My Mi Trip

I went with the lovely wife up to Michigan to see the family in laws.  I didn’t intrude with my camera on any of the reunion activities, but I did get a chance to shoot some nice time lapse and highlight a few roadside attractions.  Mi is very green and gorgeous this time of the year, but their roads are terrible!

GoPro Time Lapse Endurance

I love time lapse videos.  They can show progress and life in a way that we couldn’t normally comprehend at our human pace.  I have started a few time lapse shots only to have them go sour part of the way through.  Changing lighting conditions are one culprit, but so are dead batteries.  When they only give you 3 little bars to show battery life, it can be hard to tell how much time is available.  I decided to do some time trials with various batteries and capture rates.

All tests performed with a GoPro Hero 3 White, WiFi off


Storage Space

A simple one to test is storage space, or so I thought.  Everything was pretty straight forward until I paid attention to the file sizes.  It turns out the image size varies quite a bit depending on lighting conditions and capture speed.  At 1 second and below, the file size cut way down.  Similarly low lighting conditions will produce smaller files.  Even with a 10 second delay.

  • 0.5 – 1 second delay: 250kb – 750kb
  • 2+ second delay: 1.3mb – 2mb

This mean that mileage may vary by quite a bit.  1 second delay in low light vs bright conditions can be a factor of 3 difference.  This is all a little academic.  Memory is cheap, and often more available than battery life.  The worst case would be a 2 second capture delay in full lighting.  That could theoretically be 3.6gb/hr.  A few of the actual numbers I got are below.  Most were taken in fairly low lighting.

  • 1 second delay, 2 gb/hr
  • 5 second delay, 1 gb/hr
  • 10 second delay, 0.5 gb/hr

In theory 5 seconds could go from 1 to 1.5gb/hr.  Again, probably not going to break the SD card bank.  Take my above file size numbers, multiply by your acquisition rate and figure out how much space you will need.


Internal Battery Endurance

This is what I originally set out to do before I got really side tracked with file size.  I had a hypothesis that the higher acquisition rates would yield shorter battery life.  The idea being that the GoPro would consume less power in the delay cycle vs when capturing.  100% wrong!

It turns out there is no measurable battery life difference.  I tried 1s, 5s and 10s delay.  They all turned out the same on a given battery.  I compared a stock GoPro battery and a Wasabi power battery both with a 5s capture delay.  They came out really close.  That is surprising considering the stated mAh rating is higher on the Wasabi.

  • Wasabi Power Battery (1200mAh): 3hr 45min
  • GoPro Stock Battery (1050mAh): 4 hours

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4 hours isn’t bad, but when you consider there will be setup time, that drops.  An extra battery source is whats needed.  GoPro sells a backpack, but I wanted something cheaper to rig.  How about one of these portable batteries used to charge a phone?


External Battery Endurance

I have an Anker portable battery (3200mAh) and an EasyAcc (10,000 mAh).  Often the stated ratings are not correct.  See Wasabi example above.  Still, they ought to last longer.

  • Anker battery: 8 hours
  • EasyAcc Power Bank: 29+ hours

The power bank was crazy.  I eventually gave up and just stopped it.  There are 4 indicator lights on it, and one was still lit up when I called it quits.  I have no idea exactly how long it would run, but obviously well over a day.  I can’t imagine I will want to do time lapse for that long.

DSC_0182Using a portable pack, you will not be able to seal up the GoPro.  Time lapses done in a rough environment will require an official backpac with new case.  Still, I can think of a lot of places where having all day time lapse without water resistance would be useful.

Sous Vide Steaks

My madness for cooking gadgets knows no bounds.  I saw a sous vide cooker on sale for fathers day and couldn’t help myself.  A coworker friend of mine has had one for a while and made some awesome meals in it.  His enthusiasm for this method of cooking was infectious and I had to do it.  If you are not familiar with the method, basically you bag food, ideally in a vacuum sealer, and place it in a water bath of the desired cook temperature.  You basically can’t overcook things!

I got an Anova cooker, and I will talk about it more at some later date.  For now I had to rush head first into this new world and try out steak.  Cooking steaks is one of the things sous vide is famous for.  I lined up some test subjects (coworkers) picked up a pile of steaks from the local meat market, and got to cooking.  Take a look at these gorgeous steaks.

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While sous vide cooks the meat and pasteurizes it to a food safe level, it doesn’t look that great.  Kind of wet, grey, and unappetizing.

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That is where a good searing comes in.  You want to cook in sous vide and then brown with high heat.  I got 4 steaks, and seared each with a different method.  On the grill, on the grill with steak seasoning, cast iron, and with a blow torch.

after

  • Blow Torch: I used my mapp gas plumber’s torch to sear the outside.  This was the softest because of how little time the steak saw the heat
  • Grill: Great steak.  Probably the most cooking on the outside.  The outside had some good chewiness while the inside was still good and tender.
  • Grill w/ Season: Same as above but with montreal steak seasoning sprinkled on before the sous vide.  Best flavor of all!
  • Cast Iron: I put a big cast iron skillet on the grill, and seared there.  Kind of in between the grill and torch.

All the steaks were good.  The torch was definitely the softest if that is what you are looking for.  Seasoning goes super well with the sous vide process, so that one is a winner.  Really there are no losers here.  I think we will try the cast iron next time with seasoning on it.

As a curiosity and because I have always adored time lapse, I did a time lapse shot of the steaks in the sous vide cooker.  They were in for about 1hr 45minutes.  It took me about 5 minutes to get the GoPro setup, but in that time they had already started greying quite a bit.  Amazing how fast that happens!


Bonus steak and eggs

The next morning I warmed up some left over steak, and did scrambled eggs in the sous vide.  I set the cooker in my mini crock pot and tossed in the eggs when it hit the right temperature.  20 minutes later it was finished!

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I broke it up with a fork and sprinkled on my steak.  It was a good breakfast, but the texture was a little odd.  I don’t mind my eggs being a little loose, but these were really consistently so.  I almost feel like eggs need searing for the same reason steaks do.  It adds flavor and provides a good texture contrast.  The experimenting continues.

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Honey Extractor Test Article

Our hive is happily gaining weight at a somewhat alarming pace.  (Check out the bee log for details)  Before too long we are going to have a pile of frames that need extracting.  Honey extractors are quite expensive and take up a good bit of space.  I have looked at dozens of designs online and don’t see any that I want to copy.  I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, but didn’t want to first test it when extracting.  Extracting is a messy job, and I don’t want to get part way in and find out my rig doesn’t work.

A lot of people use metal or plastic trash cans for their extractor.  They certainly work, but if you are only doing two frames at a time, then that seems like a lot of wasted space.  A medium is about 20″ long and 6.5″ wide.  The inside diameter of a 5 gallon bucket is 10.5″ at its smallest.  This should leave enough room for two frames and a spinner.  Lastly there is height.  A bucket is about 15″ tall.  This is too short to use by itself.  If, however, you cut the bottom out of one and stack it on another it gets taller.

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Any honey that hits the sides of the top bucket will just drip down into the next.  The smaller hole in the right bucket holds the spinner shaft.  I decided to go with 3/4″ PVC.  It is light, cheap, and strong.  I started with a cross fitting that goes down through the hole, out to two side posts, and up to a bolt that my drill can chuck up.  The bolt is a 1/4-20 installed in a flat plug.

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It looks good in the bucket, but I need some weight to really test it.  A full medium frame should weigh no more than 5 pounds.  I wanted to put bags of sand or water (5lb each) on the sides of the posts. I didn’t have any sand handy, so water it was.  It didn’t go well.  The bolt wasn’t perfectly centered and aligned to the shaft despite my efforts, so it wobbled even with out weight.  Also the bags of water were horribly balanced which introduced really violent shaking.


Improvise Adapt Overcome

So what are the issues?  First, the bolt trick was neat, but not well centered.  I could try again, but wanted a different tack.  Instead I will use pipe reducers to get to something small enough to chuck in my drill.  It adds cost, but not much.  This brass barb fits in any standard 3/8″ drill chuck.  A pipe clamp helps prevent the PVC from splitting under the load.

Next I need to rethink the payload.  It turns out standard barbell weights fit really nicely over 3/4″ pvc.  I picked up a set of used ones and sank a screw in each pvc post to hold them in place.  I made them slightly off balance to simulate a set of frames that wasn’t perfectly matched.

They are set 4″ apart and are centered vertically about where a frame would be.  The spinner rig is the same height as it would need to be for full frames.  Now that everything looks nicer, we have to ask, will it blend?  I got out my zip tie GoPro mount and shot a tiny bit of footage.

Looks good to me.  I only had two issues crop up.  First, the hose barb is soft brass.  The chuck teeth really dug it up and caused some shavings to come off.  Next time I will tighten harder, and wrap the area with tape.  That way any shavings that do come off don’t get into the honey.

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Lastly, as I was taking my GoPro off its mount, the buckle clip broke.  I own dozens of GoPro accessories.  Most are cheap aftermarket knock offs, or something I built.  But no, the first one I break is an official part!  Oh well, at least the extractor looks like it will be a success.

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Bee Hive Entrance Cam

I took some time out to stick my GoPro at the entrance of our hive.  There was a lot of activity, and if you look carefully you can see some coming in with pollen on their back legs.  Almost therapeutic to see and here them coming and going like that.

We got BEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!

After lots of anticipation and anxiety we finally got bees.  There aren’t many things I would gladly wake up for extra early for on a Saturday, but this is one.  We drove up to Mims FL, and picked up our nuc.  It is very strange to be handed a box that is buzzing.  When we got home two little ones had escaped.  Luckily I was able to coax them onto the box so we could go outback together and begin the unboxing.  GoPro chest cam caught some great bee action shots.  Also some singing may have occurred.

Family pictures are going to be a lot harder.  Everyone say honeeeeeeeeeeey!  Doh, one of them blinked.

wpid-20150307_090452.jpgOur hive compound has everything a bee could want.  A raised base, colorful hive, chicken feeder full of water and marbles so the girls can take a drink but not drown, and a nice table to work off of.

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 We bee happy!

GoPro Handle

Shakey cam seems to be the plague of small handheld home video.  The units are light and often don’t have good ergonomics.  If I want to do any hand held shooting I will need a decent handle.  I looked around a bit and I think the DIY projects I found fall into three categories.  1.  A simple handle.  Basically something to hold onto.  2.  Balanced handle.  A little nicer, it is weighted so the unit isn’t so top heavy.  3.  Steady cam handles.  These are fairly elaborate, but should give really good stable video.  I am going to try number 2, it will probably give the most bang for the complexity buck.

I think I found a really simple solution.  The handle is PVC.  This isn’t novel, there are a lot of PVC handles on the internet.  Mine is a bit different though.  Instead of using the pipe and putting a bolt through end caps I used couplings and plugs.  It means the whole handle has a consistent diameter with flat tops.  Normal end caps are always domed; not ideal for mounting.  The other trick is to use threaded rod instead of a bolt.  A lot of designs use a short bolt.  It is never short enough.  You end up having to do funny things with extra nuts and washers.  A threaded rod held in with a nut is infinitely adjustable.

Enough talk lets pictures.

I glued everything together except the top plug.  I left it loose so I could add or remove metal BBs to the hollow handle.  A bit of trial and error got me to a good balance.  It is centered at about my middle finger when holding it normally.  I shot some video with and without weight.

Not exactly an instant hollywood quality shot, but a few grams of BBs did really help calm down some of the shakes.  With the BB weight added I mixed up another batch of epoxy and poured it in to hold them in place.  It wouldn’t do to have them bouncing around while shooting with audio.  The cap got some PVC glue and the handle is assembled.  I wanted some kind of paint or grip for the handle.  Plasti dip provided both.

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DSC_0474The final product still kind of looks like spray painted PVC, but I like it.  The total weight isn’t high and it feels solid in my hand.  While not professional, it was well worth the <10 dollars and little time I spent on it.