Dealing with Flicker

Flicker!

She be a fickle mistress

I have dealt with a LOT of flicker with this project, after a lot of experimentation i have tamed this beast and now obtain virtually flicker free sequences

1) Aperture Flicker.

This is probably the first type of flicker that you will run into.  If using native lenses, the camera usually keeps the aperture wide open while composing, and only stops the aperture down right before it takes the image.  You will find with timelapse that the lenses usually do somewhat of a poor job of this and there is a variance in the exposure because the aperture movement is not perfect. For normal photography, it is no big deal, but when doing timelapse you will see this variance show in the way of flicker.

The best way about this is to either use the twist method if using canon, or using fully manual lenses which I prefer. As I write this I am using  Fuji Mirrorless cameras with Nikkor AF lenses. This allows me to manually set the aperture with no fear of any shift during the exposure.

I always go with slow shutter speeds. When shooting landscape timelapse ill shoot upwards of 1/2000th of a second with no problems, but the sun offers VERY consistent output. Most of the lighting systems

2) Light source Flicker.

Below is a good example of Light Source flicker.

The Above video was shot with a manual lens using fluorescent lighting

I always go with slow shutter speeds. When shooting landscape timelapse ill shoot upwards of 1/2000th of a second with no problems, but the sun offers VERY consistent output. Most of the lighting systems i have tried do introduce some level of flicker with faster shutter speeds. Generally I always expose for at least 1 second. Normally 2 seconds. This can be done by using low power fill lights, keeping the aperture at f/8 or higher (which double benefits with a larger DOF (Depth of field, this is the area in focus), most plant lapse the camera will be close to the plant and near its minimum focus meaning the DOF will be at its minimum). As for the light source, i have played with several and here are my observations.

 

Strobes.

Don’t bother with strobes. I had been using elinchrom studio lights for the fill lighting on my earlier timelapses, and for the first few thousand images they seemed to work ok, but as time went on I started to get a little bit of flicker as the strobe bulbs started to get a bit used. The bulbs I have are probably still good for thousands of bursts, but they just don’t provide the rock solid consistency that I require for this work.

DSCF8156

 Above: 2 Elinchrom strobes (with softboxes) lighting a light blue backdrop with the third (umbrella) providing fill light to the subject

 

– Florescent Lighting,

this seems to work relatively well, but you really have to drag the shutter out at least 1 second.  Florescent lights flicker naturally, if using fast shutter speeds your exposures will be uneven.

DSCF8161

Above: You can use florescent grow lots for the fill light too! Just drag out the shutter! Unfortunately florescent does not always have enough output.

 

– Standard old light bulbs.

I have not used these, but i know of others who have used these for fill lighting with good success, my only real issue with these is they generate heat and are somewhat inefficient and wasteful. No need to see the power bill go up hundreds of dollars a year if you can avoid it.

I dont have a pic for this one….. cause I don’t use standard bulbs..

– LED Lighting.  This is my favorite! it generates very little heat, takes very little energy and almost all of these video panels are dim-able. A cheap $100 LED light panel is plenty of power. After all, you will probably be shooting at f/8 or higher (larger DOF for close focusing timelapse plus it allows you to drag the shutter out over a second or more) so having a dim-able LED panel for lighting allows you to add only the light you need.  Keep in mind, PWM controlled LED lights (use an on/off/on/off in rapid speed to create a brightness control) will introduce flicker with faster shutter speeds, If the panel uses a voltage regulator to control brightness you can get away with faster shutter speeds, but generally i always expose for at least 1.5 seconds.

FUJI8520Seen above, an LED panel with a umbrella offers a nice diffused light source.

 

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