DIY time-lapse – why is it a bad idea?

A picture taken from one of our time-lapse cameras, during extreme weather.
A picture taken from one of our time-lapse cameras, during extreme weather.

The use of time-lapse photography is widening. More and more businesses are discovering just how beneficial it can be to have a camera setup, clicking away for whatever they need and the versatility of the process makes it perfect for just about anything.

That said, “just about anything” only comes when there is a good setup in place. That includes everything from the advanced climate-controlled housing right down to simply getting the framing right. Is it truly possible to “do it yourself”?

Issues start to arise when companies look to hire just the physical equipment to use themselves, rather than trusting professionals fully install state-of-the-art, bespoke camera systems at their construction sites or events. For a start, a lot of people will not realise that there is no such thing as a “time-lapse camera”. Time-lapse photography is a thing, yes, but you cannot just walk into a retailer and pick up “time-lapse camera” off the shelf.

More and more modern cameras do have some basic functions, which might help you to put together a basic, but poor quality, time-lapse sequence. DSLRs will often have built-in timer to take shots at set intervals. But do not be fooled – you will often find image quality is compromised and you will not get the amount of shots you need to make a good time-lapse video. Intervalometer are a potential solution, but over a long period of time this is not necessarily going to be reliable.

If you do decide to hire equipment from somewhere, what are you going to do when the winter rolls in? Good professionals use cameras that are fully protected by a climate-controlled housing, made to withstand the worst the world can throw at them and protect expensive, professional equipment (you can read more about our time-lapse camera systems withstanding severe weather, because to get the best results you will need more than just a cheap webcam – and protection for that sort of equipment is not cheap.) One gust of wind, a downpour of rain or the weight of snowfall is all potentially fatal to a camera system – and the last thing you want to do is returning damaged equipment.

But perhaps you are not looking for a time-lapse at the end of it all; maybe you just want to monitor your construction site or project as it takes shape. Time-lapse photography is still a fantastic way to do this. But, once you have found the shot you want and got your equipment together, how will you view the images as they are taken? The best shots are normally taken from a difficult to reach place – will you be able to get back to the camera with ease? And if you do, how will you ensure it stays in the exact same spot when you touch it?

This is a significant problem for the majority of people. Even if you have the money to hire, the ability to put the camera in place and someone with a little background knowledge in photography, it is extremely unlikely anyone on your team will have the skills to beam the images from the camera back to your computer. System engineers, IT experts and networkers are all needed to help transmit images from a time-lapse system back to your desktop, which is no mean feat.

Time-lapse photography is as popular as ever for a wide range of business uses, but the important thing to realise is it is only popular in the professional sector thanks to dedicated companies. The know-how is invaluable when it comes to construction site monitoring and editing, which is why it is best to refrain from hiring your own equipment, or trying to build a set-up out right.

If you are thinking of using time-lapse as part of your project, please do contact Time-Lapse Systems and we will be happy to talk through your needs with you.

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