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Thread: Time Lapse Photographer, New here!

  1. #1

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    Time Lapse Photographer, New here!

    Good afternoon everyone!


    Allow me to introduce myself, My name is Chris, and I am a hopeless forum junkie. I really hope to learn a lot from you folks

    I run a company building motion control systems for timelapse photography and i have been getting into what I call Biolapse. I have put a lot of work into a setup to do timelapse photography of plants.

    you can see more details of the project on www.biolapse.com (no i do not advertise nor do i get paid on that website, nor to I sell anything on that website. It is just to document this monumentally challanging hobby. I assure you, i do not make a penny off this.

    I have done timelapse of several types of plants, hyacinth, oriental lilies, wheatgrass, moss, and other various plants. This has all been an effort to get my system ready to build a carnivorous plant set.

    The vision is to have about a dozen or so carnivorous plants in a set, the camera will move about, taking images of the plants as they grow, shifting focus from one plan to the next, etc.

    My Biolapse system is in a spare room in my basement. I built my own control system which can monitor/correct temp, humidity, day/night cycles, external LED lighting to illuminate the set. I can control the camera, its angle, position, intervals between images, the zoom, focus, and even wirelessly dump the images to my laptop which can also monitor the conditions of the room, and allows me remote access to change/adjust any parameters. Generally when it is running it is a total hands-free operation, and with this type of thing even walking past the camera can have ill effects.

    I have run into two fundamental problems with this project when it comes to carnivorous plants.

    1) I am in colorado. (high alt/ low humidity, less oxygen)
    2) I dont have a very green thumb.


    I have 10 flytraps that i have quarantined in some 1 gallon jars to keep temp and humidity up, sitting next to a window that recieves at best 6 hours of sunlight during the day. So far they seem to be recovering from the shock of shipping...

    This is the second time i have recieved plants, the first time I ordered a pitcher plant, sundew, and a flytrap from amazon, the flytrap survived briefly, but died. I just figured out why too, the humidifier uses a 5 head oltrasonic fogger which apparently does not cleans the water or purify it, so basically it was dumping tap water on the plants. next time i will be sure to use distilled water, i suppose i need to figure out how to do this myself.

    I am looking for tips. I have Shapgnum/peat mix that i will be using for the bedding.

    The artificial light consists of 4x4ft sull spectrum tubes, seen here.

    I dont know if these are enough, the orchids clearly did not care for this light, the last flytrap seemed to respond well with the light about 1 foot above the plants.

    here is a short clip from the last one who i ended up killing with contaminated fog


    I realize this might not be optimal, but im not sure what is. My experience on this is pretty limited, and i am learning more every day. I have several books i try to read, but with a full time day job, a ever growing side company i own, and being a single father i dont have tons of free time to dedicate. I have found forums are excellent ways to help get tailored information that might save me quite a bit of time and money.


    This weekend i plan to move one of the plants down to the grow room (I think i am the only person in colorado with a grow room like this that does not grow pot) and to start shooting. The first goal is to get this lil guy growing nicely under artifical light (with enough room to manipulate a camera). Once i have him growing, i want to expand to other varieties of flytraps, sun dews, pitchers, etc, and other plants that are native to that environment. Then i want to build out a full set, about 3ft x 6ft to recreate being out in nature.



    At this point, i may be rambling, I really hope to learn a lot while i am on here and hopefully be able to contribute as much as i can.
    Last edited by Chronos; 04-10-2014 at 02:16 PM.

  2. #2
    divaskid's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum Chris.
    I love your time lapse videos! They're very nicely done. Hopefully some people on here can help with your carnivorous green thumb so we can see some more neat videos
    ~Michelle (AKA Geva or Jennifer)

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    This looks like a cool project chronos, i hope you succeed. 10 years ago I got obsessed with doing 3d timelapse of cp's, I was especially interested in doing shots with tracking and rotation, but I didn't have any money. So I rigged up a system with legos that let me use a nikon digital still camera to get stereo pairs and also various kinds of motion. (The website is long neglected and somehow the lego web ring code broke the front page, but here's a little info on the lego machinery: http://3dsyndrome.com/automata.html) Anyway, I'm confident you want and will get better results than I did, but you may be interested to see that footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fmDlJVkOpo

    Probably the most helpful thing I can tell you is that you will likely be better off keeping all of your plants in pots , even if your goal is to simulate a 3x6 patch of earth. Keeping the plants in pots allows you to grow them in a terrarium, so that you can have the grow lights closer (6" away from the tops of the plants), and get higher humidity without dealing with a humidifier. So that way you can get your plants in prime condition before the shoot with the least cost and effort. Unless you are trying to get a single shot that compresses more than 10 days, you can just build your "earth" set, but leave holes for your potted plants. Then when it's time to shoot you can put the pots in the holes, and conceal the pot rim with moss or dirt or whatever. So what I'm saying is, if you have a smaller dedicated grow space for potted plants (2 x 4 feet, just under your fluorescent lights), you can get the plants in good condition, and if the actual shoot is a week or so, you can then get away with having the lights farther away and generally less optimal conditions on your set. For various reasons I had to shoot my 3d time lapses 24 hours a day under constant light, this worked fine if the shoot was 10 days or less. If you imagine shooting an epic 6 month timelapse of your simulated earth patch, more power to you, but I still recommend that you try what I am describing first. Once you have successfully grown the potted plants under lights, you'll have a better sense of what you would need to do to keep an earth set thriving for a long term shot.
    Last edited by mikewilder; 04-10-2014 at 04:02 PM.

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    Thank you for the welcome Michelle! I look forward to any pointers i can get

    Mike, I have to say, I'm very impressed with your results. I jumped ahead and started watching your video, and your lighting is extremely consistent.

    So if i get what you are saying, build the set out, and have pockets where plants can be inserted complete with pot during the shoot. Grow the plants in a better location to get them nice and healthy, then move the pots to the set for the shoot when they are nice and healthy.

    Thats a darn good idea.

    I suppose i should start picking up some more plants and get a few terrariums going to get enough plants for the shoot.

    One of the largest problems i have run into is getting consistent light. My preference is to simulate day/night situations, but with that you have to worry about various things such as the light changing or adjusting as things warm up.

    So if 6am to 9pm the grow lights are on, then at night they turn off. Turning them on breifly for 5 seconds to grab a shot means the bulbs are cooler than during the day cycle, which could cause inconsistencies.

    the way i have been running it is to turn on the fill light, then shut off the grow lights 1 second before exposure, take the image, turn the grow lights back on and the fill lights off.

    embarrassingly enough it never occurred to me to simply run the lights for 10 days straight. I had assumed it would cause too much stress on the plant.

    Ill have to play around with that.


    I also need to go get about 20-30 gallons of distilled water for the humidifier, I'm just chomping at the bit to get back to shooting.

  5. #5

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    >So if i get what you are saying, build the set out, and have pockets where plants can be inserted complete with pot during the shoot. Grow the plants in a better location to get them nice and healthy, then move the pots to the set for the shoot when they are nice and healthy.

    yes exactly. dedicate a 2 x 4 foot shelf to either one big glass tank, or four 10 gallon glass tanks, or 4 nursery flats with tall dome lids.(Here is a picture of what I mean by a tall dome lid. I have no experience with this particular company, this is just for illustration: http://www.harmonyfarm.com/dome-lid-tall/) If you choose the aquarium approach, you will want to raise the pots up off of the floor so that they are closer to the lights.

    Arrange your 4 tube fluorescent fixture so that it is as close as you can get it to the plants in any of these methods.

    As for keeping the light constant during the shoot, yes, it is a challenge. I think it is easier if you just film 24/7, and keep your lights constantly on. For a long term shot you could probably only get away with that for 2 weeks or so. It's still worth shooting 7-10 days under constant light to test your movements and the other aspects of your plan, because you don't want to set up a really long term shoot and then realize afterwards you made some sort of mistake. FWIW I ran my camera on autofocus pretty much continuously for an entire year, this has costs and it has advantages. The primary cost was that it wore out the motors/gears in the autofocus system, I pretty much killed my camera. But anyway the lighting I used was always the same, just a 2 tube t12 fluorescent shoplight that was suspended just over the plant. Sometimes I would use white poster board as a reflector to help illuminate things, but basically I had no money, and didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't use a flash of any kind. I had a camera, I had legos, and I already had the plants, so I was just trying to do as much as I could with what I had. Every once in a while you'll get a frame that is off because of the inherent flicker in fluorescent tubes, but you can just cut out those frames in post production. One nice thing about the cheap memory and higher resolution sensors available now is that you can shoot very high res stills and that gives you a lot of flexibility in post. For example I shot at a measly 1024 x 768, but that still allowed me to do zoom ins or zoom outs in the editing program, because I could render the video first at full resolution, do a zoom down to a dvd resolution section of the frame, and then rerender the whole thing at dvd resolution. so free zoom outside the camera, in other words. I don't know how high the codecs will let you go as far as rendering straight from eg 20 megapixel stills, but presumably you could get a 4k codec, that should give you a lot of freedom in post if your final resolution is just 1080 or 720.

    In any case good luck, time lapse is fun. Lots of people here can give good advice about the growing cps part of your project.

  6. #6

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    Hi Chris, and welcome to Terraforums! It sounds like you are putting a lot of effort into the fogger. If it turns out to be too much trouble, I would advise you to consider some carnivorous plants that can deal with lower levels of humidity, such as Sarracenia or Pinguicula. Granted, Sarracenia might be difficult to shoot because they grow so tall, unless you get one of the smaller species like psittacina or purpurea. I have even found that many Drosera are able to deal with low humidity after they adjust to it. I grow many outside in southern California, where humidity can get pretty low.

    Your time lapse video is very interesting, and I wish you the best of luck.

  7. #7

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    The fogger works like a champ. Right now i have a flytrap that should be enjoying a nice 70% level of humidity. But i think i killed the plant, it does not look good. I am using distilled water (purchased from store) and i have the enviornment at 70 degrees, 70% humidity, with 4 full spectrum 4 foot grow lights.

    not sure what im doing wrong, before i started filming the plant i moved it to a new pot with a sphagnum/peat mix.


  8. #8

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    Is the pot you are growing it in drained? Venus flytraps don't really like to be waterlogged.

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