1050mph Virtual Rocket Camera

Warning! No Rocket involved! Collaborative Open Art Project.

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I want make a moving time lapse video chasing a sunset at ground level from the east to the west coast of the U.S., but firing rockets at high speeds over populated areas inside controlled airspace is kind of illegal. This could be faked by having cameras set up in a straight line, evenly distributed over a long distance, but impossible for one person.
This will require hundreds of volunteer amateur videographers. I need your help. Anyone interested?

Status: 4 volunteers so far!

Concept: Start on the east coast of the US. When sunset peaks, start taking frames of the video while moving west at a speed that keeps the apparent angle of the sun in the same position almost below the horizon. End at the west coast.

Desired Outcome: A time lapse video of colorful clouds shooting overhead, more beautiful than fireworks.

Purist Issues: It needs to be the same sunset on the same day. It will require hundreds of volunteers to take a short high quality video all on the same day, at the same time, at the same angle. Each person in a different physical location according to a time line map.

Concept Oversimplified: Cameras set up in many locations on a line across the US, each take a picture at the right time, then each frame is pasted together to make a video chasing the sunset. The problem with that is I have this gut feeling it would make a horrible video, looking like a bunch of random pictures flipping by.

The Solution: Virtual Time Manipulation.
Each location takes a video of the sunset. I tediously go through each video to pick the most appropriate frames that best match the previous and next locations. I can also add or subtract frames to slow down or speed up to the next locations to get the best lighting. The result is not a consistent virtual speed over the ground, but a fluctuating speed that captures the best overall scene over all the locations.

  • Setting Some Basic Rules

    frankstripod03/17/2015 at 08:08 0 comments

    Everyone is welcome! Please volunteer!

    Don't feel like your not in the right place on the map, because I may plot several
    courses not outlined here, even around the world.

    Don't feel like your not qualified or don't even have the equipment, because even I will have to borrow or steal a video camera for this. Some may end up contributing in other ways

    Your video may or may not be used, but your participation is always appreciated!

    If you "Followed" or gave a "Skull," thank you so much for your support, but that does not mean you volunteered to help.

    There are still a lot of details missing, and I am hoping to get a lot of community input as this gets larger.

    If you volunteer, I would like to add your profile name as a project team member, and put an unlabeled place marker on my map for the general location of your town. If you would prefer to keep that private, please send me a private message saying so.

    We might need to do several partial test runs.

    I might ask you for a photo or video from your location only, as a test.

    We may have to do this more than once to get it right.

    I am calling this an "Open Art Project," which means that me or no one else is doing this for money. We all participate, and we all share it for free. So that I can keep the true spirit of "openess"…

    If you volunteer, you agree to the following rules:

    • All videos and pictures are yours and have no copyrights or other bindings.
    • You release all rights without compensation for all materials, videos and pictures.
    • Please make sure there are no advertisements, product names, company or group endorsements, video overlays, water marks, or illegal activities in your videos or pictures.
    • These rules may change at any time, and its up to you to keep up with them.

  • Earths rotational speed vs latitude, and how wrong I was about 1050mph

    frankstripod03/15/2015 at 01:11 0 comments

    Like most people I criticize, I myself started spewing "facts" as an authority about a subject after only a one minute internet search. It seamed pretty straight forward in the first 60 seconds of my ignorance:
    Circumference x Time = Speed.
    The article below sums up an "apparent solar day," taking into account the Earth's rotation around the sun, but more importantly, how latitude effects your relative speed of the sun to the horizon. Near the equator your speed reaches about 1040mph (1673km/h), but as you move up north (or south away from the equator,) the circumference traveled reduces. (specially "Angular speed" section):

    The simple rough equation to approximate your speed (tangent speed of Earth's rotation according to latitude) is:
    Current speed = Speed at the equator x COS(Angel of latitude in degrees)
    V = Veq Cos(A)

    More accurately, if you like math, circumference (C) of the distance traveled at the point of your latitude (A in degrees) is,
    C = 2πRcos(A)
    Where R is the radius of the Earth at the equator, then,
    Velocity = C / T
    Where T is time in hours for one "sidereal day," as mentioned here:

    This makes for some interesting estimations by my calculations:

    • Equator = 1040mph = 1673km/h
    • Florida = 912mph = 1468km/h
    • Colorado = 809mph = 1303km/h
    • Alaska = 446mph = 718km/h

    Which means you only need about half the speed to chase the sun in Nome Alaska as compared to Cape Canaveral Florida.

    This has very little to do with the virtual portion of this project, but would make the possibility of a real rocket project much more feasible.

  • Rocket vs People

    frankstripod03/15/2015 at 00:32 9 comments

    For clarity: This project will stay as the virtual rocket. If a physical rocket becomes a reality, it will fork into its own separate project.

    Yeah I want a rocket!!! What hacker wouldn't jump at the opportunity to put a nose cone on a tube of explosives and watch it as they push the detonator :) If I had the resources I probably would have blown up a really nice video recorder by now.
    In the first moments of developing this project of chasing the sun, I thought what any sane hacker would; "How can I get a vehicle over a 1000mph?" A rocket might fit that solution nicely.

    Log Objective: Start to determine the advantages and disadvantages for real rocket and a virtual rocket for this project, for the unlikely chance I might get to do both!

    Virtual Advantages:

    • No government authorities or restrictions, and no minimum altitude or speed.
    • Ground level perspective familiar to most people, but at speeds normally only seen from orbit.
    • Low cost.
    • Time line manipulation.
    • A large number of people socially or emotionally benefit from all participating in a large Community Open Art Project that we all own.

    Virtual Disadvantages:

    • Dead zones where no one will volunteer, causing gaps.
    • Human factor: Many of the people I have met in this world can't even program their own TV. How could a simple guy like me get a mass of people to all operate a camera the same way at the same time? I am not saying its impossible. I would have also dismissed artistic flash mobs and crowdfunding if you asked me before they happened. Maybe in a subconscious way I really want to see this work to restore my faith in humans and art. Maybe we could all use a little of that.

    Rocket Advantages:

    • Rocket engines have a fantastic power to weight ratio.
    • Speed may be just fast enough to get what I need. (because I was initially wrong about the Earths rotation and the speeds I would need.)
    • No need to have an enormous amount of locations, thus eliminating volunteers and human error.
    • Rockets are freaking Cool!

    Rocket Disadvantages:

    • I have not found any information of anyone doing stable horizontal rocket flight. Isn't this the type of thing that sets off red flags for governments?
    • Getting a precise launch time would be impossible. Knowing when the ideal light is best over the entire length of the trip would be a guess, thus requiring at least several launches.
    • Burn times stink! Even with multiple stages, my ideal 3000 mile (4828km) video may be impossible anywhere on this planet. This chart seemed to closely match other data I found for hobby rockets:

    Stolen from:

    This Log Inspired by "Buzz Giver"@Dimitar Tomov

  • First Log

    frankstripod03/12/2015 at 02:25 9 comments

    First Log: Original description and mixed thoughts.

    I want make a moving (1050mph minimum) time lapse video of a sunset at ground level, but fireing rockets at high speeds over populated areas inside controlled airspace is kind of illegal. This could be faked by having cameras set up in a straight line, evenly distributed over a long distance, but impossible for one person.

    This will require thousands of volunteer photographers. Anyone interested?

    The long boring confession: I have been doing photography for a very very long time. I love watching the sunrise and sunset, even more than robots. One day I was traveling west between 300-400mph (not exact, I was not paying attention at the time), and staring at a beautiful sunset unfolding through my window. Because I was chasing the sun on the horizon, I thought this will be the longest sunset I have seen. This is not a desired thing among most humans, because I have only encountered a handful of people with enough patience to sit through an entire sunset, let alone a sunrise. I wondered how fast I would need to go to make it last indefinitely.

    Set Up:

    Need to set up volunteer map:

    Got four already! I am looking for a straight line, but will take what I can get.

    Need to set up equipment and video requirements:

    Orientation: It would be nice if everyone had the same camera on the same settings, but I think that would be impossible.

View all 4 project logs

Enjoy this project?



David Shamblin wrote 05/20/2015 at 15:39 point

Saw this and thought you might be interested:

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frankstripod wrote 05/20/2015 at 16:09 point


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zakqwy wrote 03/16/2015 at 13:11 point

Happy to help from 93.3 W longitude if you need another camera!

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frankstripod wrote 03/16/2015 at 13:25 point

Thank you so much!!! :)

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PointyOintment wrote 03/12/2015 at 21:01 point

Make sure to take into account the fact that the sun sets at different times in different locations, due to the local landscape. (For example, in a valley, the sun goes behind the hills while it's still higher in the sky.) Maybe have everyone find a nearby location to take their picture/video where the horizon is at a standardized elevation.

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frankstripod wrote 03/13/2015 at 03:28 point

Good point! The visual guidelines will cover that as it gets more complex. That and more about earths rotation, rockets, and time manipulation coming soon! Thank you!

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Dimitar Tomov wrote 03/12/2015 at 03:10 point

Well, not to be a buzzkill :D but more of a buzz "chance giver" :D Find someone or motivate someone with your idea, who is actually constructing within US regulations A ROCKET (an amateur one of course) that can travel the distance (or at its best possible) and do the deed :D I know that MAY kill the Virtual in your idea, but actually will bring the Virtual in your realization of your idea to next level - Virtual as "We took something real and make it available through VR" (for example) And I know this maybe very different but if it's not something You really feel dear and close to you as concrete, specific idea ... I see the steps you have to take for that developing for many many years. It will be faster, cost-wise , etc. etc. to actually launch an amateur rocket and travel some distance (even very less than you initially intended) then when you get publicity, awareness about the awesomeness of the idea and the project  :D you will have (i believe that) sponsors, investors, co-...workers/inventors/dreamers/engineers and so on and so on :) I'm only giving you my .... view / opinion over your project. I'm far from Photography and not very close (yet) to Rocket Engineering :D Pardon to "Rocket Scientist" , but I have taken my first lesson from TBBT and Leonard not to trust hot chick from North Korea that wants to see the fuel for the rocket I'm working on :XD / hope the joke was successful :D
GL !!!

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frankstripod wrote 03/12/2015 at 04:41 point

Thank you so much! I seriously appreciate any advice or criticism. I did consider a real rocket, like over the desert and coordination with proper authorities. I would LOVE to do that! Someone correct me here if possible because my numbers are no where near accurate; hobby model rockets (hobby class A through G made of paper, cardboard or plastic) travel only at a few hundred mph, with burn times in only seconds. An Estes motor E12-4 (harder to get larger than E class shipped) has a burn time of 2.4 seconds (Total impulse in Newtons 27.2 N-s). I am looking for 1000mph minimum for minutes or hours (at least 15 minutes minimum). I am not familiar with how long it would take (or long term cost) to get certified to move above amateur (if anyone knows, please help). I am also afraid there would be many complications with camera stability on a 

horizontally traveling rocket.

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[this comment has been deleted]

frankstripod wrote 03/12/2015 at 04:48 point

Does anyone know somebody already doing this? (Thanks again buzz giver :)

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Dimitar Tomov wrote 03/12/2015 at 09:18 point

I did not expect so positive response from you, I have to be honest - I expect some defensive response. It's my pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss such project, man :) Not kidding as formal as it my talking my look like ;) I have to ask a friend of mine, actually an online buddy I met around our mutual interest of Linux, Embedded and Matlab / GNU Octave :D , who is very knowledgeable about US regulations regarding this subject, etc. I'll give him the link to your project and I think he will reply :)
PS: not to be a buzz "chance giver" again :XD But i was hoping to build nano/pico-satellite, I even bought some literature about it :D so  ... If I Launch on time in relation to your Rocket Launch:
Can we video record the rocket AND from orbit ?!. :P Haha I know that's too far , but "A boy can dream" ;-)
PS2: You can use smaller rockets of same type/size/engine MULTIPLE times for longer distance. I'll make this completely wrong associations: (1) It's like booster sequences to get further :D or (2) It's like hitting a target with multiple low intensity "shells", but actually doing more damage than with one much more bigger ;-)

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frankstripod wrote 03/12/2015 at 17:39 point

@esot.eric.wazhung and @Dimitar Tomov After all this rocket talk, I am going to have to make a separate project log for Rocket version vs Virtual, develop both and see who wins. Your encouragement is giving me even more ideas.

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Dimitar Tomov wrote 03/12/2015 at 20:26 point

My buddy for faith or i dunno :D just today has started a veeeery
long journey (actually just traveling :D). So he would not be able to
response soon, but he said when he has time he will look into it :) My
info about US regulations and Amateur Rocket Models actually comes from
him, but PERHAPS this is a good chance for you or us to talk it even
more and then have concrete, specific questions ;) BTW: @esot.eric.wazhung You can build a/the rocket, np, even better - distributed system have been forgotten for some time but now they are back more than ever :D So you build the rocket, he prepares the VR and I ... weeeeel I stay along side and when the time comes will take credit, don't worry guys :D kidding of course ;) But you can (just a suggestion) actually start a project about building A rocket with OSHW & OSS within US regulations for a flight/launch that will be then VISUALIZED :D into Virtual Way on Computational Device :P (i.e it may be PC it may be mobile, it may be embedded and so on) -> it can be Virtual-reality as all goggles coming out nowadays, this year there are announcements of more manufactures even ;) it can be purely 3d onto 2d displays (the games we play today are 3d on 2d plate :XD sorry fur the buzzkill , i said it because many , actually most, people forget that or don't even realize it )

So @esot.eric.wazhung I think your project can be as a part A/B of 1 bigger project where @frankstripod
project will be also part A/B. I hope you will clear which project will
be A , and which B , if you remember one kids cartoon about two bananas
B1 and B2 :D We can call them so and then project A or projects A1 (VR)
A2 (3D onto 2D displays) and so on and so on, btw A3 (3D building
mapping - 3d presentation onto buildings, last year there was this hype ,
it's not a trend for sure , at least for now ).

GL to both of You, will keep track on You guys :)
if by any chance or accident you build so powerful rocket we can try
and get to mars before those noobs that are only talking so far and
making contests w/ biiig PR stunt in the media :XD I'm distracted
easily, my bad.

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Eric Hertz wrote 03/12/2015 at 08:10 point

or a tangential merging of the two... since skylines may be difficult to achieve from many locations (with mountains, trees, etc), convince thousands of amatuer rocketeers to do vertical launches ;)

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Eric Hertz wrote 03/12/2015 at 02:35 point

This sounds friggin' amazing. I know lots of people who'd think so, unfortunately most are in the same sunset-zone... but maybe they know others.

Depending on the available volunteers' longitudes, it seems you could have a slight pan.

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frankstripod wrote 03/12/2015 at 02:42 point

What? Someone likes this? Don't make me follow through on this. Your pretty good at giving me ideas: This would also work moving up or down the west coast in a North South direction for sunset, or East coast for sunrise. Will add as a separate project log later.

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