For shooting webcam videos using my TOUcams and ATK cameras, I use either the Philips Vrecord software supplied with the camera (see Figure 7.5) or the processing software IRIS. Both have straightforward control systems, and accessing the parameters is quick and easy.
First, the observer should click on the appropriate command to view a live streaming preview image from the camera and approximately focus the image. This will now be used to set the various parameters and later the fine focus of the image. Do not select frame rates higher than 10fps as this will result in very heavily compressed raw frames. I use either 5fps or 10fps, and these settings produce excellent results. The camera gain setting should be between ~20% and 70% for good results (adjust the slider bar in the camera software to choose the right level). Once these settings are defined, spend time carefully focusing the live video. If the seeing (and telescope!) is good you will easily note the point of precise focus. When imaging at lower altitudes (below 40°) the observer should insert an IR rejection filter, or the AVI frames will be smeared by atmospheric dispersion effects.
Since the planets rotate at different rates, there is a limited time in which to acquire all the frames for an image, which varies from planet to planet. This
means around ~2 minutes for Jupiter and ~5 minutes for Saturn and Mars. For objects such as the Moon and Sun the imaging window can be much longer so this isn't really an issue. Venus also has a much longer imaging window.
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Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.