Sausalito Sunrise

Wow: Awesome Sunrise

When I awoke before the sun came up, the sky was filled with interesting layers of clouds. So I plopped the tripod on the front deck and started shooting the sunrise. You never know how the clouds and sunrise will interact. I was hoping that just before the sun peeked over the mountains, it would cause the low-lying cloud layer to have a hot pink under glow. Well, that didn’t happen, but it was still really interesting. For all of the things that are wrong with this time lapse, it still is very interesting.


I decided to rotoscope (remove) the telephone pole, wire harness, and numerous power lines out of the shot. This was the first time I’ve ever tried such a thing. Oh my! While the concept isn’t difficult, the rotoscoping proved to be an enormous challenge.

You normally just replace the lines with their adjacent pixels. Not so fast. The power lines curved and needed to be replaced by the pixels over or under them, which was more often than not water with moving cloud reflections. The telephone pole went all the way to the ground and had to be replaced by the pixels on the right side because the wires were attached on the left side, but there were wires on that side too. So, to make this work, the image had be sliced up into layers. Lots of layers. 16 layers!

My computer is old, 5 years old. In technology years, which is worse than dog years, that’s ancient. My old computer didn’t like working with 16 layers in compound, retimed clips.

Sausalito Sunrise
Compare the wires/pole in the picture to the video without them (Click to enlarge)

New Display Card

My new nVidia K5000 graphics card is totally kick ass! (4GB GDDR5, 256-bit, 173 GB/s memory bandwidth, 1,535 parallel CUDA processor cores, 2150 gigaflops) It is buttery smooth responsive to filters and layers in FCPx and Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. My old graphics card did not play well with FCPx or Lightroom 4 and had numerous maddening issues! It was virtually useless with FCPx. (Apple said it wasn’t compatible with the new software. They were correct.)

As wonderful as the graphics card is (and it really is awesome!), it had to work itself to death to churn out 16 layers of retimed, rotoscoped video. Every change to a layer took a minute or two to process and played back at a low frame rate until rendered. As a result, the rotoscope work is sloppy. I didn’t take the time to get it pixel perfect. This was just a “for fun” 1 minute project, and I didn’t want to spend a week working on it: make a quick change and then wait 2-5 minutes before you could evaluate it, decide on another tweak, repeat.


New rule: the sprinklers for the front yard can not come on while I’m shooting a time lapse! I could have taken out the spraying water, but, again, this time lapse was never meant to be a work of art.


I used a 3 second shot interval, having no idea the clouds were moving as fast as they were. (Remember, I started this thing in the dark.) I shot over 1,600 raw photos. Then, I created a video at 25 frames per second.

To make the finished product exactly 1 minute long (short is good) I retimed the video to 108%. This resulted in an odd equally spaced jerk to the video. Since I had no interest in spending days redoing the 16 layers (That process literally took 2 days because it was so taxing on this old computer!) and another day re-rendering the output, I just left the jerkiness as is. Lesson learned, though I’m not exactly sure I understand what happened and why. Dropped frames as a result of retiming? (But that just doesn’t make sense to me…)


At any rate, the short video shows a gorgeous view of the bay. The interaction between the bay, the clouds and the light produced some beautiful moments. Enjoy fullscreen @1080HD.