My Gizmodo Contest Entry

On January 18, I mentioned in a post that the technology site Gizmodo was hosting their first ever video contest until Feb. 9 and the theme was time-lapse.  I decided to make this video of Sutro Tower because I see it every day but feel it doesn’t get much acknowledgement here in San Francisco.  Look at any clear panaroma of San Francisco or the Golden Gate Bridge and you can usually find Sutro Tower in the background.  Despite this, I’ve actually met people who’ve lived here their entire lives without knowing the tower’s name.

Those who are familiar with the tower generally dislike it and think it’s an eye sore.  I think this is a shame because it’s one of the most prominent features of the city and really no worse than The Eiffel Tower or Tokyo Tower.  Unlike those towers, however, Sutro only serves as a broadcasting station made necessary by the city’s famous hills.

The rules of the contest state that all videos must be made during the contest dates.  I’ve posted some of the original stills below to prove they were taken during this period and to briefly explain how they were made.  It’s been warm and sunny in the bay area the last couple of weeks so I had to get creative with shots.  As always, all photos were taken with a 6MP Canon point-and-shoot.  Click and download each photo for a full size version and for EXIF data including date taken and camera settings.

HDR from Golden Gate Park


This was the last clip I made in the series but the first in the video.  I used CHDK and an intervalometer script to take the pictures and Photomatix Pro 3.2  to batch process them as described in an earlier post.  I was scrambling the day before I posted this video to try to come up with another clip despite a week of cloudless skies.  My apologies to anyone snowbound right now–I really shouldn’t complain about California’s weather.

Sutro from Below


There wasn’t much special about this shot.  There was almost no breeze this day so the clouds were barely moving.  I believe I set a ten second interval instead of the usual two seconds.  I used a polarizing filter to darken the sky and then spent an hour editing out birds and planes with the healing brush in Photoshop.  You might notice the Golden Gate Bridge in the lower right.

Foggy Tower


The fog was so thick this day I couldn’t get a picture of the tower without standing almost directly below it.  I accidentally set the camera to ISO 400 so you can see lots of noise in the shot.  I didn’t bother editing any of the birds because there were so many and because the quality was already so low.

Little Planet


I really like some of the “little planet” photos around the net, especially this one.  The thing I haven’t seen is a time-lapse version.  This was my first attempt and I think it turned out alright.  I definitely need more practice and to work on my blending skills but the final result is passable.  The problem with making a little planet time-lapse is that any clouds will look odd at the seam.  I tried to use the setting sun as the moving element in this time-lapse instead of cloud movement.  I edited the photos by making a Photoshop action based on Photojojo’s little planet tutorial.

Fog Over the City


This clip doesn’t actually feature Sutro Tower but it was shot from the street below it.  I really liked this clip and had to shoe-horn it into this video.

Star Trails


I made this clip with my star trails Photoshop action.  I set the camera to 15 sec. exposures and turned off dark frame subtraction in order to make smoother trails and spend less time outside at night.  I then used Photoshop to subtract camera noise using a dark frame and then added the trails.  You can see the purple glow in the upper left corner in this unprocessed photo.

Video Processing

All the clips were made using the free software VirtualDub because it offers a lot of flexibility and add-ons.  I put the clips into one video with Windows Live Movie Maker, which can also be used for time-lapse.

The music is “Night on Bald Mountain,” performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra.  I found it on a website specializing in public domain music.

I’m hoping to revisit Sutro Tower in a later video once I start shooting with a DSLR.  I think it would make an interesting study over the course of a year.  Thanks for visiting and please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

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