Auto Exposure/ISO Ramping with DslrDashboard and LRTimelapse

Automatically shooting perfect Holy Grail Time Lapse without touching the camera

Shooting Holy Grail sequences usually involve changing exposure time and ISO in between the shooting interval. With DslrDashboard and the “Auto-Holy-Grail” we can now make all those adjustments automatically and without touching the camera.

Check out my new video in order to see, how it works!

Supported Cameras

qDslrDashboard will work with nearly any Nikon or Canon cameras. With the Nikon D5300 and the Canon 6D you can even use their internal WiFi to connect!

Supported Platforms

The new qDslrDashboard is available at dslrdashboard.info. It cross platform and works on Android devices as well as PC and Mac. Currently iOS ist still missing, but Mac-Users can use a MacBook to control the camera.

Connection Options

You can connect the camera via four different options:

  1. an USB-OTG cable (any Nikon/Canon camera)
  2. Nikon WU-1a/WU1b WiFi-Adapters (some Nikon cameras only)
  3. with the TP-Link TL-MR3040 router (any Nikon/Canon camera)
  4. with internal Wifi of the Canon 6D and D5300

For controlling the camera I recommend using an Android Tablet, I tested it with the Google Nexus 7 (2012) and Nexus 7 (2013) and can definitely recommend the Nexus in terms of price/performance ratio. But it might work with other Android tablets as well, as long as they offer proper USB-OTG support. You might use the app OTG-Troubleshooter to make sure, that your device properly supports OTG.

Using this solution together with a motion control unit like the Emotimo

It’s as easy as it can be: just let the Emotimo or other motion control unit do all the motion controlling and shutter releasing like usually. This will use the shutter release cable to trigger the camera. Dslrdashboard will then be connected in parallel via USB or wireless to the camera and just listen if it gets an image transferred. Then it analyses and decides if it has to change camera settings. No need to sync both systems apart from that.

Installing the App on Android

Since you will download qDslrDashboard from dslrdashboard.info, and not from the Playstore, just navigate to dslrdashboard.info/downloads/ from your device and download the latest APK. Just install it after Downloading. You might have to allow the installing of Apps from unknown sources. You can find that setting on your device under Settings/Security/Unknown Sources.

Launching qDslrDashboard

SCR_20140607_195720.mp4.Still001

After launching, you will see the main screen – set at least the “Keep screen on” option.

Make sure that your camera is already connected via whatever option (USB/WIFI) you would like to.

On the top you will find the connection options – from left to right:

  • Connect via USB
  • Connect via TP-Link
  • Connect via Nikon WU1a/1b, D5300 internal WiFi
  • Connect via Canon internal WiFi (6D)

Just select the appropriate option and you will see the camera screen.

SCR_20140607_195720.mp4.Still002

This screen allows you to control the camera, on the left side: Live View, Shutter, Autofocus, Video.

Make sure, that you have RAW+JPG activated in the camera, use the smallest JPG-option you can get, to speed up the transfer of the previews. Set the camera to M-Mode and turn off Live-View.

To Shoot the Holy Grail, please activate the LRTimelapse Button on the right side.
This launches the Ramping-Screen:

SCR_20140607_195720.mp4.Still003

Decide, if you are going to shoot Sunset or Sunrise, by setting the appropriate setting.

When shooting sunset: set the settings for Slowest Shutter Speed and Max ISO according to your needs. Auto Holy Grail will first ramp the Shutter Speeds and after reaching the slowest Shutter-Speed it will change to ISO-Ramping.

For Sunrise, it will first decrease ISO and then Exposure times.

Important: make sure to leave enough Dark-Time in between the longest shutter speed and the chosen interval in order to give the camera enough time to transfer the preview to your tablet or laptop. For example, if your longest shutter is 4 Seconds, please choose at least an interval of 6 or 7 seconds, so that you have 2-3 seconds in between. The exact length of the dark time needed will of course depend on your setup (camera speed, card-speed, WiFi-Speed etc…) – you should experiment with that before launching an important shot.

The first preview image will appear after you released the shutter. Make sure that Display next JPG is activated. Now find the right settings of Exposure and ISO for the start of your sequence, you can use the +/- Buttons for that. Each time after changing a setting, click on Display next JPG and release the shutter on your camera in order to get a new preview captured and transferred.

Once the histogram looks right (not clipped at the right side) start your intervalometer or time lapse controller.

Now press on Auto-holy grail and you will get the previews and histogram automatically displayed on your screen and the ramping will happen automatically like I explained it in the video above.

Check the screen from time to time and if you feel, the images are getting to bright, just lower the reference by clicking on the “-” Button right to the left of Set reference now. If they get too dark, adjust the reference with the “+” button.

SCR_20140607_195720.mp4.Still004

After reaching the longest shutter-time and highest ISO you can just close the app and turn off the tablet. The external intervalometer will continue shooting. You can as well reconnect while shooting, for example, if you want to continue with a sunrise early in the morning.

Editing the Sequence

Levelling the Holy-Grail-Adjustments and editing those sequences is very easy with the Holy-Grail-Wizard in LRTimelapse. Additionally to the information given in the video above, there is a separate tutorial explaining this in the tutorials-section.

Perfect daylight to milky way transition with qDslrDashboard and LRTimelapse: (the bigger steps indicate where I manually decreased the reference)
2014-06-19 11_07_54-LRTimelapse 3.4 Pro by Gunther Wegner - http___lrtimelapse.com - Gunther Wegner,

Perfect milky way to sunrise transition:
2014-06-19 11_11_23-LRTimelapse 3.4 Pro by Gunther Wegner - http___lrtimelapse.com - Gunther Wegner,

Configuring the TP-Link Router for usage with DslrDashboard

The TP-Link Router is a cheap and convenient way to make any Canon or Nikon camera WiFi-enabled.

Here is a video, where I explain the basics of DslrDashboard and the connection via the versatile TP-Link Router:

  • Download the OpenWRT firmware for the TP-Link MR3040 from the DslrDashboard site:
    2014-06-19 10_26_34-Downloads _ DslrDashboard - Waterfox
    Make sure to download the right one:

    • Factory is for the first install, if the original firmware is still on the router
    • Sysupgrade is for upgrading a present OpenWrt router without losing settings.
    • V1 is for the MR3040-V1 (only one on/off switch on one side)
    • V2 is for the MR3040-V2 (on/off switch on one side, 3-way-mode switch on the other side)
  • Turn off Wifi on the Laptop, pull any LAN cables
  • Connect the MR3040 with a LAN-cable, preferrably hook it on the power connector to make sure the battery does not die while flashing.
  • Enter 192.168.0.1 into the address field of your browser
  • Authentificate yourself with admin/admin
  • the user interface of the router should appear
  • Go to System Tools / Firmware Upgrade
    2013-08-12_14h40_34
  • Install the OpenWRT Firmware you just downloaded
  • Wait 5-6 min and in the meantime check if the MR3040 (router) leds go off/on
  • Now enter 192.168.1.1 (!) into your browser’s address field
  • choose a password
    2013-08-12_14h48_06
  • choose a router password (can be the same)
  • Now your router runs with OpenWrt. You can now set the date by clicking on “Sync with browser”.
    2013-08-12_14h51_22
  • You might have to activate WiFi in the router settings now. Click on “add”, if no WiFi connection is configured yet and just take over the default settings:
    openwrt_wifi
  • Remove the LAN-cable, restart the router, connect to the camera, launch DslrDashboard and connect.

After shooting, just compensate the Exposure steps with the new Holy Grail Wizard in LRTimelapse 3!

Enjoy your new wireless freedom! :-)

PS: If you like DlsrDashboard, please don’t forget to donate to Zoltan, the developer. He offers a great solution and outstanding support and deserves that we give him something in return. Please use the Donate-Button on his page.

Update

A kind forum user made a step-by-step tutorial video how to set up everything, check it out!

Support

Please note that I cannot provide personal support for this solution. That’s why I set up the user forums. Please post any questions there so that we can build up a knowledge base. There are a lot of experienced users and even Zoltan, the DslrDashboard developer, is reading there.

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