Archive for August, 2009

Star Fish Movie and Codec Hell

August 26, 2009

I made a new time lapse movie yesterday. I photographed a star fish as it wandered over the back wall of my tank. You can view it here.  The surprising thing is that it moves fairly quickly, then sits and eats for a while, and then “dashes” away.  Given that the movie took about 4.5 hours to shoot, the darting is actually quite slow.

Sadly, most of you won’t be able to view this movie unless you also download and install KMPlayer.   How is it that I am able to create a movie that no one can view?  The secret lies in the codecs.

The term codec stands for Encoder/Decoder.  A codec is a piece of software that is used to encode and decode something (audio streams, video streams, still photos).  Codecs are used to read and write images (JPG, PNG, etc), audio (MP3), and video (AVI, MPG, MOV, etc).

You would think that the people who created computers would be smart enough to stick to a few standard movie formats, so that everyone has the right codecs, so that everyone can view each other’s movies.  Sadly, this is not true.  Somehow, the freeware software that I use to create these movies manages to create a movie that has a reasonable name, but is indecipherable to most movie playing software.

My latest camera, a Canon PowerShot, only will produce movies in Apple’s MOV (QuickTime) format.  For those of you who use Macintoshes, this is great news; for the rest of us, this is a huge pain in the ass.  Codec hell.

For now, I can’t suggest any easy solution to this problem.  Perhaps someone will post a link to a magical web site that will solve this problem for everyone for all time.

Photos and Movies from the Cape (of Cod)

August 19, 2009

I just returned from a visit to The Cape, and have created a web page about it. Please click here to go there.

Time Lapse Movies of Corals

August 1, 2009

Corals move quite slowly in an aquarium, and most casual observers never understand that aspect of their beauty. Some start out quite small in the early morning, but expand during the day under the influence of the sun (lights). I took a series of time lapse movies with my new Canon Power Shot SX10 IS, using the open source CHDK microcode enhancements and an Intervalometer script. Quite neat. I needed a separate DC power supply, as the batteries were not up to taking 900 pictures, one every 6 seconds.

I stitched the JPGs together using a program called MEncoder, which is part of the MPlayer effort. You may not be able to play these movies with the regular movie players: you may have to download KMPlayer in order to watch them. I have no idea why this is.

The first movie was my test run. The others show the corals “waking up” and growing during the morning, or shutting down during the evening. Notice how they each try to shoulder each other out of the way, in order to get all of the light for themselves!

Mini Movie (4 MB)

Time Lapse Movie 1 (11 MB)

Time Lapse Movie 2 (11 MB)

Time Lapse Movie 3 (16 MB)