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2.1 Your Kit

I know you're excited to get started, but, before we run out and shoot a time-lapse sequence, we should look at the equipment necessary to take along with us. I'm gonna empty the contents of my backpack to show you what items I would take with me on a shoot, and to explain why I can't live without them. For photographers experimenting with video, one of the first things probably to get on your nerves is that annoying strap getting in your way. Particularly when you're gonna shoot time-lapse and you want to reduce camera shake. On my camera, I quickly throw away the original strap in favor of a strap with a quick release. Not only can I rapidly remove the strap, it also has elastic support to reduce carry strain. Also has these convenient pouches, for storing my memory cards. When we're shooting longer exposure times, we're letting more light into the camera. This can cause us to overexpose our images. To compensate for this problem, I use filters. Always carry two main types of filters with me. The first is a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter not only reduces the light getting into the camera, it also reduces glare and reflections. This is a great filter for getting rich color and detail from the skies. The filter screws on to the front of your lens, it's important to know what millimeter your attachment is, most of my lenses have a 58 millimeter rim. Be sure to check your lens and see that you're getting the right attachment for your camera. The other filter I would use is a neutral density, or ND filter. An ND filter reduces light getting into the camera. I commonly find myself using an ND8 filter, which is a reduction of about three f-stops. It gives me a long exposure time, without overexposing the image. This means I can decrease the shutter speed further in daylight, and get increased motion blur instead of choppy motion. This is particularly effective when shooting busy crowds or waterfalls. As well as coming in various fixed values, you can also find variable neutral density filters. These allow you to change between the stop values in one filter. However, they are a little tricky to use and it's easy to ruin a shoot. I recommend starting with a fixed-stop value before progressing to a variable filter. The last type of neutral density filter I might use is a gradual or a gradient filter. The gradient filter is a sheet of glass you put over the front of the lens to expose parts of the image separately. The common scenario is on a bright day where we are in danger of overexposing the sky when exposing for the ground. The gradient filter will allow you to darken the sky and gain a more balanced exposure. When on a night shoot, it's important to keep control of where you're putting your gear. Also, the darker it is, the more your camera is gonna struggle to focus. I always carry a torch so I can quickly find what I'm looking for in my backpack. Also, I can find that missing lens cap that I dropped on the floor. To assist with focus, I carry a laser pen. I can use this to point at where I want to set the focus and be sure that my shots are sharp. Be sure to check the regulations in the country you're shooting in, my last pen was confiscated by airport security in Stockholm. Not only should you always clean your kit before you go out on a shoot, it's likely that you're gonna encounter dust and dirt on location too. Always carry a basic cleaning kit with you. This should include optic paper, microfiber cloth, a dust blower and a brush. It's super important to carry plenty of power. When you're shooting long exposure times, long sequences, the camera's gonna eat batteries like crazy. I often bring an external battery pack, so I can use two batteries instead of one. Many external battery packs also enable use you to use regular AA batteries that can be bought from any shop. So always carry a handful of AA batteries too. As branded batteries are extremely expensive, also carry some cheaper unbranded third-party batteries. Unbranded batteries often work just fine, but can be unreliable. You might find that they don't communicate with your camera, meaning you cannot monitor the battery level. Chances are with unbranded batteries, the charge will not last as long as a branded battery. Some might come with their own charger, but I would look for those that are compatible with your official branded charger. It's important to have a couple of branded batteries for reliability, but it's not a bad idea to invest in some cheaper alternatives, just for backup. As you can imagine, shooting hundreds of raw images means your memory cards will fill up pretty quickly. Not only that, writing images in rapid succession puts more pressure on your camera in the buffer. It's important to buy memory cards that have a decent capacity, at least 16 GB. It's also important that your memory cards have a decent write speed, at least 8 megabits per second. This will ensure that not only can you shoot long image sequences, but your card will keep up with writing a large amount of data. It should also help prevent those dreaded buffer problems. The same rule applies to shooting video in general. Memories with larger capacities and faster writing speeds will ensure that you never miss a shot. Whilst thinking about memory cards, it's also important to clear out your memory cards before heading out on a shoot. There's nothing worse than a sequence stopping prematurely because you forgot to format your card, and it's still full of photographs. It's also an idea to invest in a good external memory card reader. Although many computers now come with internal card readers, they often don't transfer as fast as external memory card readers. If transfer time is an issue for you, then you might want to look into getting a card with FireWire, USB 3 or Thunderbolt to speed up your transfer times. When beginning to film with a still camera, maybe DSLR videographers will look for a viewfinder loupe. A viewfinder loupe will allow you to see the rear display of your camera, even in the brightest conditions. This is also very useful for time-lapse photography, ensuring that your pictures are pin-sharp. They're not particularly expensive and they come in many forms. This particular one has a strap that I can wear around my neck. And also has a magnetic strip for quick release from the camera. One of your most important kit considerations is your tripod. For time-lapse photography, its important that the camera is kept perfectly still. The slightest shake can ruin a shoot. Shots can look unstable or contain unwanted motion blur. Some of these problems can be resolved in post-production, which we will look at later. But it's always best to avoid these problems when we can. When I'm shooting a time-lapse, I turn to three different types of tripod. The first one I'll turn to is this Manfrotto tripod. It's built like a tank and stays sturdy in blowy wind conditions. It has a spirit level, so I can ensure my shots are straight, although many cameras these days have a built-in digital spirit level, so you don't always need a physical one. I'm also using this ball head to fine-tune my shots. The second tripod I'll turn to is this smaller one. It's more portable, and it fits in my suitcase, fits in my backpack, and it goes with me everywhere I go. What it lacks in stability, it makes up for in lightness and portability. I've managed to shoot many perfectly usable time-lapses with this tripod, but the harsher the wind conditions, the heavier the lens, the more the risk there is of shaking the shot. Sometimes I have to bite the bullet and just fix it in post. The last of my tripods is a smaller GorillaPod. It has a flexible bendy-leg system. I can attach it to almost anything, like railings or trees, and the shots are often rock solid. This tripod is always in my bag. Stability is really the key to reducing shake and motion blur, and avoiding extra work in post-production. Be sure to invest wisely in a tripod that's right for you and your productions. For my time-lapses, I'm shooting on a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 6D. The brand and the model are not as important as the ability to override automatic features and shoot in RAW. As RAW images are pretty large, I tend to shoot the smaller variant, SRAW. SRAW is a common option on Canon cameras and also on newer Nikon models. The resolutions are smaller, but so are the file sizes. The output is still good enough for HD, but maybe not for 4K. Shooting SRAW means I save space on memory cards, allowing me to shoot more sequences. My post-production work flow is also faster, not to mention saving on storage space. I recommend shooting SRAW to follow along with this course, and to use the demo versions of the post-production software that I'm going to be demonstrating. If your output is beyond HD, for example 4K, you'll probably want to shoot full resolution RAW images, but for this course I'm gonna be using SRAW. Some cameras come with the ability to shoot time-lapse directly in-camera. Often cameras will shoot the time-lapse directly to a video file, and stitch the images together for you. However, when the camera automatically generates a video file, it's less useful for us in post-production. What you're really looking for is a camera that will generate a RAW image sequence, giving you the absolute best quality, and the most flexibility in post-production. The other thing I would look for in a camera is the ability to shoot manually. You should be able to override any automatic features, such as auto exposure, auto white balance, and auto focus. When you're shooting time-lapses, you really need to switch off the automatic features and learn how to manually control your camera. Don't worry if you're new to shooting manual, I'm gonna walk you through the basics and you'll be up and running in no time. Possibly the most important item in your bag is an intervalometer. An intervalometer, or remote timer, is a device that triggers your camera to take many photographs with intervals between them. You simply enter the number images that you wish to shoot and how much time passes between each photograph is taken. Some cameras may well have an intervalometer built in, but check that it's gonna give you a RAW image sequence instead of a video file. Branded intervalometers are often very expensive, whereas the unbranded ones can be found cheaply all over the internet. They're often reliable and very similar to operate as the expensive originals. It's a good idea to order a couple, as the cables tend to wear out pretty quickly. I always carry a spare in my bag. You might want to order extra batteries, too. Intervalometers don't always use regular batteries, and can be a pain to replace when you're out on location. You should also be sure that the timer is compatible with your camera. Check your manual to see what type of connection your camera has. Most intervalometers will list compatible cameras when you order them, check the specs before you pay the cash. For Canon shooters, you can also install the Magic Lantern firmware hack for free. Magic Lantern brings many new features to your camera, including an intervalometer. The keyword here is hack, so do so at your own risk. I've installed Magic Lantern on my older 5D Mark II, and so far, I'm very happy with it. But if you have a new camera, and you don't want to risk voiding your warranty, you might want to avoid third-party hacks for the time being. Let's take a quick look at how to operate an intervalometer.

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