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Welcome to the Pclix Blog

This Blog is authored by Paul Cormack, that's me. For 33 years I've worked in many areas of TV and Film including Production, Post Production, Graphic Design, Commercial Directing, Visual Effects, Compositing and Camera. Based in Toronto, Canada my work has taken me around the world. With 4 Emmy Awards under my belt I feel confident in saying that I know my stuff. As the designer, manufacturer and distributor of the Pclix line of products I will be posting time-lapse shooting tips, tricks and equipment thoughts from time to time. Please feel free to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it regarding anything you read here or for further information about Pclix. Enjoy.

Just about every Digital SLR camera sold these days comes with a small plastic part that most people don't give a second thought to. What is it? How is it used? Plus, why is it so important if you are shooting time-lapse?

What is it?
It's an Eyepiece Cover, usually black like most items used in photography and film-making. Most eyepiece covers can be attached to your camera strap so it is always close by. Don't even think about going out to shoot time-lapse without it.

How is it used?
Basically most eyepiece covers slide from top to bottom overtop of your viewfinder essenially blocking any light from entering the viewfinder. As pictured below you can see how the Canon cover has been slid over the eyepiece. One disadvantge is that once it's attached you can no longer look thought the viewfinder to frame your shot. More about that later.

eyepiece eyepiece_attach
Nikon Eyepiece Cover Canon Cover on Strap

Why is it so important if you are shooting time-lapse?
Ok, here is the really important stuff that lets you know why this eyepiece thing is invaluable. Consider this, normally when you are shooting stills you always have your eye up against the viewfinder, on the other hand when you are shooting a series of time-lapse images you usually have backed away from your camera. This is because you don't want to bump your camera in any way. Now let's say your camera is set to Apeture Priority meaning that you have manually set the Apeture, the camera is now caluclating the shutter speed based upon the amount of light entering the lens. Or is it? That all depends, if you have your eye up againt the eyepiece it is, but say your eye is not against the eyepiece. What then? Suprisingly if your eye is not against the eyepiece light will enter through the eyepiece and give your light meter a false reading. The light entering the lens and the light entering the eyepiece are combined giving you an incorrect shutter speed. You only want the light from the lens metered in order to have the camera's shutter at the correct speed. There you have it. When you slip the eyepiece cover overtop of your viewfinder you are effectively ensuring that your camera's light meter gives you a proper reading for each and every frame you shoot.

In a nutshell you want to ensure that all your camera settings, framing, lens options, tripod, etc, etc, are all set first. The last thing you should do is cover the eyepiece using the small plastic cover which came with your camera. Once you've done that fire up your handy dandy Pclix XT and shoot your time-laspe sequence. If you have any questions or thoughts add them as a comment below and they shall be answered. Happy Shooting everyone.

A good friend named Don Tsung said something the other day which stopped me in my tracks. Don loves taking pictures of his family, he also happens to be the proud owner of a Pclix XT. We're talking on the phone and he says "I love the Pclix, everytime I want to take family pictures I take the Pclix out of my camera bag and connect it to my camera." Now, I'm thinking, what does he have up his sleeve as far as time-lapse shooting and taking family pictures. He goes on to say "It's a great tool for photographing everyone at the same time without requiring someone take each and every picture." Get this, what Don does is simply program his Pclix XT to trigger his Nikon camera every 5 seconds, then he stands his whole family in front of the camera and lets the Pclix trigger his camera as many times as they wish. What a great idea! No more setting the camera's timer for each and every shot. Just strike a pose and presto the Pclix triggers the camera, another pose followed by another trigger, over and over again. Honestly, I have been selling these things for awhile now and never did this use cross my mind.

You can make the interval any length you wish, for Don 5 seconds seems to work best. For others different lighting situations you might have to use a flash. In that case make the trigger just a little longer than it takes your camera to recharge the flash, or longer if you wish. Brilliant! Thanks Don.

In the film industry there is a term called "Motion Blur", it's used to describe the Blur of moving objects within a single frame or a series of frames. Motion Blur can also be caused by the movement of the camera itself, the cameras movement blurs the images in the same direction in which ithe camera is being moving. When shooting with a 35 mm motion picture camera or more often these days a high resolution digital movie camera the frame rate is 24 frames per second with an exposure length of 1/48th of a second per frame. Frame rates do vary and so do exposure lengths depending upon the desired wishes of the Director and the Director of Photography. However 1/48th of a second is extremely common. Now 1/48th of a second is quite long when compared to shooting with a digital still camera on a bright sunny day where the exposure length might be 1/2000th of a second. The difference between these two exposure lenghts is massive, the frame shot at 1/48 will have a slight blur on any objects which were moving when the frame was exposed. The digital still camera which had a 1/2000th of a second exposure will be sharp as a tack even on the objects which were moving (unless they are moving extremly fast).

It can be argued that having motion blur is a good thing when it comes to time-laspe. You get a sense of movement in your images. Motion Blur also helps to cut down on what can be perceived as a strobing effect on moving objects when shot at a high shutter speed. Adding motion blur to a time-lapse sequence of moving clouds helps to give a better sense of movement. Anything which is blurred in the direction of it's movement conveys movement. Personally I love introducing this creative element into my time-lapse sequences where possible. Below are two still frame examples both shot seconds apart on a sunny day, one has motion blur, the other does not.

bvf_sharp bvf_blur
No Motion Blur
1/800th of a second exposure
With Motion Blur
1/5th of a second exposure

Ok, so how is this done? What extra equimpment is required and what camera settings are best suited to acheive motion blur? As far as extra equipment goes a Netural Density filter or two is about all you need. This type of filter is also known as an ND Filter, it's only job is to reduce the amount of light entering the lens and ulitmitly hitting the sensor. ND Filters come in many different values, the darker the filter the less light enters the camera. Or to put it another way, the darker the filter the longer the shutter will have to stay open to obtain a proper exposure.

It's not always nessesary to use an ND filterto obtain motion blur. If you are shooting in low light perhaps at dusk, inside an enclosed space with limited light or at night then you can acheive this effect just by ensuring that the camera's shutter is slow enough to capture the movement of the objects in your frame.

Camera settings play a huge role in determining how much or how little motion blur you want. This is done by varing the length of the shutter, adjusting the apeture and in some cases changing the ISO number. Basically it comes down to this. The longer you want the blur of the moving objects in your frame the longer the shutter will have to remain open. Don't forget, the speed at which the objects are moving also plays a very important part of the equasion. For example the motion blur from traffic moving along the freeway at 120 kms per hour vs someone walking along the street will be drasticlly different when you use the same exposure length.

So grab yourself a few ND filters which will fit your largest lens. That way you can always use the same filter on smaller lens with the addition of a Stepdown Filter Ring (See below). Search Google for more information on Stepdown Rings.

stepdown NDX400 In my photography toolkit I have a 9 stop ND Filter (NDX400) made by HOYA, its like looking through welding glass. This filter cuts the amount of light entering the lens down by 9 full stops. Or in simpler terms, it lets in only 1/512th of the light. This will allow you to have very long shutter lengths even on a bright sunny day. Here is a great website to purchase this filter or many others as well, their customer service is extremely good, www.2filter.com
Stepdown Filter Ring HOYA 9 Stop ND Filter

From time to time I get asked the following question. What's the best tripod to use for time-lapse shooting?

OK, let's break this down a wee bit and discuss the various aspects of what we are trying to do here.

Firstly the role of a tripod in shooting still images or video for that matter is to give the camera a solid footing, basically to stop the camera from having any unwanted movement. We've all seen still images which are blurry or video which has a handheld look to it when in fact that is not what was desired at all. When shooting time-laspe you are shooting a series of shots one after another at a desired interval. It is extremely important that the camera not move at all for as long as your shoot is going to take. Even the wind this can cause your camera to move slightly from frame to frame depending upon the tripod. Shifting sand or a wooden floor which has a bounce to it as you walk for example can do the same thing. A few basic rules of thumb are these, the heavier the tripod the more stable it will be, position your tripod on something which does not move over time and make sure all moving parts are locked down. 

A little bit about a tripod's design.

Tripods generally consist of three extendible legs. Hence the word tri. The legs can be extended indepently from each other so that you can level the tripod on just about any terrain. The longer you are able to extend the legs the more flexibilty you will have in positioning your camera. Most quality tripods allow you to attach a varity of tripod heads, it's the head which holds the camera. Depending on your shooting situation one head might work better than another.
tripod_legs
Most tripod heads have three axis of movement, pan, tilt and roll. By adjusting these 3 axis you can frame your shot once the tripod legs are set up and in place. Generally the pan is a full 360 degrees, tilt up to 90 degrees and roll 45 degrees. Better quality heads have a quick release plate which normally stays mounted on your camera even if you are not using your tripod. This makes attaching and removing your camera to the tripod much quicker. tripod_head
As an option you can always add extra weight to your tripod by hanging your camera bag from the apex of your tripod for added stability. Or you can use a product like the Matin Tripod Butler Pictured here. It can be loaded up with stones to add weight to a tripod. Or also used to hold camera gear as well. You can generally find these on Ebay.

 

When shooting time-laspe you normally always use a tripod so carrying a tripod from shoot to shoot is part of the program. It really is a double edge sword, you want a tripod which is light in weight but as sturdy as possible. Also a tripod with very extendible legs is a huge plus in many cases. One way to accomplish these requirments is to use a carbon fibre tripod, carbon fibre is more costly than aluminum tripods but also much lighter and quite ridgid. In general you have to weigh many things when deciding which tripod is best for you, cost is obviously a huge consideration but so is weight, stibility, height and ease if use. Do your research before you make a purchase. The web has loads of information regarding pricing, various options for mounting your camera and sources for purchase. If you live near a camra store which stocks tripods then go in and checkout what they have on offer. Ask lots of questions and definitly take your own camera along so that you can test different tripods. If you have any questions please contact me via email and I"ll do my best to answer them. Happy shooting everyone.


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