taking one frame at a time since 1999

I have read posts, primarily from 2012-2015, regarding the use of Panasonic Lumix FZ50 with an analog/digital converter to get a live view out while in record mode. But now that it's 2021, does anyone have any updates on more modern frame grabbers that this setup can work with? The consensus seems to conclude that Dragonframe is the only choice to use for frame grabbing today. Does anyone have a solution for connecting FZ50's converted out into Dragonframe?

The features DF offers may be more than I need. Any opinion on other frame grabbing software options for use with FZ50?

Thank you for any help. Very appreciated.

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DF is not the only option, but it has become the industry standard.

I found Stop Motion Pro used to be just as good as DF, but it only runs on a Windows PC so I switched to DF to run it on my Mac.   Haven't used SMP since my PC died 6 years ago. I don't know if the current version of SMP, Eclipse, supports the FZ50 or not, will look at their website... 

Doesn't look like it.  The cameras page mentions webcams, video cameras, and Canon and Nikon DSLRs:

The Dragonframe camera list has some Panasonic Lumix cameras, but not the FZ50, and it states that if the camera is not in the list, it is not supported.  DF really is aimed mostly at professionals and serious amateurs using DSLR cameras (or the Canon R and RP mirrorless, which are DSLR-like).

There would be awkward work-arounds like I used to have to do with film cameras, where I captured from a video camera to see my animation, but the final image was on film.  You could capture with Stop Motion Studio on a tablet or smartphone in order to see your animation and get the moves right, but also taking each frame with the Lumix (using a cable or remote shutter if possible so you don't jiggle the camera).  Then you transfer all the frames from the Lumix to your computer for editing and fixing up, when the shot is finished.  Stop Motion Studio is cheap, runs on iOS and Android, and can lock the exposure and focus on the phone camera (at least on the iPhone and iPad I tested it on), and lets you click back and forth to compare the live view with the previously shot frames.  It uses the video function rather than stills, so in low light the image can be  bit grainy, but it does shoot in HD, maybe even 4k on newer devices. But I would not use it for the final images, just for gauging the moves.  It would not line up perfectly with the FZ50 camera position, but neither did my video camera next to the film camera.

I think it would be better moving to a Canon DSLR and DF.

Thank you so much, Nick! Truly clear and helpful. That was my recent although reluctant plan.

I keep feeling like there must be another solution for shooting that's right in front of me that I'm just not seeing.

The Apple silicone chip M1 laptops are getting great reviews and an M1 iMac Pro desktop is expected in a few months (?). Might be worth replacing my 12-year-old Apple with any M1 option.

Husband suggested I look at using DF tether (their phone app) and a tablet or phone with add-on pro lenses to actually shoot, for ease of positioning inside tight sets. Consulting your youtube videos for possibilities there.

I'm walking on the edge of being what I am, a total amateur with zero mainstream aspirations and wanting to make this the best work that I can. People like the Calari Bros. seem to marginalize non-professional work as being less-than. Whereas people such as yourself, are constantly supportive and encouraging to everyone interested in the art, decade after decade, time after time after time.

For all of us, Thank you.

I'm waiting to see what Apple come up with for the larger 27" iMac with M1 Max chip next year.   (I have a 13 year old Mac for frame grabbing, and an 8 year old iMac I use for the internet.) It might be that some of my most-used software will take a while before it runs on the new platform, or the specialised apps from smaller companies may never have a native version... but it seems silly to get one of the last Intel processor Macs when we know they will soon be out of production and stop being supported in a few years.  I think Dragonframe will be updated though, and Da Vinci Resolve which I now edit with (and which is a pro editor, but free).

I know you have ideas about interesting lens and filter effects to give your Halfland a particular look, and it may be that you can apply that to a phone cam as well as to a DSLR.  Some add-on lenses for phones might go a bit soft around the edges, but that could fit in with the atmosphere you are creating.  

I don't know about DF Tether - I'll have to look it up.  Still images from current phones are very good, and with a still image you can take a longer exposure, but video is limited by the fact that it is designed to the 24 or 30 frames a second, so you have less than 1/24th of a sec for each exposure (it has to start and end that exposure, save it, and be ready for the next one) - even though you are grabbing a single frame at a time with Stop Motion Studio.  

I looked -

Interesting, if you already have Dragonframe 4 or 5, you can use DF Tether, it does not cost any extra to install it on your phone or iPad.  My old Mac won't run DF 4, and my iMac has DF 3 and I could upgrade, but it is not in the studio, I need it here in the house.  So I can't test it without buying an upgrade on a computer I am not using for grabbing.  It looks like Tether might be grabbing a still image, not the video, which would make a big difference in quality. (I understand Jpeg images, but never heard of DNG images... ok, googled, it's a Digital raw image.) But there may still be no way to manually set exposure times and aperture, phone cameras are designed for auto operation and locking in the settings the phone is using (like StopMotion Studio does) might be all the control you have.  So, interesting, and a way to open up DF to people who have not invested in a DSLR camera, but I really like traditional manual lenses and controls.

iPhones are certainly not cheaper than low or mid-level Canon EOS cameras (An iPhone 13 Pro costs double what any of my DSLRs did), but if you already have one, that cuts costs. It looks like it might be easier to set up on iOS than on Android.

Huge thanks again, Nick. Really helpful to speak with you about this.

No, I don't own any Apple phones, only the 09 iMac currently.

Loads of unknowables in this camera/editing machine/software decision. If, as you point out, the iPad Pro camera doesn't really shoot still images, just a short video that is then isolated to a single frame, I can imagine the flicker/exposure for stop motion must be extreme. May be willing to try it to see.

In my fantasy, I'm shooting the film on an M1 iPad, using that screen only to compose the shot, triggering the shutter with a no-touch/Bluetooth release. Using another, less costly tablet, perhaps second-hand, as the DF monitor? I think that's the point where I'm getting muddled up. How can I use a touch screen, like an M1 iPad Pro or an M1 16" iMac Pro, as the camera and DF monitor, touching/moving the screen to flip, etc.?

I could certainly edit on either M1, clearly. And because of my desire for softness, as you rightly said, their onboard cameras should be more than resolution enough. Heck, some are shooting live-action movies on the new phones, but maybe the phone cameras are superior. In my case, though the increase in quality may be negligible. No plans for big-screen viewings, just small, and in some cases very very small screens.

Talking with you I realize two things. That no choice will be everything. I have to make a choice and work with those results. And two, that there will be much about those choices I won't be able to fully utilize. I'm more interested in building my world visually than I could ever be at understanding tech equipment.

I feel a straight DSLR camera like the Canon EOS RP with pre-installed Dragonframe firmware (released in May 2020) hooked up to a computer monitor, saving those frames to an SD card, loading the SD card to an editing computer to edit and finish is great but maybe bulkier than it needs to be at this point?

May end up with some version of that. But also trying to look at what other options might be slightly more direct, lighter, smaller, and immediate. That's an ironic spec given my hyper slow speed. 

With my iPad (3rd Gen) when I tested Stop Motion Studio, I found the camera would adjust the brightness, white balance, and focus automatically, but then you could lock it at that setting.  So there was no flicker or shifting focus.  But in my case, since my lighting is designed to work with long exposures on a still camera, it wasn't bright enough for the short exposures that video takes.  I added some lights, but it was still using some Gain to brighten it, and that makes the image grainy.  It doesn't actually shoot some video and edit it down, it just gives you the live video view, like before you hit the record button, and the app captures a single frame from that.  Apart from that, the app did all I wanted it to. It would be great for learning, without spending heaps on cameras and lenses. But I would rather capture the higher res still image if I could. An iPad is not the greatest camera (phones are better), certainly not that older model, but it is the biggest and best viewfinder, so there was no need to see the image on a computer screen as well.  With a phone, though, the screen is too small to gauge small puppet moves, and the bigger screen would help.

But after all of that, I feel that the years of work and gorgeous detail you have put into Halfland are worth recording with the type of camera that is being used for stop motion feature films, and which is available to amateurs at a relatively modest price - a Canon DSLR, Nikon manual lenses, and a computer with Dragonframe.  Or the RP with firmware, for that much bigger live view.  That would connect to the computer, so there is no need to save the images to the camera's SD card.  DF will save the hi res images to a folder.  I do my editing on my other computer, at my desk in the house, so I do transfer the files from the oldest Mac in the studio via a USB thumb drive, but if the newer computer was in the studio I would do it all there.   I don't think you could get a less bulky set-up than a Canon RP on a tripod, connected to a laptop or iMac on a table or stand next to it.

I looked into the RP mirrorless camera but found I can't buy it with Dragonframe firmware pre-installed in Australia.  I would have to buy it, send it to Canon, and pay them to install it, then get it sent back to me.  There are some other costs I would be up for - an adapter to the regular Canon lens mount, so I could then fit my Nikon lenses with their Canon adapters. Or maybe some adapters that go direct from the mirrorless R camera to the Nikon lenses.  I would look into cheap Chinese 3rd party adapters.  I would also want an AC power adapter so the camera is not running on battery power, also probably a cheap 3rd party one as Canon charge a lot for theirs.  Much as I would like the big live view, my Canon 7d is working fine so I can't justify the expense.  But if I had to get a new camera I would probably go with the RP.

Well, that clears that up! Thank you, Nick. I concede and will take this advice.

I've got to jump in somewhere. I thought I'd already "jumped" back in 09 when I bought the FZ50 and iMac but the equipment and software jumped again and won't work with older gear.

And the newest stuff, as you say, doesn't offer comparable capture at this point.

I don't care for the idea of spending so much again on principle, preferring to hobble along with reused gear when possible, but I guess if it isn't a fit I can always pass it along to someone else. Mike generously gave me his first webcam many years ago (2005! yipes!) to get the feel of shooting.

I loved it from the first. Did you ever see my first ever test shot in 1/2L?

Thank you, again.

Yeah, I know, stuff goes out of date too quickly.  

I didn't see that cat test before, only some Bug's Ball stuff I think... Cat and sofa are great, and the warm hazy light over everything.

Funny seeing that now, when I am working on an orange cat for a joint project (the longer version of the StopmoJam entry from Roos and Dan). You did a nicer job with the stripes!   

But this is amazing! Yet another example of us echoing puppets! I loved this years' Jam and that entry was especially fun. So glad y'all will be extending the story! Nice to see Dan is going strong and thanks to you, will look up Roos right away!


You could give Tahoma2D a chance. It free open source and runs on the same code as studio Ghibli uses. Except that this version is opened for stopmotion. But I don't know if it can support your camera, it's build to support canon DSLRs and web cams. But you could try, it's free and runs on Mac os and doesn't call for the newest hardware. If you try it out give a word. All the best...

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