April 17, 2015

This year’s fireworks show started off looking very good, but as the day drew closer, I went from good to bad, to the worst 4th of July ever. First, it was looking like rain was going to happen but the weather forecasters kept changing it due to high uncertainty or something. Second, as I was going to the location, something happened that resulted in a very long 70-minute delay. Third, as I finally got to the location, it began to rain off and on repeatedly, once being very strong rain. This really messed up a lot of things. The last 2 combined costed almost 2 hours and I didn’t get an opportunity to use up all of my fireworks. I was almost about to give up because of the constant off and on rain. Thanks to that, I had to rush through my day time stuff which meant big combos, especially my favorite where I have yet to get 2 full boxes to go off: “crackling smoke in a box”. I mainly just randomly scatter things in there. Knowing that the smoke balls emit a ton of heat, I should redesign this so that the smoke balls always point down, except for the starter one that sets off the whole chain.

Unlike previous years, I have a tripod this year. Thanks to the wind, I couldn’t get as steady of shots as I had hoped for. However, I was, at least, able to get some extreme close ups of things. You’ve never seen fireworks in this level of detail before. I even threw in slowed down video of the firecrackers just so you can get a sense on how fast this is (it’s 1/4x real speed). My camcorder can’t record faster than 30 fps and it’s interlaced to make things worse. The camcorder is about 5 or so years old by now though so it’s quite out of date.

I also didn’t get to use up all my fireworks – I ran out of time because of all these unexpected, big delays. I wanted to chain 8 of the “memory storm” together. I have 2 full packs of “Dakota Dynamite” left (individualized firecrackers). I have that “Tasmanian Devil” one and, perhaps, still a few others. Oh well, at least it’s not all a total loss – I can save them for next year! Who knows what fortunes, etc. 2015 will bring.

The nighttime stuff, at least, went quite well. The “You Betcha” firework was the first one. Distance and the high wind drowned out my voice. I didn’t think of it until after the third of the nighttime fireworks were shot off. I did some skillful editing to bring in the second and third ones, but I completely left out the “You Betcha” one.

I also wanted to do an experiment. Since the sky cleared, I saw the stars come out. Knowing that my camera was very poorly sensitive to the stars, I thought of a way to work around that. What you see in the original is a tremendous amount of noise. With skillful programming where I simply add up the pixel color data from several frames together then divide to keep the pixels within a 0 to 255 range, subtract an amount that grids of the bulk of the noise by reducing it to 0, then multiply this by some number to maximize contrast. It may only be 5 seconds, but that’s actually 5 minutes of real world time, enough so that you can see the Earth’s spin. What you see here, however, is very close to the limit of my camcorder. I pushed out all that I can from it. Of course, if you have a sensitive, quality camera, you could get an insanely sharp video of the stars using this method, to the point where you have to find the very darkest of skies you can (not to mention an image stabilizer). Gotta love being able to program and mathematically think things through to really make the most out of something! Whoever knew that the Sony Handycam HDR-CX110 could even capture stars of about magnititue +2 (I can’t confirm the real limit as there’s plenty of false stars in there as well)! It’s not perfect, but it’s reasonably close but I’ve reached the limit.

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