American in Spain

Arcturus Rising

March 30, 2008

Ever since discovering, recently, that my new DSLR camera can pick up star light, I've been waiting impatiently for a clear night to do a timelapse video. The sky was blue all afternoon yesterday, and was relatively clear when the sun set, so I got excited that I'd finally have a chance. Unfortunately, the sky clouded over after about 90 minutes of photos. This is the first of what I hope to be many timelapse videos starring, well, stars. The process I used to make this video is this:

  1. Set the camera to 15 second exposures. And the file type to S-RAW (small RAW files, i.e. 4 MB instead of 8 MB).
  2. Attach the USB cable to my old G4 laptop, a well-experienced timelapse cameraman.
  3. Set EOS Utility to start one 15-second exposure every 30 seconds, thus resulting in the shutter being open for 15 seconds and closed for 15 seconds for file transfer.
  4. Copy all 200 4-MB RAW files to my other computer and open the first one in Photoshop.
  5. Fiddle with the settings to get the maximum amount of visible stars, and save that XMP file that holds the settings.
  6. Open all 200 files, apply the determined RAW settings, resize to 800 pixel width, and save as JPG. The resizing and saving can be recorded and replayed quickly as a Photoshop action.
  7. Open Quicktime and choose "Open Image Sequence", select the first JPG, and set the frames-per-second (I went with 15, I think), and voila! A timelapse video from RAW files!

Then I used Stellarium to figure out what stars I was looking at and take a screenshot of the star map that you see at the beginning of the video.

First a little big about the star of the show. Arcturus is the third brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius and Canopus. It's a red giant star more than 110 times more luminous than the sun, and is 36.7 light years away. Spica, on the other hand, is 260 light years away, making it the 15th brightest star in the night sky.

revver(777147) This video is also available at YouTube, Yahoo, Metacafe, Google, Revver, DailyMotion,, Veoh, Crackle, Stupid Videos and Viddler.

Like I said, it clouded over pretty fast. Still, the airplane phenomenon was kind of cool. Hopefully future videos will be more interesting.