vc019: Lunar Eclipse 2015

#19 in the #100videoclips project is a short animation to commemorate the appearance of the “blood moon” lunar eclipse on the evening of September 27, 2015.

The Inspiration

This is enough, no?

blood moon

What I Did

Our little house is nearly surrounded by trees on all sides. While this makes for a beautiful surrounding and wonderful summer shade, it doesn’t lend itself to celestial observation of lunar eclipses.

On the night of September 27, 2015, the family bundled up for a cool New England autumn night and headed out of the house a little after 9 pm, determined to drive to some open location that provided a clear shot of the moon.

However, to our great surprise, our small deck, with a house on two sides and trees on most others, was flooded with moonlight.

Panorama of deck with eclipsing moon

There, in one of the few spots of sky visible from the deck, was the eclipsing moon in all its glory.

So, we swiveled around the deck chairs and settled in for a bit of moon gazing.

I put my longest zoom lens on the camera, put the camera on a tripod, and dialed in the best settings I could to take a movie of the show.

Although it is rightly said that better gear doesn’t make you a better photographer (or filmmaker), there are some cases where you need good gear to get the goods: in this case, massive telephoto lenses, celestial tracking tripod heads, and all the rest. These I don’t got.

After as much filming as the fir tree (see photo above) would allow, I had to shift the camera a couple of times and finally go onto the lawn by the driveway for the main event: the blood moon, of which I just took still photos.

Since the camera was still but the moon continued to be not still, even the exposures of ten seconds or so were enough to blur things a bit, so…it is what it is.

The Editing

  • First, I zoomed the film clip to 200% to make a good moon-size-to-frame-size ratio. Since the shot is kind of blurry anyway, I figured a bit of zoom wouldn’t hurt much.
  • Next, I sped the shot up to a speed of 10,000% (PremierePro’s max) to move things along at a goodish pace.
  • I positioned the beginning and end of the best portion of my shot (from around 3/4 eclipsed to 1/4) so it traveled from lower left to upper right.
  • I took my best still shot of the full lunar eclipse (the blood moon) and matched it in size and position to the final frame of the movie.
  • Moving along the timeline from beginning to end, I exported some frames to provide the repeating moon effect. I had to do the entire sequence four times before I got a spacing that I liked.
  • I added in those exported frames at the appropriate point on the timeline, using the “lighten” blend mode.

Everything was good until I tried to export. I’m still not sure what the issue was, but despite all of my best tricks, the video would not export in high resolution. It was the requisite 1920 x 1080, but the image quality was terrible, and the file size was much smaller than it should have been, indicating something fundamentally wrong.

Nothing I tried was able to fix it, so I suspected the 10K% speed-up might have something to do with it.

I changed my tack, and instead of having the actual 10,000% footage, with the still shots placed along the route, I just used the still shots moving from one stage to the next. That finally worked.

The soundtrack is our actual conversation on the deck, also sped up to 10,000%. It seemed appropriate: moon => cheese => lunar mice having a conversation about this extraordinary event.

I’d say the blood moon was a nice cheddar this evening.

What I Learned

The last time I tried to “shoot the moon,” the results were very unimpressive — a little white blob in a dark sky — so I wasn’t expecting much this time around.

Nevertheless, I did get a little bit of interesting detail, and a blood moon lunar eclipse doesn’t happen every day (or night), so it was nice to get a personal record of the event.

Some things learned (or reinforced):

  • To get good shots of objects in the night sky, particularly a lunar eclipse, it helps to have specialized equipment.
  • For most of the rest of us, the moon is better as a live event than a recorded object.
  • Speeding something up 10,000% in PremierePro (instead of doing a legit time lapse, which is better if you can do it) might have some problems when it comes to rendering. I don’t know that for sure, but it seems suspect.