I3 Build-out taping

So Mark and I spent the last 3 days (Fri, Sat, Sun) baking in the Sun filming the I3 Team‘s Carnival booth being built. I set up the timelapse capture to do 10 sec and 15sec interval shots with some simple panning which gave us around 5-6 hr sessions at a time averaging around 1500 frames. Meanwhile Mark took the smaller camera and ran around doing shots of everything else including other exhibits.

I learned some lessons doing this shoot:

  • Time lapse is excruciatingly slow and tedious… we got bored after 15mins with the camera and made ourselves useful by helping I3 where we could while the camera snapped away.
  • There’s a tremendous amount of planning you’d have to do before you can even get a shot started (this isn’t a point and shoot type of deal).
  • With that comes an amazing amount of unpredictability… for example as much as I tried to get the pan/tilt motion such that it would have people moving about in the frames and also get some shots in the background with the other booths being built, it never seemed to work out right when the time came. Things would happen out of order (the real world isn’t predictable at all), lighting would change like crazy (exposures become way wrong towards the night), things NEVER get into the frame that you were expecting them to at the time, focus gets lost (autofocus can stall the camera so we’ve got to use manual)… etc.
  • If you catch an error in mid-shoot (exposure screwing up or out of focus or anything really), you can’t really fix it… because making the change would blow out all the footage you already have from being consistent with the rest of the shoot. In reality these 1500 frames compresses to about 50secs or so; making any changes mid way would drastically pop out at you and in the long run makes it worse than just having consistency in the shot.
  • Don’t even try to do anything close-up, more than likely it won’t get framed right with the people. Your best bet is to go for the widest shot you can do. It really isn’t practical to be by the camera 24/7 constantly adjusting things for each shot.
  • In the end you can sum up the use cases for where this thing works to be shooting long-time-lapse of environments with very little worry about framing issue or shooting a wide-zoomed-out shot from far away.
  • The Dell Mini9 that we’ve been using to be the robot’s brain sucks to use directly out in the field (the glare of the screen, the tiny unusable keyboard, sucky trackpad, way tiny screen resolution for the kinds of megapixel images we were taking). Our software is designed to be networked and the main user interface was meant to run from a browser on a separate computer on the network letting the Mini9 sit on the robot and simply control it untethered. The Mini9 I still think is the best option for the robot’s brain… we just need to add some sort of wireless network onto it… or run an ethernet cable off of it I suppose.
  • Hard drive space becomes very precious. Each of the shoots was easily burning through 4-5gigs (these are megapixel images). I had to offload the captures to my home computer (which was also rapidly losing space) every night.
  • Carrying around and setting up all this equipment is very tiring… that UPS easily weighs around 50-60lbs… and let’s not even talk about all the loose wires and cables. It’s more than one person could handle in one trip from the car.
  • That AC adapter we got for the Canon camera is the worst… the little connector doesn’t plug in all the way and the tiniest gust of wind or kick could unset it killing the power to the camera as well as screwing up the computer’s connection to it and the shoot.
  • While the UPS was an incredible lifesaver for us, it still can’t save us when we need to do very long shoots (5+ hours)… we had to tap into I3’s power, when we could, to recharge… I did recharge the UPS every night though (apparently it takes a very long time to fully recharge), but it still runs out of juice eventually.

The I3 Booth, when I last left it at around 9pm on Sunday, had gotten all their exterior walls up and interior rooms all built out. Which is kind of amazing considering that it’s a two story structure. In fact it’s so big and fancy they had quite a number of people as well as other teams come by asking what the heck they were building… it could very well be a livable house. They’ll be doing the internal walls, painting and adding all the electronics by Carnival on Thursday. While we’d love to keep filming them working their butts off, we unfortunately have our own project to attend to this week.

So with that I’d like to Thank the I3 Team for letting us film them, letting us tap into their power, making us honorary team members and putting up with us in general 🙂 . Best of luck to you guys on Thursday… can’t wait to see it when it’s fully done… also get some sleep! You’ll need it for the teardown 😉 .

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