Lens Flicker, tried everything to solve it! Please Help.

Hi everyone,  I have a really confusing problem. I have been doing stop motion for many years now, but only since last year have I tried to make it a profession, but one thing in stopping my work looking professional is the bad flickering in my films. I’ve tried everything. Im using a canon, so I decided to buy a high quality Nikon lens adapter, so I can mount the older style manual aperture lens. I then bought a older style manual Nikon lens, to override the the aperture, but I still have the exact same flickering! It really doesn’t make sense and I have tried nearly everything.  

Also here is my setup:

  • Using Dragon Frame
  • Using Dedolights
  • Using a canon E0S 600d, with very pricey Novoflex adapter E0S/ NIK NT
  • Using a Nikon manual aperture 55mm Macro lens
  • Wearing black clothing
  • Room with no other light coming through over than dedolights.

Thanks a lot!

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Hi Adam. I've had this problem too. One tip - Dragonframe have a checklist for the settings on your camera, and it's worth going through them each time you set up, especially if you use the camera for anything else. DF has a lock for a shot's settings.

Also, the exposure length seems important, as mentioned. I am trying to use 1/2 second exposures, if necessary adding a ND filter to adjust depth of field. Long exposures should smooth out any flicker from lights a bit. I'm saving up for one of the uninterruptible power supplies as well. Like this: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/251817908415?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649... Note in the blurb about it that the output is described as fixed and unwavering. Cheaper types are just battery back-ups and don't have this facility.

The flicker was driving me crazy, until I realised that a small skylight, right at the far end of my workshop, was causing it! It was so dirty it hardly let in any light, but just enough to cause havoc!

YEA make a mark for yourself. stand in the same place on each shot.

Adam Dowling said:

Also I remember that a few years ago when I was actually filming at  my university, I never had the problem, but when I would go back home and do some shoots with the same set up and equiptment, the flicker would happen. My tutor could never work it out either. lol And sorry i didnt see your above comment, that;s a great idea,  I will give the tests a try and hopefully i can see whats going on. Thanks dude!

Interesting discussion guys i'm having the same light flicker problem, i have the same set up as Adam minus the dedos.i'm going to try and get to the bottom of it.thanks Strider


hey Nick just want to know more about how you use a Double Conversion UPS ? What model do you use ? are they expensive? im having issues with flickering and want to eliminate everything.

i use a canon 7d, fotodiox pro lens adapter,dragonframe, 55mm manual Nikon macro lens, 1 fluroscent 105W 5500k,

StopmoNick said:

Just came across this.  Several causes of flicker, need to work through them.

1. Camera.  Some Canon DSLR models have some extra settings in the menus that you have to turn off.  Just turning the dial on the top of the camera to M is not enough.  Go right through all the menus looking for anything that tries to compensate or adjust.  On my Canon 7d I found a couple I hadn't seen on my older 40d, and when I changed them it fixed the flicker I had when I first got it.  It may not be the same on your camera, but try looking for these:

Press menu button.  In the first menu on the left, with one dot, you get Quality/Size settings... go down to Peripheral Illumination Correct, set it to Disable.  In the second menu, disable Auto Lighting Optimizer.  I don't know which of these two made the difference, maybe both, but it worked for me.  Also while you are there, make sure white Balance is not on Auto.  Mine is set to colour temp, currently 3400k, to suit my lights.  In the fourth menu, do enable exposure simulation, that is only for the live video assist and that lets DF adjust it to match closer to the actual exposure.

2.  Lens and adapter.  With an older manual Nikon lens with no electronics and no physical lever on the camera to open the lens between shots, the iris should stay put.  A later lens made for digital cameras, and a Nikon-to-Canon adapter with electronic connections, can give you flicker.  The simple adapters only cost around $12 on eBay, with shipping from China included.  You want to have the lens stay stopped down so the viewfinder and live view are actually a bit dark, and you need to adjust the brightness of the live view in Dragonframe to compensate.  That way the lens stays put, instead of opening up for a bright view as still cameras normally do, then stopping down when you press the shutter, but not always to the exact same position.

3. AC Power supply.  The mains power can vary, and most lights will get brighter and dimmer when the voltage goes up and down.  I found I had this problem in my studio, the power varies by a couple of volts as businesses in the neighbourhood turn equipment on and off.  I fitted a Double Conversion UPS that smoothes out the power.  (It converts 240v AC to DC, charges a battery, then converts back to 240 v (or 120v in the US) AC, a couple of volts less but is steady. Not a normal UPS, that kicks in if the power fails, they don't actually smooth the power.

I was able to test with a multimeter in shot, and with 2 cameras shooting single frame simultaneously.   The meter, plugged into mains power, had the needle going up on the brighter frames, down on the darker ones.  I could vary the power by turning my 1200 watt oven on and off, rather than wait for it to vary from other causes.  It was the same with both cameras, which showed that when I thought my first camera had a fault, it was the mains power at my ABC studio, not the camera after all.  When I plugged the  lights into a borrowed double conversion UPS, but still metered the unfilted AC mains power, the needle still showed variation, but the lights remained steady.  When I clipped the meter to the UPS it showed steady power.

Lights.  Even with my power converter I've been getting flicker from one light, a halogen downlight with transformer I made into a movie light.  It seems to be getting unsteady in its old age, it used to work but I've been using it for 12 years.  It is the second one to go on me.   But Dedo lights should not do that.  I animated on a show using Dedo lights, plugged into Ballast units, and despite being in a curtained off corner of a factory in a run-down industrial area where I would expect the power to be pretty dirty, there was no flicker.  I think the ballast units must be smoothing it.  Not sure because Dedo lights are way out of my budget so I don't have any to test.  You could test that by plugging the ballast into a dimmer switch - if you can dim the lights, then the ballast does not protect the light from voltage changes.  If it stays the same, or stays steady until you turn the dimmer too low and then cuts out, then it does steady the power.  

If you have a mix of lights, some may be steady and others may vary.  Most fluorescent lights are not dimmable, so do not react to small changes in voltage.  

Test by pointing lights into different areas so you can tell which light is which, and shooting a coupe of seconds at single frame.  If all lights go bright and dark at the same time, it's AC power or camera.  If it is only one particular light flickering, it is either that light, or varying power which doesn't affect the others because they are Fluorescents or protected by a ballast or otherwise undimmable.

Yes, they are expensive.

The supplier loaned me a plug-in one, 1500 VA, to test to make sure it would fix my problem.  I think those cost around A$1500 (US $1100) in Australia.  But I googled just now and found a 1000VA unit for $599 here.  I'm not sure of the formula for calculating how many watts you can power from a given number of VA, but I think 1000 VA would be good for around 750 watts at 240v AC.

I had already had a circuit built in, with power points on the ceiling so I could plug in my overhead lights that were hanging on the lighting bars, so I went for one which is wired in and could connect to my circuit.  That meant an additional cost for the electrician to install it of around $500, plus the $4500 it cost.  A lot, but I was staring at my newly built studio being useless for stop motion without fixing the flicker.

I would go for the smaller plug-in one.  1500 VA would have been plenty with the smaller halogens I am mostly using now, and with fluorescents and LED lights you need even less power.  1000 VA might be all you need.  You could add a second unit if you did need more.  I wish I had got the smaller one and just run extension cords up to the ceiling, because the big one makes a buzzing sound that is annoying. The small one just had a soft fan noise like a computer.

You plug your double conversion UPS into the wall, turn it on and boot it up, and plug your lights into it.   The output voltage drops by a couple of volts, which gives the unit room to adjust for the variations in power that comes from the mains power.  

The link to one on ebay UK that Simon posted above looks very similar.  I got mine 6 years ago.  It is made by MGE Office Protection Systems, and is called a Pulsar MX 5000 RT.  It looks like this:  

I found mine by contacting Eaton Powerware in the US, who passed it on to their local Australian agent Natural Power Solutions, and they emailed me.  I had previously checked with many electrical retailers including suppliers to electricians,  and no-one had a clue what I was talking about.  

thanks for the info Nick, i'll look into it, i'm not too sure but just seeing my options if i can't stop the flicker, bit pricey though but a cheaper one maybe an option down the track.Yours seems to have served you well, thanks again

Since your light is fluorescent it's vitally important to use a longer exposure time - fluorescent lights flicker really fast. You can see it if you wave your hand around fast under it - you can see multiple images of it.

That could be your problem right there. 

honestly, if this is that important that you don't have flicker:

shoot on 2s

edit the final product

Shooting on twos would not help with my power fluctuations - the change in voltage tends to be gradual, it might happen over 1 or two minutes, or be stable for 10 minutes, then go up or down. Both frames, if taken only a few seconds apart like you do when shooting on twos, would have the same exposure.


hhmmm didn't think about that, i'll look into it, thanks again


Strider said:

Since your light is fluorescent it's vitally important to use a longer exposure time - fluorescent lights flicker really fast. You can see it if you wave your hand around fast under it - you can see multiple images of it.

That could be your problem right there. 

Hey Guys,
Ofcourse it is best to illiminate any mayor flicker in the shooting. If you still end up with flicker anyhow, or you can't afford a UPS, I found this plug-in for after effects that does a really really good job at removing flicker and it's very easy to use.
It's called Flicker free (how original) but it does a great job at reducing different types of flicker.

http://www.digitalanarchy.com/Flicker/main.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6pSC9ged7U

Hope this is of help to anyone?
cheers,

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