GBTimelapse and Rhino Motion

Rhino have recently launched a new motorised slider called the Rhino Motion system and I’ve bought a unit for some timelapse work. First impressions of the Rhino Motion carbon fibre 42″ slider are; the design and manufacture are excellent, the slide action is very smooth and the control unit with integral battery make the slider very light and portable.

For timelapse work where the ambient lighting remains fairly constant and the camera can handle the exposures internally the Rhino Motion is an idea tool. However there are, imho, some serious limitations with the Rhino motion control system if you want to shoot holy grail SMS sequences. Most of the issues can be hopefully fixed with future firmware updates but some may require hardware changes.

As supplied the Rhino Motion can directly control a camera and work in a Shoot Move Shoot sequence for timelapsing and can be used in real time for video/film work. However, there is no facility to change the interval and exposure when the slide is in motion so there is no easy way to bulb ramp a timelapse sequence so the holy grail of timelapsing i.e. day to night and night to day bulb ramped sequences becomes problematic. To a degree this shortcoming can be handled by a software program called GBTimelapse at the expense of carrying extra hardware.

For static holy grail timelapse sequences I’ve always been impressed with a software product from Granite Bay software called GBTimelapse (GBT). This software can control Canon cameras and will programme all the bulb ramping of shutter/iso/aperture settings and things like white balance ramping in order to produce a very smooth ‘hands-free’ image holy grail image sequence with very little flicker.

One extra thing that GBT can do is take an external trigger signal from a slider so that the camera exposure only takes place when the slider is static so camera motion blur is minimised. The GBTimelapse documentation for this external trigger option is detailed on the Granite bay website so all I’ve done is read the instructions and plugged the system together.

The external trigger signal from the Rhino Motion control is captured by a Phidget 2/2/2 usb device which the GBtimelapse software can read. Once the trigger is seen by GBT it will decide on the correct camera settings for the bulb ramping sequence and it will capture the exposure on the camera via a usb lead.

There are still some system limitations using this technique; it’s not possible to alter the interval between exposures which is possible when only GBT is being used, The last exposure needed for the timelapse needed to be known (or guessed) so that the interval set on the slider is as long as the final timelapse exposure (plus 3-4 seconds padding for GBT to handle the camera and software housekeeping between frames)

Hopefully, in the future, Rhino will enhance the Motion controller functionality either by including it’s own bramping system or potentially allowing the Rhino to be controlled by external devices. Until they do then GBT is a good option for holy grail timelapsing either on or off a slider.

In future hardware/software updates on the Rhino Motion I would like to see include;

  • a Bramping routine with a variable minimum to maximum exposures and variable intervals, maybe by adding a constant padding value to the programmed exposure.
  • user adjustment of the screen contrast to improve daylight viewing as the screen in bright daylight is extremely difficult to read.
  • user adjustment of the interval of the slider from inside a sequence using non-blocking code, rather than having to stop the sequence, change the interval and then restart a new timelapse sequence. Maybe by using a pause function, then edit the interval and continuing the run. At the moment starting a new sequence means a calibration routine has to run which resets the slider position.
  • user adjustment of the settling time after the Rhino slider moves and stops and the camera is triggered, at the moment the camera seems to trigger as the slider stops so some vibration is still present. Even a 0.5 second pause would be adequate
  • allowing an external trigger to make the Rhino controller move the slider either from a PC sync signal or other device. This single change would make the Rhino motion extremely versatile. Maybe the camera trigger output socket can be flipped to be an input?
  • increasing the motor power/torque so that a higher payload can be moved on a inclined setup without the need for a messy counterbalance system. For timelapse work speed shouldn’t be a problem so maybe an option for future sales?

For Canon photographers that, like me, hate the non-latching N3 plug supplied by most manufacturers including Rhino there is a better solution. This Canon N3 lead on ebay with a metal latching N3 plug can be simply rewired to suit your needs.

Note: the web link on the side of the cable used to be a photographic company but it looks like a pornographic site has taken it over. Please only use the ebay link to search for the cable.

6th September 2015


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