Dan Neri
Dan Neri

Dan has been taking photos for more than 20 years – starting with a manual SLR for a bit, then eventually upgrading to a Canon EOS Rebel G. He shot professional sports, wildlife and airshows. He is currently a Technical Specialist for Canon USA, specializing in professional EOS cameras, lenses, and printers.

Challenge accepted: PhotoPlus Expo time lapse with EOS 7D Mark II

November 11, 2014

From the first time I stepped on a trade show floor during set-up, I couldn't help but wonder about how amazing a time-lapse movie of the Canon booth being constructed would look like. During a meeting about the PhotoPlus Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, the idea for a time-lapse was brought to the table and after some discussion about how difficult it may be, I assured, well, pretty much guaranteed, that I could get it done. But it wasn’t going to be easy.

We made a plan for the message of the video, a timeline of when recording would start and stop, and when the video would be published. The new Canon EOS 7D Mark II has a built-in time-lapse feature and we wanted to show off the capabilities of our newest DSLR. That made the choice of which camera to use easy. Lens choice would be determined by where I would install the camera, which was a whole other issue.

The Jacob Javits Center is a huge convention hall located on 11th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and you can’t just walk in and hang a camera from the ceiling beams there. We emailed the facilities manager, called the show coordinator, and filed all the necessary paperwork to gain access to the space frame structure high in the ceiling of the main exhibit hall. Arrangements were made to install the camera early Friday morning, before the first truck rolled in, seven days before the show opened! But hanging the camera wasn’t the only challenging part.

Pre-Planning

I wanted to show the entire build, from first truck in to one hour before the show opened. A lot of math was done to figure out what interval to shoot at and what size memory card I would need. The camera was going to be running for six total days – Sunday was a “dark day” with no work being done. And on the days the crews were working, it would be from 8am to 7pm each day. So here’s what I came up with (Thank goodness I have an 8th grader in the house to double check my math!):

Photo by Dan Neri


 

  • Final video to be approx. 1 minute at 29.97 fps (30 fps for easy math)
    60 seconds x 30 fps = 1800 frames total
  • 6 days of shooting = 144 hrs. total recording time
    144 hrs. x 60 min. = 8, 640 minutes of total recording time
  • 8am to 7pm each day = 11 hrs. usable shooting time/day
    11 hrs. x 60 min. = 660 min. of usable shooting time/day
    660 min. x 5 days (Sunday is a dark day, no work) = 3,300 minutes total
  • 3300 minutes / 1800 needed frames = 1 frame every 1.83 min. rounds up to 1 frame every 2 minutes

Considering the length of time the camera would be shooting for, I had to consider the size of the cards I was going to use:

  • 1 shot every 2 minutes for 6 days = 4,320 shots total
  • The EOS 7D Mark II’s S2 shooting mode records 1920x1280 JPEGs, which would be perfect for this project considering the final product was going to be no bigger than 1920x1080 full HD resolution played back on a television. I’ll explain about the cropping later
  • The average file size for an S2 JPEG recorded on the EOS 7D Mark II is about 1.45MB
  • 1.45MB x 4,320 shots = 6,264MB which equals 6.264GB
Camera Set-up

Photo by Jeff Moskovic


 

A Lexar 64GB CF and 32GB SD card was loaded into the EOS 7D Mark II, proving more than enough storage space for the amount of shots being recorded. The camera was set to record the same image to both cards as a built-in backup.

Photo by Rudy Winston

 

The built-in Intervalometer was set:

        1 shot every 2 minutes, “00” total shots (unlimited)

Now for the fun part!

Photo by Jeff Moskovic


 

Photo by Dan Neri

 

With the help of the amazing crew at the Javits Center, I harnessed up and took a ride high into the ceiling to the area that was selected for the camera’s placement and began the rigging process. A “May West” clamp was tightened around one of the three-inch pipes that is part of the truss system of the space frame and a Bogen ball head was attached to the clamp. A Canon ACK-E6 A/C adapter was also zip-tied down onto the truss, as the battery would not last long enough to record the entire six days.

Photo by Dan Neri

 

Safety is always a priority when installing a camera overhead. First, I certainly don’t want the camera to fall and hit someone on the head during show set-up. Second, the facility requires steel cables to hold the camera, lens, head, and clamp in case of fire. Nothing worse than getting knocked out during a fire when plastic zip-ties melt and a camera rig falls on your head!

I chose the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens due to the 1.6x crop factor of the APS-C sensor on the EOS 7D Mark II. I was prepared with other lenses in the bucket of the lift, but the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM was a perfect choice. I had my partner, Jeff Moskovic, walk around the perimeter of the booth footprint to make sure I would get full coverage and framed the shot so that the majority of the frame would be Canon’s booth.

Exposure was easy to determine. I set the camera to 1/60th second at f/8 in Auto ISO. 1/60th was chosen to capture a little bit of the movement of moving subjects and make the video play back smoother. f/8 is a good middle-of-the-road aperture and with the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens, there would be plenty of depth-of-field. Auto ISO is a great tool to use when you’re unsure of what lighting conditions you may face on a shoot. Considering the amount of time the camera would be running and having no idea what extraneous sunlight would be spilling in, it was impossible to determine what ISO to use. Auto ISO took care of all that! As it turns out, when looking at the metadata of the photos after they were shot, and filtering the ISO, more than half of the photos were shot at ISO 6400, with ISO 4000 and 3200 almost equal as the next highest amount.

Photo by Jeff Moskovic

 

A/C power set, camera secured, intervalometer set, focus set, IS off and exposure locked in -- time to press the shutter button and rock and roll!

After the first few days, I started getting nervous that I would find a camera doing nothing when I arrived at the Javits Center on Monday. You see, if the A/C power was unplugged or if there was a power outage, the camera would turn back on, but the intervalometer would not start back up. I could have solved this potential problem by using a Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3, which will stay running indefinitely, but I wanted to do everything in-camera with the EOS 7D Mark II. Luckily, it was confirmed when I arrived that the camera was still running and things were looking good!

Post Processing

It was 9am on opening day of the show and after being lifted back up to the camera to retrieve the memory cards and start another time-lapse of the first day of the show, I began the editing process.

Photo by Rudy Winston


 

Photo by Rudy Winston

 

I prefer Adobe Premiere Pro CC to edit video and after downloading all of the photos, I began to piece it all together. The timeline sequence was set to 1920X1080, full HD, and because the photos were shot at 1920x1280, some cropping was going to happen, but I knew and planned on this. When using the EOS 7D Mark II in Live View, I switched over to the video mode and the camera showed the cropped image on the LCD. I knew I was going to capture the sequence exactly how I wanted.

To process a time-lapse, you have to import the JPEGs as a sequence and, using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, simply click the first shot in the folder, then click “Import as sequence” down at the bottom and Premiere will import the photos as a single video file that can be dragged to the timeline for trimming. It was necessary to cut out the portions of the video that were dark due to night time, so I simply used the razor tool, trimmed out the night scenes and dragged the usable sections back together. Music was dropped in, a title frame at the end added and the timeline was exported as a completed video.

This was an amazing project to be involved with and I am so pleased with the results! The Canon EOS 7D Mark II did an incredible job; the high ISO shots were clean, the images were sharp, and the built-in intervalometer performed exactly as expected (firing precisely every two minutes for 6 days!)

Photo by Dan Neri

 

Take a look at the results:

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