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Irfanview & Dogwaffle Tutorial:
Screen captures for
timelapse movies

 
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I have experimented with timelapse creation through Irfanview. It is easy, it's fun, it's free.

Prerequisite: You need Irfanview. Go to www.irfanview.com and download and install the latest version. Free for home use. It's a great image viewer, on steroids, it does much more than showing you the images. Lots more, trust me on this one. Download.com has it, millions of downloads. The most popular multimedia viewer. And you say you never heard of it? tsk tsk... what planet were you vacationing on?

 We'll use it to capture the screenshots at regular intervals, along with the cursor, into an image sequence.
 

Configuring Image Capture with Irfanview

You will need to create a folder into which to capture the image sequences, or use an existing one (don't save to the desktop, it will be littered with too many icons in no time)...... I recommend creating a folder in 'My Documents' or at top level of the drive like

C:\capture

(create that folder first).


Back in Irfanview you can hit 'c' for Capture. Or use

menu: Options > Capture



This will show you the window to configure Captures:



Here's what to look for and set:
  1. Capture the full desktop
  2. switch to Automatic mode, and set the delay to 10 seconds or whatever you prefer. If you're going to be painting for 5 hours, 10 seconds intervals means 6 frames captured per minute, or 360 per hour, or 1800 frame in all over 5 hours. If the average image file size is about 50 KB, you will need around  90 MB of available disk space to record this sequence. Your mileage may vary.
  3. check the box to include the mouse cursor if you want
  4. Set the saving method to save captured image as file: the default filename is fine, it will contain the timestamp of when it was captured. Set the Destination directory to the folder in which you want the captured screenshot images to end up. I recommend something easily accessible in a short path, such as C:\Capture, just in case you want to work on the content with command line tools like ffmpeg to convert the sequence into other movie formats.
  5. For 'Save As:', select Png or Jpeg or similar with decent compression to avoid running out of disk space after a few hours of recording, and use the Options button to set specific options that help reduce file size of the captured images. For Jpeg use 75 or less. It depends.
Keep this in mind: your large screen images will later be reduced to smaller sizes for the movie, especially if you upload it to Kyte, YouTube or similar infrastructures. For example, your screen resolution might initially be 1280x1024, but on youtube you'll see it around 320x240, 400x300,  or thereabouts, although you can upload high def movies too, for HQ mode. Your call. One of the best uses of Irfanview for post-processing after the capture will also be to do some batch conversion and resizing/resampling, to better match the target output format. With that in mind, you could certainly capture in formats or qualities that are lossless or larger file sizes, as long as you do the math to verify that you won't run out of disk space. For example, Tiff format with LZW compression would be lossless and reasonably small files in many cases. It's a good idea to experiment wih various formats also because other factors can come to play: the speed of your hard drive and processor, which might slightly hinder or affect your painting experience going on at the same time, especially if you capture more frequently, such as once every second, or even at 0.2 second intervals (5 times per second), for example.


 Start Recording

Then start recording: Click "Start" button. The Irfanview window will be minimized and thus disappear. You can use ALT-Tab to switch back to it. Or find it on the taskbar. At some point you'll need this to abort the automatic capture.

You will hear a 'beep' every 10 seconds whenever it snaps a screenshot. turn down the volume if it's distracting.
 
Then use your favorite painting program and start painting, for minutes, or even  for hours. If you let the capture run for hours, watch the disk space that's left available ;-)  Stop and restart another capture later  if you take a break.





 Harnessing the image captures

After a few minutes or hours of painting, stop the Irfanview program.

Use Alt-Tab to switch to it or find it on the task bar at the bottom of the screen after closing Dogwaffle or whatever programs you used to paint.
 
Then go to your capture folder, for example C:\capture  where you will see hundreds of image files. They are named with the timestamp of when they were recorded.
 







Converting Image Sequence to AVI movie file

Irfanview is done now, although you could use Irfanview also to collect all captured images into a slideshow which plays at 0.05 second intervals, i.e. 20 frames per second, and if your disk is fast enough, that would play smoothly. Perhaps we'll do another tutorial on that method.

For now, let's use another program. You may have Quicktime Pro, use that. You may have Premiere or Vegas Video, use that.... many tools out there can load an image sequence and turn it into a movie file such as AVI or MPEG for easy playback. You could even load the sequence after proper renaming into a 3D program such as for an animated texture.

We're going to use PD Pro to load the image sequence you want (try shorter sequences first, no need to select them all until you know you have enough memory and all that stuff.
 
menu:  Animation > Load Sequence...
 
load image sequence


Select the capture folder, select the file type aka 'Pattern'  (*.Jpg), select the desired images, and click the button in lower left to load these selected images.

select image sequence to load as animation


Then resample (resize) to make smaller.
 
menu>  Image > Resample
 
 how to resample the image sequence or animation

You can select from many preset sizes or enter your own. Just make sure if you use your own that the dimensions are not in conflict with the compression codec you'll use. Some codecs must have particular dimensions or the width and/or height must be multiples of 2, 4 or 8. Avoid odd dimensions.


changing clip resolution


You can preview (play) the movie in PD Pro, and change the speed with the FPS button (Frames per Second) on the animation toolbar:

change playback speed


Then save as AVI, with a good codec like DivX or Xvid or similar for small filesize compression.

save to AVI

You have a last opportunity here to set the playback rate (frames per second)



Then set the folder and filename to save it in such as movie.avi

Finally it will ask you  to choose a compression codec.

choosing a codec

You might want to get the XP Codec pack from www.free-codecs.com like this one http://www.free-codecs.com/download/XP_Codec_Pack.htm or others such as Koepi's latest XVid build: http://www.free-codecs.com/download/Koepi_XviD.htm
 

Here's an example:


a conversion from the above saved AVI to Flash (done with another tool - Sourcetech's SoThink Flash Video converter.)


 

You can also use pre-existing codecs with lesser compression, save as AVI, and use the free ffmpeg later to convert the AVI to other formats like quicktime, Flash video (flv), Mpeg,.... (watch the requirements in frame rates!), MP4, WMV and others. ffmpeg offers various controls to set the compression, such as:

   -sameq     .........   try to keep the same quality, whatever it takes
   -b .......................  set the bitrate (example:  -b 600k )
   -qscale ...............  set the quality from a scale of 1 to 32, ex: -qscale 4

1 is best quality, same as '-sameq'. 4 is decent. 32 is very very blocky, but very small files in return.
 
 
For example, open a command window:
 
Windows Start Menu > Run >  cmd    (type 'cmd' and hit 'Enter')
 
go to the capture folder:

>  cd  C:\capture

verify that the movie clip is here:

>  dir  movie.avi

use ffmpeg to convert it and change the frame rate to 25 fps, keep the same detail quality (sameq) and set the dimensions to 640x480 as well as convert to Mpeg1:

>  ffmpeg -i movie.avi  -r 25 -sameq -s 640x480  -f mpeg movie.mpg
 











The Irfanview home is at
irfanview
www.irfanview.com


read the Irfanview F.A.Q.


Sample timelapse created with this tutorial:

Would you like
more tutorials
like this one?

Just ask Philip

or browse our many free tutorials on PD Artist, PD Pro and PD Particles where you'll also see Irfanview and other great companion tools used as well




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