Saturday, April 04, 2009

Technical timelapse assignment - want to help?

Hi readers!

I am fortunate enough to have landed a great timelapse assignment that is slightly trickier than normal. I am 90% sure I have it all sorted but would love some feedback on some of the "tech" parts.
  • Camera is to be mounted on a train, which will be travelling all over the state of Queensland, Australia (area - 1.85 million km or 715,000 miles)
  • Images are to be captured over a five month period in various increments from sunrise to sunset every day
  • Images are to be transmitted immediately after capture
  • Images need to be of a high enough resolution to be used as single 'stand-alone' photographs as well as be put together in resolutions from full HD down to YouTube size
  • I want my client to have access to any of the images at any time they require
I am fine with the type of camera, the software and so forth but I thought some of you might be able to help with the final transmit part.

The camera will be connected to a mains powered netbook running Windows. I was considering using DropBox and having the camera put its captured photos in the DropBox folder which would then instantly sync with the DropBox web interface and any computer connected to that DropBox account.
The computer will have a 3G wireless data card connected to Telstra's NextG service. The NextG service has excellent coverage (as shown below) however undoubtably it will be out of range at times.
Here are a couple of questions...
  • Any recommendations on a particular netbook/notebook? It will only be running timelapse software and wireless connection software as well as the background DropBox software but will need to be on and reliable for five months.
  • As the netbook will be unattended have you got any good tips on achieving maximum reliability?
  • Any idea of the longest run of USB cable that is reliable? (from netbook to camera)
  • Should I set up some sort of remote software so I can log in to the computer and fix any problems?
  • Any other things I am forgetting?
[Click image to see fullsize]


desherinka said...

Well, that project sounds like a Mac OS X project.... hehe.
Anyway, for the netbook you can get the dell mini 9, I guess its cheap there too.

Secondly, you definitely need to set up a secondary method of uploading the pictures, in case drop box fails. My advice, FTP. Get a FTP app that supports synchronization and you're done.

Third. Remote log in: That is tricky because your ISP will give you a DYNAMIC IP ADDRESS. I have a solution, there are some freeware programs that get the EXTERNAL IP ADDRESS (internet IP) and send the IP to any email account. Try this links:

After, You set up a VNC server/client on the netbook and log in using the IPs gotten via email. That will be enough for troubleshooting.

Regarding the USB cable, USB was designed for desktop peripherals, so it won't be able to run it any longer than 5 meters.
You can extend a USB wire using powered hubs and USB 5m wire extensions, but that will add more chances to failure.

Hope it helps, that's all I can think for now..

desherinka said...

I have a better idea. Why don't you get the Eye-Fi SD card, it's a SD memory card with WI-FI built in, it works in any SD camera and it can automatically upload the pictures to flickr (instant access), and some other 20 websites too.

And for the networking, you can connect the 3G dongle to this WI-FI router,

so that you don't have to worry about the netbook failing.

Cameron Laird | Freelance Photographer said...

Wow, thanks for these tips, lots to look at! Going to brew a coffee and get studying!!!!