How to get rid of flicker when making time lapse movies from D200 intervalometer shoots

When making time lapse movie of DSLR intervalometer shot sequences, there is an inevitable flicker in the resulting video because there are tiny variations in where the aperture is set every time a shot is taken.  This is a large problem, encountered in major movies such as Corpse Bride and other stop animation major films. There are incredibly expensive cameras available to do this sort of shooting.  However, the D200 on its Small-Fine setting has just sightly more resolution than HD 1080p video.  Thus, it is possible to create time lapse HD footage with a Nikon D200 or other equivalent camera.  The only problem, not a small one, is to surmount in the inter-frame variations in exposure due to not perfectly accurate aperture repeatability. Here is an example:

Click on the below Quicktime samples. They are 600kB to 1.5MB, so they take a moment to download.

This sample has the flicker problem:
Flickering sample 1

However, if the D200 is set to manual aperture control rather than sub-command dial control, the camera relies on the aperture ring of the lens to make the stop when shooting.   These three sequences do not exhibit the flickering after reverting to aperture ring mode on the aperture setting of the D200.  Menu option f5, set to aperture ring rather than sub-command dial.

Bland sunset non-flicker

“Billow clouds are created from instability associated with air flows having marked vertical shear and weak thermal stratification. The common name for this instability is Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. These instabilities are often visualized as a row of horizontal eddies aligned within this layer of vertical shear.” – University of Illinois
Billow clouds non-flicker #1
Billow clouds non-flicker #2

The aperture ring trick was suggested by Bjorn Rorslett who is probably the most knowledgeable people about the inner workings of Nikon cameras outside of the engineers who create them.  Here is the posting where he explains why regular aperture selection does not work:

“Reprogram your D200 to allow the apertures to be set using the ring on the lens.  When you rely on the camera’s dial to set the aperture, there will be unavoidable variations as the lens stops down. This is because the camera *calculates* the necessary movement of the actuating lever, and also controls its end-point of travel.  If you instead order the camera to rely on the lens, the actuating lever hits a dead solid stop inside the lens instead, thus minimizing the variation in actual aperture.”

Note – The above videos lined through were removed when we updated our site.

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