High Tech Peeping

I’ve always been interested in photography and video. In the past, I had played around with time-lapse sequences and was never very happy with the results. However fortune favors the thick headed and persistent, and I got just what I wanted with my new setup. It On Guardis a Raspberry Pi micro computer with a Pi Cam attached to it. This little guy is credit card sized and with the camera added, you could fit the whole deal in your pocket and still have room for your keys. I got it to develop a better bird watching system, because who doesn’t need better bird watching in their life?

Turns out my Pi can do lots of other things, and right now it is the primary video surveillance system for the property. It can capture movement and send that picture and Noir & Blancvideo to a remote location. Since we live in a remote enough location already, I told it to send it to my server in the other room. I liked this guy so much, I got another one that can see in the dark. That one I call Pi Noir. Noir as in No IR filter, not Noir as in campy black and white movies. The original guy is called Pi Blanc, keeping the French theme going. Soon, nothing will be beyond my notice, and my wife commented it’s not like I’m busy enough with redoing the house and all. Did I really need another distraction? Being we are grandparents now, I mentioned we could get automated cute shots of the grand kid, and suddenly I’m a genius.

I had done some reading on how to get a good time lapse going and decided to give it a try.

I logged into the Pi and informed it to grab a sequence of images from 3pm to sundown on August 13th. Oh and make sure to get a picture every 2 seconds without screwing up. No problemo.

The next morning I checked to see what was what and was happily surprised to find 18 gigabytes and 11,677 images. Wow. I’m putting this dude to work on the back bathroom!

Now comes the tricky part, make sense of all that data. There is a nifty program in the Linux world called ffmpeg.
It is a very powerful video rendering program, but is not for the faint of heart. Being that my former job was all command line all the time, I had it begging for cookies in no time. Just for a visual treat, here is the command that took those images and made them into a video:
ffmpeg -framerate 5 -i img%0d.jpg -s 640×480 -vcodec libx264 Aug13th.mp4

Heady stuff. It took all those images and made a twenty minute video. Too long. So I ran some more ffmpeg foo up the flag pole and bingo, we have a winner. The final video is 20 seconds long. The shadows rip down the driveway and down comes the night.

We live on a ridge and the sun always sets for us a bit earlier than everybody that does not live on our ridge. Which is nice, because who needs all those other people standing around, trying to make small talk when you want to see a pretty sunset.

The long and short of it is I love the way the shadow line marches down the driveway and out into the field beyond.
Now, this might appear to be a high tech way of watching paint dry, but my paint is way cooler than your paint.

Authors note – I am not one to believe in coincidences of any sort. Either you is or you ain’t and don’t even bring up that guy on the grassy knoll (If you don’t know what I am talking about, my lawn, be gone from it). That’s just how I’m wired. Today, 1 week after getting Pi Blanc and Pi Noir and their little buddy BB Black (another micro computer that does cool stuff) up and running, I am sitting at the table, eating grapes. The cool thing about these 3 amigos is they stream live video of what they are looking at, to my computer. I know, so 21st century and all. So, I looked up at my computer screen and dang near choked on a grape. There was a skinny bedraggled chic sitting in my front yard, looking for all the world like she’s the living embodiment of the Grateful Dead’s One Toke Over The Line. My first thought was, where the heck is Mr Sweet Pea’s barking? I think I might have blurted out loud to the Mrs “There’s some meth chic sitting in our front yard.” WHAT? she exclaimed! We’ve lived here for dang near 10 years. Never had anything close to this happen or have we, you might query? How would we know if I didn’t have robotic eyes peeping everywhere.

Strange ChicMakes you wonder. Anyway, I went out with my best used car salesman’s smile said Hello. She jumped a bit, being somewhat surprised that the property she chose for her stay, was, you know, occupied. Those nagging little details. She vaguely stated that she just needed some shade. Now, we’ve been doing some mowing and upkeep to the place, so I could maybe see where it might, sorta, look like a public park, 12 miles from nowhere. It was hot and I am not always one for being a jerk right off the bat, although some might ague about that, but I told her that’s fine, she could take in some of our shade if she needed to. She seemed a bit flighty, in a breezy sorta way, but I guess you would, perching in somebody else’s yard, without a real good excuse. I went back in the house and the Wife jumped me with twenty questions about the whole deal. I told her shush, she might hear us.  This is where we stop and ponder on our upper Midwest upbringing. We, Lutherans in particular, will worry that a complete “rode hard and put away wet” stranger would hear our conversation and feel bad and thereby become bad people ourselves. I think we were lectured, not too long ago by some guy, who said, “This is not who we are.” Yeah, that guy, I don’t think he was Lutheran so he can stuff it. Well, by this time she musta got enough shade, or probably heard us yipping like excited coyotes and decided she better mosey down the road.

She wasn’t even all the way down the driveway and I was busy reviewing the video archives and found she came from the back of the property, which is pretty woolly back there. Strange. Then the Mrs mentioned that a car had driven real slow and almost stopped a couple hours before,  but Sweet Pea barked at them and they drove off. Well, at least the dang dog is good for somethin’.

Wouldn’t you know it, the, um, bedraggled chic shows up again, about 2o minutes later. Clearly, we are about to be ax murdered or she has cognitive, uh I mean car trouble. She asked if she could get some water and said she had a flat, up the road. Asked also if I had a tire iron, cause she didn’t. Well, we stopped using bottled water a couple of weeks ago and that meant I was gonna have to give her a real glass of water and sort of regretted having to toss out a perfectly good glass, and now were are going to be short one water glass, but I got her some water anyway and gave her the bad news.

About that tire iron. I had to pause a moment, envisioning her skinny arms wrestling somebody eles’s tire iron (not what you think, ya perverts). See, honey, we don’t get flats out here on the prairie, so we don’t have the need for tire irony stuff. How bout a lovely can of fix a flat and we call it a day. I’d have to say she was a bit miffed that I pulled a rabbit Hittin the roadouta my hat and meekly if not a bit confusedly, took her door prize and shambled on her way. I operate on the hoary old Scottish proverb of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Not that it wasn’t anything other than what it seemed, but we got meth coming out of our ears in these rural areas and Jesus is probably gonna give me a scolding, but she looked the part. I sat on the front porch with the dog and a shotgun for the resta the day. Made me wish I had a jug of shine and a rocking chair and maybe a banjo in the background to complete the image. Other than that, nothing new here, how ’bout you?