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Elysia Visuals RamperPro
Timelapse Controller Review

Reviewed by Ron Risman -- December 24, 2014

Last update: January 16, 2015

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Elysia Visuals RamperPro Review

by Ron Risman,
TimelapseWorkshops.com

This article contains my review of the RamperPro advanced timelapse controller, developed by Andre Crone of Elysia Visuals.

Overview

The RamperPro ($470€ / $570 US) is by far the most advanced handheld intervalometer for timelapse photography that exists today. This compact 3.5” x 3” x 1” controller is able to connect and control two different cameras (brands / models) at the same time - each with the same or different timelapse settings. It can also control an external stepper motor with an optional stepper drive kit, which gives it the ability to power a single axis motion control system. However, the real reason this product was developed by Dutch photographer Andre Crone was to allow the smooth capture of timelapse sequences at any time of day, including sunrise and sunset - despite the shortcomings of today's digital SLR cameras.

The RamperPro is compatible with virtually all Nikon and Canon cameras.

The Review

I have been shooting timelapses professionally for six years and as with any art form I continue to try push myself to learn new techniques, improve on composition, post production, and to find better ways to do things.

Timelapse photography has been around for quite a while (first use in a motion picture was in 1897), but it has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past decade thanks to high resolution digital SLR's and mirrorless camera systems. While the pixel resolution of today's cameras provide big benefits to timelapse photographers, it is also their larger sensors and improved low-light ability that has helped make digital still cameras the defacto standard for capturing timelapses.

In simplest terms, creating a timelapse video using a camera that was designed for still images is achieved by setting up your camera to snap pictures at set intervals and over a set duration. These photographs are then assembled into a motion video by rapidly playing them back at a speed compatible with television (24, 25 or 30 frames per second).

Timelapse Flicker

However, unlike video cameras, still cameras do not smoothly react to changing light conditions. Instead, they are designed to compensate for changing light in 1/3-stop or 1/2-stop increments (depending on camera and settings). So if the light level between any two sequential pictures change by an amount that doesn't match the camera's 1/3-of-a-stop steps then the camera will be forced to over or under-compensate for this change. When shooting a single picture here and there this small error is not perceptible, but when still images are captured continuously and played back in rapid succession for video, the constant fluctuation in exposures between frames becomes very distracting. This is called timelapse flicker.

What does a stop of light refer to?
One stop of light represents the doubling or halving of light

As you learn about timelapse photography you will inevitably read about the "holy grail" of timelapse, which refers to the smooth, flicker-free, capture of a sunrise or sunset. What makes this task so challenging is that the camera is being asked to compensate for a change in light of between 13-22 stops over a relatively short period of time - and to do it smoothly. Just adjusting for minor changes in light (clouds blocking the sun) is a chore for still cameras due to it's pre-defined 1/3- or 1/2-stop steps, and that's not even considering that a cameras internal light meter forces the camera to react instantly to changing conditions, so when a cloud moves across the sun for a brief moment, the camera will try to compensate for the exposure change, and will then change again after each and every photo. If this was a small, minute change then it would go unnoticed, but instead these are big steps in exposure that can cause flicker (the unwanted jumps in brightness from frame to frame) that can ruin a timelapse.

The good news is there are a variety of ways to create a smooth, flicker free, day to night timelapse - but all of these methods involve trade-offs.

  1. The first method is to cheat. Instead of capturing one continuous timelapse from day to night you actually capture three - each captured with your camera set to "Manual" mode.

    • Capture one timelapse during the day (before the sun starts to set).
    • One during sunset (your timelapse will go from bright to dark as the sun sets)
    • One of the night sky (to capture the stars & Milky Way)
    • You then crossfade from one timelapse to the next using video editing software to fake the transition from day to night. This method is one of the most reliable ways of doing it, but again, it's a 'knock-off' approach and not truly a holy-grail capture. You'll also run into continuity issues when clouds are present.

  2. The second method is to keep one or two of your camera's settings in auto mode, such as setting the camera to auto adjust the ISO (Manual mode with auto ISO) or shutter speed (Av Mode) as day turns into night.
  3. There are two problems with this method.

    • Because auto modes rely on the camera's light meter, the camera will stop making adjustments shortly after sunset since the camera's light meter doesn't know the difference between "sunset dark" and "night-sky dark". So you'll get a sunset timelapse, but not one that will adjust enough to see a starry sky or the MIlky Way.

    • The other issue with this method is flicker. Since the camera will change exposures in 1/3 steps as light levels change you'll end up with "stair stepping" where the exposure makes noticeable jumps every few frames.

    Flicker can often be reduced or eliminated during post processing using deflickering software such as LRTimelapse, GBDeflicker, or Flicker-Free - but your success with software fixes depend on how good or bad the original footage is.

  4. The third method, which is often referred to as the "holy grail" method is to use a combination of camera adjustments and software to create a smooth, flicker-free, day to night sky timelapse. This method requires the photographer to watch the histogram or meter on the camera's LCD, and to compensate whenever light levels change by about 1-stop. Each time the light levels drop by 1-stop the photographer quickly changes the shutter speed or ISO of the camera by 1-stop in the opposite direction. This process is repeated for about 90 minutes or until light levels stop changing. These big jumps in exposure are then smoothed out in software to create a final timelapse that has little, if any flicker.
  5. While this is a great way to capture a true holy grail timelapse sequence, it forces the photographer to baby sit the camera throughout the transition from Milky Way to sunrise or sunset to Milky Way. If you start chatting with someone and end up not compensating for a few of the exposure jumps, you'll ultimately end up with a timelapse that is compromised. Also, touching the camera can introduce some vibration or even shift the camera if the photographer is not careful.

Okay, so you now know a few ways to shoot a day to night timelapse (without using extra gear). If you want to get better with timelapse photography I would suggest trying each of these methods. You'll make mistakes, but you'll also learn a lot about shooting a timelapse and the work it takes in post to fix a timelapse.

So why am I writing about this in my review of the RamperPro? Because the RamperPro was designed from the ground up to compensate for the large 1/3 exposure steps caused by a camera's inability to smoothly and accurately adjust for changing light. It reduces the amount of babysitting that is needed when shooting sunsets or sunrises, and can also reduce the amount of post processing that is needed to create a finished product.

What is the RamperPro?

The RamperPro is an advanced timelapse controller for your Nikon or Canon DSLR that calculates the change in light from image to image, compares it to what the camera recorded, and then writes the corrective exposure information into an XMP text file (also referred to as a "side car" file) for each image that is captured. These XMP files are saved by the RamperPro to it's built-in SD card reader (SD memory card included).

While transferring the images from your camera to your computer, just copy these XMP files into that same folder (where you just copied your images). When this folder of images are loaded into Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, or Adobe After Effects the software will also read in the XMP data. The instructions contained within the XMP data will have the software automatically adjust the exposure slider of each image - all automatically. This will effectively smooth out those pesky exposure jumps caused by the camera's limited 1/3-steps.

Example:

In a situation where your camera lowered its exposure by 1/3 of a stop on a frame where the actual light level only dropped by 1/5th, the RamperPro will write the corrective exposure information (+0.13) into the XMP data file for that image. Lightroom then reads this file and increases the exposure slider by 0.13 and magically the exposure is now correct. Of course Lightroom has this corrective data for all of the frames, which results in a smooth change from frame to frame - all thanks to the RamperPro.

Features of the RamperPro

  • Basic intervalometer (for two cameras)
  • Exposure ramping mode with ISO shifting
  • Automatic ramping mode
  • True automatic exposure ramping of sunsets or sunrises.
    This is done by analyzing the images that are taken by your camera.
  • Portable (fits in your pocket)
  • 2.8" Touch screen interface
  • Dimmable backlight. Backlight will turn off in screen saver mode.
  • All status leds can be shut off to prevent any light pollution
  • Dual camera support via a dual fully independent hardware pipelines
  • Two USB2 connections
  • Bulb exposure time measurement via two fully isolated power supplies
  • Optically isolated camera triggering
  • An external digital light sensor can be added to create a highly accurate fully automatic exposure ramper
  • All connections are electronically protected
  • Synchronized Stereo (3D) mode
  • Image preview function with histogram
  • Interval fairing
  • XMP support for Adobe After Effects, Lightroom, Bridge, and Corel Aftershots Pro
  • Direct integration with Dynamic Perception MX2 and MX3, eMotimo TB3 black and many other motion control solutions
  • Integrates out-of-the-box with DragonFrame stop motion software with the help an optional DragonFrame adapter
  • Two MoCoBus connections. Both can act as bus master or slave
  • Built in accelerometer - use the RamperPro as your joystick
  • nanoMoCo or NMX motion controller
  • 5V input when no MoCoBus enabled hardware is connected
  • 12-24V input when MoCoBus enabled hardware is connected
  • Built-in voltage meter that can monitor your battery power.

Powering the RamperPro

Andre made the decision early on to leave a battery out of the RamperPro, which I believe was a smart decision. This allows you to use external battery packs that can provide much longer run times than a small internal battery. I do wish, however, that a watch battery was added to power an internal clock since an important aspect of exposure ramping is the device knowing the exact time of day. In its current configuration you'll be asked to enter this information before you start a sunrise or sunset timelapse. Since the RamperPro is powered at this point it can keep track of time during the timelapse. It's not a big deal, just a setting that it should already know.

Note: The RamperPro does try to read the current time directly from your camera, which would alleviate you having to enter this manually, but it doesn't seem to work currently with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. It may just be with certain camera models, so your situation may be different.

I use Anker batteries to power the RamperPro. I specifically use ones that feature both a DC output and USB outputs, like the Anker 20,000mAh Astro Pro 2 which offers switchable 9/12v DC output and (3) 5v USB ports. I can power the RamperPro from one of the USB ports, while connecting the 12v output of the battery to a stepper driver, eMotimo TB3, or Dynamic Perception MX3 or NMX controller.

If you do not have a motion control rig you can use a USB-only external battery and save yourself some money. See Amazon for Anker Battery options.

RamperPro: Motion Controller

The RamperPro is also capable of controlling motion control gear - either by using the optional stepper driver to connect directly to a digital stepper motor or by connecting to third party motion control systems like the Dynamic Perception Stage One, Stage R, NMX controller, eMotimo TB3 Black, and more). When adding the optional stepper driver between the RamperPro and a stepper motors the RamperPro can actually control the motion by allowing you to set start and end points, making this the only controller you need for single-axis motion control.

Thanks to it's built-in gyro all you have to do is tilt the RamperPro side to side to control the motion of the dolly. You can then set start and stop points on the RamperPro, making it super simple to control your rig.

When you use the Ramper Pro along with motion control you can now have the benefits of exposure ramping along with the visual effect of 1-,2-, or 3-axis camera movement.

RamperPro: Camera Connections and Motion Control

RamperPro: Two Controllers in One!

The RamperPro will allow you to connect and control two different DSLR cameras and control them simultaneously - and it even allows different settings for each camera. So, while the RamperPro isn't considered inexpensive, you are getting two advanced ramping controllers for the price of one.

RamperPro: Bulb Ramping vs Exposure Ramping

The RamperPro is actually able to do both exposure ramping and bulb ramping. At first they might seem one in the same, but in reality they're not. The "Bulb" mode on cameras are only reliable when shutter speeds are 1/30th of a second or slower, which makes using a bulb ramping device during the day impossible, at least without the adding and removing of ND filters. This is why bulb ramping devices expect you to wait until about 20-30 minutes before sunset to start your timelapse, as this is when you'll likely be able to get proper exposure with a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second.

Because the RamperPro writes corrective XMP data even when your camera is not in Bulb mode, it is able to adjust for the inaccurate 1/3-steps that your camera forces it to make when shooting in this mode. The RamperPro calls this exposure ramping and it can be used, along with a feature called 'daylight tracking mode' to capture day to night transitions even if you start under the harsh, bright light of high-noon.

To understand this better it's important to know why camera's even have a bulb mode. A squeezable bulb (think air blower) was the way that photographers used to control the length or duration of an exposure on old-style cameras that had pneumatically actuated shutters. As long as you squeezed the bulb the shutter of the camera would stay open. When you released it the shutter would close.

Today, bulb mode on DSLR's are used to provide photographers with the ability to capture exposures that are minutes or even hours in length. Although you still need to use this mode with an an external device (otherwise you'll be forced to keep your finger on the shutter button). Since the exposure in bulb mode is controlled by external factors (finger hold or external signal) the 1/3-step limitation in this mode is gone.

In bulb mode, the RamperPro is able to control a camera more accurately to achieve better results since the exposure can be changed in smaller 1/10th (.10) increments instead of the larger 1/3rd (.33) increments that the other camera modes are limited to. So If bulb mode offers finer control why doesn't the RamperPro use it all the time? Mainly because bulb mode is designed for longer exposures (1/30th, 1/20th or slower) and is not accurate at shutter speeds faster than 1/30th of a second. Also, Nikon cameras in bulb mode still use discrete steps, making it less than ideal for smooth exposure adjustments, but the RamperPro will still use bulb mode on Nikon camera's with longer exposures, while writing corrective exposure information to the XMP files to ensure smooth results.

Okay, so what is exposure ramping?

Since bulb mode requires a shutter speed of no faster than 1/30th of a second, typical bulb ramping devices require that the user waits until the light levels are low enough to get the shutter speed down to 1/30th of a second. Users who wish to start a bulb ramp earlier than that either must use ND filters to reduce the amount of light getting into the camera or need to wait until about 20-30 minutes before sunset - when light levels are often low enough to get to a 1/30th shutter speed.

The RamperPro is unique in that it can ramp exposures at any shutter speed. This allows the photographer to start their day-to-night timelapse at any time of day, and using whichever shutter speed the photographer wishes to use. It's the writing of the corrective XMP data that allows the RamperPro to do "exposure ramping" even when using faster shutter speeds during the day. It's this unique feature that sets the RamperPro apart from any other handheld timelapse controller on the market. Before the RamperPro existed the only real way to get smooth mid-day to night timelapse sequences was to use bring a notebook computer into the field with a software product called GBTimelapse installed on it. GBTimelapse is a powerful software product that I don't have time to get into in this review. It's an amazing piece of software and very capable, but it's not an ideal portable solution.

Interval Fairing

The RamperPro offers Interval fairing, the ability to 'ramp' the interval over a number of shots. This feature can be triggered by a key frame when shooting using the basic engine of the RamperPro or by an exposure speed when in ramping mode (advanced engine). Interval fairing allows you to start out with shorter intervals when shooting during the day and progress to longer intervals at night when the exposures start to lengthen.

Sunrise and Sunset

The RamperPro is the only portable timelapse controller on the market that can smoothly ramp from night to day (sunrise) regardless of your location. Most people don't realize this but bulb ramping devices are mainly focused on capturing day to night (sunset) timelapses. The reason they don't work so well, if at all for sunrises, is due to many factors. Some controllers do not have a light sensor so they don't know when to start ramping - and if they did - by the time there was enough light for the light sensor to start guiding the exposure, the scene would already be blown out. This is due to the fact that your camera's settings have been max'd out in order to capture the light of the night sky, but as astronomical twilight begins the ever increasing brightness will wreak havoc with these night sky settings, well before the light sensor realizes what's happening.

Typical night-sky camera settings
25 seconds shutter, f/2.8 aperture, 3200 ISO

Other ramping products will try to help you out by allowing you to enter a starting exposure, an ending exposure, and the duration of your shoot, but the speed of a sunrise or sunset doesn't ramp continuously over a set duration. There are times when light changes by multiple stops over 10 minutes and other times where it might take 30 minutes.

Another option with some devices is the 'guided' timelapse, which allows to make adjustments as you watch the histogram on the back of your camera. Again, it takes much more attentiveness to achieve success with this method.

What many do not realize is that no two sunrise or sunsets are the same. The rate that light increases or decreases shifts during the different parts of a sunrise or sunset, and the rate of change varies based on the longitude and latitude of where you're shooting as well as the time of year.

Histogram to the Rescue

The RamperPro allows sunrise ramping thanks to two unique features; its ability to read and analyze the histogram for each image captured; and because it allows you to enter the exact time that astronomical twilight begins and the exact time that sunrise begins (also known as civil twilight) for your area. These time settings tell the RamperPro when to start ramping (even before the light sensor kicks in), while the analyzing of the histogram lets the RamperPro gauge how slowly or quickly to ramp. If the histogram indicates that the image is starting to get too bright it will stop ramping until the exposure normalizes.

Usability of the RamperPro

The power of the RamperPro is incredible, and Andre has done a great job of creating default settings that minimize the setup time for each timelapse. But make no mistake - the RamperPro does come with a learning curve. Luckily, with each new firmware update the Ramper keeps getting easier and more reliable.

The learning curve involves understanding the settings and how changes to certain settings will affect the overall ramp, and ultimately, the success of your timelapse. Andre's ultimate goal is to allow the RamperPro to protect a timelapse from over and under exposing even when the photographer may have made inappropriate changes to some of the settings. As of this writing it's not quite to that level yet - but it's so close

Connecting the RamperPro to your camera

For maximum control when using exposure or bulb ramping you will need to connect the following cables to the RamperPro and/or camera. There are three cables that connect the RamperPro to your camera, 1 light sensor, and 1 power connector needed.

  • Camera: Tigger port cable from the RamperPro to your camera's remote port
  • Camera: USB cable from the RamperPro to your camera
  • Camera: PC Sync cable from the RamperPro to your camera's PC / Flash Sync port*
  • Light sensor: Connects to the port marked "sensor" while the sensor itself can slide into your camera's hot-shoe or accessory shoe.
  • Power: from 12v DC or 5v USB Power Pack to the RamperPro


* If your DSLR does not have a PC Sync port you can get a very inexpensive pc-sync to hot-shoe adapter that will allow you to connect to a PC Sync cable.

When shooting in basic intervalometer mode (Easy mode) all you need from the RamperPro to your camera is the remote trigger cable. The USB connection and PC Sync cables are not needed in this mode.

Intuitive Touch-Screen Interface and Large Screen

The RamperPro features an easy to read 2.8" touch-screen color display. Text and Symbols are large, making the RamperPro ideal for all ages :-) I say this jokingly, but I'm amazed by how many devices are on the market that seem to have been designed by perfect sighted 25 year olds.

In the box you'll also find a small stylus that makes using the RamperPro more precise, especially if you have large fingers. After trying it I opted to leave the stylus in the box. The RamperPro uses a resistive type touch screen, which means instead of reacting to electrical impulses of the human body, it instead reacts to pressure. This allows you to make selections on the touch screen with gloves on, with your finger, or using a stylus.

Tip: Since the screen is sensitive to pressure you don't want to wrap a tight bungee around the RamperPro when attaching it to a tripod leg. Instead, place a bungee through the eyelet on the top right of the unit and then attach it to your tripod.

Menu Layout

The interface is laid out using different screens or pages. These pages are accessible on the left hand column of the Home screen. There are four 'main' pages (Home, Movie Settings, Preview, and System Settings).

Home Screen

The Home screen is where you can start the timelapse; see a simulation of what will happen during the timelapse as well as real-time output of the light sensor (advanced engine); lock the screen once the timelapse is under way; and power the unit off.

The Movie Settings page

The movie page allows you to select the timelapse "Engine" (Easy mode or Advanced mode); alter the "Configuration" of the timelapse; set the "Motor" start & end points**; and "Setup," which shows you instructional photos of how to connect the RamperPro to other devices, such as the Promote Control, Dynamic Perception MX2/MX3 controllers, eMotimo TB3 Black, DitoGear, etc.

The Preview Page

The preview screen allows to preview the most recently snapped image during setup. You can even alter the exposure value using the -/+ buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Tap the screen to snap another picture and within seconds the JPEG preview will show up on the RamperPro.

Since many cameras, such as Nikons, turn off their own live view display when a USB cable is connected the preview page becomes especially valuable; and While Canon camera models still allow you to use their rear screens, often times your camera is positioned in such a way to make viewing it's rear LCD display difficult.

I've also found that despite previously setting up my camera's exposure, by the time I'm done changing the settings on the RamperPro, which might be a minute or two later, the exposure has already changed (usually right around sunset). I'll then use the preview screen to alter the exposure and preview the changes.

The Settings Page

The settings screen is where certain preset values are entered for whichever camera or cameras you have connected (Camera 1, Camera 2). The default values should suffice (button press time, focus tab time, post delay time) so these options will rarely be needed. If you are controlling external stepper motors then the "motor" option is where you can turn on the power and power save modes for each of the connected motors.

The one setting that will get used a lot, and will hopefully get moved to the camera settings page is the "Time" option. This newly added option allows you to enter the current time so that the RamperPro will be able to know when astronomical twilight and civil sunrise or sunset begin or end, based on the times you entered during the timelapse setup. There is no system clock inside the RamperPro, as there is no battery inside the RamperPro. Instead you can use whatever external battery you choose and can accept 5v USB power from an external battery pack of phone charger, or 12v from any external DC source. It will even down convert voltage up to 24v, and there's a built-in voltage meter that provides information on how much juice you have left.

Setting up for a shoot

In order to let you see the process of setting up the RamperPro I have recorded a video that shows me going through the settings in preparation for a sunrise.

ND Filter Support

In the next firmware release (around January 1st, 2015) Andre is adding ND filter support. This will allow timelapse photographers to use ND filters during the day in order to "drag the shutter," but then remove them as light levels drop. When you let the RamperPro know that you've removed the ND filter it will make the needed adjustments to the camera settings so that the timelapse will continue without a hiccup.

Real World

In the 2 months that I have had the RamperPro in house I have captured about 10 timelapses using it, with varying degrees of success and failure. Since the RamperPro is so new to the market, Andre is still tweaking the settings and options so that it will achieve smooth results in virtually any lighting scenario. Some of the failures were mine, such as connecting the light sensor into the network port instead of the sensor port. I must have done this two or three times without even realizing it. Andre has added a warning screen now that alerts you that the light sensor wasn't found. BTW, you have me to thank for that (and maybe a few others).

After each timelapse I would have Andre take a look to find out why something was happening that shouldn't be (pulsing of exposure, overexposed then returning to normal exposure, etc). Andre would then have me test some different settings and I would repeat the process. Andre has a small group of professional timelapse photographers that are helping him improve the product, and with each find and subsequent firmware update the RamperPro is getting closer to perfection. I actually waited until this point to write the review, because in all honesty if I had written it even just two weeks ago it would not have been as favorable. That's how quickly Andre is addressing issues that are found.

It's important to know that none of these issues are hardware related. Instead they're related to some of the default values that were set when it arrived or after a firmware update. For example, originally it was thought that turning off a feature called "positive EV correction" was more accurate for sunsets, but many of the photographers are finding that turning this on provides better results, so Andre is going to have this turned on as the default value in the next firmware update.

Upgrading the firmware is as simple as plugging the RamperPro into a network port on your router, going to the "setup" page, hitting the down arrow once, and pressing "update". It automatically goes out and finds it, downloads it, and installs it.

Sunset Timelapse

Here is a sunset timelapse that I captured using the RamperPro. No post processing was done to this timelapse aside from the assembling of the images needed to turn it into a movie. If you look closely, you'll also see that the camera is slowly moving toward the railing. The RamperPro was also controlling my Dynamic Perception Stage One dolly during this sunset timelapse. I'll be adding additional timelapses here as I will hopefully get to shoot one or two more over the weekend as the weather clears. Fingers crossed.

Transferring images and XMP to your computer

When you're ready to upload your images from your camera to your computer you'll also want to transfer the XMP files that the RamperPro wrote into the same folder as your images. These XMP files are located on the SD card in the RamperPro's SD card slot. You can access the SD card of the RamperPro by connecting the RamperPro to your network through the network port, or by sliding the SD card out of the camera and transferring the files using a card reader.

If you choose to remove the SD card from the RamperPro you'll also need to download a free software utility called DiskInternals Linux Reader so that this Linux formatted card can be read by your PC (Windows).. I'm not sure if you need a software utility for the Mac. If you choose this route, you'll discover that removing the SD card from the RamperPro is a challenge as it does not have the more typical push-to-eject style mechanism. Since the SD card also houses the internal software and o/s for the RamperPro they didn't make it easy to remove. If you have an open network port in your router this is the recommended method of accessing the XMP files.


Screen Shot from Diskinternals Linux Card Reader

When you access the folders on the SD card you'll see a folder for Camera1 and Camera2. If you were shooting with a dual camera set up you'll need to access each of these folders to find the matching XMP data for each camera. Inside these folders you'll find more folders with names that start with the camera model (5dmkIII) and then the first number of the starting image sequence (5dmkIII_1357_xmp). The thing to keep in mind is that the XMP folder gets its name from the first image in your timelapse sequence (not the test images). Why I mention this is because your camera's folder will also contain your pre-timelapse test images as you check composition, focus, and settings. So if your image folder starts with a file name of B77A1349, you will find that the XMP folder on the RamperPro will actually start with a higher number. In the screen shot above you'll notice that the first folder name is "5dmkIII_1357_xmp." Yet my camera's first image on its memory card was actually 1349, so if I was looking for a folder that was named 5dmkIII_1349_xmp I would never find it. When looking for the matching folder make sure to look for the folder name that contains the first image name in the actual sequence.

If you do not transfer over the XMP files into the same folder as your image files (or at all) then your resulting images will load into Lightroom (AE, Bridge) without the corrective exposure settings, thus will have the 1/3-step jumps that the camera actually captured. However, when you make use of the XMP files from the RamperPro, which contain the corrective data (the desired exposure vs the actual exposure), each file will automatically be updated as the images are loaded into Adobe Lightroom, Bridge or After Effects.

Post production

One of the big advantages of getting it right in camera is that you'll have less work to do in post production.

I say less work because even with a perfectly ramped timelapse you'll still have to correct the white balance from the start of the sequence to the end since color temperature changes as day turns into night or vice-versa. One of the important 'rules' of timelapse is to use manual modes for exposure, focus, and white balance. Manual white balance forces you to make a decision - do I set it for day light or for the night sky?

In reality, if you're shooting in RAW (please tell me you're shooting in RAW) the white balance setting really doesn't matter since you can make that decision in post. That's a good thing because white balance shifts as light changes throughout the day. During the day a proper white balance will be somewhere between 5500-10,000k depending on time of day and sky conditions, while to get a nice blue sky at night might require a white balance of around 2800-3500k.

There will also be instances where the timelapse may have got too dark or too bright during the exposure ramp. In post you'll be able to correct for these situations. The RamperPro aims to reduce the occurence of these situations, but they will happen.

A new, free, plug-in that works well with the RamperPro's exposure overrides is a Ligthroom plug-in called "Jeffrey Friedl's Timelapse Support." Using this plug-in you can quickly select a start and end image that you'll tweak to your liking (exposure, white balance, clarity, and more). You then select all of the images from the starting image to the ending image and run the plug-in from within Lightoom. It will automatically smooth out whatever changes you made between the chosen start and end frames. This is a very fast way to smoothly ramp settings between two points.

Another, more advanced, software package for tweaking timelapse sequences is LRTimelapse. It will do everything that the plug-in above will do, but it goes well beyond those features by allowing you to ramp virtually any settings, fix neighboring exposures, and even render your video using advanced output formats.

Comparison

When it comes to advanced timelapse controllers that the RamperPro competes against in the market, two come to mind: The Promote Control and the Timelapse+.

The Promote Control ($329) by Promote Systems is a handheld controller for photographers that allows for advanced bracketing, focus stacking, and HDR version of those. It also can act as an intervalometer as well as a bulb ramping intervalometer, and offers ND support, allowing you to start a timelapse when the shutter speed would normally be too fast for bulb mode. It does not however have a light sensor, so it cannot automatically adjust for changes in light. You need to program in your best guess for what might happen during sunset, and you can watch and tweak it throughout the ramp if it starts ramping too quickly or slowly. All in all this is a great product, but it doesn't have the same feature set for timelapse photographers that the RamperPro includes, such as the light meter; its ability to write corrective XMP data internally for smooth exposure control at any time of day; ability to control multiple cameras with different settings; and the ability to directly control a stepper motor for motion control.

The Timelapse+ ($199) is a lesser known controller, unless you were part of their original Kickstarter campaign a few years ago or have attended my Timelapse Workshops. However, this little remote control has quite a bit of power. It was built from the ground up as an auto bulb ramping controller for timelapse photographers, but also includes many of the features of the Promote Control, such as focus stacking, HDR, and advanced bracketing. Where it jumps ahead of the Promote Control for timelapse is with its built-in light meter, which allows it to smoothly ramp from just before sunset to the Milky Way without any flicker - and without needing to babysit the exposure. Because it's a bulb ramper and not an exposure ramper like the RamperPro, you'll need to wait until light levels allow for a slow enough exposure (1/30th or 1/20th of a second) before you start the ramp. It can also be used as a regular intervalometer the rest of the day since ramping is mostly used for sunrises or sunsets.

The RamperPro's light meter is external so it allows more flexibility in positioning. The RamperPro is the only device on the market that writes its own XMP information for each photo (to its own internal SD card reader), allowing you to smoothly capture timelapses even when you're not using your camera's "B"ulb mode. The RamperPro is also the only controller on the market that reads the histogram data for each image to help reduce or eliminate the chance of an over or under exposed ramp. The RamperPro can also automatically ramp from night to day thanks to its ability for us to enter the times of astronomical dawn and the end of civil dawn, which allows it to know when to start ramping - even before the light sensor knows. Since the RamperPro can ramp sunrises, sunsets, and shoot during the day - it's that much closer to being able to capture a complete 24 hours sequence -all unattended.

Conclusion

The design of the RamperPro is genius. By actually writing corrective XMP data to compensate for the limitations of a digital SLR it has the ability to shoot at any time of day without being limited to the rather large exposure jumps caused by using one of your cameras auto modes (Av priority, Tv priority, or auto ISO).

Since the RamperPro doesn't have to put your camera into bulb mode to ramp a sunset or sunrise, the RamperPro uses the term ''exposure ramping' instead of bulb ramping. Exposure ramping allows you to start your sunset timelapse at any time of day instead of having to use ND filters or to wait until the camera's shutter speed reaches a rather slow 1/30th of a second (20-30 min. before sunset)

The RamperPro can also analyze the histogram of each image - a first!. The reading of the histogram allows the RamperPro to protect your timelapses from over or under exposure when unexpected conditions arise (snow on the ground, sun aiming directly into the lens, etc.)

The RamperPro includes an external light sensor that can be attached to your camera via the hot-shoe or can be mounted externally, which comes in handy when you're shooting indoors but want to expose for outdoors. In this case you can place the light meter against a window so that it tracks the external light and not the indoor light.

The RamperPro can also control two cameras simultaneously - each with different settings if you choose. This is great for those wanting to capture two ramping timelapses but with different settings (one with default settings and one with more agressive 'test' settings) or to capture panorama timelapses or stereo timelapses for 3D applications.

At this stage, you need to ask yourself how much time are you ready to invest in timelapse. Because the RamperPro is such a new product and is still being tweaked, anyone that purchases one should be willing to lend their input so that Andre can continue adding and altering features and settings to make this as close to perfect as possible. If you own two cameras I would suggest connecting them both up to the RamperPro and getting out there to shoot. Use the latest tweaked 'default' settings from the last firmware update with one camera, and try changing some of the settings for the second camera. In just a few timelapse sessions you'll be able to confidently know what works for those cameras and situations and what doesn't. As with any product, once you get to know and trust the settings and your control over them, the more confidence and success you'll have.

I was initially discourage when I first tried the RamperPro. It's capabilities are mind blowing, but my initial real-life tests were not. However, with each subsequent timelapse the results were improving, and with my latest timelapse, the one above, the RamperPro worked perfectly. I'll continue the test the RamperPro for the next week or so and will update this review with any new discoveries or even with some new timelapses. The weather here in the Northeast has been terrible with low clouds blanketing the area for almost the entire month of December so far - along with bouts of snow and rain. As the weather clears for the weekend I plan to get out there to shoot with the RamperPro before I have to send it back.

I also want to thank a host of other photographers that I have learned a ton from about the RamperPro over the past couple of months. It was their questions or answers on Facebook that led me to having more and more success with the RamperPro: Jeff frost, Sebastian Eiseman, Aaron Priest, Drew Fulton, Jay Burlage, Richard Bentley, Joe Capra, and of course Andre Crone. Hopefully I haven't missed anyone.

If you are serious about timelapse photography and love to shoot when the light is best (sunrise and sunset) then the RamperPro should be high on your list of gear if you want to shoot from day light all the way through to the Milky Way. Yes, it's not perfect, but I know of nothing in life that is. However, with each update to the software the RamperPro is becoming THE timelapse controller to own.

Get more information

The RamperPro is priced at $470 Euros, which is approx. $570 (US) with free worldwide shipping. Get more information from the Elysia Visuals Website



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