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Video: Making an LED Tracker

18 August 2009 12,716 views 7 Comments

All credit for this method goes to www.vfxhack.com. You can find the original article by clicking here.

Last week I was sent to VFX supervise a night shoot in Germany (details of which will have to wait for a future post), so I thought it would be useful to have some LED trackers in my toolkit. All the components can be bought online from www.maplin.co.uk or by visiting one of their stores. Here’s a list of parts you’ll need:

(You can choose which color LEDs to use)

Large LED Tracker
Description Maplin Code Price
Red 5mm LED (Pack of 10 x random) N14GL £2.79
Green 5mm LED (Pack of 10 x random) N20GL £2.79
3V Lithium Coin Cell Battery CR1620 GU11M £2.59
13mm Heatshrink Tubing (per meter) YR18U £2.59

Small LED Tracker
Description Maplin Code Price
Red 3mm LED (Pack of 10 x random) N21GL £1.79
Green 3mm LED (Pack of 10 x random) N22GL £1.79
3V Lithium Coin Cell Battery CR1220 ZB77J £2.59
10mm Heatshrink Tubing (per meter) YR17T £2.39

Of course, when I got to the shoot, I didn’t need them (why does that always happen!). Anyway, here’s the video:

Video not available

I shot this on my Canon 5D Mk II with the 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens. I wanted to try out a bit of video and thought it would be a good test. I’m really pleased with the quality, but getting focus is a major pain in the backside.

Also, is it me or does the video look like it’s sped up slightly? I guess it might be to do with the 5D shooting at 30fps – maybe there’s some sort of frame dropping down conversion by Vimeo that’s making it look like that. I’ll look into it, but add a comment if you happen to know anything.

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  • Guillaume Laforge said:

    Great making of video ! Thanks !

  • AndyN (author) said:

    You’re welcome! 🙂

  • Chris said:

    Great idea !

  • AndyN (author) said:

    Hey Chris! Nice to see you lurking here. I’ve just had a look on your site at the Take One Painting stuff that you guys have been doing – cool stuff. Much bigger and better than the one we did! Nice work.

    Yep, the LED tracker’s a great idea but it’s not mine, got it from http://www.vfxhack.com

  • jouni said:

    hey, great idea… thanks!!

    I’m new to trackers – whats the best way to remove these from the footage, after doing a 3d track?

    re: vimeo – it converts 30fps source to 24fps which can look pretty odd sometimes.

    check out zacuto zfinder 2 for help with focusing!


  • AndyN (author) said:

    > I’m new to trackers – whats the best way to remove
    > these from the footage, after doing a 3d track?

    Nearly all 2D compositing packages have some sort of paint/clone feature. The step you’d follow would be to track the markers, and then use that track to attach a paint stroke to. Just think of it as using the Copy/Stamp brush in Photoshop, but moving it along an animated path.

    > check out zacuto zfinder 2 for help with focusing!

    Thanks, yes absolutely! I stumbled across that the other day. Here’s a link if anyone else hasn’t seen it yet:


    There’s a video review there too. Looks like a pretty essential piece of kit. One to add for the Christmas list.

    Have you used it Jouni?

  • jouni said:

    so 2d track the led in after effects, and then attach clone brush to it. I guess the stamp/clone will update the stamp source every frame. Thanks Andy will look into this!

    I’ve tried the z-finder and it’s great, really helps with focusing and it provides a point of contact with the body which reduces shakiness when shooting handheld. the price has put me off from buying so far but yes on the Christmas list as well 🙂

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