Brinno Time Lapse - Case Study - Water Reservoir Construction

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Demolition and construction of Rochester Public Utilities 4th St. Reservoir was my first long term time lapse project. The camera was to be mounted on a water tower with no access to electricity. Exposed to the variable Minnesota weather, with possible extreme winds for six months.

After extensive research, detailed in a previous post, I purchased a Brinno TLC200 f1.2 camera and weatherproof housing from Amazon. 

My first issue was a sturdy mount for the camera so I scouted the water tower. There was a iron railing just below the upper tank, two existing holes were drilled in the railing providing a good anchor point for a mount. Additionally there was a support pillar which extended beyond the railing which would obscure the lens if the camera were mounted directly to the railing. While scouting a few other things became apparent, there were bird droppings in the area and the tower was having some work done.

So I came to the conclusion I needed a fixed mount, which extended beyond the railing, something which would last for months and could survive just about anything. This is what I came up with.

Brinno-Time-Lapse-Tower-Mount

The camera was removed at the time of these photos and will be replaced soon for the final reservoir painting and landscaping. This mount is a steel creation of my own, I bent some flat steel into a C-shape for the housing and cut out the back to access the controls. The housing is screwed to the bottom of the C using the tripod mount. The back of the C was cut out to access the controls and the housing tabs are secured with zip-ties on each side. The C is mounted to the main support with one bolt to allow vertical tilt adjustment. The main bar is welded to a steel plate with a number of randomly drilled holes. The plate holes allow for horizontal adjustment within the predrilled railing holes. I did not want to climb up and down a water tower a number of times to get the mount right, nor did I want to haul tools up to drill through steel. I went overboard on the adjustment holes but I only had to take two wrenches with to get the bracket installed.

This mount won't budge. The overhang on the C was a little piece of mind for the bird dropping issues and also offered protection from ropes if the exterior of the tower was being worked on. Overall this mount worked very well and I don't know if I would do anything differently.

The next question was how often to capture a picture. I wanted the video to play back at around 30 frames per second to avoid the stuttering time lapse look. When the project started Brinno did not offer a timer feature would would eliminate overnight recording so the camera was constantly taking pictures. I decided to go with one capture every 15 minutes and decided to do a 48 hour test. The test worked well, I restarted the camera, climbed down the tower and hoped for the best.

According to Brinno, the camera should last for 78 days with a capture every 15 minutes. 78 days was a long time to gamble with a camera so exposed to the elements. A lighting strike, the bird I have mentioned a few times, equipment failure, etc. were all a possibility. I started off checking the camera about every two weeks, I would do a battery change and download the video. Every two weeks eventually changed to once a month. I had no problems with the camera or birds but now I was faced with the task of editing the footage.

Above is the finished video, here is what the camera captured. As I mentioned the timer functionality could have eliminated the nights and allowed the video to be stitched together with decent results. However, the night scenes were fine for the progression videos I was posting and without nights the videos would have been quite short.

Now the task of editing began. I had about 10 minutes of footage for the six months. A program like iMovie could bring the clips together and allow for the removal of nights but I wanted more, music, the month of construction displayed and a nice intro screen. Eric Berg has much more video editing experience than I, using Final Cut Pro, a stock audio track and some creativity he produced the video at the top of this page. All of the nights, downtime and weekends were eliminated, along with portions where rain obscured the view. The 10 minutes were cut down to a little over three and we had a video our client was very pleased with.