I haven't posted here in a while, but I've been working on a new animation that I'm unable to make progress on due to an odd issue. What happens is when I take a new frame, it never realigns with the previous frame. This only seems to happen after I take a break for an hour or resume animating the next day. This wouldn't seem much of an issue, but the shot is done from the same angle over the course of days and there is a rig involved. When I mask out the rig, the frames clearly are misaligned even with trying to nudge the frame in After Effects.

The past 3 weeks, I've attempted to isolate the cause. Here's what I've tried.

- Secured the set with multiple clamps. Made sure props are glued and pinned down.

- 4 different tables of varying sturdiness.

- 2 different table materials (wood and plastic/metal) to see if there is possibly expansion/contraction with temperature.

- 3 tripods (I even invested in a sturdy Manfrotto and Junior head). I also tried the tripods with and without a weight hanging.

- Leaving the camera on a separate table instead of a tripod.

- Turning the camera on/off through a power strip switch instead of physically touching the camera.

- Making sure the floor isn't budging (I'm working in a basement on granite flooring anyway).

My last test involved sitting the camera directly on the set. If the table or set was moving, then the camera should move with it. I took a picture, left for a while, and took another picture, there was movement still. That led me to thinking something is wrong with either the lens or the camera body. So I tested with another lens I have and there was still movement.

I don't know the inner workings of a camera well, so is there anything inside that may be causing inconsistent pictures? Or perhaps there is an entirely different cause anyone can lend insight to? Any help is appreciated.

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You've eliminated all the factors I have encountered, like flexing (wooden) floor, and expanding and contracting due to temperature change.  I have seen some big moves over time due to the set expanding as it heats up, not noticeable at normal speed but obvious when speeded up, or when trying to drop in a background frame from earlier to paint out support wires.

If you take a lot of frames in a short time, just as a test, do you still get the same movement?  Or is it definitely only over the longer period of time?  That sounds like movements in the set.  I make it a practise to never stop in the middle of a shot, once I start I keep going until I finish, because I always find there is some movement if I break for lunch.  If  need a quick toilet break I leave the lights on and make it quick.  Leaving it over night and picking it up the next day always resulted in a sudden jump.  My particle board set floors can "breath" up and down as they heat and cool.  A slide projector I used to use for front projection had a metal foot that would raise the projector steadily as it warmed up, then drop if I turned it off.  I noticed it while fast forwarding on th Steenbeck, then found it did it all the time, only gradually.

What kind of camera is it?  I have not seen any shifting of the frame with a digital SLR camera (Nikon or Canon).  But if there is any kind of automatic function left on, like maybe to compensate for camera shake, that could cause some small adjustments, even when the camera is locked onto a tripod.  I found a lot of "helpful" things in the menus on my Canon 7d that would make changes in the focus, brightness, or other things, but once I tracked them all down and turned them off I didn't get any further issues.

I forgot to mention I did test if it was my set expanding and contracting. I removed my set entirely and took shots of a metal cellphone stand on the sturdiest table I have. There was still movement.

I took a series of 30 frames to see if there is movement in a short period. I tested with the camera on the set itself and also on the Manfrotto. I didn't touch the camera or set during the multiple frame capture. I had to zoom in completely, but apparently there was movement. Not as much as when I leave for a break though.

The camera I'm using is a DSLR Nikon D5200 with manual Nikon AI and AI-S lenses. I looked through the menu settings to see if there is anything relevant to disable. The only thing I could find was a Quiet Shutter Mode under the Release setting, but my camera was set to Single Frame capture.

I got no idea, then.  Any chance of borrowing another camera for a test?

I have "fixed" some shots where the animation was good, but there was a small accidental movement of the set or camera, by adding a pan or zoom in post, so the tiny unwanted movement gets lost in the bigger movement.  Might help with some of the shots you've already done.  But the main thing is to get a steady frame in the first place.

If you use after Effects, you can use pixel tracking to steady the frame in post.  If it is a purely electronic change in the frame, with no change in perspective, it should work.  If the camera or set are physically moving about there may be some shift in perspective so locking one pixel may not lock another on the other side of the frame.

I don't have access to another camera at the moment. I'll look into it though as trying another camera seems to be my only option left.

I attempted to fix it in After Effects but wasn't able to with the type of shots I did. I'll likely shoot everything again. Some things were bothering me in the ones I did anyway.

I really appreciate all the help, thanks!

I find that it helps to keep the auto toggle on and set your camera to not turn off while you are away.  I think the issue comes from the mirror inside the camera but I am not sure exactly.

I actually keep auto toggle on as well. Unfortunately, I have to turn off my camera when I go for a break as it can get pretty warm. I'll know if it's something wrong with the mirror or anything else inside my camera soon as I have a new camera on the way. Hopefully it all goes well, if not I can always return it. Thanks for the suggestions!

Adam Taylor said:

I find that it helps to keep the auto toggle on and set your camera to not turn off while you are away.  I think the issue comes from the mirror inside the camera but I am not sure exactly.

It does sound like it might be a camera issue, as you seem to have eliminated everything else as a problem. Is it an old camera, as some are only good for about 50,000 shutter releases?

The only way to properly test is to borrow someone's camera that you know is good and compare.

I have read that Nikon's get a lot hotter than Canons, a d maybe that is the ultimate source of the issues.

What a nuisance though! Good luck!

I believe the camera is around 5 or 6 years old. It was my family's camera, but I don't recall it seeing heavy usage until I started using it for stop motion. I did some searching on Google, which said the Nikon D5200 was tested to have around 100,000 shutter releases.

The new camera I have on the way is a Canon as I remember reading old threads on here about them not heating up like Nikon. I'll hopefully have an update next week. Thanks for the help!

Simon Tytherleigh said:

It does sound like it might be a camera issue, as you seem to have eliminated everything else as a problem. Is it an old camera, as some are only good for about 50,000 shutter releases?

The only way to properly test is to borrow someone's camera that you know is good and compare.

I have read that Nikon's get a lot hotter than Canons, a d maybe that is the ultimate source of the issues.

What a nuisance though! Good luck!

The heating up with live view issue seems to have affected Red cameras too, but I think what happens is that the camera shuts off to stop itself from overheating.  That was one of the reasons I replaced my old Nikon D70 (no live view) with a Canon, the other being a bigger live preview image.

I received the new Canon camera today, and I've been running various tests. Unfortunately, I'm still having misalignment between frames. I turned off pretty much everything I could in the menu. I've tested the camera on the Manfrotto, a small Gorillapod I placed on the set, and also sitting the camera itself on the set. I've also tried taking pictures of other objects in different rooms on various tables (just to double check maybe it is my set). I then wondered if perhaps it could be the manual lenses, so I hooked up my Nikon again and attached the digital kit lens. I experienced movement still with that.

I was really hoping the new camera would solve it. I'm not sure what to do at this point. If anyone has other ideas to isolate the issue (doesn't matter how wild and unlikely they are), I'm open to them. I'll try to think of a workaround in the meantime.

Oh no! At least if it was the camera you would have found the problem... but then at least it means your camera is fine.

So, if it is not the set and not the camera, it must be something to do with the computer. I assume you are using Dragonframe. What about taking some test frames and then importing them manually to AE to see if they line up. If so, then the issue is with Dragonframe, although I haven't a clue what it could be.

Yes, I'm using Dragonframe. I did import the frames into AE and Photoshop. They remained misaligned in both programs. I actually installed Dragonframe on a new laptop (I was having constant BSOD with certain programs) and also updated it to the latest version, so I don't think it can be the issue.

What I'm thinking now in order to move forward is to use a green screen. Then composite the puppet with my set. The downside is my knowledge of AE is very basic, and I don't think I can make the puppet look immersed in the set.

Simon Tytherleigh said:

Oh no! At least if it was the camera you would have found the problem... but then at least it means your camera is fine.

So, if it is not the set and not the camera, it must be something to do with the computer. I assume you are using Dragonframe. What about taking some test frames and then importing them manually to AE to see if they line up. If so, then the issue is with Dragonframe, although I haven't a clue what it could be.

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