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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Robbie: So earlier, Rich, we talked about requirements of memory cards for video and then in general, but what about time-lapse? Richard: Yeah, I think time-lapse is a little bit trickier, because it really depends upon what you're doing. There is lots of factors, I put out there, the first one being record time. You know the thing you can't do in time-lapse is touch the camera. As soon as you've touched the camera-- Robbie: You've screwed it all up. Richard: Yeah. It's going to make even if you're like, oh! I'm really careful, and I am popping this memory card, the slightest vibration or touch destroys the frame, and you have jump. Robbie: Yeah. Even if it's in the middle of taking pictures, if you have a long interval, you are still possibly going to move that camera just a touch. Richard: Yeah.
So you have to make sure you have enough capacity to record for the duration you want to record. Now some cameras have built-in interferometers, which is the device that allows you to set the timer for how often it takes pictures, many times the built-in ones will cap out at 1000 pictures. Robbie: Right. Richard: But you have other options to record a lot more with an external interferometer. So you might be recording for days or weeks and in that case, you could really need those big cards. So it's not uncommon to buy those 64 gig cards, and I think we're starting to see 128 gig cards too.
Robbie: Yeah, together. Richard: They are expensive, but you know a time-lapse shooter would likely buy that in order to support the record time and one of the things people just have to think about is how long do they need to record. So I just think of it this way. Remember, if you're recording 24 stills, you know that's going to be about a second or maybe you are doing 30. A lot of times at time-lapse people will hold an individual frame repeated for a couple of counts. So you might only be shooting 10 frames per finished second or 8 frames, but even still, you're going to go through a lot. The other big issue is going to really be how big those file sizes are because this is not a 2-megapixel image.
Robbie: Well, right, and you know that's one of things I always think about, I'm going out there, and I am like, okay I am used to shooting video, but all of a sudden go from two, you know roughly 2 megapixels up to maybe 20 megapixels or a 20 megapixels plus so that file size is going to be whole lot bigger. Also, it's going to depend right if I am shooting JPEG on my camera or if I am shooting Raw on my camera. Richard: Yeah. And a lot a folks struggle with this. You know, obviously the benefit with JPEG is it's ready to use, and it comes out at a nice small size, and it can fit a lot on the card, and that used to be the only way people shot time-lapse because cards are so low.
You are like oh! I have got a 4 gig card, I'm shooting Raw. Oh! I got a 2-second time-lapse. It kind of defeats the purpose. Robbie: Right, sure. Richard: But you know what we're seeing now is with these larger couple of cards, we can record longer. The benefit with Raw is that it gives you greater flexibility. So you can use a program like Adobe Camera Raw, open up the first image, recover the highlights, boost the shadows, pull a bit of vibrance in there, and then apply that to the whole sequence. That's works great. Or if you're dealing with tough situations like sunrise or sunset, you could develop it for the sunrise state and then develop it for the predawn state and just cross-dissolve between those two streams. Robbie: Right.
Richard: So there is lots of ways of pulling this off. But JPEG on the other hand just gives you longer record times. Robbie: Right. So if you're you know--the best quality obviously, you might shoot Raw, if you are fine with the way it looks in camera JPEG. But that sort of determines our capacity. You know how long you have to go out there, and you're determining the file size between JPEG and Raw, but what about speed? You know you might be in a situation with the time-lapse that you could go with a pretty slow speed card, high capacity with slow speed because you're firing off one shot say every five minutes or something like that, you know if you are doing a multi-day time-lapse, but you might also be doing a time-lapse where you are shooting off a frame every ten seconds or five seconds or a second even.
Richard: Yeah. It totally depends on the style. Like if I am doing long stuff where it's showing progress over time like hours, it might be every 10 seconds. On the other hand, if I'm shooting people and doing time-lapse, and I want that energy of people flowing through the scene, I sometimes will shoot a one second exposure to get streaks at a one second interval. So it's just basically snapping open, close right back open, and that's continuous raw data and in that case-- Robbie: If you are shooting Raw, yeah then that's what's I was going to say, if you're shooting that fast, and you're shooting Raw, you are going to need a pretty fast card, right? Richard: Yeah. And what you'll notice here is if you don't, the camera will lock up.
So a lot of times people will just sit there on time-lapse, not touching the camera, but just listen, and it's going for a few seconds where it's--and then all of a sudden it's like-- Robbie: Right, right? Something went away. Richard: Then it will change. Robbie: I have had that experience actually. Earlier we talked about having organized our memory cards. I actually had that problem a couple of weeks ago. I went out, and I was doing time-lapse, I was shooting Raw, and I wasn't paying attention, I put a slower card in, and you know my camera, my 7D had--you know, it has a pretty big internal buffer, but that internal buffer filled up, and it couldn't clear fast enough to write the card.
The next you know the whole camera locked up, and I had to start over from scratch. Richard: Yeah. And sometimes it'll just slow down, and sometimes it'll totally lock up, and it'll fail, and then you have to restart the camera and go through your settings. So really in that case, having a faster card comes in handy. I'll typically go 300x on up, although I have shot Raw time-lapse to 133x cards. Typically though, I can't do a faster interval than, say, a 5-second shot. Robbie: Right. Richard: Now, another variable is how many slots does your camera have? A lot of the cameras, that I use for time-lapse, have two memory slots.
And so I could set the one card up and then put a secondary card for rollover. So it'll go ahead and write to the second card once the first one is full. That's great because that gives you the ability to shoot longer without having to swap cards or start all over. Robbie: And rustle the camera a little bit. Richard: Yeah. And so I think the final thing I would say is it really comes down back to your post workflow, the post-production side of thing, and this is where JPEG versus Raw kicks in. A lot of people want to use the JPEGs because they are really quick to edit together. You can fire open QuickTime Pro and say make a new image sequence, and it will slam all together, and it's great, and you know, you can use basically free software to do this, and that's fine.
The people who are really doing the high end stuff, are taking the time to shoot Raw, and then they're using tools like Aperture, Lightroom or Photoshop to batch process those Raws and spit them out or even Adobe After Effects, which could pull Raw in, it really though is a huge leap in system performance, like if I pull in a Raw image sequence into After Effects, I can't really do that on my laptop, I got to switch to a desktop computer, or I got to work at such a low quality, and then I hit Render, and I walk away for a while. Robbie: Right, the digital timeout, if you will. Richard: Yes. Robbie: Absolutely.
Richard: So I think it works pretty well. I mean do you want to just recap for our listeners? Robbie: Yeah, I think a few things to pay attention to are determining how long you are going to be shooting for. That's going to determine the capacity of the card that you need. If you're going to be doing say an overnight shoot where you are going to be shooting for 12 hours, you're going to need a big card. The second thing that's going to sort of determine your capacity, but as well as your speed, as well if you're going to be shooting JPEG or Raw, right, obviously JPEG, it's going to be smaller file sizes, and it's not to going to be as bandwidth-intensive on the card. And if you're shooting Raw, that's going to affect the size of the card that you need, but also the bandwidth and the speed of that card that you need.
And then the last thing there is more of your post workflow. If you're going to be shooting Raw, you are going to need a faster card, but also a faster computer when you are going into process that stuff. Richard: Yep! So there you have it. If you're going to be a time-lapse shooter in additional to a DSLR shooter, make sure you pick up some of those faster cards because they will really come in handy. The JPEG workflow is just fine if you are getting started out or you're shooting during day time where you don't have a lot of lighting conditions changing. But if you're dealing with sunrise, sunset or low light shooting, Raw is an absolute saver that just makes things look great.
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