No GoPro? Or DJI Pocket 2? Or Drone? Timelapse Video: Using a Pluto Trigger

I have known a gentleman by the name of Chris Oaten for a very long time. He’s even written stories for me from time-to-time. Chris makes his main living doing timelapse photography, and dare I say, he has few, if any, people in this country who in any way share his skill.

The results he creates are breathtaking and can be seen here.

To get to this level, Chris has many, many dollars invested in technology, but while you may drool over his work, the actual technical basics of timelapse to create video are quite simple. (Of course, getting to Chris’ level also requires a great deal of skill and knowledge of photography and lighting).

You take a series of still shots over a period of time and with a delay between the shots. You then put ’em all together a play them back at a faster frame rate.

If you have one of the later GoPros for example, that functionality is built in, as it is in the DJI Pocket 2 and DJI drones. But if you yearn   to create timelapse imagery and don’t possess one of these, then the Pluto Trigger may fit the bill for you.

I did a First Look review some weeks back and you can read that here. This afternoon, with an hour up my sleeve, I decided to have a crack at a quick timelapse, and this is the result. Basically it is 240 frames taken at 5 second intervals over 20 minutes. The end result JPGs are then put together in DaVinci Resolve and rendered out.

The camera is a Canon 5DS mounted on a Miller Air 75 Solo tripod. Camera settings were ISO100 / F16 / 1/60th of a second.

The Pluto Trigger does a LOT more than this of course. Check out that First Looks to see.

Gimbal Modes Explained (updated)

I have been playing a lot with gimbals of late. I have models here for review from both DJI and Zhiyun, and each is aimed at a specific target, or more correctly camera type, from smartphone to a big bruiser such as my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K  and upwards.

I also have the DJI Pocket, which has become my day-to-day camera of choice due to its flexibility, feature set and of course the gimbal camera.

Now gimbals I have found, add a level of complexity many I gather find tricky to understand, at least in the beginning. All of a sudden you are thrown into a sort of 3D world in terms of gimbal movement, and it can be frustrating getting you head around it.

I know initially I did. So here goes a quick explainer.

There are 3 axes to a gimbal, and these dictate where the lens is pointing and at what angle. While a student of geometry would call them the x, y and z axes, in gimbal terms they are the tilt, pan and roll axes.

Rotate (Pan) Tilt Roll

With a camera and gimbal – or the DJI Pocket 2 – you have the ability to lock some of these axes and therefore force the lens to act and point in a specific direction.

Using the DJI Pocket 2 as an example, these modes are called FPV, Follow and Tilt Lock.

In FPV (First Person View) mode, all three axes are unlocked. This means that no matter what direction you tilt or rotate the camera, the lens will follow that orientation. The best analogy of how footage will look is to think of what you see when on a roller coaster. Your head (and therefore line of sight) will follow the curves, dips and so on of the roller coaster and when in FPV mode, this is how the gimbal will also react. With careful planning, using FPV mode allows you get some really creative shots.

In Follow mode, only two of the axes are unlocked. In Follow, the lens will stay in the same orientation as the camera body when tilted, but when you rotate or roll the camera, the lens stays in the same orientation, that is, it becomes independent off the camera body’s orientation. In short, the horizon will always remain level making this mode ideal for vloggers or if you are, well, following, someone or something (or yourself).

When Tilt Locked the gimbal is locked on two axes and unlocked on one, the pan axis. When the camera is tilted or rolled, the lens will hold its current orientation, but when you pan the lens will follow the camera’s orientation. Use this mode when you are filming something on the same level but want to have the option to move the camera up or down but still keep the horizon level.

There are two more things that make these modes even better and these are FaceTrack and ActiveTrack modes.

If you want to track an object, frame it up and then double click it on the Pocket 2 display screen and the gimbal will then follow that object. If it is a person, the Pocket 2 will automatically search out the face of the subject and track that.

If you have the Pocket 2 in Selfie mode (the lens facing you) it will automatically enter FaceTrack mode.

  Tilt Pan Roll
FPV Locked Locked Locked
Follow Unlocked Locked Locked
Tilt Lock Locked Unlocked Locked


Hot Tip: Saving GigaMuppets…

With electricity prices rising faster than Space X debris is coming down, any trick to save even an electron of power must be a good thing.

Well I found a small way that was pretty easy, apart from getting on my hands and knees for a short period.

When I look in my studio that doubles as my editing suite, I can count probably 20 devices drawing 240v power that are continually left on. These include computers, monitors, printers (normal and 3D), LED strip lights, RAID boxes and my Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro. And then there are USB chargers plugged into 240v sockets and either charging nothing, or at 3am or less in the morning, have finished charging what I need such as camera batteries, drone batteries and so on.

And this all adds up in those electron thingies.

In the West I read yesterday, we pay around $64 / whatever it is power is rated at – GigaMuppets or something – whereas you folk in the East pay up to 4x that!

The reason, I think, is pretty simple. Power here is run by the Gummint, not privatised out, so that “competition makes it cheaper” as the mantra goes. The same goes for gas incidentally.

Anyway, by buying a couple or three “smart” power adaptors, I have can now program all these devices to be turned off at the mains at say midnight, and then turned back on in the morning ready for a days’ work at say 7am. Or whatever times I wish.

It can even be varied on a day-to-day basis, or have multiple versions so that it can be turned on in the morning and then if I know it will not be used again that day – say I never use my 3D printer on a Sunday after midday – to turn it off at that time on that day.

As they say in the TV ads, the secret is in … planning how you connect everything. I use 3 six port power boards and each of these is plugged into a smart adaptor plugged into the mains. By working out what I want turned on or off at which days / times, I can then program the adaptors via a smartphone app. This also means I can control them manually remotely if I wish. You can also monitor the power that is being used.

There are many of these adaptors on the market, and a standard across the board is starting to come into play on the protocols and apps(s) they use.

Mine came from Jaycar, but you can also get them at Bunnings or Kmart for example, or even (shudder), Amazon.

Incidentally, you can also get smart LED lighting that allows the same thing running on the same app. I have these in the main rooms of the house as well as the back patio and garage. Security cameras also are available, again on the same app.

“I didn’t know it did that”…

Every year or so for the last umpteen years I have written an article that broadly speaking, has had the same substance each time.

“Read the manual”.

It has never been an intention to chide anyone who has a problem and can’t simply be bothered to look up the documentation and see if there is a solution in an FAQ or whatever.

Instead, I try and exhort people to see what other hidden gems that piece of software or gadget can do. Whenever I sit down and simply peruse a manual, I nearly always find something I did not know, and this started way back in the early 90s with a Sharp PDA that I suddenly discovered could have its fields mapped to Microsoft Outlook and the data transferred via a serial cable, thus effectively synching my PDA and my computer.

Wonderful stuff at the time.

Today though, things are a bit different aren’t they? We no longer have “paper” manuals, just small Quick Starts with miniscule writing – and we are often lucky to get that!

Which leads me to …

Over the last few weeks I have done a number of stories on GoPro cameras and the DJI Pocket 2 gimbal camera.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up with an idea to shoot some stuff inside a light box that was lit by the recently reviewed Zhiyun Fiveray using different colours, and for a giggle, a smoke machine, using the DJI Pocket 2.

The concept was to try and mimic those superb Top Gear shots where they pan very close to the contours of a car under lighting, with smoke and other effects, and gradually tease out what this new brand or model is.

Before I started however, I thought I’d just go through a few online tutorials to see if there was anything about the Pocket 2, despite intensive playing with it, that I maybe had missed.


Turns out there is lots, much tucked away in menus I didn’t even know existed! So my shooting has been a tad delayed, but all being well, will be all the better for it.

After that, I’ll go back and look at the GoPro Hero 10 Black, my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, the Loupedeck CT, the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro, DaVinci Speed Editor, Air2S drone – the list is endless. If these are par for the course, I am probably only using about 30% of capacity!

But hey, if you spend the money, you may as well extract as much as you can, right?

So what apps, gadgets or software do you have that is worth another look?

Like me, lots I’ll wager.

Tutorial: Creating slow motion (slo-mo)

I saw a Facebook post the other day that had the author showing he was utterly confused by slow motion (slo-mo).

Basically, they said they had set the camera in “slo-mo” mode, but when they played the back, it was “normal”.

I had a bit of a trawl through various groups, and it seems for newbies, slo-mo is indeed a bit of a mystery.

So, this if for those who are trying to get some slow-motion footage but failing for whatever reason. I suspect those who have been doing video for some time will know all this stuff.

Frame Rate

As you will know, video footage is made up of individual frames that are displayed quickly one after the other to give the illusion of motion. The rate at which they are played is called, not surprisingly, the frame rate, usually abbreviated to fps for frames per second.

Now there happens to be three “basic” frame rates in common usage; 24fps, 25fps and 30fps. (Purists will tell you 30fps is actually 29.97fps but I’ll stick to 30 for ease of understanding).

24fps is traditionally used in movies as it gives the so-called “cinematic” effect. 25fps is used in the PAL TV transmission system which we use here in Australia, the UK and other countries. 30fps is used by the NTSC TV system employed in the US and others.

It would seem obvious then that you could simply slow down the frame rate on playback, yes?  If you have footage at 30fps, if you play it back at 15fps it will be ½ the speed seems logical. And so it is.


It also means there is not enough data there so it will appear jerky and very unnatural.

The secret is to record at a higher frame rate and THEN slow it back down.

For example, if you shoot at 50fps and then playback at 25fps, you’ll achieve the half speed, but have nice smooth video to boot.

Most cameras these days (and smartphones) will let you record at higher frame rates. Some will restrict the frame size – you might be able to record 120fps at 1080p but only 50fps at 4K resolution for example – but as long as your project stays at the appropriate frame size, that should not matter.

So to summarize with a 25 / 50 fps combo:

  1. Set your video editing project to a frame size that your fps can handle (initially stick with 1080p until you get the hang of everything).
  2. Make sure your project frame rate is 25fps
  3. Set your camera frame capture rate to say, 50fps (try and stay in multiples of the project frame rate if you can)
  4. Import the footage at the higher rate but play it back at the lower.
  5. Render out the footage


Do some experimentation with subjects such as dropping an ice cube into a glass, a dog running toward you, or a car going past focussing on the wheel turning, and play around with frame rates etc.

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This could be the most fascinating $200 you’ll ever spend. And the most rewarding. A First Look.

Way back when, when I was editing Videocamera magazine, there was a distinct line between the subjects we covered, and this carried over into Australian Videocamera when I struck out on my own.

That is, there was little blur between camcorder reviews, editing software reviews, special effects creation, audio and so on.

Today this has all changed with a swathe of new tools available to make life so much easier. Take something like the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro which not that long ago in technical terms, would have cost $1000s and in fact, required a number of different devices to get the same result.

The same could be said for the humble printer that evolved into a multi-function contraption as technology evolved and things got, well, smarter.

Today we have a multitude of smart things that couldn’t have even been imagined 25 years ago. Arthur C. Clarke said it best many years ago when he stated “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

So an amateur photographer back not so long ago would have been astounded by your best little black box I have been looking at today. It is called a Pluto Trigger.

In conjunction with a dSLR camera, what it can do is simply astonishing. And for the price, mind boggling.

I want to preface this by saying I have yet to fire the thing in anger as they say. If there is one single drawback to the Pluto Trigger, it is that the documentation is a little lacking. In fact out of the box, all you get is a 2-sided quick start slip of paper that is simply a pointer to the smartphone app you need and how to get to the main menu. It doesn’t even explain what the items in the box are; why is there a laser in there? What are the various cables for and so on?

There is an online manual, but that is also not in the way I prefer a manual to be (your mileage of course may vary here). You can find that at .

Consequently, to get to know how to setup and operate the little beast, I have spent the day trawling online videos and finally came across a set designed specifically for the Pluto Trigger, with each going through a feature of the unit’s shooting style as well as a setup video.

These have been put together by an Australian photographer by the name of Gill (as in Gillian) Fry and are very comprehensive indeed. You can see her full suite at 

So just what does the Pluto Trigger do that is so gob smacking I hear you ask.

I remember an episode of Midsomer Murders when at the scene of the crime Barnaby asks Fleur the pathologist “what happened to the victim (and give me the short version)”.

“He’s dead” she says dead pan faced.

So in that light, the Pluto Trigger fires the shutter button the camera it is connected to via a cable.

But it’s what can cause it to fire the shutter button is what is so brilliant.

If you take the simplest, that of timelapse. In the app (connected to the Pluto Trigger by Bluetooth) you simply tell it how many shots to take and at what interval. There is a bunch of presets such as Sunrise, Sunset, Night Sky and so on, but you can override everything or simply create your own settings. To give you an idea of flexibility, the maximum duration is 99 hours and the maximum number of shots is 99,999.

But then you get into the setting menu and the other options are as I say, astounding.

Amongst many, many are options such as Star Trail, Sound, Voice, Light, Motion and Infrared. But my two favourites so far are Lightning and Laser.

With Lightning, a sensor picks up the light intensity difference when the lightning bolt starts and then fires the trigger. Your shutter speed will dictate how much of the strike you get – Gill recommends 1/15th of a second. You have to play around with sensitivities to get things “just right”, but simply amazing results are possible as shown on the website of Anthony Lombardi –

Laser as the name suggests, uses the laser that comes in the box. To set it up, you point it at the laser light receptor LED on the front of the Pluto Trigger. This creates a beam (duh!) and when this is broken, the shutter is triggered.

By careful setting (and experimentation) of delays, height of dropping an object, shutter speed and so on, then some dazzling shots of breaking glass, splashes etc can be obtained.

In fact for a lot of things the Pluto Trigger can do, there is no need for dedicated high speed cameras as the average dSLR is quite capable.

I admit the Pluto Trigger may not be for everyone. But the possibilities certainly get my creative juices flowing and for the price of AUD$178 + whatever cable your camera needs it’s not about to break the bank to see if it works for you.

I got mine direct from Pluto Trigger at

I aim to actually play with it over the next few days and will publish the results I get. I suspect this will be a lot of fun!

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Building a Camera Rig

William Adams of ShadowCast Studios has kindly allowed me to use an excerpt from a blog he did (with a link back) as it explains something far better than I! That is, building a camera rig from a base unit such as the SmallRig 3299 that I am hoping to get from Videoguys soon for my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro.

Thanks William!

The 15mm rail camera rigs are sometimes described as “Barbie for filmmakers.” A rig allows you to add a wide range of equipment to enhance your camera’s functionality and make it easier to capture amazing shots.

It provides a more stable platform for filming than can be achieved just by holding the camera directly in your hands, but it still allows some motion which is great for making more intense, dramatic action shots. It gives you a handheld look without excessive jittering and shaking that would distract the audience. When you want to be completely stable, a rig can easily be mounted to a tripod or other support.

We have been using a camera rig for years in many of our productions, and even though we now have motorized gimbals and steadicam systems, we still find our shoulder mounted camera rig very useful in many situations, such as shooting exciting action shots. It also provides a great deal of extra versatility that other supports can’t.

A rig is, in our opinion, the best support platform to start out with using, and one you will continue to find use for throughout your production career. We won’t cover every accessory you can mount on a rig, but lets look at some key elements of a camera rig that you should remember as you build your own!



Is the GoPro a ‘Proper’ camera. You bet. And more than you may know! Unlock some secrets here.

I had a look at the manual for my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K this morning. And as you’d expect for such a complex piece of gear, it is a goodly size.

155 pages to exact

So how many pages do you think the “humble” little GoPro 10 camera has. I mean, it’s only a so called “action cam” so doesn’t need a lot, right?

Well it might surprise you that the little GoPro manual is itself 153 pages!

So what might you have been missing?

I know many people have GoPros of all model numbers and variations, and without to much of an exaggeration, it is safe to say, that just as many users do with “standard” camcorders or cameras, and indeed smartphones, most put it in “A” for “Automatic” and leave it there.  Which is a shame as they are then missing out on some gems of capability that would raise the level of their photography and videos and add capability found in more expensive and supposedly “sophisticated” camera and camcorders..


The first thing you might want to do is create some of your own presets. A preset lets you create a series of settings and save them for use in particular situations. A simple example might be ‘wide angle at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second’. Once saved under a name, you can quickly recall it and save having to go through the manual setup, saving enormous amounts of time when you need that specific setting to get the perfect shot.

Once you understand more of video / photography and your GoPro, you can then also go into the ProTune mode and play around with advanced settings such as Colour Profile, White Balance, ISO, shutter speed and more.

Gosh, just like a REAL camera hey?

Power Tools

The next thing to be aware of are the inbuilt Power Tools in the latest GoPros. These are a suite of smart capture settings such as Hindsight (which records up to 30 seconds of video before you press the shutter button. This means you’ll have less chance of missing the perfect shot, especially useful in situations such as sporting events, or fireworks displays say.

You’ll want to make sure you have all your capture settings in place though before starting HindSight, as you cannot change them once it is on. Also be aware that Hindsight will use up battery juice faster than normal use.

Another goodie is Liveburst which captures a burst of shots both 1.5 seconds before and after the shutter is pressed. Again great for sport and fireworks as examples.

If you know a particular event is going to happen but cannot be there, another PowerTool, Scheduled Capture, allows you to set the GoPro to automatically turn on and capture a shot any time up to 24 hours in advance. In conjunction with software like PhotoPills that will tell you the exact time of sunrise / sunset, moon rise / moon set, golden hour / blue hour etc according to your location by latitude and longtitude, this mode is brilliant to get shots where you cannot be bothered getting up or can’t be there for some other reason.

A variation on this is Duration where you tell the GoPro how long to record for before it stops. You can set increments from between 15 seconds to 3 hours (you might need an external battery for that). You can if you wish, set a ‘No Limit’ which will continuously record until out of memory or battery, whichever comes first.


In QuikCapture mode, simply pressing the shutter button will start the GoPro recording without the need to turn the camera on. QuikCapture is on by default by the way, but if you want to turn it off, you do it from the GoPro Dashboard (the Rabbit symbol).

HiLight Tags

If you want to mark a spot when recording to make it easy to navigate to that during playback, when recording press the Mode button. But a much sexier way is to take advantage of the GoPro’s Voice Control system.

When you are recording and want to mark a HiLight, simply say ‘GoPro, HiLight’!

Additionally if you edit with the GoPro Quik app, it uses HiLights to make sure it includes the highlights in the video.


Did you know the GoPro can record in Landscape and Portrait mode and once you are in a specific orientation you can lock it so it stays in that mode? Even upside down (useful when mounted on a car windscreen).

Time Lapse

As the name suggests, this lets you take a series of frames of video at set intervals. Additionaly, you can “speed up” time with the TimeWarp mode. In Time Lapse mode, this uses the fantastic stabilisation ability of the GoPro in conjunction with Time Lapse to get super smooth video whilst on the go. This is how they get those shots of clouds moving quickly overhead for example.

Live Stream

If you want to share you video in real time with others, your GoPro can act as a webcam.  This requires a bit of setup and I’ll go through this in another article, but if you are anxious to get started, go to www,

Exposure Controls

In simple terms, exposure is how much light is being used in a photograph or video and is dependent on such things as shutter speed and aperture settings. Your GoPro can set these automatically based on the scene, but for creative purposes, you can override any of these settings – and more – to get just the effect you want.

To do this, tap and hold on the view screen until a set of brackets appears. Once they do, drag them around the screen and the exposure will be set based on the area inside the brackets. If shooting on snow or over water, it is almost a given you will do this to make sure you do not overexpose an image.

Voice Control

As I mentioned earlier the GoPro has a fabulous built in voice control system letting you perform a whole bunch of actions just by telling it to. These include ‘GoPro start recording’ and then of course, ‘GoPro stop recording’. But you can also change modes from video to photo to time lapse or any combination of these. There are more too, so have a look at your manual or on the web to get a complete list.


If you really want to get into the engine compartment of your GoPro, check out the ProTune settings where you can get right into setting the very basics of your camera in terms of its image capture. I alluded earlier to these with shutter speed, aperture and ISO, but you also have colour settings and bit rates, frames / second, exposure compensation, sharpness, audio settings, wind noise reduction and more you can play with.

The Manual

The manual for your GoPro contains detailed information on everything I have touched on here, and if you don’t have it yet, you can get one from the web. The one I have is for the GoPro 10 and is at as a PDF you can download.


So, the next time a photographer or videographer with a big flash camera or camcorder sneers at your “little” GoPro, rest assured that technically, most of what they can do, so can you. And it fits in your pocket.

Better yet, ask them if their super-dooper model45 whizzbang can go underwater?

(If they mention zoom lenses they will have you there however. Just tell ‘em you’ll get closer to the subject.

But whilst not a zoom, you might like to check out the GoPro Lens Mod).

By the way, for our GoPro camera, lenses and accessories, we like Videoguys in Melbourne. Their service and pricing is excellent and you can order online.


Tutorial: Hyperfocal Distance

If you understand depth of field and the use of aperture settings – in other words you do not have your camera, camcorder or smartphone always set on A for “Automatic Everything” – then you’ll know that generally speaking, if you have the foreground in focus then the background will be blurred.

Conversely of course, if the background is as sharp as a tack, then the foreground is out of focus.


But what if you want the foreground AND background in focus?

Then it’s time to learn a new term; Hyperfocal Distance.

In the simplest form Hyperfocal Distance is the focusing distance that gives your photos the greatest depth of field. In other words, it is the point on which you focus that allows the foreground and the background to both be sharp.

This position will vary according to your lens at the time as hyperfocal distance moves closer to your lens as you use smaller apertures.

Without going into the mathematics of it, be aware that when you focus to a hyperfocal distance, the image will be sharp from half that distance to infinity.

So going by the chart above, with your hyperfocal distance for say f/11 with a 28mm lens, then everything from 1174mm to infinity will be sharp.

Also understand this chart is a guide only, as without knowing the makeup and distance to your foreground, they are a best guess scenario.

One neat way of working out the hyperfocal lens I found online uses the following method;

  1. Find the closest object in your framing that should appear sharp and calculate its approximate distance to the camera
  2. Double this number to get your hyperfocal distance
  3. Focus on this point
  4. Change the aperture to increase depth of field (usually to around f/8 or f/11)


Of course you won’t to use this technique all of the time. Say you were shooting from a hot air balloon and attempting to get the vista before you. As there is nothing in the foreground, it would be pointless – just shoot to infinity in these cases.

There are a number of smartphone apps to calculate your hyperfocal distance such as Hyperfocal for both Android and iOS.