So I have Dragonframe 3.6 and am using a Canon T5 camera with the standard lens that it came with. I am using desk lamps for my lighting and black poster boards for my floor and wall. I have two Lego Bionicle characters trying to talk to each other- however, when I play back the scene- it is flickering a lot.... and I just don't know what to do as the previous two stop-motions I've done with my camera had no flickering (although those previous videos were using a green screen and a white poster board for wall/floor- dunno how important that is- I'm sure my Cinematography settings were different with those videos as well however).

My T5 lens is set at no image stabilization as it's on a tripod, and the switch is set to MF. On top of that, I am running manual white balance. According to Dragonframe's Cinematography window- here are my camera settings: 1/13 | f/7.1 | 200 ISO
Here is a link to a test shot to see the lighting and everything of the shot: http://sta.sh/04sgmfolc6m
I'm new to DSLRs and the concepts so I don't know if I have my F-stop too high or any other settings but I thought the lighting looked good with those settings- but if those settings are what is causing me my flickering issue, please tell me what to change.

Any advice on what I can do to eliminate this problem? It's just so distracting...

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There are several possibilities - the first thing that jumps out at me is you're using what I believe is an auto-focus/auto-exposure lens. To really ensure flicker-free performance from the lens, you need to get a manual one (or maybe 2) - usually it's an older used lens off eBay made before there were auto-everything lenses and you'll need an inexpensive adapter to make it fit your camera. We can talk you through this if you decide to do it. 

I don't know why but many cameras seem to be able to get flicker-free animation out of a kit lens for a while and then suddenly not. It happened to me a while back, and I never could determine why - I ended up getting some adapters and manual lenses and then it was fine. 

Another possibility is menu settings, which you've already covered. If you've really got your exposure, shutter speed, and white balance set to full manual then I guess that's not the problem. 

The last one I can think if is you might be intermittently partially blocking the light by standing in front of it, or maybe reflecting it onto the set off your shirt. It can be easy to do this and not realize it - for some shots the lights are out of the way and you can stand wherever is most comfortable for animating, but sometimes you really need to pay close attention to your position. You might need to step way back before snapping each frame, or engage in other tactics. Nick said he once had to squat down under the table for each frame, resulting in extremely sore legs the next day. 

I was hoping the example you linked to was a shot, but all I can see on the page is a still image. We can often tell the cause of flicker by seeing a bit of video. 

Another factor could be your lights. My lighting tends to be stable enough in the summer but in the winter or fall the furnace will be on sometimes and off others, and that's enough voltage fluctuation to affect the lights. I have to either do all shooting while it's not running or switch off the heater until the shot is done. Or it could be other large appliances draining a bit of power at irregular intervals, possibly just the neighborhood grid running irregularly due to other people's heaters etc. 

I'd say try a test first, not really animating anything, just shoot a bunch of stills making sure you're not standing where you either reflect light into the scene or block it.  You might also try a time lapse and see if there are a few frames in a row with lower lighting then a few with higher - that might indicate intermittent power drainage. Heck, maybe even do a test where you're definitely blocking or reflecting light and standing in slightly different spots each frame, just to see what that kind of flicker looks like so you can recognize it in the future. 

Oh, another possibility I forgot to mention- are there any widows letting sunlight in? 

Thanks for the reply! Sunlight is not an issue luckily- I narrowed it down to two things I think. The first being that my shutter speed is perhaps too fast, if I adjust it to 1/60 or 1/80 (around there anyway) It may eliminate the flickering... that is one theory I am about to try. The next which you brought up could be my lens with it's auto exposure. Money is tight right now for me- but I definitely will look into a full manual lens! Is there any you would recommend I try for my Canon T5?

Oh shutter speed - another one I forgot! Are you using compact fluorescent light bulbs? Those (or any fluorescent bulbs) flicker really fast, so yeah a longer exposure time can definitely help if that's the issue. Man, I need to keep a list of all these - I usually can remember a few but some always escape me. 

With a Canon it's always recommended to use non Canon lenses. The Canon lenses do have a so-called manual setting on them, but they're actually still connected to the electronic brain of the camera, which means when you stick your hands in to animate the lens will re-set both exposure and focus and then when you step back it re-sets again, but not always exactly the same as it was on the last frame. So it's actually a sort of fake manual. To really get true manual control over the lens you need to make sure it has no electronic communication with the camera's evil robot brain. There's a way to partially unscrew the lens to break contact, and there's a trick to let you set the aperture before you do so it stays set that way.

Check the first few links on this page: Strider's Handy Link List. It's several threads dealing with flicker in DSLRs, using a Canon camera with other lenses, and what's called the lens twist method for setting aperture. 

As for recommended lenses - do you have any old prime lenses for other cameras already? Maybe for cameras that shot on film back in the day? If so those might work. Though they'd need to be from an SLR (forerunners to DSLRs) and not Canon - so like Nikon,Pentax, Olympus etc. 

If you don't have anything like that then the first choice for most people is an old Nikon 50mm Micro lens. I don't trust my memory on all the details, I'd have to skim a couple of the threads I just linked to give you any more details. You might want to just breeze through one or 2 keeping an eye out for mention of Nikon (or Nikkor - same thing) lenses on a Canon. Though as I said, you could also get lenses by Pentax or Olympus etc. The detailed info is in those threads. 

Thank you so much for your help man! It's been very educational and I appreciate it! I am used LED bulbs so I think my lighting setup for the most part is okay. After playing around with the new settings and setting my shutter speed from the original  1/13 to a 1/80- it has fixed the majority of my flickering issues. I still have some flickering- but it is not as often nor as obnoxious as it was. I may be able to fix it by increasing the shutter speed even more, but I don't really know if I can handle waiting longer than I should in just taking a picture. Stop-motion requires patience and I've developed much from it- but even that patience has a limit ;P.

Anyway- I think now my main issue is exactly what you mentioned: My lens. I unfortunately never owned an SLR much less a lens from one- but I am sure that I could find one online for a decent price. If not that- forgive me if I misread this, but something such as a Nikon lens even if it was made say- this year- would benefit me more in regards to this flickering issue instead of my standard Canon lens, though it sounds like my best bet is to find an older SLR lens with an adapter to go with. Either that or try the method of partially unscrewing my lens- which I am still extremely new to handling DSLRs and do not know very much about them- I'd probably just end up breaking it ha ha. Though I will consider that method and try and perform it without killing my camera or the lens! Thanks again for the suggestions, you have been very helpful!


Strider said:

Oh shutter speed - another one I forgot! Are you using compact fluorescent light bulbs? Those (or any fluorescent bulbs) flicker really fast, so yeah a longer exposure time can definitely help if that's the issue. Man, I need to keep a list of all these - I usually can remember a few but some always escape me. 

With a Canon it's always recommended to use non Canon lenses. The Canon lenses do have a so-called manual setting on them, but they're actually still connected to the electronic brain of the camera, which means when you stick your hands in to animate the lens will re-set both exposure and focus and then when you step back it re-sets again, but not always exactly the same as it was on the last frame. So it's actually a sort of fake manual. To really get true manual control over the lens you need to make sure it has no electronic communication with the camera's evil robot brain. There's a way to partially unscrew the lens to break contact, and there's a trick to let you set the aperture before you do so it stays set that way.

Check the first few links on this page: Strider's Handy Link List. It's several threads dealing with flicker in DSLRs, using a Canon camera with other lenses, and what's called the lens twist method for setting aperture. 

As for recommended lenses - do you have any old prime lenses for other cameras already? Maybe for cameras that shot on film back in the day? If so those might work. Though they'd need to be from an SLR (forerunners to DSLRs) and not Canon - so like Nikon,Pentax, Olympus etc. 

If you don't have anything like that then the first choice for most people is an old Nikon 50mm Micro lens. I don't trust my memory on all the details, I'd have to skim a couple of the threads I just linked to give you any more details. You might want to just breeze through one or 2 keeping an eye out for mention of Nikon (or Nikkor - same thing) lenses on a Canon. Though as I said, you could also get lenses by Pentax or Olympus etc. The detailed info is in those threads. 


PS: I actually just tried the lens twist method but am unsure of if it actually works or not for me. The difference between my camera (T5) and his camera in the demonstration video (5D) is that mine lacks a Depth of Field Preview button just located under Lens Release... I don't know if this is important or not.

My camera does not display any error messages when I twisted the lens, it functions properly. I can't tell though if I have unscrewed it enough though and if I have, if it is actually working. There is no satisfying clicks or anything. I guess one way to find out would be to experiment and start shooting some more stop-motions lol.

On the Nikon lenses - sorry, I meant to say 55mm micro, not 50. And you need to make sure it's an Ai or Ais. As long as it meets those criteria it will work - doesn't matter when it was made or anything else. The Nikon (Nikkor) 55mm micro lenses are really excellent and not expensive, so they're a great choice. Micro is Nikon's term for a macro lens, which are made to exacting specifications so the image quality holds up even when zoomed in extremely tight to capture a bug's face or a tiny flower petal, so it will get great closeups of puppets as well. 

On shutter speed - seems odd that speeding it up would help. Usually you would slow it down, which helps to even out any flickering from the lights. If you keep the shutter open long enough for the lights to flicker 3 or 4 times, then obviously it will even things out better than if it's only open for part of a flicker cycle, which would mean sometimes you get decent light and sometimes almost none at all. Rather than go from 1/13 to 1/80 (which is a lot faster) you should try like 1/4th of a second. 

Increasing shutter speed means it takes less time to capture a frame, not longer. Slowing down the shutter speed means it will take a bit longer, but I doubt you're ready to snap the next frame in a quarter of a second, so it won't make a difference to your animation time. 

You could try setting the shutter speed much slower. I set the ISO to 100, shutter speed to 1/2 second, aperture to what I want for depth of field, then use a variable neutral density filter to adjust to the lighting (or less light!) I also have ND gels to put across the light source if needed. 

One cause of flicker is from the way a still camera will normally open up the lens so you get a nice bright view through the viewfinder, then when you press the shutter it quickly stops down to the setting you had.  Sometimes it doesn't quite get all the way down. 

I used the lens untwisting method with my old Nikon body, but I used manual lenses, not the kit lens.    On the old Nikon, there is a physical lever on the back of the lens, and the one on the camera pushes it to open the lens, so I turned it far enough it couldn't reach it.  With a Canon lens, I think you have to first set the aperture, then do the unscrewing, but I have never used a Canon lens on my Canon body for animating.  Unscrewing should cause all the electronic contacts to get out of alignment, so the camera can no longer set the aperture.

Speeding up exposures...yeah, the opposite of what I do.    I suppose a short exposure with the lens set to a fully open aperture (to compensate for the short exposure) would mean the lens doesn't stop down, so that wouldn't cause flicker, maybe that is why short exposures helped?  But I usually want the lens stopped down to increase the depth of field so it doesn't look so much like a miniature set, so I tend to take exposures of 1/2 second to 2 seconds.  That smooths out any rapid flickering from fluoro lights, if there are any, lets me set my aperture to around f-11, and doesn't need massively bright lights.  (And I have the ISO set to 100 or 200 - higher settings can make the image get a bit noisy (grainy).

The best solution is not to use a kit lens (or any Canon EOS lens) which has no aperture ring on the lens, and relies on the camera body to set it electronically.  The less you can let the camera do, and the more you can set yourself so it can't change during the shot, the better it will be for animation.

Using a manual Nikon, Olympus, or other lens with an adapter means the camera can't control the lens, you do.  When you stop it down at the start of the shot it stays that way, so no variation in exposures are caused by it being a bit slow to stop down.  The view in Dragonframe will be darker, but you can set the exposure compensation so you can make the live view look closer to the actual frames.  I usually have it at the maximum of Plus 4.

Another cause of flicker can be that the mains power is actually varying a little - mine does, by a couple of volts - and the lights are actually getting brighter or dimmer in response.  It happens slowly, but with animation it can seem like a sudden change between taking one shot and the next.  I have to use a power conditioner to smooth it out.

Thank you guys for the suggestions- it is much appreciated! I think my best fix will have to be buying a Nikon lens with an adapter- as for now though, I'll have to save up for that one though. I will try with longer exposure times and see how that helps things out- I am 99% sure my lighting is not an issue and there is no flickering issues caused from those. It sounds like all of the evidence is pointing at my lens. In the mean time however- I am going to try slowing down my shutter speed to 1/2 or 1 second- longer if need be- and hope that can provide a temporary fix for my problem while I save up on a new lens! Thank you all again for your help!

I'm a little late on this one, so I don't know if any of this will help, but I've found that old Pentax (M42) lenses work quite well and are plentiful -- you can get some real nice ones for cheap on ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=M42+lens&rmvSB=true&_d...

Also, the adapters for such lenses:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/182-8140574-5880700?url=se...

I always have had these flicker issues until I bought the manual lenses. I was able to find 3 Nikon Micro Nikkor lenses (24mm F2.8 ais, 55mm F3.5 ai and 105mm F4 ai, and have no problems since. I shoot with a  Canon t2i with an adaptor ring. Another thing that caused flicker issues for me was the lighting I was using. I have recently started using led's and have not had a single issue yet =) 

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