Oct 30, 2009

360° timelapse video on a car roof.


360° Panning-head timelapse drive: Toronto from Jeremy Sale on Vimeo.


The idea was simple (and certainly had been done before). The hardware was pretty easy to come by.

But the pucker-factor was huge.

Mount a battery-powered Meade panning head on the roof of a car with a Nikon D70s and an intervalometer. The camera shoots around one frame per two seconds, and the head rotates about once every ten minutes.

I have done car-roof timelapses before. Static, that is. The first time was really scary, wondering if my only camera and PClix were destined for the curb once I took a corner a little too fast—left to collect curious glances like those orphaned running shoes you see on the shoulder every now and then.

Coincidentally, my first mobile shoot was also the first time I ever drove under the speed limit for a 30 minutes in a row. First-born in the back seat? No problem. DLSR on the roof? Well, it's not like I'm picking favourites, but the Nikon might actually kill someone if things come unglued. After all, I installed it, remember.

As it turns out, a Manfrotto SuperClamp is probably stronger that the roof rack that it is attached it to. I could rock the car back and forth with it. Also, it's very easy to double and triple the redundancy of the rig with any number of wires, ropes and locks. Even if it gets decapitated in a Burger King drive-thru, the whole thing won't fall off your car. (It'll just scrape the paint off your roof and hang in front of your cracked windshield, as you drive to the bar, weeping.)

The thing is, a spinning tripod head can't easily be secured anywhere other than the base plate, which has only one screw-thread. If you attach a cable to the camera, the cable will eventually spool up snug and bring the rig to a stand-still, or worse.

Since I'm not a welder (and I'm not all that patient), I rolled the dice. It felt secure, and I was just doing a test shoot after all. Anyway, I got the results I wanted and nobody got killed.

I'd probably make some minor changes to the exposure and rotation speed, but I'm dying to try it again. Next time, my wife's cousin has agreed to weld a couple of links to the base plate, so that I can indulge my undying respect for Murphy's Law.

P.S.  Meade, stop putting 3/8" fine thread on your devices. There's a whole new world out there.