Saturday, 7 July 2012

The reason .....

.... some things never seem to get finished. Part one

This isn't particularly related to the conversion work on Real, but is one of those occasional ramblings promised in the title.

Do you ever start something only to find you have to do something else and then something else to be able to finish? Well, this is what happened to me recently.

Out of our windows we have an ever changing scene, the tide coming in and going out, boats going passed, wildlife etc and I decided it might be a good idea to make a time lapse video of this. I already had a cheap webcam I'd picked up some time ago and thought ths would be ideal, but I couldn't realistically use our desktop pc as I was too far from the window and the cable was no where near long enough and I didn't want to buy another cable for this one off experiment. This meant getting out our ancient laptop, but the problem here was that it was running really slowly on Windows XP and although I managed to get some video made it kept hanging and crashing. At the same time I also found that webcams, especially cheap ones, aren't very good at filming in sunlight or in the case of the one I have in any light at all, I think they must be designed for dark and dingy geek bedrooms or at least artificial light. I decided to tackle the slow running and crashing laptop first. A long time ago I'd played around with Linux on an even older laptop, which doesn't work so well now as I used parts from the CD drive to repair our hi-fi, but that's another story, and decided this would be ideal for this current one and there seemed to be a fair amount written about time lapse video and Linux. After trying about 5 different versions I finally found one (Puppy Linux) that would work with this veteran computer, I believe normally this isn't a problem but this laptop seems to have an odd screen that some of the versions I tried didn't like.

OK, now I have to learn how to use Linux. As it turns out a lot of it is GUI (graphical user interface or windows) based so I didn't have to worry too much about command lines which, although I'm sure I could get the hang of eventually, did make setting it all up easier. I found that the webcam software (GTK+ UVC Viewer) that comes in the latest version of Puppy Linux doesn't have an obvious time lapse feature but with a little tweaking of the configuration file you can set it to 'sleep' between frames, meaning I could set it to take one frame every 30 seconds or so.

So, laptop setup ready to go, but I've still got the problem with the webcam unable to take video in daylight without being completely washed out (actually just white in most cases). I did find that taping a lens from an old pair of sunglasses helped a bit but then when the sun went behind a cloud everything went black as the auto settings in the software just couldn't handle this odd setup. On searching the Internet I did come across this useful Instructable - Convert a Webcam to work outdoors in bright light., my initial tests haven't been that successful but I did then get distracted by something else........

As you can see, what started out as a simple idea then starts to get complicated especially when I get distracted. Of course the easy solution would be to buy a longer USB cable to use the desktop computer and a better webcam that works in daylight, but where's the fun in that?

To be continued


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