Iris Fail, Fungus Update, DIY Fill Lights, New workstation

Iris Failure

So a part of education is failure. The Iris was a bomb due to both dumbass actions of my own and forces beyond my control. Here is how it went down.


1) Cheerfully and happily cleaned up the Biolapse set and set up the lights, cameras, Iris’s.  The goal was to shoot with one camera above with about a 45% angle pointing down at the Iris. The other camera would be below shooting about a 45% angle up.  The intent was to use a chromakey backdrop and punch in a background in post.

Problem 1)  A few days later i check on the studio. The Eye-fi card was not transmitting the images to my laptop, which is not a big deal, the wifi cards work well but  they are not 100% and while shooting Carnivora Gardinum I did run into times where it just did not want to connect to my network and I would have to pull the images manually after the shoot. However the problem was the memory card was full. Dumb rookie mistake on my part.

Problem 2) I cleaned out the memory card and was setting things back up when the BCM prepped the scene for a frame, and I noticed not all 4 tubes in the 4 foot T5 light fixture which was being used to illuminate the chromakey backdrop were coming on.  I reviewed some of the frames to see if this was at least consistent or intermittent, and for the most part the exposures were consistent but here and there was a frame that was either way brighter or darker. Crap.  So I unplugged the T5 from the BCM and just plugged it direct in the wall. It should at least provide consistent lighting if it was not turning on and off over and over. (which reminds me I need to order more tubes)

Problem 3)  Power outage at my house caused the BCM to reset. I found this yesterday, and I have no idea how long the power was out for, by the blinking clock on my over I assume it was about 3 hours. I think I need to alter the code so if it boots up while in RUN mode that it will automatically start rather than waiting.

Problem 4)  While I was swearing up a storm in the Biolapse studio i noticed that on Camera 2 which was angled down 45 degrees to the iris flower, that the right side of the flower was completely overexposed. Not that this mattered as I was missing 3 hours of data (7 min interval = about 25 missing frames. Looks like when i plugged the T5 into the wall the other day the light had shifted and was spilling light on the flower.


After all this I decided to pack it up. Camera 1’s iris started to open and the footage looked decent, Camera 2’s iris had still not opened. After shooting venus fly traps for months I was familiar enough with their development to predict their growth, however I am nowhere near that familiar with the iris’s. I got cocky thinking this would be an easy win, an easy Biolapse episode, and an easy set of footage that perhaps somebody would be willing to licence.  These flowers have humbled my ego and reminded me I need to spend some time learning the plants before I bother shooting. So they now live on a vase on my dining room table so I can observe them and watch their growth. Never forget, that with this sort of work that everything is working against you. 😉

 Fungus Update

My spores have arrived! I now have everything I need to start growing mushrooms. I have 4 strains of perfectly legal mushrooms including Shitake, Blue Oysters, Reishi, and one more but i cant for the life of me remember what it is, other than not very edible and it has a very nice “Mushroomy” look to it.

The mushroom incubator is NOT up and running yet. I am still waiting for a current clamp, I have the new water pump and that part is ready to be replaced. Then i need to install an arduino, a 3.5mm jack, a couple relays and some outlets. My friend Creigan will be coming over this weekend and we are going to try to get that all finished. Then I need to mix up the substrate and get everything sterilized for spore inoculation.

I am running into a bit of a time pinch with this now. The first few batches of mushrooms will be shot with chromakey. This will give me time to make notes on the growth rate of the mushrooms and learn to predict the behavior for when they eventually make it onto the set. It will also give me additional mushrooms which can be popped into the final video in post production via chroma key techniques.  The time problem has to do with a 10 day hiking vacation I have planned in Sedona AZ at the end of march and early April. I need to get these up and going asap, if I wait too long they may end up fruiting while I am out of town, and I really want to be able to view/document the fruiting process.  This weekend is going to be busy!

DIY Fill Lights

A large part of the iris failure has to do with the lack of equipment needed for chroma key work. So, in case anybody is wondering what the hell I am referring to, chroma key is the video process of using a blue or green background which allows you to isolate and extract the subject and insert it in other backdrops. you most often see this with weather reporters standing in front of their weather screens.

The Iris setup i was using a 4ft set of T5 fluorescent lights to illuminate the background. It is a large, heavy fixture and it spilled way too much light on one of the flowers. So I want to build out some LED panels to provide a more even, low powered lighting system that can be shut on and off without fear of the bulbs wearing out and intermittently not turning on.

The parts should start arriving in the mail in the next few days and I will be sure to document the build process. I admit, rather than figure out how to do this myself I plan to use this fine fellows instructions. So my documentation will NOT be a step by step guide because this guy really nailed it already. No need to re-do his work.


New Workstation.


However my laptop is not up for the task.

I do all my editing and assembly in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Last spring I bought a new laptop, a HP Touchsmart i7 and hot-rodded it out a bit with a 16gb ram upgrade and added a 256gb SSD for the OS and applications, and a 100GB scratchpad on the SSD while working on videos and such.  It is a pretty solid Laptop and easily holds its own against the new MacBook Pro’s quite well. However, it just is NOT a video crunching machine.

I can pull 1000 images into Pre-Pro, assemble into a video. The time in which it performs its tasks feels reasonable, however on playback in the program monitor even at 1/4 resolution Iget about 1/2 second of playback before it stops and starts jumping.

When editing 1080p it works pretty well, but transitions from one scene to the next with opacity drops can trip it up from time to time.  With the Carnivora Gardinum loaded in Pre-pro it was sufficient for the task, final video render was about 15-20 min.

4K? Fuhgeddabout it. Go home kid you are drunk. No 4k here.  Considering it is a laptop with a Intel 4600 graphics card built into the motherboard, I mean, what do you expect

A couple weeks ago I picked up a 55 inch Samsung Ultra HD 4K tv. (yes yes ultra is not “true” 4k I know and I dont care) I saw some pretty stunning 4K content streamed in from Youtube and netflix. It is now available on Vimeo too, and it is only a matter of time before 4K is the new standard. Everything is clearly moving in that direction, and I want to make sure my equipment is capable of encoding in 4K without taking 2 days to render.

So I have a system I am putting together. Replacing the Laptop with a desktop.

Basic stats:
Intel i7- 4770k processor
16gb Ram
480gb SSD
and a pair of NVIDIA Quadro 4000 graphics cards.
(case, power supply, etc)

It is not a mind blowing system. The processor is solid, 16gb ram is enough for me to work with for now. The 480gb SSD may seem restricted but I have a 6TB Raid 1 NAS giving me 3tb of network storage, so I am not worried about space.  The Quadro graphics cards are a little bit dated, but they are pro grade and a pair of NVIDIA Quadro 4000’s working together is going to be an incredible improvement over the Intel 4600 i have been using thus far. And I got the pair at a bargain price of $400. It should allow me to work fairly seamlessly with 1080p, and also allow me to render in 4k resolution, and I should be able to stream the media to my 4K tv for final proofing.