Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera
Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 2

Artist and Nikon Ambassador for Lebanon, Alexy Joffre Frangieh (who painted his Nikon gear with military grade “Desert Mirage Lizard” paint) shared with us an interesting and challenging setup. His aim was to create a spinning circular image from within a leafless apple tree: creating a time lapse for use in a video artwork that will afterwards be displayed on a huge video wall (extract from the videoart can be found at the bottom of this post). You can follow Alexy on his website, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 3
It was almost impossible to mount the Syrp rotary motion controller inside the tree, so the Syrp needed to be mounted on an extension arm reaching the inside of the trunk. The second challenge was to spin the camera on the very center of the 8mm circular fisheye. One of the solutions was the use of a panoramic head screwed directly on the Syrp. The system was progressively becoming very heavy and unstable, counter weights became crucial for balancing the whole combination. Everything was weighted individually in order to apply the needed counter weights within the handling capacity of the tripod.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 6
The soil was getting wet and the tripod legs began sinking in an irregular fashion every time a new element was being added to the system, and the solution was to add significant weight to the bottom of the tripod's center column, forcing it to settle in the wet soil.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 4
And here comes the most challenging part: leveling... Each part needed to be leveled individually and each time a new component was added, it needed to be leveled with the whole, in a way to keep the consequent camera framing possible.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 7
Using the selected geared head (see the list of gear used at the bottom of this post) was a must, since it can handle a heavy load and has the possibility of fine movements, which was impossible using other types of heads. The multi camera arm was mounted directly on the head. All movements can now be done precisely using the cranks of the geared head. Another leveling base was mounted on the arm, on which the motion controller and camera were to be fixed.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 1
The camera had a vertical viewfinder, which turned impractical to use, because the higher the camera goes the more prone to shake it becomes. And the camera couldn't be lowered a lot, it became very hard to check the camera screen. Later on, a wireless transmitter was used to frame the first shot on a laptop screen. After the whole system was ready and the 8mm pointing up, a smart phone with a "talking bubble" app was laid flat on the closed lens, and then the final leveling with the geared head cranks was performed, in very small precise movements.

Creating spinning circular timelapse with Nikon DSLR camera 5
The camera was triggered externally while the motion controller ran continuously. That process created slight radial blur, which averaged the unavoidable shake caused by the camera mirror mechanism. The setup took around 90 minutes in intermittent rain, which was caught, in the final outcome. When asked why not to spin on software since it was a full circle, Alexy said " it is those little imperfections that make things alive". Here is an extract from the videoart:

List of gear used:

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