A nice bit of Big Island after dark eye candy from German photographer Michael Kunze.
For the W. M. Keck Observatory 20th anniversary I did a short video. The idea was to create a teaser that could be run at the start of many of the events.
It is surprising how much work can go into a 90 second video. With a very short time span to work with you have to pack a lot of visuals in quickly. The basic material was mostly historical images of the observatory construction, a few bits from local photographer Ethan Tweedie, recycle a couple bits from Keck in Motion add a few science images and pau!
Digging through the library archive with Peggi was a great look into Keck’s past. At one point we had dozens of photo albums scattered across the top of the cabinets and I notes that we were making a mess of her library. She replied in no uncertain terms… “This is great, this is what a librarian should be doing!”
If you have not already seen the vid enjoy!
Trying to finish up a new video project for Keck Week. As one would guess, the video features the history of Keck. Looking for material has been a great excuse to dig through the Keck archives. Through the expertise of our staff librarian, Peggi Kamisato, I have pursued hundreds of photos and other material from the history of these great telescopes. Turning page after page of photos albums from the construction of the two telescopes, thumbing through observing log #1 to read the notes from those first nights of science observations. I have a new appreciation for the history of this place.
Not all of this material can make it into the video. Some of the best can, hopefully resulting in a worthwhile result. Just a teaser for today, one of the photos from construction that did not make the cut. What about the video? Come to Keck Week and see the premiere!
It is always another little problem. But, on occasion, a problem is an excuse to have a little fun while getting the job done.
Enter an old WYKO interferometer with a composite video output. The gear is a critical piece of kit used to monitor the deformable mirror used in the adaptive optics system. The images from the interferometer are analyzed by a windows PC with special software. Windows, as in Windows 98!
Updating this computer has been on our to-do list for way too long. Time to get it done… When installing the new computer and video board to update this system I found that the video quality was quite bad. It would tear about halfway down the image, something wrong with the horizontal sync? Looking back it was not great on the old system, but usable. On the new system it was just not going to work.
It took 3 hours to fly to Juneau, it took 18 days to get back.
The video is done. Shot with a Canon 60D, a Canon G11 and an iPad, the video documents the voyage from Juneau to Anacortes I took last month. Bears, whales, dolphins, and a whole lot of water. It was a great trip, I can only hope I convey a little of the experience in the video.
Compressing 1,800+ photos and dozens of video clips to three minutes is an interesting exercise. This is compounded by the thousands of timelapse exposures that needed to be assembled. It went surprisingly quickly this time, a mere three evenings of work. (As long as you classify evening as getting to bed before 2am.) Either I am getting better with the tools, or I just got lucky when it came to fitting the thing together.
I have produced several videos about these voyages by boat through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. How do you keep each video from looking just like the last? This time I changed it up stylistically, opting for a much more driving soundtrack coupled with the frenetic pace of timelapse.
Does it work? I will await your judgement.
Sometimes I specifically plan to shoot a scene. Other times I simply take advantage of what opportunities present as go about the usual business of life. Driving home the light and clouds catch my attention. I stop along the road, setting up the camera and shooting 20 minutes of time lapse. This will become ten seconds of video, clouds sweeping past the summit of Mauna Kea in late afternoon light.
I have located several more pieces of music appropriate for soundtracks. It is the music I start with, building the video around the soundtrack. With music in hand I can plan, visualizing the finished video, deciding what further scenes I need to go out and shoot.
Keep a camera handy.
Last week I shot a little video of Mars and Saturn in an attempt to get some nice imagery of these planets. Mars is approaching opposition and Saturn is well placed in the sky for observation. It appeared at first as if the seeing was pretty good, but reviewing the video shows that there were issues.
The results? No so good actually. The Mars shot shows no detail beyond the polar cap, the Saturn shot is marginally better, but still nothing I am happy with. The imagery was taken with the Canon 60D in crop movie mode, and the C11 telescope operating at f/10. I spent some time tweaking the collimation, that looked looked fairly good. The video? The resulting material is not so good, I suspect the main cause of the poor results was seeing, some variant of high frequency distortion blurring the fine details.
There may also be some issues with the new version of Registax. Version 6 has some major differences in how it operates, not sure if I am doing everything right. The program may have some bugs as well, I crashed it several times while attempting to process the imagery.
I expected the video to be popular, maybe not this popular. So far several major websites have picked up the video. First is was ScienceBlogs.de and Universe Today, then Phil at Bad Astronomy was nice enough to post the vid. Now it is Wired Magazine that has posted the video along with an article. I expect the video will pass 10k views sometime in the next hour.
For those readers that might be stopping by Darker View for the first time… Welcome!
A video like this takes a surprising amount of work to assemble. It is rewarding to see that the results of that effort are not in vain. Sharing my experience on the mountain, celebrating the efforts of the great guys of our summit daycrew, it is very satisfying to see that so many folks are interested in what we do.
If you like what you see, why not stick around, we have more to share!
Tomorrow night will see the premiere of my latest work. Over the last few months I have been assembling a video on Keck titled Keck in Motion. The nice part is that the first public screening will see the video on a big screen indeed… The showing will be at the Kahilu Theater. It will be run as a introduction piece before the Keck lecture
The video has seen the usual creative cycles during production… Enthusiasm followed by disillusionment, in alternating phases. Despite some doubts along the way, I have to admit the final version is not all that bad. Everyone who has seen it uniformly gives great reviews, but as the author, I see all the flaws and things I could improve. Whatever reservations I might have, the time has come to simply say… It is done. I have turned over copies to Larry and Mariko, ready for projection on a big screen tomorrow night.
The video has been seen a couple private showings to a selected audience. In particular it has been seen by the guys on the summit crew, many of whom appear in the video. Some bits of the video have been seen here before, particularly the three lasers sequence. Some of the material was stuff I had accumulated across the years, many pieces were custom shot to complete the project. Somehow it works into a very nice narrative and a complete story in three minutes, thirty-six seconds.
Look to see the video posted here after the premiere. Peeking at my Vimeo account will not help, I have not uploaded it yet. I suspect it will get spread around a little, used for Keck PR. It does show what a special place Keck is. Better yet, it highlights the hard work it takes to keep Keck on-sky every night. Because of that, this video is dedicated to the guys of the summit crew.
There are some devices that folks still try to repair if possible, camera gear seems to be at the top of the list. I suppose this should not be a surprise, the gear is expensive, and seems to get damaged from hard use. Particularly on this island, where cameras see a wide range of harsh conditions, from tropical heat to salt water.
A month back I repaired a Pentax waterproof camera for a co-worker. Salt water had penetrated around the shutter button and corroded the switch. The camera, rated to 10m (30ft), had probably experienced pressures even higher. Her teenage boys can easily exceed that depth while free diving the island reefs. It was necessary to completely disassemble the camera to get at the button. Well over an hour of tiny screws and gaskets to replace a $1.35 switch.
There have been other items this year… A classic chrome stand microphone that required a little rewiring to work with a modern computer. A pair of very nice computer monitors now found on my desk. A toy RC aircraft with broken motor leads. I do appear to have gained a reputation for fixing this stuff.
Last week it was an underwater video camera case brought to me. None of the external controls were working, no way to hit record once in the water. The repair turned out to be fairly simple, a broken conductor in the LANC cable used to control the camera. A bit of scrounging around in my spare parts to build a replacement cable was all that was required to put everything right. Most repairs are that sort of simple, just the effects of wear and tear taking their toll.
After the repair J sent me a link to his YouTube channel and I spent a lunch watching video. Well edited, nicely crafted videos of the local paddling sport community. Canoe races and special events covered with a personal touch, with respect for the people and traditions. I was very happy to see I had done a bit to help someone who was producing such excellent material.
The repairs serve me as well. Each time I take apart an unfamiliar device I learn, I refresh my skills, I experience the simple joy of using those skills. Each device is a challenge, to successfully disassemble the gear, find the fault, and put it all back together properly. On occasion I fail in that challenge, either I do not have the skill, or the repair is impractical, or the device too badly damaged. There is often little real risk, if it is broken the attempt to save something useful from the trash is an easy choice, the only thing lost is the effort. The reward is seeing the gear returned to useful service and knowing you prevented that little bit of waste.
I wonder what will come my way next time?An example of J’s Videos