Cactus Flowers 2008 – Now in HD!

July 07, 2008 By: erik Category: Geeky, Photos, Science, Timelapse, Videos 563 views

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Cactus Flowers 2008Over the past weekend, I took three different timelapse videos of my flowering cactus over three separate evenings. The results are quite lovely. Each frame was captured as a 5.7 MiB, 1944×1296 pixel, “small RAW” file, I sized them down to the maximum HDTV dimensions of 1920×1080 before loading them into iMovie. In order to upload them with maximum quality to my .Mac account, the only place I know of that will host large videos, I had to use the new iMovie ’08. As it turns out they only allow up to 960×540, which is really plenty. For iMovie ’08, Apple completely rewrote iMovie to an overly userfriendly interface. It’s the only video editing software I’ve ever seen that doesn’t offer a “timeline” view where you can move video and audio around. This caused a great backlash (from me as well) at the time of its release, so Apple allowed the older version, iMovie HD, to be a free download to owners of iMovie ’08. However, I must say that after using iMovie ’08 today, it’s really not that bad. They took away control over some aspects of the editing and provided more control in others. One thing that always annoyed me about iMovie HD was that once you added a text title to the movie, it was there for good, rendered and saved to each frame, and couldn’t be edited. Not so in ’08.

You’ve already seen the first clip of the video. The third clip was a little disappointing because I mis-guessed that the flower was going to rise a bit during bloom, but it actually fell. So I spent ten minutes (one frame per minute, remember), slowly moving the camera down a millimeter between each shot.

If your bandwidth can handle it, I highly recommend watching this movie in high definition (you have to click “Large” to see it in 960×540).

This video is also available on Vimeo, YouTube, Metacafe, Google, DailyMotion,, Sclipo and Viddler.

  • Is there anything you can do about the subtle light flicker in the sequel – Cactus Flowers 2009 (working title)

  • That’s good point, Hubbers. I spent a lot of thought on how to minimize flicker. The light flicker is caused by slight variations in the camera’s automatic settings for each shot. With most DSLRs, you have to pick what dimension you want to control (shutter speed, aperture, exposure, etc.) and then the camera figures out the other parameters based on what you’ve chosen and the conditions. By using RAW files, I was able to make sure that all the photos used as many of the same settings as possible.

    To film this, I brought the cactus inside so it wouldn’t move with the wind, closed all the blinds, left the room’s light on all night, and used the camera’s built-in flash. I’m really not sure how to keep the lighting any more stable than that beyond getting a good light source and eschewing the flash. Hopefully I’ll have a new desk lamp (mine’s broken) for the sequel in 2009.