homeward bound English expats drive north through France at 2,500 mph

A qualified success

After 3 months I’m still obsessed with my GoPro Hero 4’s still image time lapse feature.

The annual long drive back to England seemed like the perfect chance to do something epic with it.

It didn’t turn out quite how I expected.

Mistakes to avoid to record a 12 hour road trip in time lapse

I’ve mainly used the camera on bike rides up to a couple of hours long, which made me too optimistic about battery life. Even 3 fully charged batteries weren’t enough for the 12-plus hour drive.

I also didn’t fully think through how I was going to change the battery while we were on the move, especially when the camera was in its sealed case and I was taking my turn at driving.

And the weather wasn’t great.

The result is three separate episodes of rain driving that don’t quite cover the whole journey through France.

Beziers to Calais by road at 2,500 mph

In real time it takes about 12 hours to drive roughly 800 miles up the middle of France. Time lapse video reduces this to just over 14 minutes.

Some finger in the air maths, with an adjustment for the missing parts of the journey, gives an effective speed of 2,500 mph. Ish.

Driving duties were shared democratically between the two of us. As a rule of thumb, though, the worse the weather looks, the less likely i was behind the wheel.

The first section, above, takes us from the outskirts of Beziers, up the A75 motorway in the dark, to the Millau viaduct at sunrise. The camera expires somewhere near Vieillespesse.

This second section takes us north on the A71 from the “aire” (rest stop) at l’Allier Doyet to an outer suburb of Paris, les Ulis.

The second battery expired as we reached the outskirts of Paris. I was the navigator-passenger at that point, so I was able to do a reasonably quick change while we were on the move.

The third and final section takes us north from les Ulis and through the notorious Paris peripherique traffic jams, finally picking up the A16 for the final run towards Calais.

The third battery gave up about 20 minutes short of Calais.

 

Time lapse video details

I fixed the camera, in its sealed case on a mount, to the dashboard with Blu-tack.

The 4:3 ratio still camera images were oversized enough to crop a 16:9 ratio video that doesn’t show much of the unwanted details like the edge of the dashboard and the windscreen wiper hinges.

The time lapse recorded an image every 5 seconds.

The rendered video is effectively eight frames per second. Video setting 24 fps, 3 frames per still image. It’s what I’ve been using on my bike videos. It’s not as smooth as 16 fps or above, but I think you register the image.

If I ever try this again maybe I’ll try a higher recording frame rate for smoother video.

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