How to Hack your Canon G9 Firmware for HD Timelapse.

Photo: Karla AriasLately, I have been shooting a lot of time lapse footage using my Canon G9 that has been hacked with the custom CHDK firmware. This user-developed firmware works on a variety of Canon Point and Shoot cameras and enables all kinds of extra functionality (expanded ISO, higher shutter speeds, RAW capture, and more.) The best feature of CHDK is the ability to add scripting to your camera. One of the script possiblities is an intervalometer -- which programs your camera to take pictures at a desired interval, which you can later make into a movie in your computer. This allows you shoot greater than HD (up to 4000x3000) timelapse footage that you can downsample to full 1920x1080p for the highest possible image quality. The G9 is the most professional camera that this hack currently works on. It has high resolution, easy manual control, and a good lens. But in order to use CHDK, you must first install it -- which is not the most transparent process. So, with out further ado, here's how to hack your G9 (note: I use a Mac, so some of this is specific to OSX. A link at the bottom may help Windows users).

1. Determine what firmware version your G9 is running. You do this by creating a blank text file and saving it as ver.req (make sure it does not have a .txt extension). Copy this file onto your SD card with a card reader and put it into your camera. Turn your camera on in playback mode, then hold down (func. set) and press (disp.) This should display your firmware version. For Example 1.00G.

2. Download the appropriate version of CHDK. You can find all versions of CHDK here. Make sure you get the Full Version.

3. Prepare your SD card. This got a whole lot easier with the release of an apple script that does this for you. Download this script. Insert your SD card into a card reader. Run the script and select the SD card drive when it asks. (note: Be very careful not to select the wrong drive because it will ERASE it.) This will take a few minutes to process. Be patient. When it is done, you will see that the SD card has been made into two partitons. One is the boot partion, where CHDK is booted from. The other is for storage of pictures and CHDK files.(CHDK's How To Page for Mac)

4. Copy the DISKBOOT.BIN file and the PS.FI2 to the boot partition and the CHDK folder structure to the storage section of the SD card. Both of these will be in the CHDK version your downloaded in step 2.

5. Download this intervalometer script (and the optional motion detection script) and put these files in the Scripts folder on your CHDK prepped SD card.

6. Eject the card and lock it with the switch on the side. This sounds strange, but CHDK won't boot if the card is not locked. Don't worry, it will still be able to save your images.

7. Insert the SD card into the camera and turn your camera on. If you did everything correctly, you should see the CHDK boot logo appear. Now you have CHDK loaded onto your camera. The next steps will explain how to enter the CHDK menu and set up for a timelapse.

8. Enter the CDHK menu. To do this press the (direct print/shortcut) button that is on the upper left of the back of the G9. You will see <alt> appear on the bottom of the screen. Now when your press (menu) you will see the CHDK menu instead of the Canon menu. Feel free to play around with the options in this menu. It takes some experimenting to figure out.

9. For a time lapse, navigate to the scripting menu. Load the intervalometer script. Move down the the settings and set them as desired. I like to only set the interval in seconds, and then set the Endless option to 1 -- this will make the script run until you stop it or the battery dies.

10. Exit <alt> mode by pressing the (direct print/shorcut) button again. Now you need to set up your shot. Enter manual exposure mode and set your exposure. Also set your focus to manual. Use a tripod. Once your shot is set enter <alt> mode again. When your press the shutter button, the script will run.

11. That's it! Your G9 is now shooting timelapse! When you are done, press the shutter button again.

Once you transfer your shots to the computer you can compile them into a movie. There are several ways to do this which would be an entire other post.

Note: When you fill your card, do not format it to erase them. This will erase CHDK as well. Instead use the Erase All Images function in the camera menu.

Have fun shooting timelapse!!! If you have any questions about this, please ask in the comments section.

You can download all files mentioned in the article Right Here.

Link for Windows Users.

BONUS: Here is a time lapse I shot using this method at the Geneva Motor Show for Image Engineers.