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SUNPATH (software) with SUNNTO


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#1 Hamid Khozouie

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 01:03 PM

I read many about SUNPATH computer software & SUNNTO (compass , clinometer ) in ASC manual and web.
Do you have any experience in it in cinematography?
Do you think , is it very useful ?
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Edited by hamid khozuie, 02 June 2005 - 01:06 PM.

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#2 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 02:36 PM

My gaffer has one, and I love it. It is one of the most useful location scout and shooting tools to have for day EXT (and even some INT).

He makes a report on the computer by choosing the area we are shooting in (it has a database of areas) or he will enter the GPS coordinates of the location.

He then chooses the date we plan to shoot there, and prints it out. It generates a chart plotting the suns position with numbers on each point. You then look through the Sunnto meter and line up those numbers. That is where the sun will be.

Its great for knowing things like when the sun will come up from a hill, when it will go behind trees, when it will be ugly and overhead, and for how long, etc, etc.

Really neat tool.


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#3 Frank Barrera

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 10:15 PM

yes it's a very cool tool. however the compass will not work properly near steel structures or magnetic fields. this causes false readings. when shooting near or in large city buildings it's necessary to use a protractor and a map of the area to find the true azimuth of the sun. (a real problem here in nyc.) the clinometer will give accurate readings of the sun's virtical position anywhere. in rural areas and most suburban ones it's flawless and lots of fun.

and the clinometer and the software is only a couple of hundred dollars. great deal.


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#4 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 10:16 PM

I remember years ago going on scouts for indie movies and being very impressed by the DP's use of this system ... on the scout. But, as a practical matter, during filming, doesn't most of that kind of planning just go out the window? I suppose you can whip out the suunto to emphasize "we're losing the light," but, I'd say the vagaries of production render the kind of planning you do w/ it largely irrelevant.
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#5 timHealy

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 10:38 PM

Sunpath is a wonderful tool. It is really helpful say if one is shooting in a valley and you won't get sun until a few hours after sunrise or say if you have buildings you may want to take into account like in NYC.
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#6 Robert Edge

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 03:22 PM

Maybe it's because I've spent a lot of time navigating sailboats, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to spend US$335 ($100 for the software plus $235 for the compass/clinometer) on this product.

The information provided by the software, and for that matter more information, is available from many government websites, such as the one run by the US Naval Observatory at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/

If you go to that site and click on Data Services, a new page will open that contains several headings.

Under the heading Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day, you can determine your latitude and longitude and the times of the beginning of civil twilight (magic hour), sunrise, sun transit, sunset and the end of civil twilight. You can an also determine moonrise, moon transit and moonset.

Under the heading Altitude and Azimuth of the Sun and Moon for One Day, you can determine the altitude and azimuth of the sun throughout the day. You can obtain this information at any increment you choose between 1 minute and 120 minutes. You can get the same information for the moon plus the amount of the moon that is illuminated.

If you want it, the University of Oregon Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory has a website that will give you the altitude and azimuth data for the sun plotted on a graph: http://solardat.uore...artProgram.html

I also wouldn't spend $235 on a compass and clinometer. That is an awful lot of money for a compass. It is also a lot of money for a device that measures altitude, which is something that anyone should be able to do by eye. If one needs help estimating an angle, it's a lot cheaper to go to a local art supply store and buy a protractor for $2.00.

If one really wants to spend $235, there's no shortage in that price range of handheld GPS units that will give precise latitude and longitude and that incorporate a compass.

Personally, I would just get a decent map of the area (I mean a real map, not a roadmap that you buy at a gas station) and plot my location and the sun azimuth data on the map. In a rural area, a cheap compass would be handy. In a city, where compass readings are unreliable and GPS readings may not be possible, it should be very easy to determine direction from landmarks, such as streets, shown on the map.

Of course, as anyone can tell you who has found himself stuck in the ocean with a sextant in the dark ages before GPS, all this sun data stuff is useless the sun is shining :)
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#7 Robert Edge

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 03:41 PM

The last few words should be "useless unless the sun is shining"

How come it isn't possible to edit a post after one has exited the thread, or is there a way to do it that I am missing?
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#8 Robert Edge

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 08:53 PM

I want to add some comments about why I responded to this thread.

You will note that Hamid asked about this product because he read about it in the American Cinematographer Manual.

I bought a copy of the Manual last week. I looked through all of the charts and noticed that there were several credited to a company called Sunpath.

When I looked at those charts, I realized that the information in them comes from a joint UK/US project that has resulted for many decades in the production of something called the Nautical Almanac. If the information did not come directly from that project, it certainly came from similar material.

When I saw these charts, I wondered why the American Cinematographer Society would credit some company called Sunpath for information that was readily available from governments to the public.

Then I read Hamid's question, from which I think it is fair to say that there is a bit of an assumption that if the ACS credits some company like Sunpath in its manual, there might be some value to its products.

Then I looked at the Sunpath material on the web and read the assertion, prominently displayed, that buying this package would save one the cost of an "expensive" GPS unit.

I want to say a couple of things, as clearly as possible:

The statement that this package will save one the cost of an "expensive" GPS unit is factually false. To use plain English, the statement is garbage.

Secondly, the information that the Sunpath software provides is publically available at no cost.

Thirdly, no-one in his right mind would pay US$235 for a compass and clinometer for the purpose envisaged.
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#9 Hamid Khozouie

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 01:23 PM

Thank you R.Edge
For your good explanations.
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#10 rajavel

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 02:47 PM

hi
i would seriously recomemnd the sun path compass. we had got this compass couple of months back for the zone of india. its absolutely amazing. it can help us plan before hand which shot to be taken at what time and where....in shade or sunlight..or before sun sets behind the tree or building. recently we erected a water falls in the middle of a natural stream of water. we were hunting for the right size water fall which we never got...so we constructd in the middle of a natural stream. now sunpath comapass came in handy for us to construct the set...as we wanted cross light for the water fall and we didnt have time to study the light during various time periods of day. the set was built based on the sunpath figures and everything worked out great for lighting the water fall. it was so critical the angle in which the set had to be constructed for it catch the right light. this was done inside a forest in karnataka is short time........oofff so basicallly its worth the money !!!! go for it. there are differnt zone systmes dpending on the country u are gonna work at. so check that out before buying.
cheers!
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#11 Robert Edge

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 07:22 PM

Raj,

I'm not saying that the Sunpath programme and compass and clinometer won't work in a rural environment. I am saying that the same result, in fact a better result, can be obtained for a lot less money. I'm also saying that there is a signifincantly more more accurate and cheaper way to do this in a built-up urban environment. For example, in Manhattan a compass is really useless, and anyone who had driven a car with a GPS unit in Manhattan knows that relying on the GPS unit is an exercise in futility. Sorry, but that is just a fact.

Furthermore, if I were spending a bunch of cash to construct a set, I would want to know the sun's path with precision. To get precision, you need the relevant data about the sun (and perhaps the moon if you want to use it or its light in your photography) for your exact location. There are only two ways to determine your exact location. You can do it with a topographical map that contains identifiable landmarks or, more simply, you can use a GPS unit. Once you know your exact location, the information about the sun's path is readily available.
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#12 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 12:34 AM

I can enter in the exact GPS coordinates of a location in question, thus getting precision.

We are also only talking about a variance of two minutes or so.

Sure there may be cheaper ways to do the job, but not quickly, and not easily.

I am not going to manually plot the suns position, for me it is not fast or practical. For a few hundred dollars, who cares, it?s fast, easy, and gets the job done.

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#13 Tony Brown

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 03:53 PM

Its a great bit of software that i don't need an internet connection to use Mr Edge. There are better ways of saving $100 on a production than not using Sunpath.

Sunnto products are also excellent, sadly there are too many 'zones' to justify spending the money on each zone thats for sure. the Sunnto I have for Europe is useless in NZ or RSA for example. Seems to work in US just fine.

For me, its essential. Locations change last minute, decisions need to be made about best time of day without the luxury of light studies or logging on to some web site thats 'free'

If you are building a set that is so light depndant, then you insist on a light study. Common sense.
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#14 Robert Edge

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 09:40 PM

Sunnto products are also excellent, sadly there are too many 'zones' to justify spending the money on each zone thats for sure. the Sunnto I have for Europe is useless in NZ or RSA for example. Seems to work in US just fine.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


If you want to spend the money, go ahead.

I'd only like to correct one thing. Sunpath endorses the Suunto compass and clinometer. If the above reference is to the Suunto instruments, as it appears to be, you are mistaken that the accuracy of these instruments is dependent on time zone. I suspect that you are mixing up the Sunpath software and the hardware that goes with it.

The second thing I'd say is that Suunto instruments, like those made Sliva, its competitor, are well-made. Whether they are useful for the purpose envisaged depends, in the case of the compass, on the amount of local interference, and in the case of both instruments, on the degree of accuracy required. Whether they are worth the money (US$235) depends on what you know about the subject of navigation and where and how you want to use these instruments. Certainly, people who are into orienteering in remote areas get a kick out of both Suunto and Sliva handheld products. They do have a certain cachet.

As for Sunpath, if you think that the package is worth the money, that's fine. I just wanted to point out that anyone who knows anything about navigation or astronomy knows that the astronomical data, plus moon data and a lot more, is widely available, for free, both on disk and on the internet, and with both greater precision and more options.

I also wanted to alert people to two problems with the way that this programme is advertised. The advertising says:

"You do not need to own expensive GPS equipment to determine coordinates and location data"

"sunPATH is a well-designed professional program, but I refuse to charge the high price of other "Motion Picture Software." This software is priced reasonably so everyone can afford it."

I think that those statements are based on the premise that the reader is ignorant about GPS, about the operation of a compass and clinometer and about the fact that this "professional" software, priced so that "everyone can afford it", is in fact re-packaged free information. If you think it is suspect that the UK and US governments have made a point of making both the formula and data for these calculations widely available for decades, consider that there might be a reason, such as the safety of international shipping. Consider also that backyard, let alone professional, astronomy, would not be possible unless this kind of data were freely available.

Maybe it's not an accident that people who have an interest in astronomy and navigation are not among those who have endorsed this system in Sunpath advertising.

Tony, I raised this only because I think that people should think twice before they sink US$335 into this.

Cheers

Edited by R. Edge, 10 June 2005 - 09:43 PM.

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#15 Tony Brown

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 09:54 AM

>>>If you want to spend the money, go ahead.<<<

I did, thanks. Never regretted it for a moment.


>>> If the above reference is to the Suunto instruments, as it appears to be, you are mistaken that the accuracy of these instruments is dependent on time zone. <<<

The accuracy of the compass is affected by the magnetic varaitions around the globe as far as I am aware. Whatever you think with your obviously vast knowledge, my £100 Suunto compass does NOT work in Cape Town, NZ, South America and many other places. Suunto informed me that they make 7 variants of each compass to suit the various zones around the world. Refering to them as time zones was your choice of words not mine. I think its you that has misread my separate comments about the software and the hardware. So I do not believe that I was mistaken.

>>> They do have a certain cachet.<<<
I really couldn't give a toss if some passing orienteer minx thinks my compass has any kudos. I was using Suunto long before Sunpath. It is robust and will out live me I'm sure. £100 well spent. maybe its this elite cache that you object too? Thats fair enough, I could understand that much better. I'm a socialist. :D

>>>As for Sunpath, if you think that the package is worth the money, that's fine. I just wanted to point out that anyone who knows anything about navigation or astronomy knows that the astronomical data, plus moon data and a lot more, is widely available, for free, both on disk and on the internet, and with both greater precision and more options.<<<

I don't need greater precision. If I need greater precision I'll order a light study. If you know of a disk that contains tide tables.... THAT would be useful. Fed up not being able to get online when I need that information

>>>I also wanted to alert people to two problems with the way that this programme is advertised. The advertising says:"You do not need to own expensive GPS equipment to determine coordinates and location data"<<<

Thats true. just enter the nearest town. Worked for me in the Sahara.

David Parish showed initiative in a generally lazy business. People like to support people within the business.

Sunpath has become the 'standard'. I can go onto any production computer and get the information from Sunpath. I dont have to go into some apple smack programme and fumble about looking how to enter the co-ordinates etc etc. Its what everyone uses. It cost the price of the directors coffee for the week.

Finally you don't have to pay $335. $99 buys the license and you can buy a reasonable compass for $50. Old brass (and very beautiful) military inclinometers can be found in any junk shop for $25. And finally finally :blink: you don't need to even pay that. Buy none of it. Go your route. WHatever works for you.

I like Sunpath :P
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#16 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 12:34 PM

Hey Tony,

Nice website. Do you use the compass for anything other than general orientation in places where you're not familiar w/, or don't have, any landmarks??
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#17 Tony Brown

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 12:40 PM

Hey Tony,

Nice website. Do you use the compass for anything other than general orientation in places where you're not familiar w/, or don't have, any landmarks??

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



I'll remember the password for it one day so that I can update it..... :D

Compass is great for imprssing girls in bars after work. I hang it off my belt, that and the pan glass around my neck just knock 'em dead, my dad told me girls like a bit of 'cache'....... or was it cash..... :blink:
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#18 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 12:52 PM

Thank god someone's not taking this discussion too seriously. The point is, say you want to have the sun as a backlight. You want to go on a scout, find East, and say "we're pointing the camera over here in the morning, and over there in the afternoon," which you can do w/ a $25 compass. Is there any reason, other than impressing the girls and gadget geeks (and the agency reps), for spending $300 on a compass?

Edited by J-Ro, 13 June 2005 - 12:53 PM.

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