Recently my smartphone gimbal Moza Mini-Mi was updated on Android and we have got the Auto Tracking feature. Previously I didn’t think of using that for hyperlapse, but one simple question on some Facebook group convinced me to try that. It’s a nice tool for some kind of shots and it allows us to create effects that are not possible other way. I’ll explain everything in this article, but first – check out the shots! If you’re interested in gimbal, you can check out feature review: Affordable Smartphone Gimbal Moza Mini-Mi – First Impression
Auto track feature works like that: you choose the object you want to track on the phone screen, then you get the green rectangle on that. Gimbal will now keep the green rectangle in the same place in the frame no matter how you move the gimbal. Remember, that you should use the correct mode, so enable or disable pan and tilt follow. Disabled axis will not move during the auto tracking. So, if you want to move the camera in both pan and tilt during the shot, enable pan and tilt follow. To be honest I didn’t think it would be usefull for me. I’ve seen some example videos from other gimbal with auto track and it didn’t look smooth. Here I was quite suprised how well it works.
In hyperlapse we also try to keep one point always in the same place in the frame. It’s called a reference or fixed point. Here it’s more an object or an area, but the idea is the same. Of course you could try to do that with just follow function or joystick, however handheld it’s very hard and the results are not that good. So, if the gimbal follows the reference point on its own I just have to focus on walking with that and keeping it at the same height all the time.
Even though we use gimbal here, the result will have to be stabilized in post, mostly because of the hand movement. I didn’t use any dual handle grip here just to do it with very little gear.
You may ask, why I shot it as a video. For sure I will get some comments that it’s not a real hyperlapse 😉 But, as I always say, if you cannot see the difference, does it matter how it was shot? The problem with phones is the lack of ND filters. In my Krakow hyperlapse project made with smarpthone I used Irix gelatine ND filters. The problem was that I didn’t like the quality I got with these filters and also, they were not strong enough. I used 2x ND16. As I tested, 3 filters used at once give totaly unusable footage. Of course, I would like to use NDs to lengthen the shutter speed to get motion blur. I explained why we use NDs in timelapse here: Should you use ND filters? Motion Blur in Timelapse. For more basic information on NDs check out this post:
So, instead of stills without any motion blur I prefer video (so 30 still pictures per second). After speeding it up I just enable Frame Blending and get some motion blur to the shot. Of course, it’s fake motion blur, I can easily see the difference to the real one, but most of the viewers can’t. It’s better to get fake motion blur than no blur at all.
The other reason to use video was to make something different from what we get with a standard hyperlapse. I mean – in hyperlapse we usually can’t use very short intervals between pictures, because we need to have time to move the tripod and reposition the camera. In this case, we can clearly see each car or person’s path, not just people or cars blinking between frames. I tried one shot with stills with longer interval, but I didn’t even put it into the video. I didn’t like the shot at all.
Check out my another smartphone hyperlapse project:
Advantages of auto tracking
The main advantage for me is that we get the effect that is very hard to achieve in other ways, so the hyperlapse-like movement with very short interval. For me, it looks best with traffic.
For sure once you know how to do that it’s easy. You don’t care about the camera angle, just walk. Shooting that as video doesn’t require from you knowing the hyperlapse technique at all.
This technique is also much faster to shoot than a regular hyperlapse. It usually will have to be stabilized, however it’s quite easy to do.
Disadvantages of auto tracking
Of course, as pretty much everything this technique has some limitations. To get a nice tracking you need some good object to track. If something is very small or is of similar color to the sky it would be hard to do. If you set too big track area it could start tracking a cloud or something else in the background. Then your shot is over.
Sometimes auto track loses the tracked object. It doesn’t happen very often unless something covers your tracking area. It depends on your location. That could be even a car or a person walking in front of your camera. Overall – you’re limited to automatics. It’s like manual and auto exposure. You usually use manual exposure to prevent the camera automatics to change something in the way that you don’t want to. Of course you also won’t change the reference point during the shot creating very long hyperlapses, but that’s something quite advanced anyway.
So, it’s another good technique to know. If you want to win one of these smartphone gimbals, check out my timelapse challenge 🙂