Time-lapse video of a dehydrating Magnolia Biondii seed pod

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Play the video below to watch a seed pod of a Magnolia Biondii tree dehydrate, over a period of 2½ days.

Fig 1. Video of a dehydrating Magnolia Biondii seed pod, over a period of 2½ days.

About the seed pods

Not visible here, each orange seed is connected to the pod by a bundle of white thread-like fibers that extend as the seed is pulled away from the pod, for several centimeters before finally separating. One reference says this is so the seeds will become suspended, attracting birds by their movement. Here in Ottawa/Canada, the seeds are popular with Eastern Grey Squirrels (well before any thread-enabled suspension). Here's more information: Magnolia (Wikipedia).

Production notes

Fig 2. Camera, subject, and lighting

This time-lapse video was produced from a sequence of still images taken at 3 minute intervals by a tethered Canon A75 digital camera, using Canon's 'Remote Capture' software (part of Canon's 'ZoomBrowser'). The camera was powered by an AC adapter.

Incandescent lighting was used so as to provide heat to dehydrate the seed pod (a 100W bulb). Custom white balance was set using a white sheet of paper. The camera was in manual mode, macro, manual focus, medium zoom, ISO 50, 1/4 second, f/6.3. The photography was done in a dark basement so as to be unaffected by daily light cycles.

The collected images (2048 x 1526 pixels) were decimated by a factor of 6, to an interval of 18 minutes, reducing the count to 201 images.

The images were cropped to fill the frame with one seed pod, and a small clock image was added to the bottom-left corner of each image using a Photoshop script (addClock_cs6.jsx) that rotates the clock hands according to time stamps of the image files. Other clock images and hands could be used by simply modifying the base clock image in clock_hourHand.psd. The Photoshop script language documentation is in a sub-folder where Abode s/w is installed; the script development environment (editor and debugger), called Extended Script Toolkit 2 (part of Photoshop), is helpful.

The images were merged into a video using VirtualDub (1.10.4). Two filters were used: Deflicker by Donald Graft (loaded separetely; use google to find it), and the built-in 'resize', to reduce the image sizes by 50%. Frame rate was set to 30, video compression to 'no compression'. The output is an uncompressed AVI file (considerably larger than the sum of the input images).

After Effects (CS3) was used to make a stand-alone video for YouTube, and to make the video on this web page (which has a black margin at the bottom to accommodate HTML5 video controllers). I wasn't able to get good results using After Effect's MPEG-4 compression (maybe because my version, CS3, is somewhat dated), so instead I generated lossless output (rendering using 'Video for Windows Movie') from After Effects and then did compression using HandBrake (0.10.2), using an MP4 container and H.264 encoding, at quality level '18'.

Nov 2015