Using qDslrDashboard with the Sony a6000

January 2, 2016
photography sony-a6000

Most of my posts are going to be something technology related but I do happen to have other interests. For a while now, I’ve had a Sony a6000 that I’ve been very happy with. I’m very much an amateur at photography but I find it fun and I like the images I get of my family more than the ones I can get from my iPhone. So I’ve been slowly trying to level up my photography skills. I’m definitely not over 9000 yet, but maybe one day I’ll get there.

This Christmas, I finally got a tripod and it has gotten me interested in trying to do some time lapse photography. Sony has a time lapse app but I wanted to see what other options were out there. After a bit of Googling, I came across DslrDashboard. Confusingly, the apps have been renamed to qDslrDashboard, but there is an app for just about every platform.

Since I own two iDevices, I went ahead and threw down the $10 it cost for the iOS app. At first, I was hoping to find a free option to do time lapse, but I definitely feel better giving a developer my ten dollars instead of just throwing it at Sony. Since I didn’t have my iPad right on hand, I started trying things out with my iPhone. It took me a while to figure out how to get the app to work with my phone, and honestly, I’m still not 100% sure how to get the thing to work consistently every time. Here’s what it took me to get my camera and my iPhone running the qDslrDashboard app running.

  • Go to https://www.playmemoriescameraapps.com/portal/
  • Create an account (PlayStation Network account, ugh.)
  • Go to Menu -> Applications

    Application list on the a6000

  • Select PlayMemories Camera Apps

    Application select PlayMemories Camera Apps on the a6000

  • Find Smart Remote Control app
  • Install it

I still feel pretty gross about having to create a PlayStation Network account, but there you go, all the steps to get the Smart Remote Control updated.

Getting qDslrDashboard and the a6000 working together

To get the a6000 to be controlled remotely, you have to open the Smart Remote Control application. This is as simple as going from Meny -> Applications -> Application List -> Smart Remote Control. Once you open the Smart Remote Control app, the a6000 will create a WiFi network. Simply connect your device to that network using the SSID and Password from the screen and the camera will start in remote control mode.

This is where it gets a little odd with the qDslrDashboard app.

Tap the button until it works

The first tap of the Sony Wireless button has not worked for me, I often have to press multiple times until it works. A little weird, but it does eventually work!

Once you’ve tapped the Sony wireless connection button enough times, you’ll be greeted with this screen of buttons. I don’t know for sure if qDslrDashboard defaults to using a live view, but if it does you’ll see what the camera is seeing as well. Otherwise you can tap the little Lv button in the top left corner.

To get to the time lapse portion, you need to tap the time lapse button on the right.

The time lapse button

The time lapse screen has a whole bunch of options to choose from. In the image below, I captured a sample, it then displays a bunch of information about the image you took to help you figure out what settings you’ll need to make the time lapse. I don’t know what much of that means, but one day I will!

The time lapse screen

At the most basic level, you really just need to scroll down and click the stopwatch icon. The stopwatch icon will let you configure the interval timer which is the heart of doing the time lapse.

The time lapse interval timer screen

Setting the interval timer is pretty simple, but you do have to think a little bit about it. When I first set it up, I wasn’t really reading what the screen was trying to tell me. I set a frame count and then set the interval to 20 minutes. In my mind it was going to take pictures until the 20 minutes ran out. When nothing happened for a minute or two, I realized my mistake.

The time lapse interval timer setup

If you want to have a time lapse go for a specific amount of time, you need to factor in two things. The interval, which is how long to wait between shots, and the frame count. The frame count is exactly what it sounds like, the number of frames to capture. So, if I wanted to shoot for an hour and I was taking a frame every second, I need to work backwards to get the number of frames.

If I have an interval of 5 seconds, it is going to look something like this:

(60 seconds / a frame every 5 seconds) * 60 minutes = 720 frames

So to capture an hour of time at 1 frame every 5 seconds, I need 720 frames total. This will capture an hours worth of time, I do wish qDslrDashboard had a way to say how long to capture as well, but it isn’t too difficult to figure out on my own.

After that you simply press start and the camera will start taking pictures at the interval. Easy! So how about after you’ve taken the pictures? Well, after some Googling and playing around I’ve found two different ways to use the time lapse. One is by making a gif and the other making a movie.

Resizing the images

Since the a6000 takes 24 megapixel (roughly 6000x4000), I resize the images first. This is where ImageMagick comes in handy. The script below will find all the images and use ImageMagick’s mogrify command to resize the images in place.

1for file in *.jpg do;
2  mogrify -resize 3840x2160^ -gravity center -crop 3840x2160+0+0 +repage $file
3done

I got this from this great post.

Note: This script resizes images in place, I do this because I export the pictures from Apple Photos. If you don’t want to resize the actual image, you can add -write resized/$file before the last $file. This will write out all the images to a resized folder.

Depending on how you want the images cropped, you might want to play with the -gravity setting. This script will crop all the images directly in the center of the image. The 3840x2160^ resizes the image to a 4k resolution but will preserve the smaller of the width or height.

I’ve played around with resizing images with ImageMagick before, but the credit for this script goes to Dan Loewenherz’s great blog post Making a time-lapse on the command line using FFmpeg and ImageMagick. There are many great tips from his post, so you should go read it.

Turning the images into a gif

If your time lapse is pretty short, you can convert to an animated gif quite easily using ImageMagick. The command looks something like:

1convert *.jpg -set delay 1 my-time-lapse.gif

This is the most basic way to create an animated gif from a series of images. This only works if the Jpeg files are ordered. You can play around with the -delay time and see how it turns out. ImageMagick also has a million other things you can do so take a look at the docs.

Turning the images into a movie

Once you have the images resized how you want them, converting to a movie using ffmpeg is pretty simple.

1ffmpeg -framerate <some number> -start_number 1 -i image%04d.jpg -c:v libx264 -pix_fmt yuv420p <filename>.mp4

This command will take the series of images and put them together into an MP4 video file. The -c:v libx264 command tells ffmpeg to encode the video using the libx264 codec. This will encode it as an h264 video. The -pix_fmt option sets the pixel format of the video. This is the color format of the video, video players will use it to know how to display the video properly.

And with that, you will have the final product! Ffmpeg has a ton of option and is a very powerful tool, I’m certain I will have more to write about using ffmpeg to convert or create videos.

End Result

Edit: Feburary 6, 2016:

Here is a sample video I made of a sunset.