Time-lapse with the Panasonic GX8

 

Recently I was asked to make a time-lapse video during the creation of Susan Stockwell’s art installation at Hall Place, Bexley.

The installation – Trade Winds – would be made from thousands of coins on which would ‘float’ small ships made with paper money from around the world. I was aware that the installation could take up most of the floor space in the room which was about 8 x 10 metres so the first thing to sort out was where to put the camera. A tripod wasn’t an option as the chances of it being moved by accident were high but luckily there was a small lighting rail on the ceiling which I could use to hang a lightweight camera. I mounted the GX8 with a small clamp – backed up with Gaffa tape and a safety chain just in case the clamp and tape didn’t hold.

I used a 7.5mm Samyang Lens to cover the whole floor with the intention of cropping into the frame for the best coverage of Susan’s work.

The camera has a very good built-in intervalometer which is very easy to set up to shoot a series of images. I shot RAW still frames and didn’t use the in camera conversion to movie (quite frankly the conversion in camera is not very good). I processed the RAW frames in Capture One so I could output as jpegs which were then imported into Premiere Pro. I could then crop the full frame images as necessary to the 16:9 format.

img_0233
The Panasonic GX8 hanging upside down from the lighting rail.
sh152312
The final installation

It all worked pretty well and was used as both a standalone time-lapse and also as part of a longer video about the installation.

The only real issue I had was with the battery life which lasted  about 180 minutes, maybe a little more. Shooting about 3 frames a minute gave me around 600 frames or so depending on which battery was used. The installation progressed over 5 days so I would be away for much of the time, going in when I could to change batteries.  Sometimes the battery died before I could get in to replace it so there are a couple of points where the time-lapse moves on slightly quicker than it should but overall I think it works.

Susan Stockwell’s work can be seen on Su’s website.

Straight 8, the result

Well, I finally got around to seeing my Straight 8 film last month. To my surprise it was chosen for one of the London screenings, so on June 12th we had a family outing to The Vue Cinema in Piccadilly to go and see the result. Popcorn and all!

I have pretty much never shown unedited film, or even stills, for that matter to anyone. There’s always been some kind of edit, however minimal. Now here I was sitting among strangers – film makers, in a proper cinema, to watch something I hadn’t even seen myself!  Which was filmed with a 35 year old camera I had only used once to check it was working!

Obviously I must like making life hard for myself but that’s the partly the point of Straight 8. It’s not easy to produce something within the constriction of the 3 minute 20 seconds of film without having the luxury to edit afterwards. The only thing I had control over was the soundtrack, and I thought well at least that’s not too bad – people will have something to listen to.

My film was towards the end of the 25 shown so I had time to enjoy the others, the time flew by and then mine was up! The interesting thing was when my film came on I found that I wasn’t particularly nervous – I was more nervous in the pub before. I was just as interested to see if it had worked out as perhaps the rest of the audience were – well my family anyway.

My thoughts on seeing it? Yeah, it’s rough and raw – but that’s Straight 8. It was mostly a feeling of relief that it had kind of worked out something like I planned but really it inspired me to do it again. Push myself with a more difficult theme next time. It’s just a bit of fun so might as well push the limits – I played it a bit safe this time.

You can see my film above and if you want to see the others from the screenings the link is   www.https://vimeo.com/straight8/videos

Straight 8, the experience.

My Sankyo EM30XL plus iphone.
My Sankyo EM30XL plus iphone.

Yesterday I put my Straight8 film in the post, uploaded the sound file and so completed the project. Now all I have to do is wait to see if, among other things, the camera worked properly and my timings are vaguely as I expected them to be.

For those who may not be aware of the Straight8 film competition, the rules are; shoot one roll of super 8 film to make your movie, edit in camera and put together your soundtrack (without seeing the finished film).  This means a lot of planning – when I shoot video it’s mostly to a fairly open brief and I pretty much think on my feet – with only a loose (changeable) plan in my head. So for me this turned out to be a lot harder than I had anticipated – not helped by the fact that I chose an idea for my film which was subject to changes on the day.

I storyboarded as best I could and wrote down anticipated timings for shots. The day before the shoot I realised that small delays between me pressing the button on the camera and starting/stopping the stopwatch on the iphone could mean over a 10% difference between the two! That would be quite crucial in a film 200 seconds long. That’s why the iphone is taped to the top of the camera – anything to make the timing as easy as possible.

On the day I had to time every shot and then write the time on the storyboard and keep a running total and try to keep to the planned shots. Add to that the fact that I forgot to use the stopwatch for 3 or 4 shots meant that by about two minutes in I had lost track of how much film I had left. The film counter on the camera being fairly vague, so I couldn’t rely on that.

There’s not the luxury of editing the film afterwards, no retakes, any mistakes are locked in for good. Afterwards all thoughts of ‘if only’ are pointless.

Why did I do it? Well I hadn’t used an 8mm camera for many years but love shooting film (as stills) so here was an opportunity to shoot film, go back to basics and well, test myself. Whether my film is good or bad, its an experience I can take back into my working life and improve it.

Will I do it again – I can’t wait. It’s like coming off a scary fairground ride and then immediately wanting to get back on again.

 

Season’s Greetings – Retro TV

 

I started putting out a little Christmas video message to my clients three years ago and so this is the third one.

My wife Kim, showed me her  cousin’s little decoration idea so I thought that I’d share it and do it 60’s TV style – with the help of our daughter Emma as ‘presenter’.

Black & white conversion was done in Premier Pro using ‘SL Noir 1965’.

Music – ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ by Dreamnote Music at Audiojungle.net

Happy Holidays.

 

When Steve met Stevie

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder at The Lanesborough Hotel, London, December 1994.

 

I noticed earlier this week that CBS aired a tribute to Stevie Wonder and it reminded me of the time I photographed him, so I thought that I would offer my own small tribute.

This year I will have been working in photography for 40 years. I decided that I might do the occasional look back over the years in my blog so I thought that I would start with one of the best moments.

It was December 1994 and I was sitting in the bar of the Lanesborough Hotel in London with a journalist, waiting to see Stevie Wonder. I had been around music photography since 1978 so had my fair share of photographing the famous. One of the first albums I bought was by Stevie Wonder, and his show at the Birmingham Odeon in 1968 was one of the first gigs I went to – so this was a bit more than just another job for me! It was a long wait in the bar,  a couple of hours – so no alcohol!  Eventually we were ushered in to the room and met Stevie – and what a great guy he was. One of the few stars that I have met that seemed genuinely interested in our conversation when we chatted before the interview – me mentioning the ’68 gig and him mimicking my English accent and making the atmosphere light and friendly. There were just the three of us in the room and I shot some photographs while the interview took place. We were there for maybe twenty minutes and then the interview was over.

They say never meet your heroes, but sometimes it’s worth taking the chance.

WInston Churchill, Havengore ceremonial

Churchill boat
The ceremonial guard at the front of the Havengore.

 

Back in the city today and I managed to get down to the river  to get a few shots of the start of the ceremonial event for the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s funeral. I remember watching the funeral on TV when I was young and that kind of thing always sticks in the memory so it was interesting to see a recreation of the event.

The boat which originally carried his coffin, 50 years ago today, retraced the route along the Thames – so I thought that I would go and get a few shots for stock. I know the area really well and had a place in mind to shoot from but as I couldn’t get down there until 45 minutes before the event I thought maybe I might have a struggle with crowds – but only a few tourists were around.  Even when the boat passed the crowd was very light and also not many photographers were near my position – always a good thing! Weather was good, bit of hazy sun and not too cold. The boat moved pretty quickly, much quicker than I expected, and from my position it was all over in a few minutes. I had  quite a few shots in the bag so as the boat moved on I packed up and headed for the station.

The fact that there weren’t big crowds did kind of make me wonder about the relevance of the anniversary for the average person on the street. There’s been a lot of media focus on the anniversary, a lot of stuff on TV,  and for those closely involved it’s obviously an emotional event, but as for the general public – many don’t seem to take much notice.  I found that there’s a few  commemorative things going on including an exhibition at the Science Museum which runs until 2016.

There’s also a General Election coming up in a few months – but whatever any of us might think of Churchill, it would be a shame if the anniversary of the death of a major world statesman were to be hijacked for political reasons. That wouldn’t happen would it?

 

The photograph above taken with a Canon 1D3 with 300mm f4 and 1.4x converter.