing some homework.  I went on a bunch of review sites to find out what the favorite, least expensive video production software was for Windows.  Turns out I already had it installed as part of the software package that came on my computer.  Score! Now all I have to do is learn it.  No small thing, but at least I have a plan:  In addition to being a still photographer, I’m also a masochist.  And for a masochist, the best way to learn a thing is to do it badly, realize I’ve done it badly, reflect on that, and do it again less badly.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  So instead of doing one video, I’m planning on doing one video per week for the duration.  The hope is that by the time I get to the final video product, I’ll at least be familiar with the software.  Ideally I’ll also be a little better at video production, but I’m not holding my breath.  At least by then I’ll be more intimately aware of my shortcomings, so I’ll be more practiced at feeling bad about them.  But I hope I get more out of it than that.

To pull off the first video I want to do, I need to make a time lapse sequence.  60 seconds of screen time is 900 frames at 15fps, or 1800 frames at 30fps.  Just about perfect for what I have in mind.  I’ve done time lapse sequences in the past, typically at 60-120x speedup, and have bracketed them with a title card and credits and tossed them up online as being only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.  (Hey!  Now there’s a time lapse idea!) So I know I can do time lapse videos.  But a couple of things make this one different:  First, it’s faster.  The thing I want to video will be moving at human-perceptible speeds already.  Past about 15x speedup, it would be just nonsense images crammed together.  Second, I finally have video editing software that will do full 1920×1080 HD video!  So instead of editing my frames down to 640×480 or even smaller for NTSC, I get to edit them to 1920×1080 pixels.

Obviously this presents several opportunities to screw things up.  And since the action I want to make the video of is more or less a one-off (think: dropping a glass and watching it shatter, whoops no more glass!) I can’t afford to screw up.  So I’m making a test video first: a glass of ice water melting.  Ok, fine, so I’m back in the category of watching paint dry.  But at 30x normal speed, that might actually be interesting!  And even if this is boring as sin, it’ll at least let me prove all the steps necessary to get from point A (no video, no technique, no nothing) to point B (a working video and the knowledge that I can make this work).  You get the idea.

I started by writing a CHDK script for my Canon A650IS that simulates holding down the shutter button.  This generates a stream of 4000×3000 JPG files taken at a rate of about one per second.  Next, I got a glass, filled it with ice and water, and got busy.  No sweat!

As it turns out it wasn’t that simple.  It took me four sets of images before I got one that didn’t have insurmountable technical issues, and even the fourth had bad white balance.  See why I try to test these ideas offline before I try them on the real deal?  R&D is great and all, but I like to use tried and true techniques when my ass is on the line.  (Note to self:  Camera loses some settings when power-cycled.)  But I persevered and came up with a good set of images to work from.

Next I used Imagemagick to re-size them to 1920×1080 using the following command:

for i in *.JPG; do echo $i; convert $i -resize 1920×1440 -gravity Center -crop 1920×1080 HD/$i; done

These were then run through Adobe Photoshop 7 in batch mode to correct for the bad white balance.  The bad white balance was due to operator error, and now the operator has learned better.  Since I don’t plan to do this in the future,  no documentation for this step.  Besides, this was just plain embarassing.

Next I ran them through VirtualDub, which I’ve used in the past to do video de-shaking.  Turns out VirtualDub will also do time lapse:  Using VirtualDub for Time Lapse The codecs I have in VirtualDub don’t support compressed 1920×1080 video, but since these sequences are short there’s no real penalty.  I saved it as uncompressed video and ate up several gigs of disk space in the process.

Title cards were added to the first and last images in the sequence and saved as 1920×1080 JPG images using Photoshop 7.  In this case I used the Batik font, but I’m not sure what my plans will be for future videos.  This part, at least, is old hat since I did something similar for my SPIE 2010 poster.

Finally, I ran all this through CyberLink Power Director to make the final film, which I then posted to Vimeo.  Watch it if you dare.  Dare to be bored, that is.

– Tom

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Nokia N8 PUSH

Posted by Tom Benedict on 24/11/2010

Some months ago Nokia put out a call for proposals for how to use a KAP rig based around a pair of N8 phones.  At the time I’d been doing some KAP with a photographer in Kona with the goal of photographing whales in the ocean.  So I had whales at the front of my mind.  It wasn’t too much of a stretch to come up with an idea that involved doing KAP of whales.  I sent the idea in, but didn’t really expect to move forward with it.

Turns out I was wrong.  My idea was selected, and not long ago I was contacted by the N8 PUSH team to let me know.

??!  !!!  COOL!

There were some questions to answer and some details to be worked out, but everything came out ok and in the end I was given the timeline and was told to expect a package in the mail.  There’s no curbside delivery where I live, so I’ve been swinging by the post office to check out my PO box ever since.  Nothing yet, but it’s getting clooose!

The package should contain two Nokia N8 cameras, each sporting a 12MP camera with a fixed focal length Carl Zeiss lens, along with a KAP rig designed specifically for the N8, and a kite.  The two phones come loaded with the N8 KAP application, which allows the KAP rig to be controlled from the phone on the ground, and for the aerial phone to stream its video signal to the ground phone.  All in all a seriously cool setup!  I was a little skeptical of the camera at first, but hearing the Zeiss name and seeing a video clip of the camera focusing (yes, it actually focuses) went a long way toward laying those concerns to rest.  What finally did my concerns in was seeing a set of KAP images made by Ricardo Ferreira with the N8 phone.  The image quality was better than most point and shoot cameras, and worlds better than any phone camera I’d ever seen.  (For anyone who’s not familiar with KAP and with the KAP-Nokia connection in particular, Ricardo is an excellent KAPer, and developed the first Nokia KAP rig, based around the N900 phones.)

Operationally, this will be a significant change from the way I’m used to working in the field.  I don’t have a video downlink on my current rig.  The N8 rig does.  I can do movies with my current rig, but I tend not to.  In any case 640×480 is as good as I can get with my current camera.  The N8 does 720p HD video. Right now I don’t have any way to get GPS information for where my camera is in space.  Yeah, I can add a GPS photo tracker to my rig, and probably will in the not so distant future.  But the N8 phone has GPS built in, of course.  I just hope the EXIF headers on the files include the GPS information.  Even the rig itself is different.  I’m used to plugging in cables, screwing down cameras, attaching safety lanyards, and the like.  To use the N8 rig, you snap the phone into the rig and you’re done.  From what I’ve gathered, the aerial phone controls the rig via a Bluetooth connection.  No wires, no screws, no nothing.  And no legs!  The rig has no legs.  But the way it’s shaped, it really doesn’t need them.

So in addition to the PUSH project itself, I’m interested in seeing how the N8 rig behaves in the field.  I’m planning to give it a thorough shake-down and post a review here and on the KAP forums.  Luckily, there’s still some time before the whales come through the Hawaiian Islands.  So I’ve been picking out some likely flying spots where I can put it through its paces and see what it’s got under the hood.  High on the list are Kiholo Bay and Puako.  I’d love to give it a try at the summit of Mauna Kea, but cell phone signals really do mess with the radio telescopes up there.  So it’s a no-no.  Waipio Valley and Pololu Valley are also high on the list since they offer some of the more challenging wind conditions for doing KAP on the Big Island.  (Besides, on the drive back from Pololu there’s a fantastic deli in Hawi called Lighthouse Delicatessen.  Can’t beat a KAP session that ends with a great lunch!)

By the end of the land-based sessions, I should have a better feel for how the rig handles, I’ll have some seat time with it on a couple of different kites, and I’ll be ready to trust myself to launch it off the back of a boat.

Now all we need is whales!

– Tom

Posted in Hawaii, Kite Aerial Photography, N8 Push, Photography | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »