5/10/2014, Building Carniverous Set Part 1

Pretty excited!

The new light i am using has greatly increased the plants i have been filming. Getting closer to the carniverous plant set.

I recently found out a local nursery has some pitcher plants and flytraps on the way. I hope they dont mind if i clean them out.

I started working on the new set today, this will be a lot more ambitious with various grow cups in the set, as well as irrigation lines so i can add/remove water from behind.

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And this brings us to the present.

let me try to catch up a  bit.

From this point on everything here will be new content to this site.

I have been working pretty hard at this stuff, a LOT of failures but things are starting to turn around. Im not just taking 10 hour of timelapse of a plant under a simple light. I am running day/night cycles, watering times, all this is being orchestrated by the BCM which will change the entire lighting scheme just before it snaps a picture. I am also bringing movement into this, and to top it off i am trying to grow carnivorous plants in a basement in Colorado.

To call this ambitious is somewhat reserved. So cut me some slack 😉

The first flytrap died like a champ.

SO i knew i needed to only use distilled water, and to use pete/sphagnum mix. The problem was the mix had fertilizer which kills flytraps. Also, i was using tap water in the fogger. the minerals and additives in the tap water are not removed when the mist is formed, so basically i blew a toxic cloud of poisonous gas on the poor thing.

So i got some more flytraps, and managed to kill the next one as well. Once again to the Peat/sphagnum mix. Not untill yesterday did i noticed it had miracle grow additives. I did not even bother to stitch it together in a timelapse, the eMotimo i was using wasnt working right for me, probably my fault. And the keyframing on my chronos rail got wonky on me. Sometimes things just go to shit, not much you can do but take notes and learn.

So I had one flytrap left.  I figured it was a good idea to leave it be for now.

So i did this instead.1534358_613710862051872_6408188002057015482_n 10172666_613710838718541_1218832656776751027_n 10269469_613710825385209_8346237839650728783_n

Using some foam, cardboard, some wood, coconut fiber mix, dried sphagnum moss, and some super green fake moss from walmart, i built a backdrop.

i really did not expect it to look anywhere this good. I am already planning out the next one, which will be a full set with multiple tiers, watering system, etc, but this one is more than enough to do some shooting with.

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So i shot for several days, this time the plant lived. I kept ti in the sphagnum, bought enough distilled water at walmart people probably thought i was a doomsday prepper.

just a side note, yes, i use walmart ok? it is real close and only 63 cents per gallon of distilled water. and their fake ass moss is cheap too.

Anyway, the plant lived, but it sure did not move too much.

I think the issue was a lack of light. the 4x 4foot tubes are probably not enough unless they are laying on top of the plant.

I just picked up a 600 watt grow lamp though, it certainly charged the plants im growing right now.

So this is about where I am with this stuff I have 4 flytraps in a single pot, a new Sundew plant that is recovering shipping nicely, and some live sphagnum that i am trying to get to grow. I have a Red Dragon flytrap that should be here any day.


And down stairs i am currently shooting some plants with the new grow light, i cant remember the name of the plants, but im really stoked with how they are going.  A friend from work gave me these plants, she  knows a lot more about botany than i do, and it looks like a good recommendation. Ill find out the name and update it with the results.

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Biolapse Control Module

Building a new timelapse controller

So a couple weeks ago I had purchased some parts to use in construction of the next project greenthumb controller. I finally started building the thing. This is one of those cases where rushing will lead to problems. It is best to think this stuff over, be methodical, write down concepts and notes, then step away and revisit it every few days with a fresh mind.

I finally have a good idea of how this is going to run.

I present to you, the beginning of the new controller.

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OK ok… SO it needs a little work.


As you can see it is pretty big. Considering this will sit in a studio the size is not a big deal, bigger is easier to work on, and I can fit more junk in it.

As you can see in the image, it does have 4 outlets controlled by separate relays.

Relay 1 = Grow light outlet. Used for day/night schedules and shooting routines.

Relay 2 = Water pump for watering schedules.

Relay 3 = Humidifier

Relay 4 = Temp.


On the opposite side of the outlets I have two 12vDC outlets used to power external 12 volt devices.

And last but not least, on the top I have four 3.5mm jacks, one Input, one Shutter trigger, and two LED triggers.

In the image you can see the AC-12VDC converter, the 4 relays, the outlets, and jacks.


I had originally planned to use a SparkFun Serial Graphic LCD display, but I had done some testing and quickly abandoned it. Turns out the sparkfun firmware is sorta junky, everyone recommends swapping the firmware to a non-sparkfun display, and everybody wrote their libraries for that firmware instead of the sparkfun firmware. What does this mean? Well it means to use the display i have to build a parallel cable adapter and dump the file in, but i don’t have a parallel interface. I could go through the hoops in order to do this but honestly right now I am far too busy to screw with it. I would rather just plug and play with something I already know how to use, so i dug out an old 16×2 serial display out of my junk drawer and will be using that instead.

Humidity is a concern, this humidifier is no joke and can easily hit the room to levels where humidity can cause mold, so I plan to use 2 layers of protection. First will be a nice little humidity sensor/controller i purchased. This will control the main circuit, if this is past its threshold it will shut off the fog. Ill probably set this at 70%

I really want to be able to grow stuff like moss and carnivorous plants, so the plan is to have the humidifier dump fog directly onto the plants, about 1 minute before the shutter triggers it will shut off. This will give 1 full minute for the fog to dissipate and get out of the photo.

This should also, provide a high humidity zone for the plants.


Programming this was pretty straight forward. I was able to snag large chunks of code from ChronoTimer 1.3 and import them in to make the controls a simple task.

There is no real; menu, it runs very similar to the ChronoControllers with a Mode dial on the Right side, and an Adjust dial on the left side.

The buttons have new tasks, I have an OPT button to cycle through sub-modes and the SET button remains used to lock in the value. What was the LEFT button is now a test-fire button that will set the lighting to the shooting state and fire off a test shot.

I gave the system the ability to read and control both temperature and humidity. The timer functions allow me to run day/night cycles, run fog between shots but still stop soon enough to allow the fog a chance to dissipate so it is not in the image.

The system really is a cross between a Time Lapse Intervalometer and a grow room control panel. Of course being in Colorado everyone who hears me discussing environmental controls seems to think i am growing pot.


Now this is where the fun slick parts come into play. I have recently upgraded to a faster laptop with SSD, 16gb ram, etc, and had originally planned to sell my older laptop. However, the price I could get for it, it seems I could find better uses. So it has been tied in with the BCM via serial connection. It now spits out a status report with every image, and logs the time of various events.

This came in particularly useful just last week. I had noticed that the grow light was shutting off about 5 minutes before it took the image, somehow I had managed to swap some values around. And while the system was generally running well, it was no optimal. I was at my day job and decided to remote in with my Surface Pro to check on things and see how it was doing. I tunneled into my home Laptop from my Surface, then established a connection to the studio laptop. I noticed the problem and pulled the code file back to my surface, made the adjustment, transferred it back to the studio laptop and uploaded the fixed code to the BCM. It started right back up and the problem was fixed, and it only took about 5 minutes.

Not only can I access the log from the BCM, but it also runs a web-cam aimed at the setup for a brief visual inspection so i can be sure that the light is actually on when it says it is on.

For image retrieval, I have a 16gb Eye-Fi wireless SDHC that constantly dumps the images to my new laptop. So i can review the footage without having to step foot in the room.

It is a pretty slick setup if I may say so myself. I can control all aspects of the environment remotely and I don’t even have to pull out the memory card to see how the images are looking.


Illuminating Unexpected friends

So now that the BMC is finished and running, I spent about 5 days shooting moss to see how everything performed. I have added in an LED lighting panel to replace the strobes. I just got one to test with, and so far I am very happy! The light is very consistent, very smooth, and LED is clearly the way to go.


After running for a day something had become obvious, that my Bioset was a good place for things to live. A lot of things. A lot of tiny, different critters.  First off, you can see the soil near the base of the moss keeps moving, and there is what  almost looks like static fuzziness in the moss.

At least the lighting is solid and consistent.
But what am I supposed to do about Big Worm & the ‘lil Guys?



I was not too concerned about Big Worm, while he was doing his best to trash my timelapse set from my understanding it means I have a healthy set. How he got in there, I am not sure.

The little guys on the other hand worried me. At first i had thought they were springtails, they only seemed to be interested in the damp areas. But when I examine images online of Springtails they don’t look like these at all. If anybody could identify these please shoot me an email i would be curious to know.

Whatever the hell they are, I am reluctant to use any pesticides, and figured the best course of action would be to scrap the entire set for now. My parents who are my biggest supporters had given some bulbs to me to play with. So this morning I removed all the dirt, cleaned out my trays, dumped everything out, and shut off the humidifier and moved onto the next project.

Considering they had not moved beyond the damp areas I imagine they cannot survive in other enviornments. Colorado is awfully dry, my basement rarely gets over 30% humidity

Once I am done with the bulbs I was planning on building a set for carniverous plants, however a small film company has asked if i would be interested in helping them shoot a scene for a film they are working one. As far as i know it is not a paying gig, but the subject looks very intriguing. I think i might put the carnivorous plants off a little bit longer 😉
For now, its time to grow some bulbs 🙂




Biolapse History part 2

Moving on to Moss
November 2013


There is certainly something wrong with my controller, it is some sort of a wiring problem but honestly im not too worried about it. I just run the output to the Chronocontroller, then out again to the camera. So the CC sits in between and this seems to settle things down a bit.

I plan to build a far more robust controller in the near future, so this is an acceptable solution.

I have moved onto new things! Live Moss! and encountered new problems, with Flicker.

The clip at the of this post was shot at f/3.2, ISO 200, 1/80s, with an ND filter.2 strobes are being used.

I know the flicker is not from aperture inconsistencies, as the lens is native f/2.8 and i have shot timelapse at f/3.2 on a regular basis and never had a shred of flicker.

clips i have done in the studio in the past normally look better than this, i think the most likely culprit at this point is the elinchrom strobes. Maybe the flash tube is getting tired, or maybe at slower shutter speeds such as 1/80 it shows more variation in the discharge of the flash. I might try bumping it up to 1/125th and see if that helps.

Either way i am pretty excited about the following clip, it is finally starting to get in the direction I am hoping to go.

Not too shabby huh? maybe a good deflicker program could help.

Towards the end the moss really starts to breathe!

SO I have been monitoring the temperature and humidity in the room, and normally it sits around 30-40% humidity which is pretty high for Colorado, but still pretty low for a lot of the plants i am hoping to grow in the future.

I stuck a humidifier in the room and got it up to 80%, but I do not know if a general room humidity level of 80% is a good idea, ill have to do some reading. I don’t want to get any mold growing in the room. I think i want to try a more localized “humid zone” right around the plants by blasting them with fog between shots.

I have not seen any off the shelf humidifers that really will be able to do what I am wanting, they already have the controls built in, limited reservoirs, and counter productive form factors to what I am trying to do.

So i guess ill just have to build my own damn humidifier. Parts have been ordered, I’m hoping to have it up and running this weekend. I was suprised with how inexpensive the parts are, with the savings I was able to pick up a large plastic enclosure i can use for the next incarnation of GreenThumb where I can have the switched outlets on the side of the box. Im pretty excited to get started.

Flicker is getting worse
December 2013

So I think the problem here is the strobes I am using.

The while the Olympus OMD is no Nikon D4, I’ts no cheap point and shoot either. I have managed to get some excellent time lapses with it and it is not in any way prone to flicker.

But it is getting worse. Shooting wide open, fast or short shutter speeds, I think the problem is the strobe is getting tired.

I tried using LRTimelapse, but I don’t know about my workflow just yet. I have never had to deal with flicker, so this is a bit of a learning curve for me

here is a clip. The first part shows it with no deflickering. Second shows it with deflickering with a wide reference point across the middle of the image, and the last shows it with the reference point on the rock. The final shows all 3 sequences lined up to see the results of this.

I am open to comments and reccommendations, as well with workflow suggestions.

My workflow is as follows

1) shoot everything RAW

2) Bring images into ACR, make any corrections/adjustments and crop, save as Jpeg at highest resolution.

3) Bring images into Adobe Pre-Pro, put in a sequence 1 frame per image, and scale to frame size.

4) Export.

now I don’t go crazy with 4k and stuff, maybe when I get better at this and further along in my project i will start working for 4k, but for now this is just really test and demo stuff.

With the deflickering i loaded everything in LRTimelapse after step 2, modified the existing exif with the JPEGS, then saved new Jpegs. (in this case I wanted a no-deflicker and deflicker attempt to see the difference)

I really do think the problem is the Strobes. I have another lighting solution i plan to start working on as soon as time allows which will use high intensity LEDs instead of flash bulbs. I suspect I should get a very even and consistent light output.

Deflickering advice is always appreciated, any workflows that you don’t mind sharing I would love to try.


Building a Humidifier
December 2013

Living in Colorado is awesome, I love it out here. However, the humidy is virtually non existent. We actually get very little rain or snow, because this is actually a high altitude desert.

With such low humidity, many plants are sort of difficult to grow. I needed a system to provide a high humidity zone without increasing overall room humidify beyond a certain point.

Mold is always a potential problem, so if you decide do embark down a similar en-devour do your research.

My goal is too keep the room Humidity to under 65%, with a local zone of humidity over 70%

I had looked at various humidifier systems but nothing really stood out to me. I needed something capable of delivering the vapor to a specific spot and nothing seemed to fit the bill unless I wanted to spend a LOT of money. The reservoir tanks were limited, the design not what i needed.

So i built my own. It was surprisingly easy, and not too expensive, i think i spent right around $150

The most expensive part is the ultrasonic vaporizer. I got mine off of Ebay. I got a 5 head fogger for about 90 bucks, here is a website to the manufacturer. http://www.thehouseofhydro.com/

Ultrasonic Vaporizer

And other parts I used.

small PC fan

3 inch flexible tube

4 inch to 3 inch reducer

Humidity controller

and of course a large plastic tub with a Lid, an extension cable to cut up for the humidity controller, and a 12vdc power cable you can cut and use.


Construction was easy, got some GOOP glue, and I cut a hole out for the fan to blow air into the rub, and a hole for the 3 to 4 inch reducer. Using the GOOP I glued them together.




I cut the end off the power cable and spliced it in to the fans red/black leads, and plugged both the Fogger and Fan into a power strip that I plugged into the power cable which hit the humidifier controller.

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The humidity controller works like a champ. It is small, Inexpensive, and easy to use.

I plugged everything in and presto, I had a humidifier that will deliver the fog exactly where I want it.

I might have to play around with the fan though, it is a PWM fan and man, I really dont want to go through the bullshit of controlling it with PWM. right now I just use 12v, but the output is nothing impressive. So far it seems to do its job fine and it does allow me to deliver mist where I want it, but I might have to go with a bigger fan a little bit later.

So you timelapsers out there are probably scratching your head wondering exactly how i plan to work this in with timelapse. Trust me, I have this figured out and cant wait to show the process.

First, I have to build the next Greenthumb Controller.

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