RAAM Time Lapse Video: The making of.

I will be running a few articles about this years Race Across America (RAAM), the first of which will be about the logistics behind the making of a 13 minute time lapse video of the race.

First off the bat is obviously the camera, you can’t just stick a Canon in the window and be done with it for 12 days. 

After looking around I figured that a GoPro was the best choice and we ended up with a bit of overkill in the shape of 4 of the Black Editions and 1 of the Silver Edition cameras.


So armed with the cameras, a big bag of mounts and sticky pads, a The Frame casing and a Garmin Solar charger we took to the car to fit the camera in.

GoPro Mounted in The Frame

To continuously shoot photos for 12 days means one supremely important thing, the GoPro needs to have power for 12 days – with a battery life of only 2 hours this was always going to be the primary concern.

This type of filming was tried before during a recent LeJogLe attempt, and it was very quickly realised that the housing needed for the camera to work had to have access for the power cable – it is way too much kerfuffle to be swapping either cameras or batteries around, and in short time we would have just stopped doing it – so a constant power source really is vital!

Thankfully GoPro make a case called The Frame, which is ideal for filming like this, it allows access to the power socket and is a bit slimmer that then not-needed waterproof housing.

A lighter socket was quickly commandeered in the car, with an extra long USB cable snaking out to the GoPro firmly attached.

With a project such as this, in the busy environment of a support car, where multiple items are being charged at once (3 bike lights, 2 Garmin devices, multiple phones and an enormous roof mounted stereo system!) it is crucial that everyone involved nows that the cable must stay in – there will be times (and there really will be!) when someone will need to charge a phone and it seems like a good idea to remove the GoPro cable as it must be fully charged – sadly the battery life isn’t that great in these cameras and once removed the cable may be out for hours and the power will run out – correct communication and understanding form the crew is vital in these situations!

After power, one of the most important issues is space, space in the form of disc space for the captured images. As it was we had 4 Sandisk 64GB memory cards to cover all out usage, this may seem overkill somewhat but with nearly 15,000 12Megapixel photos being taken, that space soon starts to get filled!

The setup was installed and the power was on at the Oceanside racer car park. It was now to see if it worked!

24 hours later and the red dot is flashing every minute to signify the camera is still taking photos’, this obviously brings a great sense of relief to all involved (me!) but now is the first real test of the equipment.

The Californian desert was going through one of the hottest recorded heat waves as we were passing through, with temperatures in the high 40’s.

Thats all well and good inside an air-conditioned car (probably not so good outside on a bike ;-)), but when we stopped for a sleep break the car’s air-con was also turned off.

A few of us spent some time inside the unairconditioned car as it sat at the side of the road with the engine off, outside it was 110 degrees but inside it was like sitting in a literal oven.

Sweat was pouring off our bodies at an incredible rate, and we were just sitting down!

We grasped the enormity of the heat when we opened the doors and went outside, when 110 degrees feels cool then you realise that you really were inside a furnace.

That furnace was also where the GoPro was situated, however it was in the window, directly in view of the sun.

When Chris went to leave an hour later there was no sign of life from the camera at all, it would seem that the heat had cooked the workings of it.

A quick swap out and all was fine again, but the lesson was clear – be careful in the heat and keep the camera off the dash if the car was stationary for too long!

The beauty of the setup was that it was truly fire and forget, in theory, and inmost cases practise, the initial button press was all that was needed.

At every opportunity I would check the screen to see it was still inning and for 90% of the stops it was – had there been a longer sleep break and the engine got turned off for 3 hours then the battery would run out and I would need to restart the camera.

I think we lost about 6 hours of travelling footage from this happening, and to be honest – thats far better than I had hoped for!

The last major issue we had was also one that was unexpected, and only came to light as I was checking through the images upon my return home.

We had a ginourmous electrical storm in Kansas one night, big enough to get us pulled off the roads for our own safety.

The GoPro was still running the whole time and I am sure it tok some interesting pictures of at least 1 of the many, many lightning bolts.

However this is something I will never know because it seems that the sheer concentration of electrical energy in the air that night screwed around with the GoPro’s internal workings.

knackered shot

Instead of the usual pictures I had about 300 pictures of static, half processed images and generally unusable images – starting during the lightning storm.

Both the heat fried and the electrical fried cameras did start working again after some period of time, so it goes to show that whilst the cameras are not indestructible,they are certainly tough enough to keep on going after a little rest.

So thats how the pictures were taken, every minute for 12 days.

The key is electricity, just enough to keep the GoPro working all the time, and not too much that you fry the workings of it.

Upon arrival at home the images were sorted into the correct folders, processed into individual days using the excellent, and free, GoPro Cineform Studio software and then joined together using iMovie to create the masterpiece that is this…..

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